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"News of the Week"  

November, 2017 - Week 3
MJ Goyings
Many thanks to our very own "MJ" Goyings, a resident of Ohio,
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Why Victims Of Sexual Violence Wait Decades To Come Forward

Attempting to defame and discredit the abused is a tried and true method of silencing them.

by Dani Bostick

In recent weeks, scores of men and women have come forward with stories of acts of sexual violence perpetrated by prominent people. Allegations against Harvey Weinstein opened the floodgates; now actor Kevin Spacey, comedian Louis C.K., Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore and others have also now joined that ignominious list.

On Saturday, Roy Moore defended himself against allegations of sexual misconduct by ? surprise, surprise ? attacking his victim. In defense of himself, “To think that grown women would wait 40 years... to bring charges is absolutely unbelievable.”

But actually, waiting decades to report is not at all unbelievable. I, like many victims, took decades to find the courage to name my abuser and seek justice for the crimes he committed when I was a child. Many victims either never disclose or wait years to share their stories.

Reasons Victims Do Not Tell Their Stories of Sexual Violence

•  Perpetrators and their allies undermine victims' credibility and impugn their character. If you own a TV, read the newspaper, or have an Internet connection, you have seen how victims are portrayed in the media when they come forward.

•  The community often rallies around the perpetrator and pillories the victim. If you have ever interacted with a victim or supporters of an alleged perpetrator, you have probably witnessed this. Predators groom individuals and entire communities so that they gain the trust of victims and so that they have a convenient “good guy” cover in place in case they are exposed.

•  Victims face a barrage of questions when they come forward instead of the sympathy and support they need. Why didn't you speak out sooner? Why didn't you try to stop the attacks? These questions add to the trauma and horror of sexual violence.

•  Victims sometimes have kept in touch with their perpetrators. Maybe they continued dating, working together, or interacting politely at family events. Continued contact with a perpetrator is also very common. Often this factor alone keeps victims trapped in silence.

•  Not reporting allows a victim to maintain the fantasy that people in positions of responsibility would be helpful if he or she did report. Reporting often crushes that fantasy when responsible people protect themselves and the perpetrator instead.

•  A lot of victims prefer to create an alternate reality, one in which the abuse didn't happen. If a victim is hiding behind a facade of success, competence, and achievement, admitting past abuse can shatter that facade. Being the victim of sexual violence is highly stigmatized. No high-functioning person wants to be viewed as damaged.

•  Victims find it easier to pretend to be normal and live a lie than face the horror of sexual abuse and trauma.

•  Victims often fear that coming forward will result in the loss of employment, support network, housing, reputation, and even their lives. Victims involved in athletics and extra-curricular activities may fear loss of playing time and access to important opportunities.

•  Some victims simply don't remember. I had suppressed the memories of my abuse and still do not have linear memories of it.

•  In the case of child sexual abuse (and oftentimes abuse of adults), reporting can disrupt every relationship important to the victim. Family members and friends choose the easier narrative: that the victim is lying. Believing someone has lied is easier than believing that a loved one has raped a child.

•  Victims might not know who to tell. Do you tell a friend? A pastor? The police? Since sexual violence is shrouded in a code of silence, sometimes the impediment to timely reporting is that victims literally do not know what to do. Some may not even realize initially they have been a victim of sexual violence in the first place.

•  Some victims are under the mistaken impression that you cannot report at all if you do not report immediately.

•  Some victims tried to report and were told there was no recourse. In some cases, victims disclosed to allies of the perpetrator who told them not to tell anyone else, further fortifying the prison of silence. Who would take the risk and report again after that?

•  Victims may have been committed a crime or infraction of rules around the time of the crime. Underage victims who have been drinking at a party, for example, could fear getting in trouble and decide it is not worth the risk of reporting the sexual assault.

•  Naming an act of sexual violence makes it real. Keeping silent is a way of protecting oneself.

•  The victim feels indebted to the perpetrator. For example, if the victim is an elite athlete, he or she may feel as if she owes the coach his or her silence.

•  Child victims may have been under the misguided impression that they were in a consensual relationship with a much older person. In this case, it can take a long time to realize that the “relationship” was actually a sexual crime.

And additionally, media coverage can reinforce the twisted perspective that a child can consent to a sexual relationship with an adult.

Reasons Victims Choose To Come Forward After a Long Period of Silence

•  They establish geographical distance from their perpetrator and feel safer facing it.

•  Their assailant has died or been incarcerated for another crime.

•  Family members who would have been hurt by the allegation have died. If a perpetrator is the spouse of a parent, for example, victims might not want to hurt their parent by bringing forth allegations or risk being disbelieved by the parent.

•  They come to find out the perpetrator has had other victims and are no longer as worried about being believed.

•  They read a story about a similar incident and experience emotional distress about their own experience.

•  They have children the same age they were when their crimes were perpetrated and realize just how horrifying and wrong their own abuse was.

•  If a victim has repressed memories of the incident, he or she may report after recovering the memories. This phenomenon is common enough that several states have exceptions for recovered memories in their statutes of limitation regarding sex crimes.

•  They realize there are no statutes of limitations for the kind of crime he or she experienced and it is not too late to report the crime to police.

•  They are in a supportive relationship and finally have the emotional strength to report. Or, conversely, they are out of a bad relationship and have the emotional bandwidth to address it.

•  They attend therapy and realize that a lot of their psychological and emotional distress stems from past sexual violence they have never truly faced or addressed.

•  They cross paths with their perpetrator and old feelings of angst and anger resurface.

•  They begin to worry there are other victims and want to make sure that the perpetrator won't harm anyone else.

•  They are tired of living the “I'm OK” mask and want to live a more authentic life.

•  They realize they haven't done anything wrong and have no reason to remain silent.

Roy Moore is spreading a dangerous myth designed to undermine the credibility of victims and discourage reporting. If you are reading this and are a victim of sexual violence, please know that what happened to you is not your fault. Shame and guilt should belong to your perpetrator alone. It is also never to late to share your story. When you do, you are no longer imprisoned by silence and you are no longer alone in your suffering.



Understanding sex offenders: the untold story

An inside look at the people on Nebraska's sex offender registry

by Julie Cornell

OMAHA, Neb. —

“A sex offender wants to talk to you”

I've made people's stories my life's work. I'm a person who talks to people sitting next to me on airplanes. I engage people at grocery stores, and even while sitting in those flimsy robes in the hospital, waiting for a mammogram. I generally like people. And I constantly “interview” them, even when I'm not working. I consider myself open-minded. I'd rather ask questions than answer. I try not to judge.

But one fall day last year, a random call to the newsroom caught me off guard: A co-worker shouted across the newsroom that a sex offender wanted to talk to me. Everyone looked at me. My first inclination was to bolt. Not only did I not want to talk to a sex offender, I certainly didn't want him to have my phone number or know my name. I was slightly unnerved.

I'm calling him “Jay” and he's part of a group trying to throw out Nebraska's sex offender registry or at least repeal a Nebraska law put in place seven years ago. The law essentially put anyone with any kind of sexual offense on the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry, an internet database, for all to see. Prior to 2010, only those offenders deemed most at risk to reoffend were on the list. And only law enforcement knew about the lower-risk offenders, so when the law changed, the list nearly doubled overnight. There are currently more than 5,200 people on Nebraska's registry.

The registry includes child molesters and those caught peeing in the bushes, people who've accidentally downloaded child pornography in which a 19-year-old young man had a 15-year-old girlfriend. They're now married with three children, but he's on the public registry for life as a sex offender.

Jay was trying to get my attention, trying to share his story. So I did what a journalist does. I set aside my biases, choked down my fear and started talking to him. After his third call to the newsroom, about six months later, and the announcement that it was again the “sex offender,” it began to feel normal to chat with the guy, just as I chat with many other sources. Jay is polite and well-spoken. I could often hear a baby cooing in the background while we talked. Jay has sole custody of his 1-year-old daughter.

“I make sure she's safe. She's my number one priority, no matter what the situation is,” he told me about the squirmy, curly-haired girl.

Jay grew up in foster homes -- 32 of them, to be exact. He was a foster child for 15 years. He wasn't seasoned at dating or meeting girls. He admits he had literally no relationship practice, and no role model. He's 27 years old now and a few years ago, a friend introduced him to a dating app called PlentyofFish. He was lonely. He was looking for companionship. He met up with a woman through the app and they hit it off.

“I was 24, going on 25 and she said she was 19 and going to college, hair school. I had no reason not to believe what she said,” he told me.

The girl was 14 years old. And the hammer came down on Jay after she ran away from home and was found in his company.

“I take full responsibility for mistakes,” he said, “especially the ones I have control over."

He served a year in prison, but Jay said he's now serving a life sentence on the sex offender registry. Last year, his girlfriend gave birth to a baby girl, and Jay became a father.

“She's the reason I'm still in the fight, the reason I'm doing what I'm doing,” he said about his daughter.

As someone on the registry, he must check in with sheriff's deputies every three months. They need to know his address at all times, and the car he's driving. Random hate-filled people drive by his house and scream at him, or pass around degrading leaflets labeling him as a monster because he's on the registry. Jobs are nearly impossible to keep because the term “sex offender” creates an enormous amount of fear and uncertainty. No one wants to hear the circumstances surrounding his conviction. The baby lives with Jay. There are no laws in Nebraska that restrict children in the home of a sex offender. And for that, Jay is eternally grateful.

“We are Third World citizens,” he told me. He worries his child will be bullied. He can't take her to swim lessons at the Y. She'll never be able to have sleepovers. He'll be able to go into her school if he has a reason to be there. He can't live near a park or school.

I'd always thought or heard, or perhaps made up the fact in my mind, that all sex offenders are uncontrolled, creepy weirdos who simply can't stop offending. I thought it was just a matter of time before they committed another offense against a child. I assumed it was a psychiatric or psychological disorder and that they couldn't change or be cured. I've learned, some indeed are sick.

I've covered the stories of sex assault survivors, survivors of incest and children who've been sexually molested over the span of my 30-year career. I've cried with them. I've seen their lives destroyed and manipulated by selfish, sick people. But it's a rare event to hear about the “other side.” It's a side no one wants to hear, probably because we're afraid.

She studies sex offenders

“If sex offenders are the group we as society fear the most, shouldn't we try to understand them?" asked Dr. Lisa Sample, a dynamic criminal justice professor at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and one of the foremost researchers of sex offenders in the nation.

So what about the repeat crime rate for sex offenders? How high is it? Random friends I asked guessed about 50 percent of sex offenders repeat their crimes.

“Actually, sex offenders have a lower rate of recidivism than any other violent crime type. The highest actually is robbery,” Sample said. She's written briefs for the U.S. Supreme Court. She's called as an expert by policymakers as they create and change laws to keep an eye on sex offenders. She's a rare bird in a community of sociologists, someone who chooses to study the most loathed and misunderstood members of society.

95 percent will not commit another sex offense

Sample is petite, chatty and bold, with colorful, rock star hair and a powerful voice, who seems to speak a different language when it comes to sex offenders, because she's taken the time to listen. Over the past five years, she's continually interviewed more than 130 former sex offenders, welcoming them to her office on the UNO campus. She gathers their life histories to learn why they don't reoffend. I've learned that they reoffend less than I thought. They reoffend less than most people think.

“What we've done for years is just look at the worst of the worst. The child sex offenders who rape and murder are very rare. That's why it makes the news,” Sample said.

She points to a recent study by UNO colleagues that shows the number of sex offenders who repeat sex crimes after conviction rests at about 5 percent here in Nebraska, which means about 95 percent of folks on the registry will not repeat a sex crime. Another study published this spring -- with researchers from Johns Hopkins University and University of Wisconsin-Madison -- shows slightly higher rates nationwide. The study focused on 7,000 offenders. Overall, after five years, about 9 percent reoffended. The study is titled, "Once A Sex Offender, Not Always A Sex Offender."

So what makes sex offenders not reoffend?

“There are a lot of people who can have it really bad at one point in their life and, amazingly, humans change over time,” Sample Said. “We make decisions different today than when we were 18, and they (sex offenders) are no different.”

Sample's personal interviews with former offenders led her to believe many sex offenses are an “episode” during a stressful time in their lives.

“A lot of people were in this situation at the time of their crime, where everything was awful -- their marriage, their job. They lacked intimacy. They were lonely. There can be a personality type that is more introverted and closed off,” said Sample.

It's important to note that these factors are not excuses for offending. There's no excuse for offending, ever. These are situations reported to Sample about people's emotional state when they acted out on an innocent child.

Sample said positive social bonds help prevent sex offenders from reoffending. But, Sample said, many public sex offender registries tend to prevent and sever social bonds, by doing what some call “publicly shaming” offenders who've served time, attended therapy and shown genuine remorse for their crimes. All felons have a tough time finding jobs. Add a sex offense into the mix, and many end up homeless.

“All my time, looking for jobs, it's been no, no, no,” said one former offender just out of prison after a five-year sentence. She spends her days applying for jobs and stopping at food pantries so she doesn't starve. She said she is deeply remorseful for her crime, which happened 15 years ago. She's attended therapy and apologized to her victim.

Sample listened, without judgement, to another study subject, as if she'd heard the story 100 times before.

I would learn a few weeks later, the woman was hired for a decent job in her field, a desk job that had nothing to do with children. But when the company did a background check, it rescinded the offer.

Sample believes not all sex offenders are alike. That's why she's on the state's Justice Behavioral Health Committee, working to get assessment back into parole and probation so that all sex offenders won't be treated the same.

Sample said those who commit sex crimes against children 12 and younger, those who commit violent attacks on strangers and offenders who abuse both boys and girls are a special breed of sex offender and must have the highest level of surveillance. She said pedophiles have a high risk of reoffending because they groom children and view them as appropriate sex partners.

“They are the ones who definitely belong on the registry," she said. She believes Nebraska needs to go back to risk-based systems that allow for individuals to be assessed and assigned a risk level so that the lowest-risk offenders aren't continually stigmatized and punished for a lifetime. In addition, Sample said, social connections lower the risk factors.

U.S. District Courts in two jurisdictions agree. A federal judge recently ruled Colorado's sex offender registry is unfair to sex offenders, calling it cruel and unusual punishment. Another ruling said Michigan could not retroactively apply its sex offender law to people who were convicted before the state decided to put “all” offenders on the registry. Nebraska retroactively put offenders on the registry in 2011.

“I think it's meant to be punitive. It's there to protect,” said Amy Richardson, head of Omaha's Women's Center for Advancement. She said the registry serves the purpose of identifying people who put the community at risk, but she said everyone is lumped together. It's not clear who's a violent criminal.

Whom should we fear?

Crime experts told me we should be most concerned about people we know who are around our children all the time. Sample said the first-time sex offender who knows our children is more likely to grope, touch or sexually violate a child than a stranger on the sex offender registry who's already gone through punishment and treatment.

A former offender with a church, friends and family is less likely to reoffend said Sample, because they have healthy connections and they've been punished. And this is alarming: one criminologist told me most child victims, 90 percent of them, know their abuser. Here's the really sad part: Most of these cases go unreported. So really, the 5,200 on Nebraska's registry are just a small fraction of those who've offended. The rest simply haven't been caught.

Making healthy connections

It's a Wednesday night, and a huge wooden table in a midtown Omaha dining room is set for a party. There are 12 places at the table.

Jay arrives with his baby. In the busy kitchen, beef roast and potatoes cook in the oven. A cheerful woman slices garden tomatoes on the counter and several gentlemen visit and make small talk. A lady with long dark hair is rolling up crescent rolls and Jay's baby is taking down a bottle.

A man named Ken hosts this weekly dinner. As he places the pot roast on the table, they hold hands and pray.

“Dear Lord, we thank you for being so gracious that you would accept all of us in your presence,” and he continued.

Ken is a convicted sex offender, as are most of the visitors in his home. They call it “Wednesday dinner.” It's part of the bonding they do in a support group called “Fearless” through an advocacy group known as Nebraskans Unafraid. The goal of the group is to abolish the sex offender registry, saying it discriminates and makes people the target of hate long after they've served their sentences. Nebraskans Unafraid

I ask them what they're unafraid of. And then I realize, it's me, and all of us on the outside who are afraid of them. Their goal is to inform us. It's to show us they've changed. It's to prove they are not the “monsters” they've been labeled since their arrests and convictions.

“The registry is designed for people just like me,” said Ken, who admitted that many years ago, he inappropriately touched his daughter's friend.

Ken spends his days doing errands for sex offenders, volunteering at his church and running the family business.

“When we understand why we did something wrong and the hurt that we feel, that's the biggest reason people like me would never reoffend,” he said.

Ken's wife of 30 years was prepping dinner and I wondered, as many would, why did she stay with her husband who admitted, he did something awful to a child?

“We are all Christians and we realize that God has forgiven us,” Ellen said. She also told me she takes her marriage vows seriously.

Together, the couple rents out a small basement apartment for sex offenders who leave prison and have nowhere to go. They've hosted four men so far, each staying for a year, with permission from the state. Just one out of 100 sex offenders have a place and a person to return to when they get out of prison. Ken and Ellen take the former offenders under their wing, making them leave the house on outings, to go to church and the store.

“The biggest thing the folks at the prison told me is, ‘Don't let them isolate,'” said Ellen.

This group is a connection to the outside world. It's a place where they admit mistakes and talk about making amends. Sample said this group is one of the social connections that will keep them from being so isolated and from reoffending.

What about the victims?

An intriguing woman is seated at the table. She's prayerful and cheery. Judith James tells me she too stayed in the couple's apartment when she went through a divorce a few years ago. She reveals that she met Ken and Ellen in church and felt their home would be a place of healing for her. Judith has a unique perspective seated at the table of sex offenders. She tells me she's an incest survivor, abused from age four up until the age of 13, and she recently forgave the offender.

“When I turned 13, I put the dresser up against the bedroom door. And when he tried to get in, I told him, ‘You touch me again, I'm going to tell Momma,'” James told those seated at the table.

James told the group, the sex offender registry wouldn't have protected her. The man who often came to her bedroom door wasn't on the registry. She said we are fooling ourselves if we think the registry keeps us safe.

James said it's her role to minister to the group, by letting them know what it's like to be a child victim.

“It's about growth and watching people walk through life after they've done something horrendous and turn around and not do it anymore,” said James.

There are no judgements here. They are all “registered citizens” just trying to live a life where mistakes were made, children were deeply hurt, and those responsible seem to be making an honest attempt to try to heal and make amends. Each belongs to a church. Most have jobs or are looking for one. Some have spouses.

I'm one of a few new visitors on this night and at one point, someone asks what it's like to be in a room full of felons. We laugh. But at this point, I've spent so many hours talking to them on the phone, interviewing them, getting answers to my questions that I forget they are felons, and I see them as humans, with their own story to tell.

What do advocates say about the registry?

She stopped to see me on her lunch hour from Creighton University where she helps adult minority students get into college. Leontyne Evans is 30 years old, confident and extremely self-aware of who she is and where she's going.

“I am a victim of childhood sexual abuse. I've been a victim of molestation and sexual assault and I've forgiven those two people,” she tells me calmly and without hesitation.

Being a survivor, Evans has a valid opinion about the sex offender registry. But she has a deeper insight. She also worked for the state for a year, teaching classes to sex offenders before their release from prison. She left the program because she felt like it wasn't challenging offenders to get to the root of their issues. None were encouraged to learn why they offended in the first place. The prison didn't care what the root cause was, she said. Evans learned more than half of the men in her classes were sexually abused as children. She said it broke her heart to hear their stories.

Evans' evening job is one of her passions. She's a life coach, specializing in healthy relationships. She works with women who've been in abusive relationships or who've been sexually assaulted or molested. She uses Nebraska's sex offender registry when women are in relationships and they want to check on an individual who they might want to date. She said the registry is broken, confusing and not user friendly.

“It's not in laymen's terms,” said Evans.

Each name on the registry is accompanied by a photo and a list of laws the person broke.

“Statute 12 point 389. We don't know what that means,” laughed Evans.

The registry lists offenders by crime type, after a change about seven years ago, there are no “risk factors” to reoffend, associated with each person. Evans said the registry's biggest flaw is that it's not clear who's dangerous and who's not. The old registry labeled offenders as level one, two or three. And the ones least likely to reoffend were kept off the registry.

“Is it statutory rape or regular rape?” Evans said there's no way of knowing the circumstances surrounding the crimes and that's what makes the registry ineffective. She also personally knows people on the registry who are not dangerous.

“They went to a college party. She was 16. He was 21. Now he's a lifetime offender,” Evans said.

She said if the registry is a tool to keep the community safe, it should be a useful tool.

“Let's fix it. I just want to fix it. If we are going to use the sex offender registry as a free resource to the community, let's enhance it,” she said.

Evans published a book this year called Princeton Pike Road, available on and in local bookstores. Her childhood home in Arkansas was on Princeton Pike Road. The book chronicles what it's like to be a child molestation survivor. She wants sex offenders to read it. She wants other survivors to draw strength from it.

After our interview, the texts are piling up on her phone. They are the survivors, who need her help. But she said, sex offenders need help too. They need resources coming out of jail. They need jobs and support groups and therapy. And she said, we need to look around us, at those among us who are not on the registry and pay close attention to those who befriend our children.

“We can't just keep casting stones and people think that's going to fix it,” she said.


To report a child in immediate danger, call 911.

To report child abuse and neglect in Nebraska call: 1-800-652-1999, 24-hours a day.

To learn more about Leontyne Evans and personal coaching, visit:

Nebraskans Unafraid is looking for quality, affordable housing for people they serve. To contact the group go to Nebraskans Unafraid

To join the group Fearless call 402-403-9250 or e-mail:



The National Children's Advocacy Center aims to better inform the community on child sexual abuse


HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — In light of the numerous number of sexual abuse and sexual harassment cases being reported, one organization strives to help better inform the national dialogue on the issue.

According to the National Children's Advocacy Center (NCAC), when individuals speak out about abuse, personal questions and attacks usually follow. They say the reality is that child sexual abuse occurs in secret and typically only two people know what happened – the victim and the offender. Investigations can be challenging because there is rarely any medical evidence or other proof of abuse, but the NCAC says they are essential in determining whether abuse has occurred.

“We should appropriately investigate all allegations of child sexual abuse. We should demonstrate support for survivors of child sexual abuse. We should not espouse opinions about the veracity of allegations based on limited information. We should demand accountability for those who harm children. It is adults' responsibility to protect children and support survivors of abuse.”

The NCAC provided the following information about child sexual abuse.

•  1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before the age of 18.

To put this in context, child sexual abuse occurs at 75 times the rate of childhood cancer. As disturbing as this sounds, it was worse 30 years ago. In the 1980's, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 7 boys was sexually abused prior to age 18.

•  Most victims of child sexual abuse never disclose during childhood.

In fact, many people reading this article were victims of sexual abuse who have never told another person about this experience.

•  Most child sexual abuse is committed by an individual known to the child.

As such, it is often a person the child knows and trusts, and someone who is also trusted by the child's caregivers and others in the community.

•  People often believe that children fabricate allegations of abuse.

While it is true that we occasionally have children who fabricate a story, the most common lie we hear is children who say, “nothing happened” when it really did. How can this be? It is simple – disclosing child sexual abuse is very difficult.

The National Children's Advocacy Center was created in 1985 to coordinate the multidisciplinary response to child abuse, especially child sexual abuse. Since their inception, the NCAC has served as a model for more than 1,000 Children's Advocacy Centers operating in all 50 states and in 29 countries throughout the world. Since 1985, they have served more than 10,000 victims of child abuse from North Alabama and trained more than 140,000 professionals from throughout the world.



Tara's Law: Montana OPI yet to develop curriculum for childhood sexual abuse prevention

by Perry Backus

Tara Walker Lyons remembers feeling hopeful last April when Gov. Steve Bullock signed the law that would provide the groundwork for teachers to truly begin addressing childhood sexual abuse.

While that hope hasn't faded completely away, Lyons believes her journey to ensure that children are equipped with the knowledge they need to keep abusers at bay still may have a long way to go.

“As far as I can tell, there aren't any programs available yet through OPI (Office of Public Instruction),” she said. “I'm not really sure where it's headed at this point. There's no handbook that I can read to see that happens after that happens. This has never been done in this state before.”

When the state Legislature passed HB 298 — which its sponsor later named Tara's Law — it joined 45 other states that already had taken the step to require that information about childhood sexual abuse be taught in the schools.

Unlike most of those other states, Montana's law isn't a mandate and it didn't include any funding to develop a curriculum or hire the people needed to provide training.

So far, OPI has created a new webpage focused on sex trafficking and sexual abuse that gives educators a place to read the new law and see the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services' guidelines for identifying and reporting child abuse and neglect.

But that's about all that's happened.

Dylan Klapmeier, OPI's communication's director, said the agency is working to develop a new mandatory reporting class that teachers can take as part of their required courses for certification renewal, but currently there isn't anyone working on developing a curriculum for schools. Klapmeier expects that will get underway sometime after the first of the year.

Flathead County School Superintendent Jack Eggensperger said he hasn't seen anything from OPI about developing a policy to address the new law.

“Quite frankly, I wasn't very aware of anything about this particular bill,” Eggensperger said.

There hasn't been any discussion about the issue in the Northwest Montana Curriculum Consortium meetings that he's attended. None of the school districts he works with directly have made any inquiries.

“If there was new curriculum, that would typically come down through OPI,” he said. “I haven't heard anything about implementation yet.”

Rep. Ed Greef, R-Florence, sponsored the bill. He's not surprised that it's taking time for the idea to catch hold.

When he introduced the bill initially, it included $1.5 million in funding. Due to the tight budget facing the Legislature, Greef said he was forced to remove that fiscal note in order to get the legislation passed.

It's his hope that OPI will fund the effort in the next round of budgeting as a line item.

“I look for the funding to happen the next session,” Greef said. “If it doesn't happen then, then the session after that. Once it has funding, I think some more districts will show interest.”

Greef is opposed to requiring schools to offer the educational program that would help young children understand the difference between right and wrong touching and teach them how to seek out a trusted adult to talk to when abuse occurs.

“I don't think mandating needs to be part of the solution,” Greef said. “I think it's the school district's teachers and board who need to be the ones requesting the material they need. It needs to originate at the local level.”

Greef has talked with a number of local teachers, both still working in schools and retired, about the issue.

“I haven't spoken to a teacher yet who isn't aware of the need and who wouldn't welcome having the additional resources,” he said. “The interest from the teachers is very sincere. They desire it.”

Lyons saw that, too, when she spoke to a group of teachers and counselors at a recent training session in Missoula.

Lyons was 12 when she was sexually abused by a relative. The realization of just how deeply that abuse affected her life didn't come until years later when she was treated for abusing alcohol. While she was in treatment, she discovered that she wasn't alone.

“I was nervous standing in front of all of these educators,” Lyons said. “I'm a college drop-out and all I had to share was my experience. I hope to show them how important it is to report. That it doesn't take proof or disclosure. Suspicion is enough to place that first report.”

Lyons has given her speech to prisoners, lawmakers and almost anyone else who will listen. Over the past couple of years, she's seen other young sexual abuse victims become emboldened to add their own testimonies in an effort to get this educational piece in place.

She plans to be back in Helena when the Legislature reconvenes in 2019.

The original idea of requiring that childhood sexual abuse prevention be taught in school begin with author and activist Erin Merryn, who was molested by a family member between the ages of 11 and 13. Nationally, the law is called “Erin's Law.”

Lyons said Merryn told her early on that for the law to be effective, it has to be mandated.

“At the end of the day, we just didn't think we could get that this first time around,” Lyons said. “Parents can always opt out of having their kids take the classes. We don't want to shove anything (down) anyone's throat. Every parent wants the best for their child unless they are the ones abusing the child.

“I plan to go back and keep working,” she said. “Schools are beginning to reach out to me. I know that this isn't over. We just have to keep pushing forward.”?



Hollywood #MeToo march helps give legs to movement in wake of latest sexual assault allegations

by Brenda Gazaar

Survivors of sexual assault and harassment gathered Sunday, Nov. 12, in Hollywood to take part in a march under the slogan #MeToo as cascading allegations have continued to surface against powerful men in the entertainment industry and beyond.

Yoga teacher and psychotherapist Linda Crossley said she made the trip from Huntington Beach to support the effort to prevent the voices of women, or anyone oppressed or abused, to be silenced again.

“I feel like every woman has been harassed, abused or assaulted in some way and I'm so excited about the energy level getting to this point, the tipping point, so it's never going to be hidden again,” Crossley said shortly before participating in the Me Too Survivors' March.

At the same time, members of the entertainment industry held a Take Back the Workplace march and rally here in an effort to bring protest of sexual harassment in the workplace to the streets.

Holding signs that read “Stronger Together” and “Farmworker Leaders: Say No to Sexual Harassment,” both groups — made up of hundreds of people — began their demonstrations at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue around 10 a.m. and marched to the CNN Building on Sunset Boulevard.

Cathy Schulman, the Academy-Award winning producer of the movie “Crash,” told hundreds who gathered at the Take Back the Workplace rally there that prejudice against women in the workplace must be addressed “from the top down.”

“We need gender balance and diverse boards at all companies,” Schulman said in front of the CNN Building Sunday afternoon. “And we need women and diverse people around the decision-making tables.”

Organizers at this rally called for doing away with confidential arbitration clauses and non-disclosure agreements in employment contracts, which they said restrict exposure of workplace harassment and assault.

Allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey, comedian Louis C.K. and others have rocked the entertainment industry in recent weeks, sparking an international discussion about a longtime scourge often hidden from public view.

“It bothers me that we do only pay attention when it's someone famous,” Brenda Gutierrez, lead organizer of the Me Too Survivors' March, said at their own rally at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue a short time later.

“We are forgetting this happens in our communities every day. It happens in our military. It happens to our indigenous women.”

Seeing supporters of the movement come out in force made Gutierrez want to cry because years ago, she said, she thought she was alone.

“And I'm looking at the audience and I realize I'm not alone and neither are you because we are here for you,” she said. “We will no longer be ashamed.”

Tarana Burke launched the Me Too movement about a decade ago through the nonprofit she co-founded, Just Be Inc., that focuses on the health and well-being of young women of color.

“The origins of Me Too are rooted deep in the most marginalized communities — in school cafeterias and church basements that provided safe spaces for black and brown girls forgotten and dismissed by those who have resources to help them,” Burke told the crowd at the Me Too rally.

“We can march and we can make our own voices heard but if we are not centering and elevating the voices often drowned out….then our work will ring hollow,” she added.

The phrase #MeToo became pervasive on social media after actress and activist Alyssa Milano, following the Weinstein allegations, asked her followers on Twitter to acknowledge their own sexual assault and harassment experiences using the hashtag #MeToo.

Anthony Solis, 40, of Hollywood said he came to the Me Too Survivors March to stand with women who have been sexually assaulted, as well as men.

The activist said he had to share a hotel room with a man last year that he did not know well during a get-out-the-vote campaign in another state. Solis said he woke up in the middle of the night to the man naked in his bed touching him without his permission.

Someone from the organization he went with advised him to go to a battered women's shelter, which was not helpful, he said.

“I just wanted people to know out there that this happens to men,” he said, adding that he “felt pushed aside” after complaining of the man's sexual misconduct.

Aleesha Barlow, who made the trip from the Bay Area to speak at the Me Too rally, said it was “magical” for her to be able to participate.

“This is the change that the world needs,” said Barlow, a survivor of child sexual abuse who created the Tell Somebody organization, which aims to end child abuse of all kinds.

Allegations of sexual misconduct have also rocked the news business, the California capitol and other industries in recent weeks.




We can't ignore sexual-abuse victims just because they're not famous

Naika Venant. Giulianna Ramos Bermudez. Nubia Barahona. Victor Barahona.

Their names just don't resonate the same way that those of Angelina Jolie, Lupita Nyong'o, Ashley Judd, and Rose McGowan do. But they should. They, too, are some of the youngest victims of sexual abuse, among hundreds over the years in South Florida. Some didn't survive how mercilessly they were treated by people who were supposed to care for them.

For the past month, just about every day has brought new accusations, allegations, and acrimony from women throughout Hollywood's film industry. They're going public about the sexual harassent, assaults and rape that they suffered at the hands of powerful men — who held their careers in those hands. The revelations of film producer Harvey Weinstein's odious and decades-long assaults on women blasted open the floodgates of similar accusations — and apologies — in politics and corporate America.

It took decades for some of these women to overcome the unfair stigma of shame and the perception of powerless to find their voices. And they should be commended. But, admit it, we are paying rapt attention because of who they are.

It's doubtless that they truly speak for the children and young teens who are silently enduring the sexual abuse, among other horrors, that led to the suicides of Naika and Giulianna, or Nubia's death and her twin brother's near-death.

“I appreciate the desire to talk about this culture [in the film industry], but let's not forget there are children dealing with an imbalance of power with someone with far greater control over more than their career,” state Sen. Lauren Book told the Editorial Board. She, too, endured sexual abuse as a young girls, at hands of her nanny. Through her seat in the Legislature and a foundation, she is pushing the state to be more progressive in how it prevents and responds to such abuse, especially suffered by children in its care.

Book cites some chilling national statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “We know that one in three girls, and one in five boys, will be victims of sexual assault before their 18th birthday. We know that only 1 to 3 percent will ever be reported,” Book said.

In Florida, the Department of Children & Families remain under-resourced. Though it indeed gets things right, when it fumbles, the results as highlighted by the Herald's award-winning series “Innocents Lost” are horrific, tragic.

In other ways, Florida has made progress. It has removed the statute of limitations on prosecuting child sexual assault cases; children can testify about their alleged attackers on closed-circuit television instead of an intimidating courtroom; they can also have helpful therapy dogs; it uses mock court in child advocacy centers to help kids understand what to expect.

Stll, other states offer lessons Florida should consider adopting: Massachusetts has established a child-neglect registry, to differentiate between the needs of children who have been sexually abused and those in situations of neglect. It allows the state to better craft child-protection strategies; New York is considering testing children for drugs if their parents are arrested on drug charges. Too often, addicted parents allow their children to be sexually abused in exchange for drugs. Incredibly, they will give a child drugs to make the abuse easier.

The sexual abuse of children — anyone — is an abomination Florida must confront head-on.


Sexual Abuse and Harassment: Where Is Our Moral Compass?

by Ross Ellis

With all of the sexual abuse and sexual harassment stories in the media, our heads are spinning. Some in disbelief and all in pure disgust.

The abuse didn't start with Harvey Weinstein. His insidious treatment of actors just came to the forefront. And it's bringing the entertainment world to its knees.

We've all heard stories about the casting couch and now we are hearing testimonies of beloved actresses and actors saying reporting their abuse from Weinstein and other entertainment industry notables.

The proverbial “good old boys club” is no longer going to be able to use their power. Today women are more aware and smarter.

And the #METOO campaign has brought forth women and men from all walks of life all over the country talking about their abuse and harassment.

It's understandable that actresses and actors didn't step up years ago for fear they would never work. And some were sexually assaulted. Talking about sexual assault is not only painful, but the victim feels shame for letting it happen, when in reality it wasn't their fault.

And it's not just the entertainment industry. Reports of Judge Roy Moore allege that he dated teenage girls when he was 32 years of age. A former deputy district attorney whom Moore worked with suspected that Moore was dating teenage girls (and I use that word “dating” loosely) because it completely angers me.

Adult men do not date teenagers. They abuse and molest them. They groom young girls and boys into thinking that nothing is wrong and their usual MO is to tell the youths that if they tell anyone, they will kill them or kill someone in their family.

And those who stand by and say nothing are just as guilty. It is unconscionable that a deputy district attorney did not report the suspected abuse if he indeed suspected it.

America's children suffer from a hidden epidemic. Every year over 3 million children are victims of violence and neglect, and those are only the ones that are reported. Because this epidemic is so under-reported, the actual number of children being harmed is 3 times greater.

Sexual abuse and exploitation of a child is child abuse and it's a crime! So is raping another adult.

For children and adults, every 98 seconds a person is sexually assaulted in the U.S. Sadly, only 6 out of every 1000 perpetrators will end up in prison.

According to RAIIN, women ages 18-24 both in and out of college are at an elevated risk of sexual violence.

This abuse and harassment is an imbalance of power. Whether it is work related or the abuse of a child, it is unwanted and unwelcomed.

For anyone who thinks that sexual harassment is just locker room talk, or jokes by comedians, they are wrong and so is the harassment. No one should be made to feel uncomfortable by anyone's verbal sexual advances. It is degrading and demoralizing.

When others stand by and say or do nothing, they are a part of the problem.

Rather than being part of the problem, we must all stand up and be part of the solution. Speak up! Report abuse even if it's only suspected. You could be saving someone's life, and their emotional and physical well-being.

Don't stay silent because these abusers may be your friends or allies. Don't stay silent at all. Use your moral compass and do the right thing! Be the solution!

Men in power and even women think they are protected by their power, fame and money. This is no longer true. With the exception of children who sadly have no voice, we as adults can use ours.

Like the lyrics to Katy Perry's song ‘Roar'

Shout it out loud …

“I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter dancing through the fire, ‘Cause I am the champion, and you're gonna hear me roar!”


Washington D.C.

Roy Moore Is Accused of Sexual Misconduct by a Fifth Woman

by Jonathan Martin and Sheryl Gay Stolberg

WASHINGTON — An Alabama woman accused Roy S. Moore on Monday of sexually assaulting her when she was 16, the fifth and most brutal charge leveled against the Republican Senate candidate. Senate Republicans are now openly discussing not seating him or expelling him if he wins the Dec. 12 special election.

The new accuser, Beverly Young Nelson, told a packed news conference in New York that Mr. Moore attacked her when she was a teenager and he was a prosecutor in Etowah County, Ala. Ms. Nelson was represented at the news conference by Gloria Allred, a lawyer who has championed victims of sexual harassment.

“I tried fighting him off, while yelling at him to stop, but instead of stopping, he began squeezing my neck, attempting to force my head onto his crotch,” Ms. Nelson said, growing emotional as she described the assault, which she said happened one night after her shift ended at a local restaurant, where she was a waitress.

She said that Mr. Moore warned her that “no one will believe you” if she told anyone about the encounter in his car.

Ms. Allred displayed a yearbook that Ms. Nelson said had been signed by Mr. Moore, and the writing mirrored other examples of Mr. Moore's signature.

Even before the news conference, Mr. Moore's campaign described Ms. Allred as “a sensationalist leading a witch hunt, and she is only around to create a spectacle.” The statement denied again “any sexual misconduct with anyone” by Mr. Moore.

But in Washington, those denials were increasingly dismissed. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, declared, “I believe the women.” Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, the head of the Senate Republican campaign arm, said that the Senate should vote to expel Mr. Moore, a former State Supreme Court judge, if he won “because he does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the United States Senate.”

The day's events seemed to harden the resolve of Senate Republicans to avert what they fear would be a nightmare situation going into the midterm elections next year: being associated with a man accused of preying on children.

“It's drip by drip, cut by cut,” said Senator Richard C. Shelby, Alabama's senior lawmaker. “It doesn't look good.”

Mr. Moore responded with fury, not only refusing to quit the race but stating that the person who needed to step aside was Mr. McConnell.

“He has failed conservatives and must be replaced,” said Mr. Moore in a statement, appending President Trump's trademark: “#draintheswamp.”

Publicly, Mr. McConnell, appearing at a news conference in Louisville, said he was “looking at” drafting a write-in candidate for the Dec. 12 special election. Privately, Mr. McConnell was doing more than merely looking. One idea being discussed, first brought up by two different White House officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity, would be for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to run as either a write-in candidate or to be appointed to what was his seat should Mr. Moore win and be immediately removed from office.

Mr. McConnell is supportive of the idea and discussed it on Monday in a telephone call with Vice President Mike Pence that was chiefly about the Republican tax overhaul proposal, according to party officials briefed on the call. Mr. Sessions remains popular among Alabama Republicans, but his relationship with Mr. Trump has frayed since he recused himself from the investigation of the role that Russia played in last year's presidential campaign.

The swap would be something of a win-win for Mr. McConnell and Mr. Trump — the senator is eager to rid himself of Mr. Moore and the president has been open about his disappointment with Mr. Sessions.

That they even discussed such a radical maneuver spoke to the desperate straits that Republicans find themselves in. If Doug Jones, the Democratic nominee, wins, it would narrow the Republican advantage in the Senate to a single seat.

But Republicans increasingly believe that enduring such a narrow majority may be a price they are willing to pay if it means keeping Mr. Moore from their ranks.

Should Mr. Moore prevail, Republicans believe the debate over whether he should be allowed to take and keep his seat could drag on for months. The Republicans' legislative agenda, including on taxes, already faces uncertain prospects and could be swallowed in a maelstrom of controversy around Mr. Moore and his fitness to serve.

The implications for the 2018 elections could be even graver, Republicans fear, with several party strategists predicting that Democrats would brand them as the party of child sex abuse.

For their part, Alabama Republicans are warning of the perils of barring Mr. Moore from the Senate. A write-in campaign, they suggested, would prove fruitless and perhaps help the Democrats, while a move to block or expel Mr. Moore would further poison the relationship between the Republican Party's leaders and its populist wing.

“If the people of this state go forward and select their U.S. senator as Roy Moore, it will be because there is a deep suspicion of what has been coined as the establishment in D.C.,” said State Senator Phil Williams, whose district includes Mr. Moore's home county. “And if the establishment then chooses and tries to unseat, or in some way disavow, that candidate, it will create a backlash the likes of which the party has never seen before.”

Democrats, who have been restrained about their prospects in such a conservative state, tried to avoid inserting themselves into the Republican crossfire. But, they said, as more information comes out, Mr. Moore's case that he is being smeared in a single newspaper article will crumble. By Monday night, an article in The New Yorker asserted that Mr. Moore had been barred from the mall in his hometown, Gadsden, for bothering young women, a memory that many in the town said they shared, though no one has found direct evidence.

“The more people that come out of the woodwork, the more women with similar stories, the more credible it becomes,” said Zac McCrary, a Democratic pollster based in Alabama. “It's going to become easier to see through Roy Moore's nondenial denials.”

Mr. Jones is also quietly benefiting from the support of national liberals. He is to be in Washington on Tuesday for a $500 per person cocktail reception partly sponsored by a raft of well-known Democrats, including Senator Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey, according to an invitation circulating among Democratic lobbyists.

Mr. Jones has been raising substantial money out-of-state — Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut helped him bring in $125,000 with a single email and handful of Twitter messages — and has had Alabama's airwaves nearly to himself in recent weeks: He has aired nearly $2 million worth of commercials since Mr. Moore won the nomination in September while Mr. Moore has spent only about $300,000 on ads, according to strategists tracking the race.

Mr. Moore, because of his statewide fame, has never had to raise much money. But now that he is fighting for his political life, he urgently needs to recast the race to focus on some of Mr. Jones's liberal views on guns and abortion.

But he may not have the money to mount any such assault and, with his party leaders shunning him, it is not clear who will fill the gap. Mr. Moore tried one approach Monday afternoon: trying to tap into the grass-roots loathing on the right toward Mr. McConnell.

“Mitch McConnell's plot to destroy me,” Mr. Moore wrote in the subject line of a fund-raising email.

“Apparently Mitch McConnell and the establishment G.O.P. would rather elect a radical pro-abortion Democrat than a conservative Christian,” he added.


Washington D. C.

"Nothing about it felt right': More than 50 people describe sexual harassment on Capitol Hill

by MJ Lee, Sunlen Serfaty, Sara Ganim and Juana Summers

Be extra careful of the male lawmakers who sleep in their offices -- they can be trouble. Avoid finding yourself alone with a congressman or senator in elevators, late-night meetings or events where alcohol is flowing. And think twice before speaking out about sexual harassment from a boss -- it could cost you your career.

These are a few of the unwritten rules that some female lawmakers, staff and interns say they follow on Capitol Hill, where they say harassment and coercion is pervasive on both sides of the rotunda.

There is also the "creep list" -- an informal roster passed along by word-of-mouth, consisting of the male members most notorious for inappropriate behavior, ranging from making sexually suggestive comments or gestures to seeking physical relations with younger employees and interns.

CNN spoke with more than 50 lawmakers, current and former Hill aides and political veterans who have worked in Congress, the majority of whom spoke anonymously to be candid and avoid potential repercussions. With few exceptions, every person said they have personally experienced sexual harassment on the Hill or know of others who have.

In an environment with "so many young women," said one ex-House aide, the men "have no self-control." "Amongst ourselves, we know," a former Senate staffer said of the lawmakers with the worst reputations. And sometimes, the sexual advances from members of Congress or senior aides are reciprocated in the hopes of advancing one's career -- what one political veteran bluntly referred to as a "sex trade on Capitol Hill."

These anecdotes portray a workplace where women are subjected to constant harassment -- both subtle and explicit. They also highlight an antiquated reporting system that discourages some victims from speaking out, leaving many professionals on the Hill to rely instead on hushed advice from peers and mentors.

On Tuesday, a House committee will hold a hearing to examine the chamber's sexual harassment policies, and the Senate last week passed a resolution making sexual harassment training mandatory for senators, staff and interns -- two clear acknowledgments of the need for reform. Both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell support ramping up sexual harassment training.

One female congresswoman told CNN that she has experienced sexual harassment from her male colleagues on multiple occasions over the years, but she declined to speak on the record or detail those interactions.

"Half are harassers," she said of her male counterparts in Congress, before quickly adding that that was an over-estimate -- only "some are harassers," she said.

Capitol Hill's open secret: 'We know' who they are

What began as a typical workday left one woman feeling "horrified."

A former Senate staffer recalled getting on the "members only" elevator -- designed to let lawmakers easily reach the House and Senate floors -- with her boss a few years ago. Her boss introduced her to another senator in the elevator. Both senators are men and still currently in office.

When she leaned in to shake that senator's hand, he stroked the inside of her palm "in a really gross, suggestive way" -- a gesture that was completely invisible to her boss. The ex-staffer said she was rattled and "felt very yucky." She was also shaken by how brazen the senator was to do this with his colleague standing right next to them.

The woman, who declined to be named or reveal the senator's identity, told CNN that she avoided that lawmaker from that day on. She also never told her then-boss about it -- she was embarrassed and nervous to make it an issue, she said, and simply "took it for the gross moment that it was."

"Nothing about it felt right," she said.

In conversations with CNN, multiple women pointed to the elevators on Capitol Hill as a place where staff and members prey on women and say they have been advised to avoid riding alone with men if possible. One woman said years after leaving her job in Congress, she still feels anxious about being alone in elevators with men.

The inappropriate conduct is hardly limited to the confines of elevators.

The unique lifestyle on the Hill helps fuel a hostile culture. Many male members are far away from their families, including their spouses, during the week, frequently working late nights and attending evening fundraisers and events where alcohol flows freely. Often, they are staffed by younger, female employees. Some members of Congress forgo a Washington-area apartment and sleep in their offices, a practice several sources highlighted as problematic.

One aide who works in the Senate described Capitol Hill as "a sort of old school, Wild West workplace culture that has a lot of 'work hard, play hard' ethos and without the sort of standard professionalism that you find in more traditional workplaces."

The dozens of interviews that CNN conducted with both men and women also revealed that there is an unwritten list of male lawmakers -- made up primarily of House representatives where there are many more members than the Senate -- notorious for inappropriate or predatory behavior. Several people simply referred to that roster as the "creep list."

More than half a dozen interviewees independently named one California congressman for pursuing female staffers; another half dozen pointed to a Texas congressman for engaging in inappropriate behavior. CNN is not naming either of those lawmakers because the stories are unverified.

"Amongst ourselves, we know," a former Senate aide said referring to sexual harassers and their behavior. "There is a certain code amongst us, we acknowledge among each other what occurs."

Some stay silent; others tolerate bad behavior: 'There's a little bit of a sex trade on Capitol Hill'

Even as explosive allegations in Hollywood and media have taken down powerful figures like producer Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey, comedian Louis C.K. and political journalist Mark Halperin, on Capitol Hill, it's not clear that a similar a day of reckoning is soon coming to one of the country's most important institutions.

The power dynamics in Washington contribute to this problem. Most offices are staffed by early-career professionals who are trying to make a name for themselves in Washington. They also report directly to members of Congress.

"A lot of it has to do with being in a place where people who have power try to exert it to get what they want," one Senate staffer said, adding that a lot of the most egregious examples happen "on the cocktail circuit" -- where powerful men intermingle with younger staffers outside of the Capitol.

It's "people using their power without any self-control," a former House staffer said. "There are a lot of tales of these guys going out and behaving very badly with younger staffers."

But some women tolerate the advances or even reciprocate them -- everything from flirting to getting physically intimate -- believing that it is one way to climb the ladder.

"There's a little bit of a sex trade on Capitol Hill. If a part of getting ahead on Capitol Hill is playing ball with whatever douchebag -- then whatever," said one female political veteran who worked on Capitol Hill.

Former Rep. Mary Bono said publicly this month that she endured suggestive comments from a fellow lawmaker for years before eventually confronting him. Rep. Linda Sanchez and ex-Rep. Hilda Solis also told the Associated Press stories of repeated inappropriate comments from lawmakers, including some who are still in office.

One woman who began her career in Washington in the 1980s and is now in her 50s, told CNN that she still constantly takes precautions to protect herself from powerful men.

"I think women have to watch where they are and how they are all the time," she said.

Travis Moore, a former aide to ex-Rep. Henry Waxman, started a signature-gathering campaign last week calling on congressional leaders to reform "inadequate" sexual harassment policies in Congress. His letter has gathered over 1,500 signatures.

Moore told CNN that he was deeply affected by a close friend who confided in him that, while she was an aide in the Senate, she constantly received sexual comments from a superior, who was an aide. When she reported the behavior to her chief of staff, she was "questioned harshly about it and her motives were questioned."

The accused aide was not reprimanded and there was no recourse.

'The place where complaints go to die'

Harassment on Capitol Hill isn't always sexual in nature.

Around 2011, Liz was a young and fast-rising aide on the Hill. Her career was thriving and her work was getting noticed. But in the Senate office where Liz worked, her direct boss, a male senior aide, yelled and physically intimidated her.

She eventually sought help from the Office of Compliance, the little-known agency established in part to oversee workplace disputes in Congress. But Liz, whose first name has been changed to conceal her identity, told CNN that this was the implicit but clear message she received from the office: "There's no real case to any of this."

"It is like, the place where complaints go to die," she said. "It was like I was talking to a black hole of people who didn't care."

Years later, Liz, who no longer works on the Hill, said she still wonders whether her decision to report her boss's behavior damaged her career.

When asked to respond to Liz's story, OOC Executive Director Susan Tsui Grundmann said in a statement, "Congress designed us to be a non-partisan, independent process, which means that we are not an advocate for either side."

The OOC, established by the Congressional Accountability Act in the 1990s, has come under fire in recent weeks for what some say are antiquated rules that can intimidate victims into silence.

What's more, the initial proceedings alone can drag out for months.

If a congressional aide wants to file a formal complaint with the OOC, they must first engage in 30 days of counseling. After 30 days, they can choose to go into mediation with a representative of the congressional office that they are lodging a complaint against, which can last at least another 30 days. Then, the accuser must wait an additional 30 days before they can officially file a complaint and pursue a hearing either with the OOC or the Federal District Court.

Multiple lawmakers in both chambers are drafting legislation to change the OOC's protocol for handling workplace complaints.

Sen. Kirsten Gilibrand's forthcoming bill would remove the 30-day waiting period before a victim can initiate the administrative hearing phase of the process. In the House, Rep. Jackie Speier is proposing similar legislation.

There is also growing pressure for more transparency so that the public can see information like the number of sexual harassment complaints filed with the OOC, the number of settlements reached, the dollar figure of those settlements and which offices are receiving complaints. CNN, along with some members of Congress, has requested that information.

Tracy Manzer, a spokeswoman for Speier, said 80% of people who have come to their office with stories of sexual misconduct in the last few weeks have chosen not to report the incidents to the OOC.

And many of those who did said the process was a nightmare, forcing them to stop midway through -- some were told things like, "You can't prove it" and "it'll be a nightmare" to move forward, Manzer said.

The female congresswoman who told CNN that she has been sexually harassed by her male colleagues numerous times said she believed there is little upside to speaking out.

"I need these guys' votes," she said. "In this body, you may be an enemy one day and a close ally the next when accomplishing something. ... So women will be very cautious about saying anything negative about any of their colleagues."

Is that depressing? "I think it's reality," she said.


Washington D.C.

House moves to mandate sexual harassment training

by Christina Marcos

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) announced Tuesday the House will introduce mandatory anti-sexual harassment training after multiple female lawmakers went public with accusations against unnamed colleagues.

The move marked a dramatic change for a body that has previously resisted imposing mandatory training for members and staff.

But the push in recent weeks to combat sexual harassment in the workplace reached a tipping point on Tuesday after female lawmakers' stories piled up.

“I think the culture in this country has been awakened to the fact that we have a serious epidemic in the workplace,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who's led the push to reform sexual harassment policies on Capitol Hill.

Ryan made the announcement hours after a House Administration Committee hearing regarding the chamber's existing harassment policies and resources available for staff to report complaints.

“Our goal is not only to raise awareness, but also make abundantly clear that harassment in any form has no place in this institution,” the Speaker said in a statement.

At the hearing, Speier testified that two current members of Congress have been accused of sexual

“In fact, there are two members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, who serve right now who have been subject to review, or not been subject to review, that have engaged in sexual harassment,” said Speier, who declined to identify the lawmakers by name.

Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), a member of the House Administration Committee, shared a story about a male lawmaker harassing a young female staffer.

According to Comstock, the lawmaker asked the staffer to bring materials to his residence. He opened the door wearing only a towel and later exposed himself to the female staffer.

The staffer quit her job after the incident. Comstock said she heard the story secondhand and did not know the lawmaker's identity, only that he is still serving in Congress.

“That kind of situation, what are we doing here for women right now who are dealing with somebody like that?” Comstock asked.

A third female lawmaker, Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), told The Associated Press earlier this month that a male colleague repeatedly ogled her and touched her inappropriately on the House floor when she first began serving in the House.

Sánchez, who is now a member of House Democratic leadership, declined to identify the lawmaker but said he is still in office.

She told reporters on Tuesday that she learned to avoid him and has advised newer members to do the same.

“The, sort of, floodgates have opened in terms of the people who are willing to talk about their experiences, and we can all learn from that,” Sánchez said.

Across the Capitol, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said Tuesday that she was sexually harassed while working as a Capitol Hill intern in 1974.

McCaskill told NBC News that she learned to avoid elevators while working in the Missouri statehouse because “elevators were when you were captured.”

Reforms to combat the pervasiveness of sexual harassment have been a long time coming on Capitol Hill, which remains a male-dominated workplace.

The inherent power differential between powerful male lawmakers and staffers who are expected to cater to their every whim can be a breeding ground for harassment. The pressure staffers face to avoid making their bosses look bad can add to the difficulty of persuading victims to come forward with allegations.

In 2014, Speier successfully added an amendment to an annual spending bill to require sexual harassment awareness training for members and staff. But her amendment was ultimately not included in the final version of the appropriations measure that became law.

At the time, ex-Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) had been revealed to be conducting an extramarital affair with a staffer.

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), who practiced employment law for 30 years, recommended in testimony to the House Administration panel that the legislative branch establish a uniform, streamlined harassment policy and explicitly forbid members from pursuing sexual relationships with staffers.

Lawmakers and staff have access to voluntary sexual harassment awareness training through the Office of Compliance, Office of House Employment Counsel and House chief administrative officer, rather than a single, mandatory entity.

Under the current policy through the Office of Compliance, staffers must go through months of counseling and mediation with the employing office before they can file a formal complaint. Staffers also have to sign nondisclosure agreements.

If they decided to proceed with a complaint, they can choose to file it in court or seek an administrative hearing to negotiate for a settlement. Funds for any settlements are paid out of a Treasury Department fund, rather than the employing office.

Ryan's announcement follows the Senate's passage of a resolution last week to require sexual harassment awareness training for its members and staff.

A Ryan spokeswoman confirmed that the House policy change will happen through legislation.

The Speaker had previously urged House members to take sexual harassment awareness training and require it for their staffs. But his announcement on Tuesday effectively guarantees the House will see reforms.

After Ryan announced the new policy, Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-N.H.) praised the move and revealed her own experience of facing predatory behavior in Congress.

“As a young staffer I was assaulted by a guest of the Congress and had no training for how to respond, who to turn to, or what my rights were,” Kuster said in a statement. “This is a long overdue change.”

Speier introduced a bipartisan bill earlier this month to require members and staff to undergo annual sexual harassment awareness training and file a certificate of completion with the House Ethics Committee.

The California Democrat also plans to file legislation this week to overhaul the Office of Compliance process for staff to report harassment complaints.

Comstock said it's incumbent on male lawmakers to push for reform as well.

“It's important that the men talk about it too, because then it's not just the women saying something and making men feel uncomfortable,” Comstock said.



Supporting survivors of childhood sexual abuse

by Echo Net

Supporting a survivor of childhood sexual abuse as a partner, friend, non-offending parent, sibling, work colleague, family member or adult child of a survivor can often leave people feeling ‘helpless in knowing what is going on and how to support them,' said Heidi Tornow, program development coordinator for Heartfelt House near Lismore.

Eyes Wide Open is a seminar aimed at helping the people in a relationship with an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, from a partner or work colleague to family members, to both understand and help the person they love and care for.

‘Children feel deeply betrayed when a trusted adult sexually abuses them. Their sense of safety is shattered and they often feel intense shame and guilt and that it was their fault that the abuse took place,' said Heidi.

‘This can and often does continue into adulthood, affecting their capacity to have fulfilling relationships and friendships. Many decide to rather live in isolation than “admitting” to someone they care about, what has happened to them.

People who are in the immediate environment of a survivor truly care about their partner/ friend/ sibling/ adult daughter or son but feel often helpless in knowing what is going on and how to support them.'

The seminar aims to creating understanding of the myths around child sexual abuse, grooming, coping strategies and potential ways to support survivors in empowering ways.

Seminars are run twice a year and there are four places left for the upcoming seminar this Saturday, November 18. Bookings are essential and can be made on 6628 8940.

Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse are invited to contact Heartfelt House to apply for participation in its 18-week group program Taking the First Steps. For more information you can look them up online here.



NCAC aims to better inform the community dialogue on child sexual abuse


HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- In light of the numerous number of sexual abuse and sexual harassment cases being reported, one organization strives to help better inform the national dialogue on the issue.

"It's very unsettling because it's so incredibly disturbing what is being talked about. Is this really what's happening in the United States?"

Talking about sexual abuse is hard. Chris Newlin, the Executive Director of the National Children's Advocacy Center (NCAC) believes that it is so difficult because "sexual abuse is a highly emotional issue."

Admitting that something happened can be even harder, Newlin says most child sexual abuse victims never disclose the abuse during their childhood. "There were certain lessons to be learned. 'If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all.' And, 'don't be talking about any adult, you're just a kid.' Those messages while meant out of respect, had a chilling effect because children were shut down from this."

The recent sexual allegations are all aimed at high profile people, and that could also be an intimidating factor for a victim. "You're also coming forward about someone who others like and appreciate. And saying something negative about someone who is respected can be scary."

According to the NCAC, when individuals speak out about abuse, personal questions and attacks usually follow. They say the reality is that child sexual abuse occurs in secret and typically only two people know what happened - the victim and the offender. Investigations can be challenging because there is rarely any medical evidence or other proof of abuse, but the NCAC says they are essential in determining whether abuse has occurred.

"We should appropriately investigate all allegations of child sexual abuse. We should demonstrate support for survivors of child sexual abuse. We should not espouse opinions about the veracity of allegations based on limited information. We should demand accountability for those who harm children. It is adults' responsibility to protect children and support survivors of abuse."

The NCAC provided the following information about child sexual abuse.

•  1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before the age of 18.

To put this in context, child sexual abuse occurs at 75 times the rate of childhood cancer. As disturbing as this sounds, it was worse 30 years ago. In the 1980's, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 7 boys was sexually abused prior to age 18.

•  Most victims of child sexual abuse never disclose during childhood.

In fact, many people reading this article were victims of sexual abuse who have never told another person about this experience.

•  Most child sexual abuse is committed by an individual known to the child.

As such, it is often a person the child knows and trusts, and someone who is also trusted by the child's caregivers and others in the community.

•  People often believe that children fabricate allegations of abuse.

While it is true that we occasionally have children who fabricate a story, the most common lie we hear is children who say, “nothing happened” when it really did. How can this be? It is simple – disclosing child sexual abuse is very difficult.

The National Children's Advocacy Center was created in 1985 to coordinate the multidisciplinary response to child abuse, especially child sexual abuse. Since their inception, the NCAC has served as a model for more than 1,000 Children's Advocacy Centers operating in all 50 states and in 29 countries throughout the world. Since 1985, they have served more than 10,000 victims of child abuse from North Alabama and trained more than 140,000 professionals from throughout the world.



"Fighting Damsels' event takes aim on abuse in the community

by Dana Larsen

Knowledge is power.

And power is a community united to prevent abuse.

That was the message of Kristi Neumann, CAASA leader, speaking at the first-time event, “Fighting Damsels,” at the Witter Gallery Saturday. The event included a reading from the poignant play “Woman Wonder” performed by some of the Buena Vista University faculty women who wrote it, and two of the students who will be performing it later this week at BVU. A Storm Lake Police officer also offered a self-defense primer.

The event is intended to help empower women, said Cindy Barahona-Roth, Witter director, who noted that abuse is continuing to happen in the community.

Neumann recalled taking a job with the Centers Against Abuse And Sexual Assault nine years ago. A former teacher, she said she was naive, never believing that issues like sexual violence could happen in a small, close-knit community. Looking back now, she recognizes the signs and believed that children in her class were victims.

She sought to dispel some misconceptions.

While there are many fewer cases involving men, sexual abuse is perpetrated by both males and females, against both males and females. The male cases are fewer not because they don't happen, but because men are much less likely to tell anyone, she said.

Sexual abuse of the elderly and disabled is a much bigger problem than most realize. Those with disabilities are several times more likely to be abused than others - in fact, 80 percent of disabled people are estimated to be abused at some time in their lives.

Coming to an agency like the local CAASA does not mean an incident will be reported to police. If the victim is an adult, the choice is theirs. Many may be afraid to reach out for help because they think police will be called. More than 50 percent of victims never report abuse, and among abused children, nine out of 10 will tell no one, according to Neumann.

Whether they report or not, the trauma remains, she said. Many people turn to CAASA for help dealing with aftershock from abuse they suffered as children many years before. “The trauma can last a whole lifetime,” she said, and can trigger other problems - health issues, nightmares, alcohol or drug abuse.

Another thing victims may not know is that they have the right to an advocate in court if they are going through an abuse case. In a deposition, a victim is alone in a room with their abuser and the lawyers of each side. Having an advocate with them can make the process less frightening.

CAASA is trying to address many aspects of the issue, from bullying to sexual harassment.

Education is critical, Neumann says. “Lots of children, no one talks to them about these things. They don't know they are sexually abused. When they are told, they may say, ‘But this happens to me every night when my dad puts me to bed.' How does a 3-year-old know this isn't normal?”

One in four girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18. One in every five women are sexually abused. “It's an epidemic. There are lots of people walking the streets of our city who are hurt inside.”

The first job for CAASA when they are asked for help is to make sure the victim is safe - which can mean placement in a shelter or temporarily in a hotel to get them out of an abuse environment. The challenge is to turn them from victims to survivors, with the resources to move on with their lives.

Stirring a community to awareness is no easy task. “No one wants to talk about it. We can't be afraid to have this conversation,” Neumann told the audience of less than 10 people who had turned out.

She urged residents to “not be bystanders.”

“This community needs to step up and say something,” she said. For example, if someone sees signs of a person being abused while they are in Walmart, they may not feel they can confront the abuser, but they can call 911 and follow them until police arrive, Neumann said. They can report it if they see someone putting something in a woman's drink at a bar. “If your gut says something isn't right, don't be afraid to be the person who helps.”

She noted that stories in the news are drawing new attention to the issues of sexual abuse.

“Like the case in Hollywood, once one person comes forward, others can come forward.”

In Iowa, a case of a Sioux Center teacher, coach and church youth leader is in the headlines. Two kids came forward to report sexual abuse, and now the man is accused of 214 counts for abuse incidents over the past few years, Neumann said. “Now everyone is asking themselves how they could have failed to see it. They never thought it could happen in a Christian community.”

Neumann said she was not telling the group these realities to scare them, but to educate them so they can be there for others.

“No matter your skin color, or you age, you all have the right to be treated with respect,” she said. She stressed that for anyone who has suffered sexual abuse, it is never their fault. What they are wearing, whether they have been drinking, whether someone believes they are have been flirting, does not mean they are asking to be abused, though that is what many people say.

It is no surprise that some victims do not feel they can report their abuse. They may fear reprisal - and only 3 percent of abusers wind up in prison, according to Neumann.

She also said that it is important for young people to know the rules. For example, if a girl age 12 and a boy age 14 choose to be consensually sexually active, the boy may be unaware that it is against the law.

Also, a good policy is to ask before touching someone. If a child doesn't want to hug or kiss someone, even a grandparent, they shouldn't be forced to. To make them be touched only reinforces a message that adults hve power to handle them, which a sexual abuser may use to their advantage.

Officer McDonald of the Storm Lake Police Department spoke to the group about self protection.

He said that not everyone is comfortable coming to an officer like himself if they have been abused, but noted that the department works closely with CAASA. A Sexual Assault Response Team has also been formed that includes advocates, emergency medicine, county attorney staff and law enforcement.

Even if a victim chooses not to make a criminal report, McDonald urges that they get examined at the medical center. Many times, victims change their mind later and want to file a report. While it is not necessary to have a rape kit to make the report, it can help.

He urged women to not let themselves become an easy victim. Strangers looking to assault a woman are not looking for a fight, but an easy target, he said. If a woman can call 911 and fend the attacker off for no more than four minutes, an officer should be on the scene anywhere in Storm Lake, he said. If police are not close enough, sheriff or state patrol officers will also respond.

One way to protect themselves is not to be alone in an isolated place, and not to follow exact routines - criminals may notice that a woman is in the same place at the same time day after day.

The best way to deal with trouble is to avoid it, the officer said. If a person gets bad vibes about someone who seems threatening or seems to be following them, they should keep their distance, leave that location, cross the street. If the threat is not real, nothing is lost but a little convenience. “Very few things are really worth taking a risk,” he said.

If it isn't possible to achieve distance physically, it may be possible to do it verbally, by sternly telling someone who is bothering them, “I don't want anything to do with you.”

But if it comes down to an attack in a place like a parking lot, a woman should scream for help, scratch or kick, use their car keys or hairbrush or anything else that can be used as a weapon,” McDonald said. Pepper spray is readily available and effective, but those who choose to buy it know that it is likely to effect them as well as the target if it is deployed. Officers are trained to attack the most vulnerable areas of the body as the last resort, but a woman fighting for her safety should do the opposite and target them.

He said that if a person is comfortable with a weapon, he supports carrying them. “It doesn't mean you have to use it, it can be a deterrent,” he said.

However, many people who have guns have no training and have never shot their gun, he said. He asked how many in the small audience have a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Only one person, a man, raised his hand.

For students on the university campus who may not feel safe walking after dark, it is okay to call campus security or Storm Lake Police for an escort, he said.

There is also a cell phone app available that a woman can use while walking - her finger stays in contact with the screen, and if contact is broken for 10 seconds, their locations is automatically reported for emergency response. It costs about $10 through iTunes, he said.

However, technology can be a problem too. If a woman's chooses to repeatedly show her location via social media, it can be easy for someone with bad intentions to track them.

It is also never too late to report abuse, he stressed. “If it happened six years ago, we still want to know about it. If it happened once, it is likely that it will keep happening.”


Actor Tom Sizemore Dismissed From Production After Allegedly Molesting A Child

by Madison Medeiros

Actor Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan, Twin Peaks, Black Hawk Down) is the latest adult to be accused of sexually assaulting a minor. And just like the stories surrounding Kevin Spacey and Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, the details are disturbing.

The Hollywood Reporter published an explosive story on Monday night detailing a 2003 incident in which Sizemore allegedly molested an 11-year-old girl during a still portrait session for the film Born Killers. According to THR, the actor "either rubbed his finger against the girl's vagina or inserted it inside."

Twelve people from the film's cast and crew confirmed to THR that the girl, who has requested not to be named, told her parents about the incident and that Sizemore was swiftly sent away from the set.

"At one point her eyes got just huge, like she could've vomited. I was watching her," actress Robyn Adamson told THR. "She soon reintegrated and kept going, although she had trouble taking direction. Later, when I was told about what happened, I knew exactly what it was."

However, THR reports that production manager Cassidy Lunnen claimed that neither the girl nor her parents were as sure about what happened at the time, stating that "it was unclear...what had actually taken place and if it was intentional or not."

The parents eventually contacted their daughter's agent and talked to the police, though according to producer Michael Manshel, they ultimately chose not to press charges.

"We also talked to Tom at the time, and told him everything that had been told to us, and he said: 'I've done a lot of awful things, and I'd never do anything with kids,'" Manshel said. "We considered whether we had some responsibility to him to not pass judgment on him."

Another producer, Gus Spoliansky, added, "We took the allegation extremely seriously and...were willing to do anything, including dismissing Tom. We just couldn't be police, judge, and jury."

Those last two comments are incredibly eye-opening and unfortunate. For years, those in the entertainment industry (and seemingly every other industry) gave abusers and predators the benefit of the doubt instead of believing survivors who were brave enough to speak up. In this case, People reports that Sizemore already had a history of abuse against women.

While the girl, now a 26-year-old woman, told THR that she and her family are looking into the possibility of taking legal action, it's hard to imagine how things may have been different for her if those people in positions of power believed her the first time around.

Refinery29 has reached out to Sizemore's representatives for comment.



France eyes setting age for sexual consent; 13 suggested

by Angela Charlton

PARIS (AP) — A bill being prepared by the French government could set a minimum legal age for sexual consent for the first time, and the country's justice minister said Monday that she thinks 13 years old could be a reasonable age.

Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet told France's RTL radio network that age 13 was a “limit that is worth considering” for the upcoming legislation, but noted that judges should also have the ability to assess whether someone was old enough to give consent in individual situations.

“The question of the age below which the minor's consent is presumed not to exist is crucial, because there are obviously extremely shocking and unacceptable situations,” Belloubet said.

One of her colleagues in the French government has said that a minimum age for sexual consent has not been set for the bill. Marlene Schiappa, a junior minister for gender equality, said Sunday that the cutoff could be between the ages of 13 and 15.

“Below a certain age, it is considered that there can be no debate on the sexual consent of a child, and that any child below a certain age would automatically be considered to be raped or sexually assaulted,” Schiappa said on BFM TV.

Two recent court cases have heightened the debate over who is old enough to consent to sex under French law.

A jury last week acquitted a 30-year-old man who was accused of raping an 11-year-old girl in 2009, French media reported. The jury in the Paris suburb region of Seine-et-Marne found that while there had been a sexual relationship between the girl and the man, it did not constitute rape according to the legal definition of the crime in France.

The girl's parents reportedly found out about what had happened when their daughter became pregnant.

French media also have reported that the prosecutor's office in the city of Pontoise near Paris decided in September that a 28-year-old man suspected of having sex with an 11-year-old girl should be tried for sexual abuse instead of rape because of how French law defines rape.

French law defines rape as any act of sexual penetration committed on others “by violence, coercion, threat or surprise.” The definition does not distinguish between adults and minors for either the victims or perpetrators, although the potential criminal penalty is higher when victims are under 15.

A minimum age of sexual consent does not currently exist in French law. The law only says that an adult who performs a sexual act with a person under the age of 15 “without violence, coercion, threat or surprise” can be prosecuted for “sexual abuse,” not rape.

In both of the recent cases, investigators reportedly found that the sexual relationships did not involve surprise, threat, coercion or violence.

Sexual abuse without coercion is an offense punishable of a maximum sentence of five years in prison. A rape conviction carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years, or 20 years when the victim is under 15 years old.

Earlier Monday, French police said they have seen a rise in reports of sexual violence and harassment amid the growing global fallout from the accusations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

An official with the French national gendarme service said it had registered 30 percent more complaints this year so far than last year, notably in October. The official wasn't authorized to be publicly named.

The gendarme service oversees security outside urban areas. Figures for cities weren't immediately available, but the gendarme data come as French women are increasingly speaking out online about past sexual abuse following U.S. revelations.


United Kingdom

Record number of children at risk of abuse or neglect in England

The number of serious child protection cases doubles in seven years and around 500 new cases are launched in England each day.

by Jason Farrell

A record number of children are at risk of abuse or neglect in England, according to a Sky News study of new Government data.

We have found that serious child protection cases known as "Section 47s" have doubled in the last seven years to record highs.

On average there are now 500 new cases launched in England every single day.

The Department for Education figures also show the number of children supported through child protection plans has almost doubled over the past 10 years, and this year saw the biggest annual increase in children in care since 2010.

Social workers say workloads have become unmanageable.

Experts also warn of "generational trauma" for children not receiving proper attention, which they say in the long run will be "unaffordable".

With reference to the tragedies of Baby P and Daniel Pelka, both toddlers who were killed in the care of their parents, one social worker said: "We are just waiting for something else to happen."

Sean Rafferty, who works in children's services, added: "People say we need better communication and we have, but we've also got a smaller pot.

"It's like an elastic band: you can stretch it and stretch it but eventually it's going to break."

Ray Jones, a veteran social worker and former professor at Kingston University, told Sky News: "Many services are at the point of breaking down.

"There is going to be a £2bn deficit in children's services by 2020, unless the Government changes its plans.

"What that means in reality is that workers are being run ragged, as are health visitors, police officers, and others in the child protection system."

The number of Section 47 investigations this year is 185,450.

That means one child in every 65 is the focus of a multi-agency investigation.

There are, however, huge regional differences: in Blackpool the figure is one in 14.

Blackpool is where children appear to be most at risk, with investigation figures five times the national average.

Sky News went to the town and met young people who had been through the care system.

One said that many children slept rough, adding: "I know some kids who slept on the beach, or in the toilets, even in bins."

Children's services in Blackpool are struggling.

One of its main hostels shut down two years ago, while Street Life - a centre offering night shelter for young people - has had its local authority funding pulled.

High-profile cases, such as the death of Baby P and Daniel Pelka, are thought to be behind a more precautionary culture in child welfare and, therefore, more investigations being launched.

However, experts say poverty is fuelling higher levels of child neglect.

Dr Ruth Allen, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, also partly blames Government policy.

She told Sky News: "The Government needs to see that those social policies on things like welfare benefits, on employment tax credits, housing, also impact the welfare of children.

"In the long run this means generational trauma for children."

Councillor Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association's Children and Young People Board, said: "We have warned that the situation across children's services is fast becoming unsustainable, with a combination of reduced budgets and significantly increased demand for help and protection leaving many areas struggling to cope.

"Ninety children came into care every day last year, and council children's services will need an extra £2bn by 2020 just to keep current services in place.

"The Government needs to act urgently to give councils the funding they need to meet this growing demand, by using the Autumn Budget to close the £2bn funding gap facing children's services and provide additional investment for vital early intervention services to help families before problems become serious."

Responding to our report, Robert Goodwill, Minister for Children and Families, said: "All children deserve the best possible support which is why we are driving forward improvements across every area of the child protection system to identify those at risk sooner.

"This includes recruiting high-calibre social workers as well as improving multi-agency approaches to the prevention, detection and response to abuse.

"Councils have a duty to provide appropriate care for the children in their area, including responding to referrals.

"We are supporting them to deliver efficient services by investing £200m in the Children's Social Care Innovation Programme - this includes projects providing targeted support for children in need."


West Virginia

Report: More child abuse victims seeking treatment in WV

by Bishop Nash

HUNTINGTON - More than 400 new child abuse victims sought help at one of West Virginia's children's advocacy centers for the 2017 fiscal year - an 11.26 percent increase over the previous year and marking a 66 percent increase in victims served five years ago, according to the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network's annual report released Monday.

The rising numbers do not necessarily denote a stark increase in the act of child abuse, but rather that more children than ever are being referred into victim services, said Emily Chittenden-Laird, executive director of the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network.

"Kids are becoming more aware of the issue and the services CACs provide and ultimately are more comfortable telling someone when abuse happens," Chittenden-Laird said. "I think the culture is shifting in a way that supports children's disclosure (of alleged abuse), that people are better at identifying the signs of abuse and that systems are becoming better at responding to it."

West Virginia's 21 children's advocacy centers, which cover 40 of the state's 55 counties, served 3,914 children in fiscal year 2017 - an average of one in every 100 children living in the network that covers counties such as Cabell, Lincoln, Boone, Logan, Mingo, Kanawha and Wyoming.

The majority of victims, 62 percent, were served due to reported sexual abuse. Forty percent of offenders in all cases were the children's biological parents, while 16 percent were either a stepparent or a parent's boyfriend/girlfriend. The abuser was known to the victim in 99 percent of cases, and 69 percent of abusers were adults 18 or older.

More than one-third of victims served were under the age of 6, and 19 percent of children are reported or suspected to have a disability.

Criminal charges were filed in 548 cases - an average of less than one charge per five victims - resulting in 242 individual child abuse convictions, or less than one per 15 victims.

The increase in victims served is also indicative of more children's advocacy centers opening across West Virginia - the latest at the Hoops Family Children's Hospital in Huntington, which opened inside Cabell Huntington Hospital in September.

Since opening, the Hoops center has served 41 children, 85 percent of who reported sexual abuse. More than one-third of local victims were under age 6 and more than one in 10 suffer from a developmental disability.

"Our first priority is the child and making sure they feel safe and remain safe," said Angela Seay, child advocacy coordinator at the Hoops Family Children's Hospital.

The victim's parent was the alleged offender in 37 percent of Hoops cases, Seay added, and 71 percent of offenders were known to the victim. Local cases resulted in eight criminal charges, but no convictions have been made to date.

Child advocacy centers specialize in taking delicate steps to allowing a child to be comfortable opening up about negative experiences. Centers tend to young victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse and neglect in a child-friendly environment, with care plans developed alongside Child Protective Services, police investigators, mental health professionals, victim advocates, prosecutors and medical providers.

Cabell County is served through the Hoops Family Children's Hospital in Huntington. Boone and Lincoln counties are served by the Cornerstone Child Advocacy Center in Madison. Logan and Mingo counties are served by the Mingo County Child Advocacy Center in Williamson, West Virginia, and the Logan County Child Advocacy Center in Logan. Wyoming County is served through Just for Kids Inc. in Beckley.

West Virginia Child Advocacy Network service is not available in Wayne, Mason or Putnam counties.



Protecting children from sexual abuse

by Caroline Flynn

SPOKANE, Wash. - From Hollywood, to the sports world and, even in the halls of United States government, new stories are cropping up every day of victims finding the courage to come forward and tell their stories of sexual assault.

Now, decorated Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman has bravely come forward to say she was abused by the team doctor for years under the guise of treatment.

Raisman said she was uncomfortable with the treatments, but was told he was the best of the best and trustworthy. She called him a nice guy. Her parents say if they could go back in time, they'd tell their daughter predators aren't always strangers.

Her story can serve as a warning for parents everywhere.

Dan Fox has worked as a therapist for Lutheran Community Services in Spokane for 15 years and says on average, the center sees 1,000 children a year connected to physical and sexual abuse.

“The majority of the offenders are someone the victim knows,” said Fox.

A parent, coach, babysitter, teacher, a person the victim loves and trusts.

He says its important to know that very rarely does a abuser start with sexual assault, it's usually precipitated by a period of grooming.

“Grooming is the process of getting somebody to feel safe with you and then using that feeling of safety against them for their own sexual gratification,” explained Fox.

It can also be done to the parents of victims. That's why having a good, open line of communication with your child is key in prevention. Fox recommends starting the conversation early. A way to explain it for all ages to understand is by referring to the swimsuit area.

“If somebody is violating your swimsuit area and its not for an appropriate reason like a doctor doing an exam with a parent in the room, that's going to be something where you teach your kids to say, 'hey, this just happened, someone touched my swimsuit area,' “ said Fox.

Some of the most common signs a child has been abused include changes in schoolwork, nightmares, and acting out.

“The tough thing is some of the times, none of the signs are there,” he added.

If your child does come to you to voice concerns, take them seriously.

“There is no benefit to coming forward to a parent and saying 'hey this was uncomfortable and i don't know what to do,'” said Fox.

For more information on discussing sexual assault, click here. For warning signs a child might be being abused, click here.



What kind of environment can entice a child predator?

by Jenn Bernstein

HARTFORD -- The #MeToo movement is bringing sexual abuse to the forefront allowing those who've remained silent to come forward.

It's also reminding parents of the danger kids live with everyday, the risk of child predators that could be lurking even in your inner circle. How can you protect your child?

Here's some warning signs and tips.

"The myth is that it's a mysterious person lurking in a dark ally,” said Dr. Laura Saunders, a child psychologist. “The majority of sexual assault, sexual abuse happens by someone that you know."

What kind of environment can entice a child predator?

Dr. Saunders said there's usually:

•  A difference in power (for example: an adult to a child, a mentor to mentee, or a coach to a player).

•  There also could be a difference in social status.

•  A behavior called "grooming" where the person in power works to gain the trust of their victim over time.

"The person in power also uses their status to leverage your emotional well-being,” said Dr. Saunders, “they really leverage the fact that they will gain your cooperation without your true consent."

That person could be a coach, a family member, or a neighbor who targets a child many times with a vulnerability. That could be a child in a single parent home, or someone seeking out a mentor. The predator is cunning and manipulative.

So how can you spot a predator?

Have you noticed someone who tries to spend a lot of alone time with your child? One of the key actions parents can take toward preventing abuse is supervision.

"No one should be doing anything in secrecy or in private,” said Dr. Saunders, “so if that adult is sort of wanting secret or private time, that's a red flag."

You need to also make sure your child knows you are a safe haven. That means having those sometimes uncomfortable conversations with your kids about what it's like to have “a boundary around your body.”

"If something crosses that boundary and it makes you feel uncomfortable, there's something wrong,” advises Dr. Saunders, “and it's ok to talk about it."

Also parents, don't be afraid to ask questions.

"I think sometimes it's easier for parents to say if they feel their child may be reluctant to ask directly, to ask about their friends."

Dr. Saunders said starting with their friends might get your child to talk about a problem, then you can ask them, “has it ever happened to you?” She also says persistence is important.

If you notice a change in your child's behavior and sense something is off, continue to ask questions over a period of time.


United Kingdom

Number of adults reporting sexual abuse in childhood almost doubles in four years

High-profile court cases my be behind rise

by Zoe Chamberlain

The number of people reporting sexual abuse they suffered in childhood has almost doubled since 2013/14, according to the NSPCC.

More than 60,000 cases of non-recent sexual abuse against children have been recorded by police forces across the UK over the last four years – including 3,000 in the West Midlands, figures obtained by the charity revealed.

In the West Midlands, offences increased from 624 in 2013/14 to 999 last year.

The children's charity believes the steep rise may, in part, be down to high-profile abuse cases as well as the football abuse scandal which began a year ago this week and has seen a dedicated NSPCC helpline receive more than 2,500 calls.

Last week, the Birmingham Mail launched its Light Up Christmas for Children campaign with the NSPCC to try to help Childline be there for EVERY child needing help.

At present, one in four calls to Childline goes unanswered due to demand – something the NSPCC and the Birmingham Mail are determined to change.

Be a lifesaver and donate £4 by texting ‘NSPCC 4' to 70030 or visiting

Any adult who is the victim of non-recent abuse is urged to report it to the police or contact the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 for advice and support. Children can contact Childline on 0800 1111.

Maria, 47, was sexually abused and raped by her biological father at a very young age and still feels the effects of the abuse.

“I don't want to have a strong relationship with anyone,” she said.

“I'm also far too altruistic – I give so much of myself to feel good about myself – but I often feel worse.

“I have had breakdowns, have depressive episodes and I've attempted suicide as an adult.

“But I am determined and I've got dreams and ambitions. I'm strong. I went to the police to report my father when I was 25 and the conviction has helped me recover.”

The new non-recent sexual offences figures were obtained following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to police forces in England and Wales and British Transport Police.

Figures were also provided by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

The true overall number of non-recent offences against children recorded will be higher still with six UK police forces not providing full figures for all four years.

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: “It doesn't matter whether the sexual abuse happened a year ago or 50 years ago, it is never too late to report it.

“It's clear that for far too long, many people who suffered horrendously as children felt they could not speak up, were not believed or did not know who to turn to.

“Although these rising figures paint a worrying picture of widespread abuse, it is encouraging that so many are finally finding their voice in a climate today where they know they will be listened to and supported.

“What's important now is survivors of abuse receive the support they need and that the people who carried out these vile offences are identified and finally brought to justice.”

As well victims of past abuse being able to seek support from the NSPCC, the National Association of People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) has trained staff who can speak with survivors of childhood abuse and explore the options available to them such as support groups and counselling.

NAPAC also supports the family and friends of people who are helping someone who was abused.

The NSPCC hopes the increase in cases recorded by police will reassure survivors they will be listened to and will see law enforcement taking swift action to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Moved by what you've read? Please help Childline be there for every young person who desperately needs support.

Donate £4 by texting ‘NSPCC 4' to 70030 or visiting

Text costs include your donation of £4 plus your standard network rate.

To donate £12 text ‘NSPCC 12' and to donate £20 text ‘NSPCC 20', also to 70744. The NSPCC will receive 100% of your donation.



Four educators face charges for not reporting suspected child abuse of a student

by Fox 17

GALIEN TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Four educators from Three Oaks Elementary School are facing charges after they allegedly failed to report the suspected child abuse of a student attending the school.

In August 2016, police began an investigation after a 12-year-old boy was found in Galien Township by a railroad worker near railroad tracks. Once the boy was in custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, a physician reported that they noticed certain signs that could indicate the boy was living in an abusive situation.

According to police, the boy at the time only weighed approximately 47 pounds, was bruised, dehydrated, had a cut lip and old cigarette burns on his body. In the initial investigation, the boy told police that he ran away because he “was tired being treated like a dog and he didn't think he would reach his 13th birthday.”

Police report that the school noticed the boy's condition almost two years prior from when he ran away but failed to report the signs.

Under the Michigan's Child Protection Law individuals are required to report suspicions of abuse to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Three Oaks Elementary school principal Heidi Clark, Three Oaks Elementary guidance counselor Matt Cook, Special Education Teacher Diane Balling and Three Oaks Elementary school teacher Sherrie Bender are all facing charges for not reporting the student's weight, his aggressive behavior towards food and his physical well-being to officials.

The four educators are facing two counts of Failing to Report Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect.

The boy's father, Aaron Zemke, and step-mother, Alicia Zemke, both were charged in this case for First Degree Child Abuse.



Twins were convicted of abusing kids. Their house has been sold to help child victims.

by Karla Ward

A Lexington house owned by twin brothers convicted of sexually abusing young boys has been sold, and part of the proceeds will be used to help child victims.

Jack and Jerry Cassidy were Boy Scout leaders in the 1970s who were convicted in recent years of abusing six children who were 15 or younger at the time.

Much of the abuse happened at their home on Mason Headley Road, where they still lived when Lexington police began investigating in 2014.

Now, the government has sold the house, and part of the proceeds are being given to the Children's Advocacy Center of the Bluegrass, which advocates on behalf of children who are alleged to have been abused and helps coordinate child abuse investigations by providing a safe, child-friendly place for interviews, medical exams, and mental health and other services.

“We are going to change the narrative of this story,” Winn Stephens, executive director of the center, said in a news release. “What started as a horrible crime will ultimately result in helping hundreds of children overcome the abuse they suffered. These funds will also be utilized to aid in the investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases and to make sure other individuals who hurt our most vulnerable citizens are swiftly brought to justice.”

Jack Cassidy , 80, is being held at the Kentucky State Reformatory in La Grange, according to the Kentucky Department of Corrections. He pleaded guilty in August 2015 to nine felony charges, including sodomy, sexual abuse and possession of child pornography. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Jerry Cassidy died of natural causes on Sept. 10 while incarcerated, WLEX-TV reported. He had been sentenced to 20 years after he pleaded guilty in July 2016 to possession of child pornography, sodomy,sexual abuse and four counts of indecent or immoral practice with another.

Lexington police began investigating in August 2014, when they and other emergency responders were called to the house.

“Police found that the Cassidys had documented their abuse of victims, in diaries and other writings, and had evidence of that abuse on display in the house,” the news release stated.

The U.S. Attorney's Office filed a civil forfeiture action, which is allowed by federal law in such cases, in 2015, “asserting that the home had facilitated the interstate transport of minors for the purpose of sexual assault,” according to a news release. The Cassidys agreed to forfeit the house to the government.

The FBI received the proceeds from the sale through the government's “asset forfeiture equitable sharing program,” which allows the agency to give as much as 80 percent of the proceeds to local law enforcement agencies that investigated and prosecuted the case.

In this instance, the FBI shared the maximum amount with the Lexington Police Department and the Fayette Commonwealth Attorney's Office. They, in turn, are permitted to transfer as much as $25,000 a year from the shared money to “community-based organizations that serve a law enforcement purpose.” They are each giving the Children's Advocacy Center the maximum allowed, for a total of $50,000 this year, with the rest to be transferred next year, according to the news release

Fayette County PVA records indicate that the U.S. government sold the property in January for $115,000.

The forfeiture was jointly announced Wednesday by the U.S. Attorney's office, the Department of Justice Criminal Division's Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, the FBI, the Commonwealth Attorney's office, Lexington police and the Children's Advocacy Center.

“Under Kentucky law, our office could not obtain forfeiture of the property where these horrible acts occurred,” Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Lou Anna Red Corn said in the news release. “We are fortunate in Lexington to have law enforcement agencies that work together like this, and as result of these shared funds, we are turning something horrible into something healing for child sexual abuse victims.”


YouTube videos of children are plagued by sexual comments

by Colin Lecher

The video, posted to YouTube in September, was innocuous enough. Part of a regularly updated series, it showed two young girls, seemingly about nine years old, practicing gymnastics. The 10-minute clip, filmed by an adult, was the kind of low-fidelity, homemade footage that YouTube was built on.

But many of the comments below the video, which received more than 140,000 views, were disturbing: several chimed in to say the girls were “beautiful.” About a month ago, a comment was posted asking for likes if viewers had an erection — a comment that 19 people responded to with a thumbs-up. Other commenters described sex acts. Last week, a comment left in Spanish provided a WhatsApp number, saying they had videos to share. One commenter claimed the video had appeared on a child pornography site, and another asked why no one was deleting the “sicko” comments on the page. (The video description provided a PO box, as well as an email address for “business” enquiries, but a request to speak has gone unanswered.)

YouTube is still dealing with criticism after a series of bizarre videos apparently targeting child viewers were unearthed. The company said last week that it was working on a new policy that would help age-restrict those videos. But that problem is only one aspect of YouTube's fraught relationship with kids.

Earlier this year, the company took heat over whether it was sufficiently policing predatory comments on videos of children. The controversy started with some prominent YouTube users themselves, who made videos on the subject that quickly edged into unproven conspiracy theories about a “ring” of pedophiles. The comments on videos of children, however, are provably real, and it's not clear how equipped YouTube is to handle them.

It's trivially easy to find sexual comments on videos of children exercising, going for a day at the beach, or trying the ice bucket challenge. Often these videos are uploaded by the children themselves. Google requires that YouTube users are either 18 years old, or at least 13, with a parent or guardian's permission. In practice, those age restrictions are not always enforced.

Most concerning are the instances where commenters reach out for direct contact. One, posted on another gymnastics video of a young girl, offered a phone number to text. The comment was posted about 10 months ago. Below the video were other predatory comments. Others chimed in to denounce those commenters, and cited the work of a YouTube personality who had made some of the original claims about predatory commenters on the platform. The video had almost 1.5 million views, and it's not difficult to find other, similar videos with hundreds of thousands of views, in several languages.

When The Verge provided several videos with disturbing comments to YouTube, the company removed the videos entirely, saying they violated the company's community guidelines, and also terminated a user who had generated a playlist of similar videos of children. But other videos from some of these same uploaders, featuring similarly troubling comments, remained available.

“YouTube strictly prohibits sexual content involving minors and we have multiple systems in place to take swift action on this content,” the company said in a statement. “We actively work with NCMEC and others in the industry to prevent child sexual abuse imagery from ever being uploaded to YouTube and to report abuse to law enforcement. We have special flagging tools for NGOs to alert us to content and teams that work around the clock reviewing reported content 24 hours a day to quickly remove comments and videos that violate our policies.”

The videos with disturbing comments are not necessarily the kinds of video that would neatly fall under the category of sexual abuse. A YouTube spokesperson said in the statement that, when it removed the videos The Verge cited, it sent a note to the uploaders asking them to be cautious when they post videos of minors, and to consider making those videos private. The company said it makes similar decisions in related instances involving minors.

YouTube has been dealing with problems like this for some time. A New Zealand publication noted last year that commenters were making unnerving requests on videos of kids performing viral “challenges,” and sometimes attempting to make contact. YouTube similarly deleted the videos when it was informed, but other videos remained.

Like other massive platforms, YouTube says it relies on users to flag posts that violate its guidelines. Last year, the company wrote in a blog post that more than 90 million people flagged videos over the preceding decade; more than 92 million videos were removed in 2015. Still, the company has developed a reputation over the years for particularly heinous comments, and it's not always able to catch offenders on even unexpectedly popular videos.

In August, the BBC spoke to some Trusted Flaggers, part of a program in which YouTube gives special weight to users who accurately flag problems. The flaggers told the outlet that the company had a backlog that may have prevented offending videos, including those involving children, from being swiftly removed.

The company says it uses automation to flag some videos, and checks the platform for known videos of child exploitation. But it's easy to see why these sorts of videos, of kids doing gymnastics, or playing, would be a problem for automated moderation systems: they're unobjectionable in themselves, but placed in a deeply disturbing new context.



Psychological effects of childhood sexual abuse

by Dr Sacrifice Chirisa

Sexual abuse is so underrated in terms of the extent of damage it causes to the survivor. Besides the physiological effects ranging from contracting HIV, pregnancy and gynecological damage, I am of the opinion that the psychological effects are far more reaching and underestimated as some manifest years later and even in adulthood.

Below is a synopsis of the psychological effects:

Psychological effects

1. Fear – The offender may swear the child to secrecy and say that if they tell something bad will happen.

2. Helplessness/powerlessness – Children in this situation often feel that they have no control over their own lives

3. Guilt and shame – The child knows something is wrong and blames him or herself not others.

4. Responsibility – The offender often makes the child feel responsible for keeping the abuse a secret.

5. Isolation – Incest victims feel different from other children. They must usually be secretive. This even isolates them from non-offending parents and brothers and sisters.

6. Betrayal – Children feel betrayed because they are dependent upon adults for nurturing and protection

7. Anger – Not surprisingly this is one of the strongest feelings which many children have about their sexual assault.

8. Sadness – Children may feel grief due to a sense of loss, especially if the perpetrator was loved and trusted by the child.

Psychiatric effects

1. Depression

2. Anxiety

3. Trouble sleeping.

4. Low self-esteem.

5. “Damaged goods” syndrome. i.e. negative body image due to self-blame.

6. Dissociation from feeling.

7. Social isolation.

8. Substance abuse or

9. Suicide attempts.

10. Sexual difficulties such as fear of sex or intimacy,

11. Parenting problems such as fear of being a bad parent

The Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome

The five categories of the syndrome are:

1. Secrecy – Abused children tend to keep the abuse a secre

2. Helplessness – Children are inherently helpless and subordinate as they are small, dependent and emotionally immature. For all of these reasons, they cannot escape from a dangerous situation.

3. Entrapment and accommodation – Children who keep their abuse a secret and continue to feel helpless inevitably feel trapped. However, they learn to accept the situation and survive. The helpless child faced with continuing victimisation must learn to somehow achieve a sense of power and control. The child may eventually come to blame him or herself, believing s/he has provoked the abuse.

4. Delayed, conflicted and unconvincing disclosure – Adults who ask a child to disclose abuse must recognise that this request may precipitate an acute crisis for the child. Initial disclosures may be fraught with anxiety, retractions and inconsistencies. Therefore it may sound unconvincing.

5. Retraction – Children who do disclose abuse may be flooded with guilt, fear and feelings of betrayal or confusion.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD describes symptoms, which are characteristic in many cases of sexual abuse. PTSD can sometimes appear many years after the original event. The criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD are:

1. The person has experienced an event that is outside the range of usual human experience and that would be markedly distressing to almost anyone.

2. The re-experiencing of the trauma in at least one of the following ways:

Recurrent and intrusive recollections of the event. Recurrent distressing dreams of the event. Sudden acting or feeling as if the event were recurring e.g. “flashback” episodes, hallucinations, illusions. Intense psychological distress at exposure to events that symbolise or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.

3. A numbing of responsiveness or reduced involvement in the external world some time after the trauma, indicated by:

Diminished interest in activities and/or Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others and/or Constricted affect e.g. unable to have loving feelings or to feel anger. In addition, at least two of the following sets of symptoms must be present: Hyper alertness or being easily startled. Sleep problems. Guilt about surviving or behavior required to survive. Problems with memory or concentration. Avoidance of activities that arouse recollection. Intensification of symptoms if events symbolise or resemble the traumatic event.

The Stockholm syndrome

This is a reaction which occurs in incest victims and sexually abused children. It is a universal phenomenon, which is instinctive and it plays a survival function for hostages who are victims of abuse.

It is presence is suggested by:

1. positive feelings to perpetrator

2. negative feelings towards the police or authorities trying help

As can be seen, sexual abuse is a great evil. All victims of sexual abuse need psychological help so as to minimise the effects. Dr Sacrifice Chirisa is a mental health specialist at Parirenyatwa Hospital, one of Zimbabwe's major referral hospitals.



Kentucky can't find homes for its neglected children. So two groups plan merger to solve the problem

by Deborah Yetter

Seeking to end the cycle of disruption and institutional care for many abused and neglected children, Kentucky's largest community mental health organization plans to merge with a Louisville children's residential treatment program.

On Wednesday, Centerstone, a Louisville-based regional mental health agency, and Uspiritus, which operates the Bellewood and Brooklawn centers for children with emotional and behavioral problems, announced their intent to merge, a process officials hope to complete by March.

Centerstone President Anthony Zipple and Uspiritus President Abby Drane are to jointly tackle one of Kentucky's most vexing social services problems — the growing number of children in state care who cycle through foster homes, residential centers and psychiatric hospitals, with many never finding a permanent home with an adoptive family.

"Kids need to be in homes with families that love them and connect with them," Drane said. "We're not doing that today."

The proposed merger comes amid increased attention to adoption and foster care in Kentucky.

Improving the system is a priority for Gov. Matt Bevin, who this year appointed a consultant, or "czar," to report directly to him on ways to make adoption faster and easier in Kentucky.

And the House Working Group on Adoption, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, has been holding monthly meetings this year to identify ways to improve the system.

Board chairmen for Centerstone and Uspiritus are enthusiastic about what they say are new opportunities to help troubled children and families.

"We are very excited about the merger," said Michael Abate, Centerstone's board chairman. "We think it's going to have a chance to help transform child and family services across Kentucky."

The new entity would operate under the name Centerstone with the children's residential centers named Centerstone Bellewood and Centerstone Brooklawn.

Both boards voted unanimously to approve the merger plan.

Uspiritus Chairman Curry Nicholson said his board didn't mind losing the name Uspiritus, adopted when Brooklawn and Bellewood, both founded in the 1850s, merged their programs in 2012.

"At the end of the day, we don't do it to promote our brand or to grow our brand," Nicholson said. "We do it to improve the outcomes of lives of kids that ultimately will become adults."

The merger would bring together Centerstone (formerly Seven Counties Services), with about 1,500 employees and an annual budget of $100 million, with Uspiritus, which has a staff of 300 and an annual budget of $19 million.

Zipple and Drane said they don't foresee any layoffs as they develop new services for children and families.

The proposed merger comes as the state Department for Community Based Services struggles with a rising tide of children entering state care because of neglect or abuse even as it faces a shortage of workers and chronic underfunding. More than 8,600 children are in state care, further straining a system officials say is overloaded.

A recent report by the state Legislative Research Commission found the agency would need an additional $28 million to hire another 420 social workers just to bring caseloads down to an acceptable level.

It found that of the more than 1,000 children available for adoption each year, about half are adopted, with most of the others remaining in foster care until they turn 18 and "age out" of the system. About 12 percent of more than 11,000 children in state care each year age out of the system, leaving many without family or social support they need to succeed as adults, according to children's advocates

"It's like, 'good luck, we hope you do well,' " Zipple said.

At greater risk for homelessness, exploitation and mental health problems, former foster children often wind up as adult clients of Centerstone, Zipple said.

"We see these kids on the adult end," he said. "They have no money, no job and no one to support them."

Jeffrey Jordan, 25, who as a teenager lived for three years at Brooklawn after his adoptive parents relinquished custody of him, found himself on his own when he entered college.

He said he thinks the merger plan is "amazing."

As a student at Western Kentucky University, he said he eventually got support from a local police officer who served as a mentor and the pastor of a church he joined. But Jordan said youths could benefit from continued help once they leave the state system.

"Support, that's needed for sure," he said.

Zipple and Drane said they believe their merged organization can help improve outcomes for children by providing intensive mental health and support services to help foster families and children. They envision starting that help early after a child is removed from the home and continuing after a child turns 18 and leaves the foster care system.

"We think we can improve outcomes and do it at a lower cost," Zipple said.

The key, they said, is providing the intense support through counseling and in-home services to help the child return home or, if that's not possible, provide extra help that some foster parents and children need to ensure a successful placement.

Too often, such placements disrupt things when a child acts out or the foster parent is overwhelmed by a child's emotional or behavioral problems. At that point, the solution is to move the child to another placement and then another if that one fails, Zipple and Drane said.

That too often leads to a cycle of disrupted placements and, if the child's behavior worsens, he or she ends up in a more-costly residential center or even more expensive psychiatric hospital, they said. Meanwhile, as the child becomes a teenager, prospects for adoption diminish because many adoptive parents are more interested in young children.

Zipple said his agency has the mental health expertise to work with families and head off such disruptions — and already works extensively with families as well as children at home or in schools.

And successful foster placements often lead to successful adoptions, said Drane, whose agency also supervises about 80 foster parents.

Drane said she currently has about a dozen older teens at Uspiritus who have completed the program but have nowhere else to go because a foster or adoptive home can't be found for older children with emotional problems.

Kentucky has around 90 youths in state care in psychiatric hospitals, many who remain there because the state can't place them elsewhere. It also has 62 children placed out of state, some with relatives or foster homes but others in more costly treatment centers or hospitals.

Zipple said he believes that by joining with Uspiritus, the merged agency could help find placements for many of those children with families or in other community settings.

Zipple said too many children wind up "stuck" in the system, in residential centers, foster care or hospitals.

"We know that we will be able to support kids who are stuck," he said. "We can fix that."

Drane said she believes the proposed merger would create an agency that can add more consistency and stability to the patchwork of care that now exists for children who suffer abuse and neglect.

"Right now, there's no system out there that assures a child's stability," she said. "It's not working."



Ohio is only state where police are not required to report child abuse

by Katie Wedell

Anyone who works with children -- including doctors, teachers, camp counselors and therapists -- is required by Ohio law to report suspected child abuse or neglect to either a children services agency or police.

But Ohio is the only state where police officers are not subject to the same mandated reporting laws.

A Columbus, Ohio, lawmaker wants to fix that, and has proposed a bill that would require law enforcement officers to be designated as mandated reporters as well.

“I was shocked and saddened to learn that Ohio was the only remaining state not to have law enforcement listed as mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect,” State Rep. Bernadine Kennedy Kent, D-Columbus, said.

She began looking at the issue after learning of a Columbus family with five children that police had visited dozens of times for domestic violence incidents. Despite the children being exposed to repeated violence, police officers never referred the case to children services to check on their well-being, Kent said.

As a former teacher, she felt police officers should have to report these situations like she would have been required to do as a mandated reporter.

The proposed law would require law enforcement officers to contact the local children services agency if they know, or have reasonable cause to suspect, that a child has incurred abuse or neglect or faces a threat of it.

“It's really a chance to have an early warning,” Kent said of more professionals being on the lookout for possible child abuse.

The Ohio House unanimously passed HB 137 earlier this month, and the bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

In a package of articles last month, the Dayton Daily News revealed cracks in Ohio's system for protecting children. The newspaper's investigation showed how some children had suffered painful deaths just days or weeks after being reunited with their birth parents. Other tragic outcomes were tied to a lack of oversight by child protection agencies that are overwhelmed with cases because of the opioid epidemic.

Many police departments already have policies that require police officers to refer suspected abuse cases to children services, and others do it out of practice without written policies. Police officers in the Dayton region coordinate their criminal investigations with children services cases through Care House at Dayton Children's Hospital.

“We already do this,” Dayton police spokeswoman Cara Zinski-Neace said. The department's policy includes calling Montgomery County Children Services when a child-endangering or other crime report is filed and consulting with that agency before removing a child from their home.

Area children services officials say they often work with police officers, who are out in the field and able to catch warning signs early.

“We have a pretty good relationship with law enforcement in our community, although they are not mandated reporters,” said Jennie Cole, intake manager for Montgomery County Children Services. “We do work hand in hand, and they are oftentimes our eyes and ears out there. We fully support this legislation because it just makes sense, given their many contacts in the community.”

The proposed law closes the loop of communication, said Clark County Deputy Director for Children Services Pamela Meermans.

“If you are currently a mandated reporter, you have a choice, ” she said, adding that anyone who suspects child abuse should contact children services directly or police. “Law enforcement then, in turn, needs to inform children services. That is not universally done in all jurisdictions.”



Arizona Child Deaths Increase for First Time in 7 Years, Report Says

The 2016 report shows a 2 percent increase over previous year; one-third preventable

by Brandon Mejia

C hild deaths in Arizona in 2016 increased by 2 percent over the previous year, a figure made starker when the state says more than one-third of the fatalities could have been avoided.

The total number of child deaths was 783, and 329 of those died from child abuse, neglect, suicide or accidents, according to the 2016 Arizona Child Fatality Review Program. Accidental death due to unsafe sleep was responsible for 41 deaths last year, the review said.

Each year the program reviews each death in order to identify tips that can reduce the number of preventable deaths. Tips such as practicing the “ABC's of Safe Sleep”: Babies should sleep alone, on their back and in a crib in order to prevent sleep suffocation.

The annual report showed that motor-vehicle-related deaths accounted for 9 percent of the total, a 42 percent increase since 2015.

Substance-related deaths contributed to 14 percent of child fatalities in 2016.

Arizona's child mortality rate decreased by 14 percent between 2009-2015.


United Kingdom

Live-streaming of child sexual abuse a growing a trend, charity warns

by Rolf Kremming

Children as young as two months of age are being sexually abused online, in what a global charity says is a growing ‘dark' trend of live-streamed child exploitation. Much of the demand comes from UK-based pedophiles.

‘Cybersex trafficking' is a new form of exploitation, whereby children are being forced to perform sexual acts for the sexual gratification of online customers. The trend has become rampant in the Philippines, where police are receiving thousands of referrals each month, and almost 100 children have already been rescued in the past year.

According to the International Justice Mission (IJM), a global charity in charge of safeguarding poor communities while collaborating with local authorities, says most of the demand comes from Western pedophiles in places like the UK, Canada and the US.

David Westlake, chief executive of the organization's UK branch, said: “Cybersex trafficking of children is a deeply disturbing global problem. Increased global access to technology and the internet means that this dark crime is growing at an alarming rate.

"Filipino police alone are receiving thousands of referrals every month.”

In a rescue mission last week, nine children aged between two and nine were rescued by Filipino authorities. It followed a referral by police in Canada after a Canadian man was found paying a woman in the south-east Asian country to exploit the children.

The woman was caught while offering to perform sexual acts on her eight-year-old daughter for the pedophile. She is also alleged to have offered to perform acts on a three-month-old child. The baby, however, was not found during the rescue operation.

The suspect, who is not believed to have been poor, is also alleged to have offered to abuse children of any age and do so until they cried in pain.

“International Justice Mission and Filipino police are urgently working with global police and intelligence sources from countries like the UK, US and Canada to help identify victims being abused and then rescue them,” Westlake said, according to The Independent.

“We urgently need more people to join us in the fight to stop traffickers from stealing the childhoods and innocence of Filipino children in this brutal way.”

Following the arrest of the suspect in the latest rescue, Philippines Police Superintendent Maria Sheila T Portento, from the Women and Children Protection Center (WCPC), said: “This operation is the clear message that WCPC wants to send to every facilitator/perpetrator of this crime. We mean business … that is, [we will] put you behind bars and make you accountable for every act of exploitation you commit and every dream of children you destroyed.”



Recent sex assault allegations empowering others to come forward

by Lisa Robinson

BALTIMORE — As more powerful men get caught up in sexual assault scandals, women all over the country and in Baltimore are feeling empowered to share their own stories.

Media mogul Harvey Wienstein, comedian Louis C.K., "House of Cards" star Kevin Spacey, then-ABC News political director Mark Halperin, U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore and Sen. Al Franken are just a few of the powerful men who have been called out for sexual assault and misconduct allegations.

The #MeToo hashtag movement swept the nation, and now a Maryland organization that deals with child sexual abuse said the movement is getting many more people to open up about what has happened to them.

"There are adult survivors coming forward and talking to us. They're just calling us. These are people in our community, in our orbit -- survivors, sponsors, volunteers, fundraisers and friends of BCAC -- who come into my office and say this happened to them also," said Adam Rosenberg, executive director of the Baltimore Child Abuse Center.

Rosenberg said what's so powerful about the #MeToo movement is that it has given people a comfort level to come forward and address their past abuse or past harassment.

"They feel comfortable being able to come forward and share their experience because they're realizing it's not just them, but it's, unfortunately, 'me too,'" Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg said the latest cases have the same elements he sees in child abuse cases. The victims say they just wanted the abuse to be over, they had no control, they didn't know they could tell anybody and they thought it only happened to them. He said this is a teachable moment we can't lose.

"We would be doing each one of these victims a disservice if we just posted #MeToo," Rosenberg said. "What we need to do is make it a teachable moment, so we can have societal change, have communal change to not only sexual harassment of women, but the sexual abuse of children."

Rosenberg said some of the people coming forward just need to be heard. Others are seeking an endgame, either through the justice system or as a springboard to getting therapy.



Three Oaks educators sentenced for failing to report suspected child abuse


THREE OAKS, Mich. (WNDU) -- Four educators from Three Oaks Elementary School have now all pleaded "no contest" after they were accused of failing to report suspected child abuse.

Principal Heidi Clark, special education teacher Diane Balling, guidance counsellor Matt Cook and teacher Sherrie Bender all worked at the school.

Investigators found emails shared between them that showed they worried for the safety of a young boy.

That boy was found earlier this year near railroad tracks in Galien Township. He weighed only 47 pounds and "was bruised, dehydrated and exceptionally skinny. Further, the physician found a cut lip, old cigarette burns and each rib was observable and well defined," according to a report from Berrien County Prosecuting Attorney Michael J. Sepic.

The four educators pleaded no contest to one count of failing to report suspected child abuse, a 93-day misdemeanor.

They've been sentenced to probation, fines and 100 hours of community service.

"While there were occasions when others involved in this young boy's life could have shortened the period of abuse, educators and other mandated reporters are involved in the lives of children every day," Sepic said. "The law mandates they report if they have reasonable cause to suspect abuse. Please, if abuse is suspected, report it. If it does not appear the abuse is alleviated, report it again. One cannot assume issues have been addressed."

An investigation led to child abuse, torture and other felony charges against the boy's father, Aaron Zemke, and step-mother, Alicia Zemke. Earlier this year, both pleaded no contest to child abuse 1st degree and each received a prison sentence of 20 to 80 years.

Sepic released the following op-ed on Thursday. He titled it "If you see something, say something!":

In May of this year I announced charges against four educators at the Three Oaks Elementary School for failing to report suspected child abuse.

Below is a brief review of that case:

The case involved a 12-year-old boy who was found near railroad tracks in Galien Township by a railroad worker in August of 2106. The boy lived nearby and had been reported missing the evening before.

Police took custody of the boy and placed him with the Department of Health and Human Services. As a result, the boy was examined by a physician who reported the boy weighed 47 pounds (substantially below the 5th percentile of boys his age in weight and below the 1st percentile in height), was bruised, dehydrated and exceptionally skinny. Further, the physician found a cut lip, old cigarette burns and observed that each rib was well defined.

When interviewed the child told police his father and stepmother kept him from eating. He ran away because he “was tired being treated like a dog and he didn't think he would reach his 13th birthday.” The physician confirmed that his condition was serious and life threatening.

An investigation led to child abuse, torture and other felony charges against his father and stepmother. Earlier this year, both pled no contest to Child Abuse 1st Degree and each received a prison sentence of 20 to 80 years.

Through the course of the investigation and court process it was discovered the boy's condition was noticed by school personnel at Three Oaks Elementary School as much as two years prior to his running away in August of 2016.

The evidence against the four educators included emails in which the health of the boy was discussed, over an extended period. Some of the emails stated, “He appears to be hungry throughout the day and appears to be 15 – 20 pound lighter than last year” and “He never stays home…even if he's not feeling good…because he's too afraid of his step-mom” and “I feel being on his own and finding a shelter through a city program will provide him more nutrition and guidance … that what he's receiving at home.”


Washington D.C.

Watchdog: Troops say they were told to ignore Afghan child sexual abuse

by Rebecca Kheel

A new inspector general report released Thursday found that while the Pentagon did not have formal guidance discouraging the reporting of child sex abuse in Afghanistan, several troops say they were still informally told to ignore it.

“Following a review of DoD Instructions, Command Policy and Service guidance, we did not identify any guidance or policy that expressly discouraged personnel from reporting incidents of child sexual abuse,” according to the unclassified version of the Department of Defense inspector general report.

“In some cases, the interviewees explained that they, or someone whom they knew, were told that nothing could be done about child sexual abuse because of Afghanistan's status as a sovereign nation, that it was not a priority for the command, or that it was best to ignore the situation and to let the local police handle it.”

Controversy erupted last year after news reports alleged a Pentagon policy kept U.S. troops from reporting when Afghan police and militia officials sexually assaulted children in a practice known as "bacha bazi" — or "boy play." U.S. troops were allegedly punished when they did report the abuse.

The Pentagon repeatedly denied any such policy existed. But lawmakers were outraged and asked the inspector general to investigate.

Though the Pentagon did not have a policy against reporting child sex assault, some services' cultural awareness training did identify child sex abuse as a culturally accepted practice in Afghanistan, according to the report.

Army and Air Force training do not discuss pedophilia in Afghanistan, but Navy and Marines training does. The Navy training “advises readers to control and overcome any frustration caused by cultural differences that they may experience during their deployments,” while the Marines one “tells Marines to be mentally prepared to encounter this attitude, and to ‘move on,'” according to the report.

Further, several current or former service members told investigators they were told to ignore the behavior.

In one example cited in the report, an interviewee said a mock Afghan village was set up in Camp Lejeune, N.C., where students were told to let local officials handle child sexual abuse.

“During the simulation, students were told that if they witnessed child sexual abuse, they should let the local officials or police know and not interfere with the locals,” the report said. “The interviewee said that the reason given as to why not to interfere was due to maintaining cooperation with the Afghans.”

Another interviewee told investigators that the chain of command didn't care until The New York Times reported on the issue.

“The initial reaction of the staff was ‘we don't really care about this, and we're not going to do anything about it,'” the interviewee said, according to the report. “Then, after The New York Times article came out, and the issue got traction, we had to pay attention to it.”

A third interviewee said they had reported to the chain of command an incident involving a 14-year-old boy and a former Afghan Local Police commander, but that “there was an attitude of 'Afghan problem, Afghan solution' when it came to the removal of police officers.”

A fourth interviewee said they also reported to the chain of command, but that they were told, “There's nothing we can do about it,” “It was out of our control,” “This is Afghanistan,” or “It's their country.”

The inspector general further found there was no Pentagon training specific to identifying, responding to and reporting child sexual abuse by Afghan forces until 2015.

“The first express command guidance including a specific requirement to report instances of child sexual abuse was issued in September 2015, after media reports surfaced with allegations from U.S. personnel who had been deployed to Afghanistan,” the report said.

But there's still no specific guidance from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy for reporting gross violations of human rights such as child sexual abuse, which the report said means there is “no certainty” all allegations have been reported to the U.S. military.

The inspector general identified 16 cases of child sexual abuse involving Afghan government officials reported to and tracked by the Pentagon between 2010 and 2016. But the report cautions that more may have been reported that investigators could not confirm because of inconsistent procedures and lack of unified guidance on the issue.

Eleven of those 16 were reported by the U.S. military to the Afghan government, the report added.

International law does not prohibit U.S. forces from intervening and using reasonable force to prevent child sexual assault, according to the report.

But personnel that use force could be subject to criminal complaints such as assault, it added. In that case, though, U.S. authorities would have jurisdiction over the personnel accused of assault, and U.S. law says that force may be used to defend against death or grievous bodily harm.

In a response included in the report, the Pentagon said the inspector general report makes clear there was no guidance telling troops to ignore child sexual abuse in Afghanistan.

“DoD strongly condemns the exploitation of children, including bacha bazi, a practice in which men exploit boys for social and sexual entertainment in Afghanistan,” acting undersecretary of Defense for policy Robert Karam wrote in the response. “Indeed, the draft report concludes that DODIG did not identify official guidance that discouraged DoD-affiliated personnel from reporting incidents of child sexual abuse.”

Still, Karam took issue with the report's assertion that without specific guidance from his office, military personnel may be confused as to whether to report child sexual abuse.

“There should be no confusion,” he wrote. “U.S. military personnel do not require explicit guidance to know that child sexual assault in all cases is wrong, must not be tolerated and requires informing the chain of command.”



Alaska Native's account for more than half of sexual assault victims in state, study says

by Teresa Cotsirilos

Alaska has one of the highest rates of sexual assault in the country, and Alaska Native women are more likely to be attacked than anyone else, according to the Department of Public Safety, which quietly released a report on Alaskan sex crimes last month.

Fifty-four percent of Alaska's sexual assault victims are Alaska Native, the report says, even though Alaska Native people comprise only 20 percent of the state's population.

The study analyzed allegations of rape, child sexual abuse and other felony sex offenses reported to Alaskan law enforcement in 2016.

It also found that 47 percent of the suspected attackers are Alaska Native as well, and that Western Alaska has higher rates of sexual abuse than any other region.

“I wasn't surprised at all at these statistics,” said Monica Charles, a Tundra Women's Coalition board member. “If anything, I'm surprised by how long it takes to come up with these numbers to shock people into action.”

If anything, she said, the numbers in the study seem low.

Sex crimes are famously underreported.

Charles said that there are several reasons that the sexual assault rates are so high in Alaska Native communities.

Rural Alaskans have less access to public safety and law enforcement, which can leave people vulnerable to certain kinds of crimes. High rates of alcoholism exacerbate the problem.

“I think people who are abusing alcohol are at a greater risk of exhibiting concerning behaviors that lead to domestic violence, or suicide, or sexual assault,” Charles said.

Regardless of their ethnicity, Alaskans are assaulted at a young age.

According to the report, the most common victim of a sex crime is a 14-year-old girl. She almost is always attacked by someone she knows.

Abusers target younger girls or boys because they're vulnerable, said Michelle DeWitt, vice chair of the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

Finding someone vulnerable is foremost in their minds, and attackers sexually assault their victims to feel more powerful.

“When somebody no longer feels powerful themselves, you often see people attempting to feel more powerful by acting out with violence, whether that's domestic violence or sexual assault,” DeWitt said. “When I see crimes that are truly about power, I think we can really link that back to disempowerment.”

According to both DeWitt and Charles, this feeling of disempowerment may be at the root of high sexual assault rates in Native communities.

Alaska's Native cultures have been disrupted by Westernization; its Native people were systematically disenfranchised as Russia and the United States colonized their land.

That history is a tremendous source of trauma and grief, Charles said.

“It is woven into every facet of our lives in every community in Alaska if you are Alaska Native,” she said, as she started to cry. “Historical trauma is alive and breathing in my own daughters and in my son. It is something that is very real and it affects every part of society.”

It's hard to know to fix this, but when it comes to addressing high sexual assault rates, Charles said that there are steps that communities can take.

“I think that having a safe place and knowing that people can talk about it just in general is a good place to start,” she said.

There are also behavioral health programs and support groups that survivors can turn to, including those offered by the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, the Tundra Women's Coalition, and the Bethel Family Clinic.

If you are a survivor of sexual assault and need immediate assistance, call Tundra Women's Coalition 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-478-7799 or 1-907-543-3456.


Joe Biden and Lady Gaga reteam to establish sexual assault trauma centres

The former vice president unveiled the plan on Monday at Glamour's Women of the Year Summit

by Clarisse Loughrey

Lady Gaga and Joe Biden have teamed up once more, this time to unveil an initiative to create trauma centres for victims of physical and emotional abuse.

Their plan was announced at Glamour 's Women of the Year Summit in New York City on Monday, as the former vice president answered an audience question concerning the issue of rape on college campuses.

It's an issue Biden has already worked closely with the musician on as part of the It's On Us campaign, which launched under the Obama administration as a non-profit organisation aiming to educate young people about sexual assault on campuses and to offer them tools to intervene when possible.

The pair first collaborated when Biden introducer her performance of "Til It Happens To You" at the 2016 Academy awards, inspired by Gaga's personal experience and co-written with Diane Warren for the campus rape documentary The Hunting Ground.

“Women who are abused end up having long-term physical and physiological problems,” Biden said in response to the audience question. "I'm working with Lady Gaga now... we [want to] set up trauma centers where women can go to get the long-term help they need to deal with these crises."

"We finally are recognizing the long-term impacts on the health of women and men who've been abused. It's the next great frontier I want to be part of," he added.

"The Vice President and Lady Gaga share an interest in addressing the long-term physical and emotional effects of trauma and they have been discussing what to do about it," a spokesperson for Biden stated (via Entertainment Weekly). "Their discussions on how to move forward are in the early stages."



Report: Minnesota's Safe Harbor helping more victims of sex trafficking

by Naomi Pescovitz

St. Paul, Minn.- A Minnesota program helping fight sex trafficking across the state is reaching more and more young people.

A new Wilder Foundation study released Friday shows that from April 2015 to June 2017, 1,423 young people received services from the “Safe Harbor” program. During the program's first year, it provided services for 359 young people.

The program was created through a state law in 2011. It provides legislation, funding and legal protections to help victims of sex trafficking

“Certainly the news stories that have dominated this week's headlines about the exploitation and abuse of vulnerable individuals, and sexual harassment and assault by people in powerful positions, underlines the critical importance of what we will be talking about today,” said Ehlinger.

“We have no doubt, in our mind, that these numbers reflect a change in practices among service providers,” said Safe Harbor Regional Navigator Laura Sutherland.

“What we're seeing is that we have services available," said Ehlinger. "We've changed the law so people feel more comfortable coming forward, they know they are going to get some help. People don't want to be trafficked."

The study also showed that awareness about sex trafficking has grown. There is more access to shelter and housing for victims. The response from law enforcement has improved.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi says more victims of sex trafficking are being recognized as victims instead of criminals.

“That's the magic of Minnesota," said Choi. "That's why I think that many people from around the country are saying, ‘What you are doing here is really awesome.'"

Despite the program's success, there is room for improvement.

“There are gaps in services to address the complexity and needs of exploited individuals from underserved cultural groups,” said Julie Atella with the Wilder Foundation.

That includes people of color, tribal communities, the LGBTQ community and young men.

“This is not an urban issue or a rural issue, it is a statewide issue that we all have to be engaged with,” said Ehlinger.

The report also recommends removing the age limit for those who can access resources through Safe Harbor. Right now, the resources are only available until the age of 24.

“We as a state, especially those on the front lines, who weren't necessarily seeing it back in 2011, are better at identifying these kids,” said Choi.

The report also calls for more funding.

This is the only state in which, on a bipartisan basis, where the Legislature has actually funded safe harbor laws. So that's one of the reasons why I think it's working really well,” said Choi.



Sex trafficking data presented

Most younger than 18 when they enter the trade, researchers say

by Louise Wrege

ST. JOSEPH — Research on sex trafficking in Grand Rapids is resulting in some alarming statistics, according to researchers with the Sexual Exploitation Data Project.

Of the women interviewed, they reported that the average age they entered the commercial sex trade was 15, with 90 percent reporting that they started in the industry before they were 18, according to Melissa Weismann with the Songbird Justice Initiative. She said 87 percent of the women between the ages of 18 and 24 reported that they were being controlled by a trafficker or a gang.

Weismann presented the project's preliminary findings Friday to members of the Southwest Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force in St. Joseph.

She said human trafficking devastates the lives of the women involved, but there is no accurate data in Michigan showing the scope of the problem. That is why several Grand Rapids-area churches are independently funding the project, said Rachel Veryws, another researcher.

She said initial research looked at online sites, including portions of, and ads were analyzed using more than 80 variables that indicate sex trafficking.

Street interviews with women engaged in the commercial sex industry were done by Leslie King, a survivor of human trafficking who founded Sacred Beginnings to help women break free. The researchers are being advised by Tonisha Jones, an assistant professor in criminal justice at Grand Valley State University.

“The next phase of our research,”Verwys said, “is interviews and conversations with stakeholders in the community who are both working on the criminal justice side, social service, nonprofit sectors, government, to look at what are the barriers to reducing human trafficking and also sharing the research to show the scope and scale of what's going on.”

She said they hope to present the report to the Kent County Human Trafficking Task Force in January.

“We want to present the report publicly and talk about the next steps that can be taken to combat trafficking in our area,” she said.

Veryws said more money is needed so the problem can be properly addressed.

“And to apply for grants, we need to show numbers,” she said. “We're hoping that in presenting the study it will actually start more coordination statewide for activity to happen.”

One barrier to helping women get out of being trafficked is the stigma associated with it, Weismann said. She said historically, vulnerable people who are in poverty are blamed for their situations.

“When we come up with solutions for the problem,” she said, “it can be slow because we're working against the systems of stigma attached to the problem, which hinders building solutions.”

Part of the stigma includes that almost all women who are trafficked report being addicted to drugs.

Weismann said most people being sex trafficked are being held in mental, not physical, chains.

“It's similar, in some ways, to the cycle of domestic violence,” she said. “We've come a long way in understanding how domestic violence starts.”

Women younger than 18 who are trafficked automatically are seen as victims in the eyes of the law. But Weismann said it is more difficult if the victim is an adult. Michigan's laws on human trafficking require prosecutors to prove force, fraud or coercion if the victim is an adult.

“(The officer) might see what's going on, but (the victim) doesn't want to admit that there's a problem,” Veryws said. “They don't see themselves as a victim.”

Weismann said some states are changing how they view human trafficking, citing Minnesota as an example. There, police can arrest a suspected trafficker even if the adult victim doesn't cooperate. Weismann said that is similar to what is done in domestic violence cases.

Veryws said the conversation around sex trafficking needs to change from asking why the women don't leave to asking why the men are paying for sex. She said men should protect women and children and not exploit them.



How sex trafficking actually happens. Sixty-two precent of victims fall prey to what police call the 'lover boy' approach

by Hannah Ball

On Tuesday, Nov. 15, a post circulated on Facebook from a mom who thought a man was trying to abduct her kids. She wrote that a suspicious man followed her and her kids around the Meijer store in Swartz Creek on Nov. 13. She wrote that the man was watching her and her kids, and he approached them at one point. Meijer security was called and the family was put in a private room while the man was escorted out.

Many people who shared and commented on the now-deleted post said the mother did a good job avoiding a potential human trafficking, or sex trafficking, situation.

Community Service trooper, Steve Kramer, of the Michigan State Police, said this is not generally how human trafficking works. Kramer regularly gives presentations in local schools about human trafficking (see sidebar).

“Lots of people are calling situations something that they're not,” he said. “It could have been something as simple as ‘hey, do you know where Bed Bath and Beyond is?' Then you get a parent who says someone tried to kidnap their kid when that's not the case, and they blow it out of proportion.”

Kramer said they always look into situations where a stranger approaches young children, but with situations like the one in the Facebook post, where a stranger is following a family around, most likely have nothing to do with human trafficking.

“Are there always going to be strange people in the world? Yes. But generally speaking these traffickers approaching them are not the creepy old men that most people think of,” Kramer said. “A 60-year-old man with teeth missing is not going to attract the attention of a 13-year-old.”

Approximately 62 percent of sex trafficking victims fell prey to what police call the “lover boy” approach. This is when an older boy makes friends with a younger girl, usually around age 12 or 13, and buys them things.

“They earn their trust, admiration. They buy them gifts,” Kramer said. This can lead to the young girl wanting to do anything to stay with that older boy.

The “lover boy” approach is the most common sex trafficking technique.

Approximately 35 percent of sex trafficking involves friends and family “letting things happen” in exchange for something else.

Kramer said with one case, a mother who was addicted to drugs would allow drug dealers to do sexual things to her daughter in exchange for drugs.

“When drugs are involved, people do a lot of nasty things to feed that habit,” he said. This is the second most popular way sex trafficking occurs.

Approximately 3 percent of sex trafficking involves kidnapping, and this is where public perception can be incorrect and harmful.

“Less than 3 percent are actually kidnapped. That's just not how it works,” he said

He said human traffickers can be men, women, young people, old people, anyone, and sharing the Facebook posts like the one about Meijer isn't a good idea.

“It does more harm than good. Report it to police and then we'll post it once we can verify that it was what it was,” he said. “Lots of people are calling it something it's not.”

Kramer said there's a lot of misinformation about human trafficking in Michigan. He said someone spread a story claiming that Michigan was number two in the nation for human trafficking.

“I'm still combating that,” he said. “It's just fallacy and it causes concern and alarm.”

Kramer said he believes Michigan was once number two in victim recovery, but not in human trafficking numbers.

“I don't want people to be afraid to live their lives based on false narratives,” he said.

Actual human trafficking statistics

According to Steve Kramer, community service trooper with the Michigan State Police:

• Between 100,000 and 200,000 kids are brought into the human trafficking business in America each year.

• Approximately 90 percent of victims of human trafficking in the country are American.

• Kids around age 12-13 are targeted more than other ages. The average age for girls brought into human trafficking is 13, and 12 for boys.

• Approximately 2.8 million kids run away from home each year, and become huge targets for traffickers.

• Within 48 hours of being on the streets, one in three kids is approached by a trafficker.

• Approximately 91 percent of victims experienced some kind of neglect at home. Kramer said this makes the kids vulnerable and more likely to runaway.

• Approximately 57 percent of girls have been raped by someone outside of the family, and 30 percent have been raped by someone in the family.