Who Is Ralph Shortey? Former Oklahoma Senator Pleads Guilty To Child Trafficking
by Amruta Agnihotri
A former Oklahoma senator who was accused of offering to pay a 17-year-old boy for sexual relations has pleaded guilty to the charges pressed against him, reports said Saturday.
Former Republican Sen. Ralph Shortey, in a plea deal, wrote: “It is in my best interest and in the best interest of my family.”
Federal prosecutors agreed to drop three counts of child pornography against Shortey in exchange for his guilty plea.
The 35-year-old will be required to serve a minimum term of 10 years in prison — the mandatory term for those convicted of child trafficking.
The federal indictment against Shortey mentions that the former senator, under a fake name, created a Craigslist account where he requested anyone responding to his ads communicate with him via Kik, a social media application that allows users to send photos, videos, and text messages.
The indictment also stated that Shortey had used his email account to transfer a video titled “051 st Time Sex Videos.”
In the third count against him, Shortey was convicted for communicating with a minor boy named John Doe via Kik.
“Between on or about Feb. 14, 2016, and on or about March 8, 2017, in the Western District of Oklahoma, Shortey employed, used, persuaded, induced, and enticed a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct, and such visual depiction was actually transported and transmitted using a means and facility of interstate and foreign commerce, in that Shortey so obtained at least one image of John Doe's penis,” a part of the indictment read.
The indictment also details a conversation that took place between Shortey and the minor.
Earlier in March, Doe [the minor victim] had sent a text message to Shortey saying: "I need money for spring break.”
Shortey responded to the message saying: "I don't really have any legitimate things I need help with right now Would you be interested in 'sexual' stuff,” to which Doe responded with a “Yes.”
Read the entire federal indictment here.
Born in Casper, Wyoming, Shortey spent his childhood on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in Grass Mountain, South Dakota before moving to Oklahoma. He graduated from Westmoore High School in 2000 and studied at Heartland Baptist Bible College in Oklahoma City. Shortey was elected to the Oklahoma Senate in 2010 and served his term until 2017.
He is scheduled to appear before the Oklahoma City federal court on Nov. 30.
"There's a lot more work to be done": Missouri's first lady on child abuse reviews
by Will Schmitt
Between July 2016 and June 2017, Missouri had to delay dozens of child abuse hearings because boards that review cases lacked enough members to meet.
Sixteen recent appointments by Gov. Eric Greitens are intended to stop that from happening.
"If you're a child who's been abused, you should know that you're safe and that your abusers have been brought to justice," Greitens said in a statement. "If you're in foster care, you should know that good people are watching out for you. These children are our responsibility. And we need to take that work seriously and do it well."
Four of the six state Child Abuse and Neglect Review Boards did not have enough members to meet prior to Greitens' appointments, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Social Services told the News-Leader.
The regional boards are supposed to have nine members each, and at least five must be present to form a quorum necessary to meet. As a result, some members would meet multiple times per month to ensure boards had a quorum, spokesman Rebecca Woelfel said in an email.
But four times in fiscal 2017, board meetings had to be cancelled, she said. Eight to 10 cases are scheduled for hearings at a given meeting.
"The Children's Division recognizes the importance of the Child Abuse and Neglect Review Boards in protecting Missouri children," Woelfel said. "The action that the Governor has taken to appoint new board members is an important, proactive step to ensure that cases will be resolved more quickly. We are grateful to Governor Greitens for his recent appointments to the Child Abuse and Neglect Review Board."
The purpose of the boards is to "provide an independent review of child abuse and neglect determinations in instances in which the alleged perpetrator is aggrieved" by a state decision, according to law. Members volunteer for appointments, which are unpaid except for "reasonable and necessary expenses" as part of doing their jobs.
Helping Missouri's kids has been a special focus for Sheena Greitens, Missouri's first lady and an assistant political science professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia, since taking up residence in the Governor's Mansion.
"When Eric and I got to Jefferson City, we knew that this was something we really cared about," she said in an interview with the News-Leader.
When the child abuse review boards didn't meet, children were potentially put at risk. People the state determines to have abused children are entered into a state database, but that entry is delayed if an alleged abuser exercises their right to a hearing before a board that can't hear cases.
"If these boards aren't meeting, it's delaying the placement of an alleged perpetrator in the central registry," Sheena Greitens said.
In a news release, the Greitens administration said almost all of the 54 review board appointments were either vacant or filled with an appointee whose term had technically expired when the Republican governor took office in January.
Precisely how long the appointments were vacant was unclear. The Department of Social Services and Greitens' spokesman did not respond when asked to comment on the length of time the boards lacked members.
Sheena Greitens could not say how long the positions had been vacant. But once the vacancies were identified, "we immediately recognized that this was a problem," she said.
Greitens, a practiced researcher in her academic life, said she spent about eight months reviewing policy about child welfare, reading "literally thousands of pages" on topics like foster care, adoption and withdrawal in babies who are born with substance addictions.
Traveling around the state helped her understand the issue firsthand, she said, such as sitting in on family court hearings, shadowing state caseworkers and going on home visits.
"I wanted to really understand what this process is like, both at the level of the system and for the people who are navigating it every day," she said.
Greitens noted that these boards have specific membership requirements based on occupation to ensure a diversity of perspective and background.
For instance, the local child abuse board includes a counselor with Springfield Public Schools, a registered nurse with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, an assistant prosecutor from Christian County, a private attorney from Springfield and the Title IX coordinator for Missouri State University.
"It was really important to us to have the best possible people in these roles," Sheena Greitens said. "That's what we've been doing since we figured out there were so many vacancies and so many expired terms. We're really happy to see how many qualified committed people volunteered their time."
And, she said, "we know that there's a lot more work to be done."
Eric Greitens had previously appointed Mary Bozarth and Kristen Tuohy to the local Child Abuse and Neglect Review Board, the News-Leader reported in October. These appointments were part of a move to pick 25 women in 25 days for political positions.
The Springfield child abuse board still has a vacant position for a law enforcement or juvenile justice officer, according to the state website.
'Talking will help': Edmonton man speaks out about recovery from childhood sexual abuse
Up to three-month wait for men's group counselling at Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton
by Andrea Ross
Neil Campbell was 12 years old and sitting in bed reading a comic book when he was suddenly crushed by a wave of fear, anger and confusion.
Three years earlier, he was raped numerous times by a teenaged neighbour in a shed near his home. He'd blocked it out of his mind until that moment, when something triggered those memories and he had a panic attack. He told his parents, who told the police.
The teen admitted his guilt, and Campbell's family discussed pressing charges against him. Police told them it would be best if they didn't — it would save Campbell from an embarrassing trial and teasing from other kids in his Edmonton neighbourhood. His attacker moved away.
Don't talk about it. Bury it. Forget it, police said. So that's what Campbell did. He drank and suffered depression and suicidal thoughts throughout the years as he kept everything inside.
"[It's] kind of the pattern that most sexual abuse victims go. They hide it and they don't really talk about it, especially with males," he said.
Campbell is now 47 years old. He's been with his wife for 20 years. He has two teen daughters, and works as an operations manager.
"I've been able to put on a pretty good mask over the years, stay productive at work. I hear it all the time, 'I can't believe what happened to you. I would have never guessed, I would have never known.'
"I hid it very well and was able to function."
Although he knows sexual assault is an issue that victimizes mostly women, Campbell is sharing his story because he wants other other male survivors to know it's OK to speak up as well. Reading about NHL player Theo Fleury's experience with childhood sexual abuse gave him courage to tell his story, as did the recent #MeToo social media campaign, in which women have shared stories of sexual abuse and harassment, primarily by men.
Three years ago, he decided to walk into the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton and ask for help. He received private counselling and enrolled in group counselling with other men after a wait list of almost nine months. It was in meeting these other men with similar experiences that he realized the damage caused by a society that tells men to "suck it up."
"Some of these other men I met in the group are just barely functioning. You can just see in their eyes they're defeated. They're just in a bad place and it was just heartbreaking to see," he said.
"You feel so alone, especially males, because men don't go out and talk about these things. Even though we live in a different day and age there's still that unspoken kind of macho, pound your chest kind of mentality. It's not easy."
Months-long wait lists for counselling
One in three girls and one in six boys will be affected by some form of sexual violence at some point in their lives, typically before the age of 18, says Mary Jane James, Executive Director of SACE.
In Canada, only eight to 10 per cent of sexual assaults are ever reported to police. According to a recent report from Statistics Canada, sexual assault is the most under-reported violent crime in Canada. Last year, there were 76,000 reported cases of sexual violence in Alberta.
The vast majority — 80 per cent — of clients at SACE are women, while 20 per cent are boys or men.
"Sexual violence is an issue that affects all genders and all sexualities. The reality, however, is that women and girls are disproportionately affected and the vast majority of offenders are men," James said.
"Even though it's mostly women and girls who are affected, there are a significant number of men. The shame and stigma surrounding sexual violence is what allows it to continue. But for a man, there's an even greater degree of shame and stigma that accompanies this crime and it is what keeps them from speaking out."
Calls to the centre have spiked "dramatically" since the #MeToo campaign, James said. The centre offers private and group counselling services, but wait lists are long — there's a constant two to three month wait for group counselling tailored specifically towards men who have experienced child sexual abuse, she said. Survivors are encouraged to do individual counselling before group sessions, but the wait list for individual counselling is around six to eight months. Some wait lists for women can be even longer, she added.
The hardest thing to do after a sexual assault is to tell someone, and although the national conversation is changing, it's still common to find ways to blame the victim, she said.
The best way to support a survivor of sexual assault is to listen to them, support them and believe them, James said.
"That may give them the impetus to go on, to get the counselling that they need, and perhaps even report it to the police, if that's what they choose to do," she said.
Campbell said sitting on the wait list for counselling was a "long and drawn out process," but he found an instant connection and shared understanding when talking with the other men.
He's still dealing with the aftermath of what happened to him as a nine-year-old boy. Whenever he visits his parents' home, it's still difficult to drive past the house two doors down where the attacks happened. As part of his recovery, he donates to the Little Warriors Be Brave Ranch, a long-term treatment centre in Sherwood Park for children who have been sexually abused.
He says he wants other men to know speaking up helps, and with support, they'll be OK too.
"It happens to boys, that turn into men," Campbell said. "I used to feel that it defined me, but I know now it's not. It's a part of me, but it's not everything that I am.
"I know it's terrifying, I know it's uncomfortable to feel weak, but it's OK to have those feelings because it will help you to move forward. The talking will help."
Rep. John Conyers Reportedly Settled Complaint Involving Unwanted Advances
The news comes after a string of reports alleging impropriety by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
by Nick Visser
Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) allegedly settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 after being accused of firing a female staffer who rejected his sexual advances, BuzzFeed News reported Monday night.
Conyers, 88, is the longest-serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives and among the most powerful members of Congress. In documents affiliated with the case filed by an unnamed woman in 2014, several former staff members also alleged the lawmaker repeatedly asked female employees for sexual favors, inappropriately touched them in public and asked staffers to contact and transport women they believed Conyers was having affairs with.
Read the entire story at BuzzFeed.
The wrongful dismissal complaint was filed with Congress' Office of Compliance after a staffer said she was terminated because she would not “succumb to [Conyer's] sexual advances.” It was settled in 2015 for $27,111 and included a confidentiality agreement signed by the staffer. Conyers did not admit fault in the complaint.
BuzzFeed spoke with four people involved with the case, including the unnamed accuser, and obtained four signed affidavits from the complaint. The outlet initially obtained the documents from Mike Cernovich, the pro-Donald Trump conspiracy theorist who helped catapult the debunked “Pizzagate” theory, but said it confirmed their provenance independently.
Conyers has served in Congress since 1965 and is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. HuffPost has reached out to his office for comment.
In the affidavits obtained by BuzzFeed, former employees described several instances in which Conyers asked women for sexual favors, including one instance when a woman said he invited her to his hotel room and asked her to “touch it,” meaning his penis. During another encounter, Conyers allegedly told the woman to “just cuddle up with me and caress me” while at a fundraising event.
A report released last week by the Office of Compliance showed Congress had paid more than $17 million in settlements and awards since 1997 for violations of employment rules, including cases of sexual harassment.
BuzzFeed's report comes as several high-profile politicians have been accused of sexual misconduct, including Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore.
Thames Valley Police have recorded more than 2,000 historic child sex abuse cases since 2013
In 2016/17 police forces across the country recorded 20,40 non-recent sex abuse offences
by Jennie Slevin
More than 2,200 non-recent sex abuse offences have been recorded by Thames Valley Police in the last four years.
The figures obtained by the NSPCC which getreading is running a Christmas campaign with, also show the number of offences recorded last year (20,410) was almost double what was recorded in 2013/14 (10,493).
The children's charity hope the increase in recorded cases will reassure survivors they will be listened to and will see law enforcement taking swift action to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Such a steep rise has been put down in-part to a number of high profile 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.
Maria, 47, was sexually abused and raped by her biological father at a very young age and still feels the effects of the abuse now.
She said: "I don't want to have a strong relationship with anyone.
"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 PSNI.
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."
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.
Our View: We must focus on child abuse
Our nation seems engulfed by crises: rampant sexual harassment, racial strife, gun violence, opioid addiction, an ever-eroding trust in government.
What about child abuse? We don't hear much about it, relative to other social plagues. But recently we found ourselves tremendously morose by news that underscores how problematic this is for our society.
Consider some examples:
Violent lunatic Devin Kelley slaughtered 26 people during the recent church massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas; about half of the victims were kids, including one as young as 18 months.
On Tuesday, Markiya Mitchell of Rochester, New York, was arrested after admitting she drowned her 10-day-old baby. Prosecutors contend she held her son under water for up to two hours. The motive was unclear.
In mid-October sheriff's deputies in Pensacola arrested Veronica Posey for murder after the death of her 9-year-old cousin. The 325-pound woman told investigators she sat on the girl because she had been “out of control.”
Here in Bay County, a Yanoshua Ramos-Melendez, 25, was accused last month of staying silent in the wake of the June 2015 killing of her infant son. The father Tene Anthony Quinones-Rivera, walked into the Parker Police Department earlier this year and admitted to killing the 2-month-old because he would not stop crying.
All of that within the space of a month. It's sad beyond belief.
Earlier this year, the American Society for the Positive Care of Children noted that abuse cases nationwide jumped 10 percent between 2014 and 2015, the most recent year available. The number of children victimized by abuse and neglect increased from 6.6 million to 7.2 million
The group quoted an essay by Michael Petit, president of the Every Child Matters Education Fund, who wrote, “Over the past 10 years, more than 20,000 American children are believed to have been killed in their own homes by family members. That is nearly four times the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations — losing on average almost five children a day to child abuse and neglect,” the ASPCC concluded. “American children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect.”
Hidden indeed. Right in plain sight, in one police report after another.
After perusing this brief roll call of misery, we see the remedy for this cruelty eludes us — mostly because we fail to understand why or how some adult can refuse to feed his child, or put a pillow over her head to correct sass, or batter her lifeless.
Perhaps it's time we refocus our attention and outrage toward helping those who are too young, or too small, or too fragile to help themselves. If we want to import something from other countries, forget health care — let's import better ways to protect our children.
What is reverse parenting?
by Judge Stephen Halsey
Recently I read a social worker's report indicating that a psychologist believed a parent and child were in a “reverse parenting” relationship. I have observed that situation occasionally in contested custody and child protection cases. What is it?
“Reverse parenting” or “parentification” is when the normal parent-child roles are reversed. The parent looks to the child for nurture, protection and affirmation, and the child, either consciously or unconsciously, sacrifices his or her needs to provide for the needs of the parent. This can occur within otherwise healthy families not involved in family or juvenile court proceedings.
There are two types of parentification:
• Emotional parentification: This type of parentification forces the child to meet the emotional needs of their parent and usually other siblings also. This kind of parentification is the most destructive. It robs the child of his/her childhood and sets him/her up to have a series of dysfunctions that will incapacitate him/her in life. In this role, the child is put into the practically impossible role of meeting the emotional and psychological needs of the parent. The child becomes the parent's confidant. This can especially happen when a woman is not having her emotional needs met by her husband. She can gravitate towards trying to get these needs met from her son. It is as if the son becomes emotionally her surrogate husband. What child does not want to please their parent? An innocent child, is exploited by the parent and it creates a form of emotional and psychological abuse. This type of relationship can be the equivalent of emotional incest. Parentified children have to suppress their own needs. This comes at the expense of having normal development and causing a lack of a healthy emotional bond. These children will have difficulties having normal adult relationships in their future.
• Instrumental parentification: When a child takes up the role of physical or instrumental needs of the family. The child relieves the anxiety experienced normally by a parent that is not functioning correctly. The child may take care of the younger children, cook, etc. and by this essentially taking over many or all the physical responsibilities of the parent. This is not the same as a child learning responsibility through assigned chores and tasks. The difference is that the parent robs the child of his childhood by forcing him/her to be an adult caregiver with little or no opportunity to just be a kid. The child is made to feel as a surrogate parent over the siblings and parent.
The parentified child may experience unusual anger and feeling of loss of childhood because of emotional exploitation. The parentified adult child may experience difficulty in adult relationships, having deficits in not knowing how to attach and have healthy, undistorted relationships.
Some of you may have experienced role reversal with a parent suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Suddenly or gradually you, as an adult child, were thrust into the role of caring for a parent who is unable to care for herself, forgetting to eat or take medication, refusal to bathe, or losing the ability to complete normal hygienic tasks. This is not “parentification” but rather a necessary function of the aging process and caring for one's loved ones.
“Parentified” children do more than normal babysitting. They often cook meals and feed younger siblings, clean the house, and may even try to protect their parent from an abusive spouse or significant other. What motivates the child?
Fear of abandonment and a desire to keep the family together is a strong motivator, according to Dr. Allan Schwartz, a licensed clinical social worker. It may occur because the primary parent is a single parent because of death or divorce. These are the types of families who adultify their children, according to Dr. Schwartz:
• The parent uses the child as a confidante, sharing but burdening the child with the parent's sexual or financial problems.
• The parent is incapable of attending to their responsibilities due to drug or alcohol addiction.
What can we as a community do? Be vigilant and be aware to prevent this from happening within your extended family circle or neighborhood. Children need to be assured that they will be cared for and not abandoned. There are many resources in your community if you were a parentified child. Contact your county public health agency.
Fox 11 Investigates: Police focus on sex trafficking
by Robert Hornacek
(WLUK) -- Call it prostitution, 'sex trafficking,' the 'life.' No matter the name, the reality is there seems to be no shortage of people willing to buy and sell sex.
FOX 11 Investigates spent months shining a light on the world of sex trafficking.
"Human sex trafficking is modern day slavery," said sex trafficking survivor Emmy Myers.
"It's easier to not want to think about these kinds of things that are happening," added Nicole Tynan, who is also a survivor of sex trafficking.
FOX 11 spoke with Tynan and Myers to get an idea of what the 'life' is really like.
"If you don't do it you're going to be beat by the pimp if you don't have the money to bring back," Tynan said.
"It's happening right under our noses," Myers added.
Both Myers Tynan and Nicole are now out of the life. Both have spent time as advocates for victims. They say a big part of the solution is focusing on the people paying for sex.
"If there's not men to buy women then pimps don't have as much incentive to traffic women. It's very clear to me," Tynan said.
That's what police are starting to do.
"We feel there are a lot of buyers that are interested," said Lt. Jim Valley from the Brown County Sheriff's Department.
Valley coordinated a sting in October where police from a half dozen agencies teamed up to take down people trying to buy sex. An undercover analyst posted an ad online and within minutes men were trying to meet up.
While our cameras were rolling, police arrested two men who set up a meeting with an undercover officer. Police made a dozen arrests during the three-day operation.
"If we can try to take the buyers away and educate them that this is wrong, maybe we can move forward and help these females to not have as many buyers," Valley said.
That is exactly the approach advocates say they want to see.
"If we can get the buyers to stop buying, the traffickers would stop fueling this business and recruiting these girls because they do prey on girls that are vulnerable," said Season Russo, co-founder of the anti-trafficking organization Eye Heart World.
Eye Heart World has been in Brown County for two years and recently opened a home for women who are trying to get out of the sex business.
When asked why there is such a need in Brown County, Russo replied, "Because of the demand. Because ultimately guys are wanting these services."
Police in Brown County have changed their approach to sex buyers.
"At first we took a stance of just giving citations out. We learned that a citation is just a monetary value and everybody is just willing to pay it and be done and it's not stopping anything," Valley said.
Now, police are being more aggressive.
"We're taking everybody into custody and bringing them to the Brown County Jail. They're being booked in for pandering or prostitution depending on what the charges are and they later receive a summons to appear in court and appear in front of a judge to face their charges," Valley added.
So far this year, the Brown County Sheriff's Department says it has arrested 70 people for soliciting.
Police in Brown County say the average sex buyer in the county is a 30 to 50-year-old, college-educated white man who is married with children. That's the average. This year in Brown County, police arrested a 20-year-old who was about to get married and a 64-year-old who was never married.
"People just don't wake up in the morning and think, 'How can I ruin my life and my reputation?'" said Joe Pullen, an associate pastor at Christ the Rock Church. He is also part of the AIM Program in the Fox Valley. AIM stands for Awareness and Information for Men.
The one day seminar is designed to educate men who are first-time offenders about the realities of sex trafficking.
"We want them to know that sex trafficking isn't what the perpetrators and profiteers in the sex industry present it to be," Pullen said.
He also says technology has made it easier for people to engage in sex trafficking.
"At one point in time, the vision of a prostitute was someone standing on a street corner and you had to go to a seedy location in order to engage in that. When now you can purchase sex from the privacy of your home or hotel room via your telephone or your laptop and it will come right to your door step which removes a lot of the barriers into entry into prostitution that would normally have kept people from going there in the past," Pullen said.
Law enforcement says the buyers are the root of the problem.
"If we didn't have people who were willing to buy sex from what turns out in often cases to be children, there wouldn't be traffickers selling this," Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel told FOX 11 Investigates.
Schimel has created a statewide task force to address sex trafficking. While the efforts are mainly focused on helping victims and arresting buyers, Schimel says there's also a focus on the traffickers.
"That's our biggest challenge because in order to get to them we need to have a victim who is going to cooperate and give us the information about what's happening. That takes building a trust relationship and that's not going to happen overnight to someone who has been essentially brain-washed by the trafficker," Schimel said.
Investigators in Brown County haven't forgotten about the people pulling the strings.
"We are actually actively going after the traffickers. What we do is we set up, it's no secret, we set up the way we set up to try to get the trafficker," said Sgt. Matt Wilson.
He says during a sting, there's a special team dedicated to trying to catch the trafficker. This year, the Brown County Sheriff's Department says it has made five arrests for human trafficking.
"We're trying to get those pimps but it takes a very deep investigation to get those guys but we are taking steps to prosecute those guys as well," Wilson said.
FOX 11 is shining a light on the dark world of sex trafficking.
Click here to learn about some of the warning signs of sex trafficking.
Former Child Sex Slave Serving Life Sentence For Killing Man Who Exploited Her
by Zahara Hill
T ennessee is recognized for its vigilance in combatting child sex trafficking. But if ever you read up on the case of Cyntoia Brown, you'd be flabbergasted by such esteem for the state.
WSET reports the Nashville woman was a victim of sex trafficking being pimped out by the man she lived with.
In 2004, Brown killed Nashville realtor Johnny Allen, one of the many men who paid to have sex with the then 16-year-old. As a child sex slave, she'd been repeatedly raped, abused and held at gunpoint prior to being exploited by Allen. She admitted she feared his military background paired with the numerous guns she said she observed in his home. She shot and killed the 43-year-old.
“He was a sharpshooter in the Army,” Brown said of Allen. “I'm sitting here thinking if he does something, what am I going to do?”
Brown, whose grandmother and mother are also survivors of rape, was sentenced to life in prison with parole eligibility after 51 years.
Filmmaker Dan Birman followed Brown's case for seven years in Me Facing Life: Seeking Redemption in Cyntoia's Story . The documentary on the young woman, which premiered on PBS in Mar. 2011 was partly responsible for igniting the change in the way the state handles sex trafficking cases. Now, anyone under 18 years old, can no longer be charged with prostitution in the southern state.
“We started the conversation,” Birman said. “This is a young girl who's at the tail end of three generations of violence against women.”
While in prison, Brown attained her Associate's Degree from Lipscomb University and is now working towards her Bachelor's. She also works as a volunteer consultant with the Juvenile Justice System.
Hundreds get child abuse substantiations voided in secret appeals
by John Boel
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A disturbance in a store parking lot was so loud, a passerby called 911.
"You need to stop it," a Louisville Metro Police Department officer shouted, the ordeal captured on police body cam.
The disturbance was two daughters who were scheduled to be handed over to their dad for their court-ordered visitation.
"He's gonna hurt me," one of the girls said, as she cried. "He's abusing me. He's abusing me."
The police officers forced the 9-year-old and 13-year-old girls to go with their father.
"Technically I could've taken her to jail," an officer said. "If she's causing alarm and raising awareness of other people she can go to jail for that, period. She's got to learn she can't act like that. She does a lot of it I know for attention and I know she's scared to death, but everybody under the sun has investigated the guy."
When the Cabinet for Health and Family Services investigated the girls' father on a report of suspected child abuse, the allegations were substantiated due to what CHFS determined was "domestic violence" stemming from a confrontation with Locke in front of the children.
But then something happened that few people know is even possible.
In Kentucky, you can appeal a substantiated finding of child abuse in a secret proceeding with no legal requirement for anyone to even notify the alleged victim's family of what's happening. That's what happened in this case.
"I received nothing from the Cabinet whatsoever," The girls' mother, Julie Locke, said.
For Locke, there was no chance to produce evidence or testify at an appeal hearing. In this case there wasn't even a hearing.
The father wrote CHFS, contending, "I do not agree I pose a risk of harm to my children. The Cabinet should reverse the substantiation so I can continue to take the steps to heal my relationship with my children."
CHFS then rescinded the substantiated finding of child abuse and kept his name off the child abuse registry.
"In court one day a year later, my ex-husband's attorney asserted all substantiation had been reversed, which was the first I heard of anything," Locke said. "When we reviewed the report, there was no denying of the abuse, no excuse for abuse, nothing other than I just want to have a normal life."
The attorney for the girls' father declined comment on this case.
CHFS overturning its own child abuse substantiation happens more often than you might think.
Our investigation looked at all the appeals from last year; 139 child abuse substantiations were affirmed, while 321 were reversed.
"Part of our due diligence as an agency is to be able to look back and own when we may have gotten something wrong and be willing to correct that action, which is what we do in some cases," Kentucky DCBS Commissioner Adria Johnson said.
There have been other allegations of abuse by Locke since the reversal, including a hand slammed in a car door when one of the girls said their dad got mad.
Locke's attorney said CHFS compromises future decisions after reversing itself on an abuse substantiation.
"I believe that as a result of the initial secret unsubstantiation of the allegations, they're in a position where if they were to substantiate additional allegations, it would certainly make the Cabinet look bad," attorney Thomas Clay said.
"No, I personally don't feel like that," Johnson said. "I think every case is unique in some respects, and you have to separate that out and look independently at what's happened."
For now, the table is turned.
Locke is the one under scrutiny, facing a contempt hearing for allegedly failing to follow the court ordered visitation schedule.
'About time parents took note of children's sexual abuse complaints'
by The News
As cases of child sexual abuse reach a record high in Pakistan, a panel discussion, held at the Aga Khan University Hospital on Tuesday, brought to fore the role elders, especially parents, need to play in raising children's awareness about the crime.
Before the discussion commenced, a documentary narrating the ordeal of a child abuse survivor who opens up about the trauma was also shown at the event. Tehmina Shahid, Children Empowerment Association of Pakistan CEO, who was also behind the making of the documentary, said speaking to children about their bodies may save them from falling prey to abusers.
“It's disheartening to see schools' management not cooperating when it comes to organising awareness sessions. Even parents hesitate to speak about it — if we try to reach out to a thousand people, perhaps 20 would actually be interested,” she said.
Advisor to chief minister on social welfare, Shamim Mumtaz, while briefing the audience about developments made by the provincial government in the past seven years said, Child Protection Act passed in 2011 was finally being implemented, whereas child protection units have also been established.
However, she felt the clerics needed to clear their misconceptions related to raising awareness about child abuse. “When we try to talk about good and bad touch, some clerics think we are corrupting the youth and create hurdles for us to raise awareness about this menace.”
Shamim also urged the judiciary to pay heed to child abuse cases and speed up their process to do justice to those who have been wronged. Speaking of children's state of mind following the abuse, clinical psychologist, Rubina Feroz, said elders needed to pay heed to not just children's sexual but also emotional abuse.
“I strongly feel that elders especially parents or guardians need to give enough room to their children that they open up about their experiences. When parents tend to emotionally abuse children, they become distraught and refrain from sharing such painful instances. This later hampers their productivity because the memories get repressed,” she explained.
When poverty was quoted as a basic reason for abuse, director Imkaan Welfare Organisation, Tahera Hasan, felt the issue was not limited to one class. While acknowledging that majority of the street children brought to Imkaan had been abused, Tahera, however, maintained that children belonging to any class are vulnerable to the abuse.
She said the crime was as rampant in different economic classes as the abuse of women. “If women of different class groups are put together, majority of them would acknowledge that they have been abused,” she explained.
Speaking of awareness, Tehmina stated that parents need to start telling their children about their bodies' private parts at the same time they teach them about their facial features. “The concept that children would become sexually active if they are taught about their bodies is an odd one because in this age of information, children will find other ways to educate themselves but these ways usually lead to more harm than good.”
Furthermore, she stated that in order for abuse survivors to help others healing is the first step. “I would reiterate that parents take their children seriously, and in case of a child who has been abused they [the parents] need to be the person they yearn for when trauma hits them.”
Creating a comfortable climate at home for kids to talk about sexual assault
by Danielle Braff
W hen she was 15, Michelle Forbes' high school teacher reached up her skirt between her legs.
Shortly after, the same teacher brought her to a secluded area in the woods and taught her how to perform oral sex on him. And on her 17th birthday, he had intercourse with her for the first time.
When a false rumor started going around school that Forbes was pregnant with the teacher's child, he called her into his office and berated her, saying, “‘I thought you were mature enough for this: Do you want me to lose my job? If you tell, I'll humiliate you."
It wasn't until two years ago that Forbes, now 46, told her parents the details of the sexual abuse she endured.
She's not alone. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that 8.5 million women and 1.5 million men experienced sexual violence before the age of 18. According to Darkness to Light, a nonprofit organization committed to preventing child sex abuse, only 38 percent of child victims disclose their abuse, and many of those tell a friend, not a parent.
To help kids recognize and stop the abuse, parents need to create a climate at home where children feel comfortable talking about it — even when a predator is threatening them.
“Children should start learning about sexual harassment at an early age, but use developmental language to avoid scaring them,” said Kelsey Torgerson, a licensed clinical social worker and childhood trauma specialist at Compassionate Counseling in St. Louis.
That means teaching them about the private-part rule: no touching other people's private parts, no looking at other people's private parts, no showing your private parts to other people, Torgerson said.
“By letting them know that these are rules that grown-ups already know, you can help identify safe people to tell if someone breaks a private-part rule on them.”
Parents can bring this up naturally when young kids are taking a bath, said Natasha Daniels, a child therapist in Phoenix.
"Just like we teach kids how to be safe around water or when riding a bike, it is important that we teach kids how to keep their bodies safe,” she said.
This should begin in the toddler years, as children need to be comfortable talking about body parts and sex so there is no shame or secrecy concerning any part of the body, said Kathryn Stamoulis, a New York-based licensed mental health counselor specializing in female adolescent sexuality.
They need to be equipped with the ability to articulate anything they need to communicate, Stamoulis said.
“Talking about sex and sexuality in an age-appropriate manner throughout childhood provideprovides a child with a trusted adult that they can turn to when they need it,” Stamoulis said. “If sex is taboo in the household, a child is not going to tell his or her parent about harassment they experienced or ask questions about consent.”
Once a child enters school, it's time to talk about boundaries. For example, when someone hugs your child when he doesn't want to be hugged, you can use that as an opening lesson on consent, Stamoulis said.
That's why Amy Pagliarella, a mother of an 8- and 10-year-old in Chicago, uses the times when her sons don't want to hold her hand as teaching moments.
“I've been building trust with my kids before we need it,” Pagliarella said.
If they are taking a walk and she wants to hold hands with her sons, but they pull away, she lets go of their hands, explaining that they get to decide when someone holds them or touches them or kisses them. The same goes for how they treat other people.
She also constantly reminds her children that they can tell her anything without getting in trouble, even if they've made a mistake.
For example, Pagliarella said, one of her sons constantly lies to her about brushing his teeth.
“I say, ‘Buddy, you can always tell me the truth — I have your back, and you can be honest with me,'” Pagliarella said.
Since many kids fear getting in trouble or upsetting their parents after something negative happens, it's important to continually reassure them that they can say anything without repercussions, Torgerson said.
“Make your child feel comfortable by letting them know that if something scary, yucky or confusing happens, your biggest job is keeping them safe,” Torgerson said. “They won't get in trouble.”
Sometimes, however, parents or teachers will be able to figure out something is wrong by the child's body language. She might avoid eye contact, start acting differently or tell stories about friends having something bad happening to them, Torgerson said.
But, she said, there are some kids who will do their best to hide any issues. Six-time Olympic medal-winning gymnast Aly Raisman, for example, recently spoke out against Larry Nassar, the USA Gymnastics physician, whom she said had sexually molested her — yet while this was occurring, she was still able to become one of the greatest gymnasts in the world.
“Typically, you either have kids who are displaying obvious signs — they're acting out or shutting down,” Torgerson said. “But you also have kids who want to be on their best behavior because a scary thing is going on and they are trying to keep the secret.”
The best thing you can do is to keep letting your children know that you're a safe person to speak with, no matter what, Torgerson said.
Keep having the conversation, whether in early childhood or in their teen years. You're on their side, no matter what.
'I just want my daughter back': Sex trafficking victims often caught in vicious cycle trying to escape
Experts say girls, women may return to 'the game' up to 5 times before breaking free
by Lauren Pelley
Cathy Wilson's mind raced as she thumbed through her daughter's emails.
Robyn had borrowed her mother's phone while staying at her home that weekend, a visit that was cut short when she abruptly left to meet a friend. Her Yahoo account was still logged in.
One message in particular jumped out: The confirmation email for a new classifieds post advertising sex services. There, online for anyone to see, were photos of Wilson's* 26-year-old daughter clad in revealing lingerie, offering sex in exchange for money and drugs.
Robyn had already survived at least two stints in the dark world of sex trafficking. In 2016, she was held against her will at a hotel in Newfoundland, and was trafficked up and down Ontario's 401 corridor this October, from Barrie to Kingston to Orillia. In one tense moment, she was sold from one trafficker to another to settle a drug debt. In another, she had three guns held against her head.
"She was bought and sold, bought and sold, bought and sold," Wilson recalls, her voice breaking.
So why, after all that, would her daughter go back?
Throughout Ontario, sex trafficking is a growing problem, with girls as young as 13 being recruited by pimps into a world of unpaid sex work. These teenagers and young women are trafficked across the province, forced to work in hotel rooms, roadside motels, and even suburban homes.
And, while concrete provincewide data doesn't exist, some experts estimate there are thousands of victims, many caught in a vicious cycle where they break free of their pimps, only to return weeks or months later.
The reasons why are complicated. From a patchwork assortment of support services to the deep-rooted psychological trauma experienced by victims, CBC Toronto has found there is a complex web of factors that lead women to return over and over to the clutches of sex trafficking, some as many as five times before breaking free.
Most victims girls, women 13 to 26
It's a situation Bruce Rivers knows well. He's the executive director of Covenant House Toronto, a youth homeless shelter with a rapidly growing sex trafficking unit and two bed spaces for victims.
The beds, Rivers says, are always taken, and the centre has helped more than 80 sex trafficking victims over the past year alone. There has also been a roughly 300 per cent increase in the number of people seeking services over the last few years, he adds.
The same trend is clear across the province. As CBC Toronto previously reported, Ontario's anti-trafficking director, Jennifer Richardson, estimates the number of trafficking victims in Ontario is in the thousands.
And in recent years, various police forces have made hundreds of arrests related to sex trafficking, including more than 100 men arrested by York Regional Police for "purchasing prostituted children" during a sting lasting from 2014 until earlier this year.
Most sex trafficking victims are local girls and women between 13 and 26, Rivers says, and they're often recruited by "Romeo pimps" on social media or at public places like shopping malls and playgrounds.
"Typically, the relationship will start as a romantic one — somebody who's proposing to be a boyfriend," he explains.
Then, the pimps ask the girls to perform sexual services on clients as a favour, and promise them the financial freedom to reach their dreams, like buying a car or condo.
But as the girls engage in more sex acts over a lengthy period, their pimps often threaten them with violence, take their phones away, and offer them hard drugs.
"All of these issues combine to make it really really tough for young women to get out of 'the game,'" says Rivers, referring to the moniker given to the sex trafficking world.
And, he says, it can take two to three years for girls to overcome the trauma of their time being trafficked.
It's also "not unusual" for women to come forward for help three to five times before they are able to fully escape, Rivers says.
'These girls are broken'
In Robyn's case, this is at least her third time in "the game."
Wilson speculates that a family friend's daughter, an escort, first introduced Robyn to the world of sex trafficking. And she believes her daughter's longtime drug use and mental health issues — including a diagnosis of bipolar disorder at age 15, and post-traumatic stress disorder in her 20s after her father's death by suicide — put her at risk.
Despite police involvement, Wilson says Robyn keeps connecting with new pimps.
After her last stint being trafficked across the province, Wilson says she brought her daughter to safety in late October. Then Robyn got in touch with Victim Services, a branch of the Ministry of the Attorney General which helps connect victims of crime with essential services.
Wilson says Victim Services helped Robyn purchase clothing and connected her with counselling services, but nothing was finalized — and Wilson claims they didn't hear any updates for several weeks. At that point, Robyn vanished again.
"Clothing isn't going to fix this situation," Wilson says.
Ministry spokesperson Emilie Smith wouldn't comment on specific cases, but stressed the province's commitment to helping victims of trafficking. The ministry, she says, provides crisis intervention services to victims "24-hours a day, seven-days a week" at the request of the police.
That support includes providing cellphones to some victims, referrals to community supports and services, emergency transportation to safe locations, and counselling.
Ontario also recently committed more than $18 million to programs to help prevent sex trafficking and support survivors — funding that was welcome news to 44 agencies across the province.
Despite the growing number of supports, escaping the vicious cycle is particularly challenging given the vulnerability of the women being trafficked, says Annalise Trudell, a manager at Anova, a sexual assault centre and women's shelter in London, Ont.
She says many victims are coping with addiction issues, or have been coerced into criminal activity. "It actually might be an almost informed decision to stay within that realm, as one of lesser harm," Trudell says.
The hold on victims is also "so strong psychologically," says Doug van der Horden, an adolescent care worker in the Kingston area who has spent a decade working with sex trafficking victims. Many victims feel they've ruined their lives, and have often lost most of their relationships and support networks.
"Within weeks," he says, "these girls are broken."
Help needed to navigate 'patchwork of services'
Given the complicated nature of the victims, van der Horden says no one agency can do everything.
But Trudell says there needs to be more help for survivors trying to navigate the province's "patchwork of services." Survivors need support for years, she says, and there should be designated case managers to help them navigate services like housing and counselling.
Rivers agrees that more co-ordination between services is essential, along with a national hotline for victims and people who suspect sex trafficking is happening in their communities.
As for Wilson, she believes faster access to counselling and mental health support could be helpful for victims like her daughter. But, ultimately, she knows it's a decision Robyn has to make for herself.
Sitting in her living room, Wilson pulls out her phone to play a Facebook video. It was posted soon after Robyn left on Saturday, and shows the young woman on a bed with a man Wilson believes may be her new pimp.
"That's the moneymaker," says the man, pointing to Robyn. "That's the boss, that's the boss — she's the boss."
But Wilson knows her daughter isn't "the boss," and isn't keeping a cent of the money she earns performing sex acts on countless men.
"I just want my daughter back," she says.
"I want her to know she's worth something. I want her to know it's OK. I want her to know the system, yes, is flawed — but I'm willing to get you help."
Colorado child sex trafficker sentenced to longest human trafficking sentence in U.S. history
by Zora Stephenson and web staff
CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- A convicted child sex trafficker from Colorado was sentenced to 472 years in prison, the longest sentence for a human trafficking case in U.S. history.
Brock Franklin, 31, was found guilty of 30 counts, including soliciting for child prostitution, sexual assault and kidnapping by an Arapahoe County jury in March.
Franklin recruited young girls and women and forced them into prostitution. There was physical abuse if they didn't cooperate.
He was one of seven people indicted by a statewide grand jury in 2015. Franklin was considered the leader of the human trafficking ring.
Three girls and five women cooperated with prosecutors during the case, which was brought under Colorado's Organized Crime Control Act.
“I can't begin to even explain what he did to my life,” one of the victims Breahannah Leary said.
Franklin walked into the courtroom calm and collected, he sat quietly as a judge read his fate.
One victim stood up and addressed the court herself.
“Reading it today, and speaking and actually saying how I felt, and him having hearing and have to sit there and listen and listen to me, that brought me so much joy and that's why I came today,” Leary said.
Sex trafficking continues to be a problem.
"A 400 year sentence sends a strong message across the country that we're not going to tolerate this kind of violence to women and vulnerable populations," Janet Drake with the Colorado Attorney General's office said.
The indictment shows drugs were used to control these women and girls. They had to meet a daily quota. Franklin forced them to have sex with him, then he'd sell their services online.
The crimes happened at hotels all over the metro area.
The defense asked for the minimum sentence of 96 years. The victims and prosecution asked for more and that's what Franklin got, 472 years.
“He deserves every single minute in those walls,” Leary said.
Authorities believe more women were victimized.
He was found guilty of:
Violating the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act
Human trafficking of a minor
Pimping a child
Patronizing a prostituted child
Soliciting for child prostitution
Inducement of child prostitution
Pandering of a child
Procurement of a child
Sexual exploitation of a child — producing a performance
Contributing to the delinquency of a minor
Human trafficking of a minor
Pimping a child
Patronizing a prostituted child
Soliciting for child prostitution
Inducement of child prostitution
Pandering of a child
Procurement of a child
Contributing to the delinquency of a minor — prostitution
Contributing to the delinquency of a minor — unlawful use of controlled substance
Distribution of a Schedule 1 or 2 controlled substance to a minor
Soliciting for child prostitution
Human trafficking of an adult
Five counts of pimping
Attempt to commit pimping
Minnesota program reaches more teens trafficked for sex
by Brainerd Dispatch
An evaluation of the state's Safe Harbor Program found most at-risk and sexually exploited youths in the program reported feeling more hopeful and better prepared for the future.
Wilder Research completed its second evaluation of Minnesota's Safe Harbor program, a statewide system for helping at-risk and sexually exploited youths that went into full effect in 2014.
The Safe Harbor evaluation report found that from April 2015 to June 2017, Safe Harbor grantees provided services to 1,423 youths and young adults—a significant increase from the 359 youths and young adults served during the program's first year of operation.
About 60 percent of Safe Harbor participants are from greater Minnesota. Throughout the state, the average age of participants was 16. In the first years of the initiative, the age cutoff for obtaining Safe Harbor services was 18. In July 2016, the age cutoff increased to 24.
Most participants in the program are female (83 percent), but more than 150 male youths participated as well. White youths and young adults comprised 37 percent of the participants, followed by 26 percent African/African-American, 14 percent multiracial, and 9 percent American Indian/Alaska Native.
Program impacts include increased awareness of sex trafficking, increased housing options for youths and improved law enforcement response, and youths reporting improved feelings of hopefulness and satisfaction with the services they received.
"Minnesota's Safe Harbor law is a model for the nation and is helping more of our young people who are victims of sex trafficking," said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger in a news release. "We need to build on this program's success by working in our communities to provide our youth better opportunities and a way forward that does not involve sexual exploitation."
To help communities prevent sex trafficking, the state of Minnesota and partners have created the Safe Harbor protocol guidelines—a 300-plus page document that provides communities a set of strategies for combatting sex trafficking.
The guidelines include guidance about directly serving youths and also describe how to set up partnerships, systems and procedures for preventing and dealing with sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. For example, the guidelines advise a community how to set up a response team including representatives from law enforcement, child protection, health care, prosecution, other county human services and community-based advocacy.
"We are really proud of the collaborative effort we led, on behalf of our state, to engage hundreds of community-based stakeholders, law enforcement, prosecutors, judges and other system professionals throughout Minnesota in creating these guidelines," said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi in the release. "We hope this will be a helpful resource for local communities as they work to enhance their Safe Harbor protocols and local response to better identify and serve youth who have been sexually exploited and/or trafficked."
At the request of the Minnesota Legislature, the Ramsey County Attorney's Office developed the Safe Harbor protocol guidelines in partnership with the Sexual Violence Justice Institute at the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
Safe Harbor plans to roll out the protocols through community partners including Safe Harbor grantees. In September, the Minnesota Department of Health awarded eight grants to regional navigators. Regional navigators throughout Minnesota are the main points of contact for sexually exploited youths and concerned agencies. Navigators connect youths with services, build regional capacity to respond to sexual exploitation and serve as regional experts for communities. They provide training and technical assistance and assist with developing protocols.
The regional navigator for the central region, including Brainerd, is Lutheran Social Services. Reach them at 218-821-0943 or on the hotline at 218-824-3770.
Safe Harbor has also added five new supportive services grantees and now has 10 housing grantees across the state. MDH works in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Human Services to help youths and ensure they are treated as victims and survivors, not criminals. Recent changes in state law allow youths to receive counseling, safe housing, legal protection, medical and mental health services, and substance abuse treatment.
To receive help if sexually exploited or taken advantage of, call the Day One Hotline at 1-866-223-1111.
Class-action Lawsuit in Arizona Seeks a 'Remedy for All Kids in Care'
by Christie Renick
A lawsuit filed against Arizona's child welfare and mental health systems was granted class-action status last month by a federal judge.
The recent decision by U. S. District Court Judge Roslyn Silver is significant because it ensures that a positive ruling in the suit will benefit all kids in the state's foster care system.
“By granting our motion for class-action certification, the court is allowing us to speak for all kids in foster care,” said Harry Frischer, lead counsel for Children's Rights, which is one of the firms representing the plaintiffs. “This is important because it clears the way forward for a remedy for all kids in care and not just the kids listed in the complaint.”
The suit, filed in February of 2015, names the directors of the Department of Child Safety (DCS), the Department of Health Services (DHS), and the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) as defendants.
Included among the state's struggles, according to the complaint, are a “severe shortage of mental, behavioral and other health services, failure to conduct investigations of reports that children in care have been maltreated while in state custody, a severe shortage of foster homes and failure to engage in basic practices for maintaining family relationships.”
The initial lawsuit claimed that Arizona has violated the constitutional rights of ten children in foster care. It also claims the state failed to provide them with health screening and treatment guaranteed to them under federal Medicaid law. All youth in foster care are eligible for Medicaid, and guaranteed services under Medicaid's Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit.
EPSDT requires access to health screening for children, including vision and dental, and reimbursement for any Medicaid-allowable treatment necessary for problems identified during such a screening. Researchers and Medicaid advocates have argued the benefit is underused and in need of updates.
During the recent effort to repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act, several reforms to Medicaid were considered that would have eliminated EPSDT, or made it subject to state choices.
The plaintiffs called for several areas of improvement on the part of the three agencies, including:
Guarantees that the two agencies will ensure EPSDT services.
An increase in the number of available foster homes for youth who cannot be placed with relatives.
A stronger and more frequent visitation program for birth parents in line for reunification, and more caseworker visits with birth parents.
Silver's ruling means that these claims, and any potential remedies if the plaintiffs prevail, will apply to all youth in foster care. Court documents place the class at about 18,000 youth, with 17,000 eligible for Medicaid and 10,000 living in congregate care or with non-relative foster parents.
Before the recession, in 2007, Arizona had 9,000 youth in foster care. The state slashed spending on family services in when it addressed recession-related budget shortfalls, gutting its child care subsidies. By 2015, the number of youth in care was over 17,000.
After it was revealed that some 20,000 child abuse or neglect reports had gone completely uninvestigated or were not investigated for more than 60 days, state legislators in 2014 removed responsibility for the state's child welfare system from the Department of Economic Security, and established DCS as an independent agency.
Three years later, it is unclear whether circumstances have gotten any better in the state.
“Thirty kids will come into foster care today [in Arizona], and I worry about the quality of life for those kids,” said Kris Jacober, executive director of the Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation. “I'm in support of this lawsuit because the day a kid comes into foster care is the worst day of their life, and this is the clearest path toward improving these kids' lives.”
Both agencies named as defendants in the lawsuit, DCS and DHS, disputed the notion that the lawsuit's claims should be extended to include all youth in foster care. DCS has said publicly that the agency has already made progress.
Darren DaRonco, a DCS spokesman, told the Arizona Daily Star the day the class-action certification was issued that the decision was not indicative of the merits of the lawsuit. “The Department looks forward to articulating the policies implemented over the last three years which have solidified an enduring commitment to ensuring children in state custody receive the care they need and deserve,” DeRonco said.
DCS Director Greg McKay told the Arizona Republic that his agency's plans to improve the system will ensure that foster children no longer face “substantial risk of serious harm,” rendering meaningless the grounds for the lawsuit.
According to a report from Open Minds on child welfare spending, Arizona spent $529,028,207 on child welfare services in 2015, nearly $150 million more than it spent in 2013.
Jacober and Frischer disagreed that the agency had moved the needle.
“I haven't seen evidence that [children and families] have any better access to services, better follow-through, or that sibling visits are easier,” said Jacober. “It has not been my observation that things have improved.”
“They're still getting general counseling when they need specialized trauma therapy,” Frischer said. “There's still too many kids in group homes, and kids are still being separated from their siblings when there's no reason to separate them.”
Frischer said the backlog of investigations has been addressed, but that “doesn't cure the problems we're addressing in this lawsuit. Unfortunately for kids in care, the state hasn't fixed these problems, and kids remain at substantial risk of harm.”
A trial is expected sometime in 2018. Should the judge rule in favor of the plaintiffs, Frischer expects that an independent monitor will be appointed to ensure the state complies with certain performance criteria, which will be spelled out in the court order.
DHS and AHCCCS just recently exited a lawsuit regarding the overall quality of mental health services for people under the age of 21. The “J.K. Settlement” was initially reached in 2001; a federal judge finally closed the case in 2014.
Children's Rights has sued state or county child welfare agencies in 14 states and the District of Columbia. In 2015, the federal judge ruled in its favor against the State of Texas.
Seven changes that would empower the #Metoo movement
by Marci A. Hamilton
The social media campaign #MeToo has been an extraordinary space where victims of sex harassment and assault have found their voices.
These victims are inspiring and you just want to believe that something good must come out of all of the pain that they have had to endure so long in silence.
While the disclosures are amazing, they aren't enough to ensure a Harvey Weinstein never happens again.
When Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney tweeted at #MeToo about her abuse by a gymnastic team doctor in response to the Weinstein scandal, people took note. McKayla rightly expanded the discussion from adult sex assault to child sex abuse, as attorney Paul Mones discussed here.
Like the elite athlete she is, she did not stop with a simple disclosure but also laid out a game plan for what needs to happen to make the world safer from predatory men with power, like Dr. Larry Nasser, who pled to child pornography but is alleged to have sexually abused her and hundreds of other top gymnasts.
Here is her to-do list of what is needed:
One: Speaking out, and bringing awareness to the abuse that is happening.
Two: People, Institutions, Organizations, especially those in positions of power, etc., need to be held accountable for their inappropriate actions and behavior.
Three: Educate, and prevent, no matter the cost.
Four: Have zero tolerance for abusers and those who protect them.
And she further wrote:
Is it possible to put an end to this type of abuse? Is it possible for survivors to speak out, without putting careers and dreams in jeopardy? I hope so.
Our silence has given the wrong people power for too long, and it's time to take our power back.
And remember, it's never too late to speak up.
Her action points are right on. Yes, what she dreams of is possible. But to achieve her second point of accountability is a very heavy lift.
Frankly, it is impossible to hold powerful people, institutions, and organizations accountable without massive legal change. The culture that permitted Weinstein, Bill Cosby, priests Paul Shanley and John Geoghan, and Nasser free rein will not end even if every single victim of sex abuse, harassment, and assault comes forward, and even if we succeed in educating every citizen in the United States. Disclosure and education are necessary but not sufficient.
It's not just that these predators used their positions of power to inflict life-changing pain on their victims. Rather, the legal and social cultures have been structured to shield the wrongdoers and keep the vulnerable weak. They have been publicly shamed, but the power construct they exploited remains precisely the same.
Indeed, society has signaled to these men in power that it is OK to take the spoils of war—the women and children—as part of their desserts for battles hard-won in moviedom, the board room, and sports.
There is, however, another power structure that has been bucking up these powerful men who have wreaked havoc on so many lives: our state and federal governments.
The surprisingly hard part here is getting others in power—including every branch of government from the executive to the legislative to the judicial—to foment meaningful, lasting change against these bullies and predators. Yet, there will be no alteration in course without a legal overhaul. We need lawmaker leaders to step forward now.
Moreover, we need major corporations, professional sports teams, religious organizations, and school and sports organizations to decline to lobby against such laws.
I know how difficult it is to release that power and how easy it is to listen to your lawyers tell you to block all possible accountability. That's what lawyers do. But when organizations aren't accountable on these issues, they rot from the inside out. Sometimes lawyers are right about the law and wrong about the proper path.
Our elected officials have to stop the wink and a nod to Hollywood, the bishops, the powerful boarding schools, pro sports, the United States Olympic Committee, and their own, like Dennis Hastert. They have to quit caring about whether they are on the “A” lists and instead choose the path of reaching down to help those who have fallen.
They need to become protectors of the weak rather than enablers of the powerful. I mean, that is, if they want the sex assault, abuse, and harassment to end.
Some lawmakers have bravely stepped forward, but not nearly enough.
Here is a short list of laws that need to change in the vast majority of states (the federal government can also play a key role by incentivizing the states to pass these reforms):
Plug the gaps in mandated reporting . Right now many states do not require coaches, private school teachers, or university employees to report suspected abuse despite the irrefutable fact that children have been sexually abused in all three arenas.
Eliminate the statutes of limitations for all rape victims, young and old . This needs to happen for instances occurring right now and going forward and for those that are in the past. You want to know who your predators are? Revive the expired civil SOLs for rape in every state.
Test the rape kits sitting right now in police stations and forensic labs across the United States. This is Mariska Hargitay's mission with the Joyful Heart Foundation, which she founded. How ridiculous is it that we have all of this evidence of rape and we just let it sit? Well, refer back to the discussion of power above.
Fix the defamation laws so no predator can follow Cosby's lead and use the threat of a lawsuit to try to silence the victims, as I discuss here.
Enact whistleblower legislation that immunizes sex abuse, harassment, and assault whistleblowers from adverse employment actions and from defamation lawsuits.
Create liability for organizations that shield and hide the actions of sex predators of every stripe.
Mandate insurance coverage for companies that will cover sex harassment, abuse, and assault by employees and volunteers. This way the insurance industry transforms itself from being a bystander and enabler to an active participant in changing institutional policies. People wear seatbelts because the insurance lobby made it happen. It could do a helluva job with this problem if it wanted to.
Lasting change is difficult. Nothing is more difficult, though, than shifting power from one group that has had so much force that it could squander and abuse it. There will be every excuse in the world not to undertake any and all of these necessary reforms. That's how power operates. Only good leaders with steely resolve will level the playing field.
To every state and federal lawmaker: You can privately excoriate these criminals or you can remake American society into a place where we protect the vulnerable and punish those who abuse their power to sexually intimidate children and adults alike.
After heroic disclosures like McKayla's and so many others, it's now on you.
Marci A. Hamilton is the Fox Professor of Practice and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania; the founder, CEO, and Academic Director of the nonprofit think tank to prevent child abuse and neglect, CHILD USA, and author of God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty and Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children. She also runs two websites covering her areas of expertise, the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, www.RFRAperils.com, and statutes of limitations for child sex abuse, www.sol-reform.com, which can be found here.
Is a 5-year-old capable of sexual assault? Five experts speak
The disturbing story of alleged sexual assault by a 5-year-old in New Delhi was extensively reported, but is there more to it than meets the eye?
by Geetika Mantri
A shocking story unfolded from New Delhi on Thursday. Shortly after the gruesome murder of seven-year-old Pradhyuman Thakur at Ryan International school, a five-year-old in another school was accused of a horrific sexual crime. The boy allegedly sexually assaulted a four-year-old girl, his classmate, by inserting his fingers and a pencil into her private parts.
In a statement to NDTV, the four-year-old girl's mother shared the painful details of discovering what had happened to their little girl, and her physical injuries. Unsurprisingly, she called for the accused child to be rusticated and for the school to take responsibility of the crime.
However, is a five-year-old really capable of sexual assault?
Five experts say that the issue has much more to it than meets the eye.
Is a five-year-old capable of such behavior?
Experts unanimously believe that a five-year-old is not capable of deliberate sexual assault.
Vidya Reddy of Tulir – Centre for Prevention and Healing Child Sexual Abuse, a Chennai-based NGO, says, “A five-year-old child is unlikely to do something like this unless he/she is exposed to similar behaviour.”
Dr Ann Simi John, a clinical child psychologist at Max Hospital in Gurugram, opined, “Unless a child has looked at pornographic videos or been exposed to some kind of abuse himself, it is difficult to believe that [he] would try out something like this because sexual behaviour is not an important need at this age,” she told NDTV.
Vidya elaborates that such behaviour by minors can be broadly divided into four categories: inappropriate, sexually reactive, sexually harmful, and sexually aggressive.
To elucidate, think of inappropriate behaviour as when young boys have peeing contests, or pull girls' clothes. While it is inappropriate, they do not act with a sexual intent. An example of sexually aggressive behaviour was exhibited by the minor accused in Jyoti Singh's gangrape on December 16, 2012. Meanwhile the minors who systematically sodomised a class 6 student after a fight in 2015 behaved in a sexually harmful manner.
From what Vidya has learnt from media reports in this case, she concludes that the five-year-old boy in here was exhibiting the sexually reactive behaviour, where he was acting and re-enacting an experience or something he witnessed.
Self-discovery and peer touching
Research indicates in the preschool age (0-5 years), it is normal for children to touch their genitals, show them to others, being curious about bodily functions, even putting their fingers inside their genital openings. Peer touching therefore, is normal behaviour for children and their peers when they experience curiosity and may touch each other's genitals.
Pooja Taparia, founder and CEO of Arpan, an NGO working on the issue of child sexual abuse, has observed peer touching to be quite common in children of the above age group.
“The media calling it rape or sexual assault is stretching what seems to have happened between the two children,” she says.
Kushi, of Enfold, an NGO working with survivors of child sexual abuse and their families, also believes that this could be a case of peer touching gone wrong. So does Ameeta Wattal principal of Springdales school in Delhi, who told NDTV that such curiosity and behaviour among small children is regularly seen by pediatricians as well.
However, Vidya has a different viewpoint, because a foreign object like a pencil was used. “In my opinion, there seems to be a clear co-relation between being exposed to something, reacting and acting it out,” she says.
Pooja warns however that some peer touching should be regarded with caution, “For instance, a 16-year-old touching a 10-year-old is not peer-touching and could be inappropriate."
How far is the school responsible?
Since the boy is under seven years of age, he cannot be booked for the crime, as per sections 82 and 83 of the IPC.
The four-year-old girl's mother, in her statement, has made several demands from the school, including rustication of the accused child. She has also claimed that both times the boy allegedly assaulted her daughter, they were alone and unsupervised.
Here, Ameeta says, “We are running schools, not jails and detention centres. Children feel insecure when they see too many guards hanging around or monitors watching them,” she says. "It is very important however that there be teachers in every classroom whenever small children are together. There should also be helpers in the toilets when there are small children,” she adds.
Kushi agrees. However, she is not in favour of CCTV cameras in every nook and cranny because the kids would not feel free.
She also maintains that the school should take responsibility, if not from the point of view of criminal proceedings but at least in acknowledging the lapses in their system which allowed this incident to happen without anyone's knowledge.
Ultimately, experts say that children must be empowered and made aware of their own bodies and taught to exercise their agency.
“Parents can protect children from inappropriate content to some extent. Instead, children should be talked to about safe and unsafe touch and given age-appropriate personal safety education to avoid untoward incidents and to ensure that they can seek help from an adult when needed," Pooja asserts.
Both children in this case should be dealt with sensitively, experts feel. Vidya argues that counselling may not be enough.
"In case of minors accused of sexual crimes, we have observed is while counselling attempts to address the emotional and psychological aspects, it glosses over the sexually offending aspect of their behaviour. For instance, telling this five-year-old that hurting someone is wrong, is not enough. He has to unlearn the sexually offending aspect of his behaviour, and relearn appropriate sexual expression," she explains.
Further, Kushi says that it is important for both children to get closure, and the accused child's rustication may not be the best way forward.
“The boy is only 5 and we should treat him like a child, not a criminal. Ensure that he does not repeat such actions and when the children are ready, they can talk to each other and perhaps. He can apologise to her for hurting her. If you just label him as an offender now, it might make him more likely to offend in the future as well,” she says.
Witchcraft and demonic possession are linked to almost 1,500 child abuse cases a year, official figures reveal
by Charlie Bayliss
A staggering 1,500 child abuse cases each year are linked to witchcraft and demonic possession, Government statistics have revealed.
The data shows there were 1,460 cases in England, which included concerns about abuse which was 'linked to faith and belief' during the year to March 2017.
Experts are now warning that there is an increased number of children who are being abused by adults.
Of the near 1,500 cases of abuse, 310 took place in the North West, 240 in London and 220 in the West Midlands.
One local authority in Lancashire reported 86 cases - the largest for any district, the Telegraph reports.
The figure is likely to be higher as local authorities are unaware of the warning signs, charities claim.
The executive director of safeguarding at the Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service told the Church Times there was a 'limited understanding' of warning signs.
Justin Humphreys said: 'The data presented by the Government reflects the reports to the Education Select Committee 2012 that an increasing number of children in the UK are being harmed in the belief that "it will get the devil out of them".
'We should be taking this as a call to re-energise the national effort to educate communities and professionals and safeguard all our children.'
The data was previously only released by forces when pressured under the Freedom of Information act.
The Metropolitan Police released data in 2014 which showed it had dealt with 148 cases since 2004 - yet new data proves the issue is much greater than initially thought.
The Government launched a national action plan in 2012 following the murder of Kristy Bamu, 15, who was accused of witchcraft.
His sister Magalie Bamu and her partner Eric Bikubi drowned him in a bath on Christmas Day 2010 after he was tortured for several days. They were both jailed for life.
In 2000, Victoria Climbie was tortured and murdered by her guardians who said she was possessed. She died from hypothermia and was forced to sleep in a bath tub in her own excrement. Her body was covered in scars and bruises and led to major changes in child protection policies in the UK.
A Government spokesman said: 'Children must be kept safe, and no belief system can justify the abuse of a child.
'The Department for Education is investing up to £1.5 million to tackle child abuse and support charities such as Barnardo's in their work to tackle abuse linked to faith or belief.
'Those responsible for child abuse linked to faith or belief would be subject to prosecution. Our statutory guidance is crystal clear that anyone who has concerns about a child's welfare should report this to children's social care or the police.'
Sexual abuse thrust into spotlight
by Edward Harris
Sexual assault and misconduct suddenly has dominated the news due to everything going on in Hollywood and politics.
This is a good thing, according to groups that help local sexual assault victims.
“Awareness about the widespread occurrence of sexual assault can only be a positive move forward to eliminating the rape culture that plagues society,” said Janine Phillips, communications and outreach specialist for the YWCA of the Mohawk Valley. “Rape and sexual assault has been almost an accepted or excused action for as long as mankind has been recording history. Raping and pillaging was often considered the spoils of war.”
Phillips described sexual harassment as any unwanted sexual activity by another person. She said the actions could include catcalling and whistling, uninvited touching, emails, texts or photos of a sexual nature, forced interaction and physical assault.
“If the interaction feels crappy or leaves a person feeling violated, it's probably sexual harassment,” Phillips said.
Despite the spotlight, Phillips said the recent high profile cases have not caused an uptick of reported cases locally. The numbers have stayed the same, she said.
According to Crisis Services, since the beginning of the year, Phillips said the YWCA has seen 53 new cases, 294 hotline calls and 21 forensic rape exam accompaniments.
Nationally, the rate of sexual assault and rape has fallen 63 percent since 1993, according to statistics provided on rainn.org. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) labels itself as the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization and it created and operates the national sexual assault hotline.
According to statistics provided by RAINN, there was a rate of 4.3 sexual assaults per 1,000 people in 1993 and 1.6 per 1,000 in 2015.
Though assaults have gone down over the years, they still are occurring at a staggering rate, according to RAINN. On its website, RAINN states that every 98 seconds, another American is sexually assaulted.
There is no denying that sometimes victims do not immediately come forward. There are various reasons for this, Phillips said.
Phillips said everyone has their own reasons for not coming forward. Some of those reasons could be tied to how the women in the Hollywood and political cases have been treated since coming forward.
“The treatment being received by famous survivors who disclose — disbelief, victim blaming, re-traumatization — could be causing hesitancy in sexual violence victims who have not yet disclosed,” Phillips said. “Why would anyone believe them, when even famous people are not believed?”
Phillips said other reasons why people might wait to come forward include it taking a lot for a victim to come to terms with what happened, a lack of knowledge of available resources and trauma. Trauma often is a key reason, Phillips said.
“Oftentimes, a victim of sexual assault blocks it from their memory, and only years later something happens — like what is happening now with the media — that might trigger them to remember the details,” Phillips said.
Who are the victims of sexual assault?
• One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8 percent completed, 2.8 percent attempted).
• About 3 percent of American men — or one in 33 — have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetimes.
• From 2009-2013, Child Protective Services agencies substantiated, or found strong evidence to indicate that, 63,000 children a year were victims of sexual abuse.
• A majority of child victims are 12-17.
• Of victims younger than 18: 34 percent of victims of sexual assault and rape are younger than 12, and 66 percent of victims of sexual assault and rape are age 12-17.
ChildSafe provides path to healing for sexual abuse victims
by Valerie Macri-Lind
It feels as if a dam has broken. The daily barrage of headlines and breaking news with the same story of sexual victimization comes across our televisions and computers on an almost daily basis. The names change, but the themes remain the same.
The powerlessness of the victims, the abuse of power by the offenders, the shame, fear and resulting secrecy carried by the survivors, it's all the same. We sit, transfixed, because the names are those of famous people. The offenders are people we've heard of, and may even be people we've admired. It's so hard to make sense of so many stories at once that we may even want to look away, or doubt them and minimize their pain. We may think that the media is making too much out of what appears to be a very common occurrence. We may even secretly wish that the stories could stay in the shadows and the secrets remain buried.
But I think we're better than that. My hope is that we are ready to actually confront this epidemic with the same resolve we've used to battle cancer or help rebuild cities after natural disasters. Because for every famous case you hear about, there are thousands of nameless people — girls and boys, women and men — who are carrying these secrets like albatrosses.
ChildSafe has provided a path to healing for victims of sexual abuse, aged 2-18, their families and adults abused as children, for over 30 years. Our therapists bear witness to the stories and the devastation that can occur when a child's innocence is taken and a family is torn apart. We listen, we validate, and we help people move past the pain. We can all be part of the solution by supporting agencies that help victims and their families.
Please remember ChildSafe on Colorado Gives Day, Dec. 5, and include us in your holiday giving. If you need help, please call us at (970) 472-4133. We don't turn anyone away due to lack of financial resources. To learn more about ChildSafe, visit www.childsafecolorado.org .