California lawmaker resigns, another removed from a committee over sexual misconduct allegations
by the Associated Press
California Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra resigned Monday following multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, making him the first lawmaker to leave office amid a spate of reports rocking the state Capitol.
The Los Angeles Democrat had previously said he wouldn't seek reelection and would leave office at the end of the next legislative session. But on Monday, Bocanegra said that he has decided to leave immediately following reflection over the Thanksgiving weekend and conversations with family, friends and supporters. Multiple women have accused him of kissing or groping them without consent.
In a statement released by his office, Bocanegra said he had hoped he could clear his name.
Meanwhile, the Senate Rules Committee voted Monday to remove Sen. Tony Mendoza, another Los Angeles-area Democrat, as chair of the Insurance, Banking and Financial Institutions Committee. He is accused of inviting one woman over to his home, offering another alcohol when she was 19, and repeatedly holding one-on-one meetings with a woman over dinner or drinks.
His behavior with two of the women was formally reported. Mendoza has denied offering a staff member alcohol and otherwise said he wouldn't knowingly abuse his authority.
Massage Envy therapists accused of sexual assault by more than 180 women
by CBS News
Popular chain Massage Envy faces allegations of sexual assault – and that it mishandled those claims.
An investigation by BuzzFeed News found more than 180 women have accused therapists at Massage Envy of groping and other sexual acts. Massage Envy told CBS News their therapists have done 125 million massages over the past 15 years. Still, it said even one incident is too many, reports CBS News' Meg Oliver.
Susan Ingram said her masseur turned into a sexual predator during her seventh visit with him at a Massage Envy location in 2015.
"I was really in a state of shock, disbelief, fear," Ingram said.
She said it started when James Deiter began rubbing his groin against her.
"He lifted up my body, groped both of my breasts roughly and aggressively. Put his hands down to the lower part of my body," Ingram said.
Too disturbed to report the assault immediately, she called the manager after she got home.
"She said in a very apparently scripted response, 'We invite you in to talk about your services.' And I said, 'No, no, no you don't understand,'" Ingram said.
According to BuzzFeed News, Ingram is just one of more than 180 women who "have filed sexual assault lawsuits, police reports, and state board complaints against Massage Envy spas, their employees, and the national company. … Over 100 reported that massage therapists groped their genitals, groped their breasts, or committed other explicit violations."
"What stood out to you the most in your reporting?" Oliver asked BuzzFeed News investigative reporter Katie Baker.
"I think that the descriptions of the sexual assault claims that I heard are really horrific," Baker said. "But to me, it's awful to be assaulted when you're in a very vulnerable position… But I think that for some women it's even worse to go and report what happened to you and not have it taken seriously."
According to BuzzFeed, Massage Envy only requires franchises to conduct internal investigations of abuse claims except in the few states that require notification of local law enforcement.
"I just found that these Massage Envy spa employees were not equipped to handle serious allegations of sexual assault all on their own," Baker said.
Massage Envy has more than 1,100 locations serving more than 1.5 million members. In a statement, it said: "We are constantly listening, learning and looking at how we can do more, including how we support franchised locations with best practices in handling these incidents and supporting their clients."
"It should be something that they should train for and have an understanding of how to respond," Ingram said.
After Ingram filed a formal police report, Deiter pleaded guilty to sexually molesting a total of nine female clients and is now behind bars. Citing court records, BuzzFeed said "two of those women had tried to warn the spa about Deiter before Ingram had."
"Massage Envy needs to stop, needs to protect, needs to apologize…and to do the right thing," Ingram said.
Ingram is suing Massage Envy and taking other steps to make sure spa companies do the right thing. She helped draft federal legislation that would require massage spas to report sexual assault allegations to police. We reached out to the franchise where Ingram said she was assaulted, but they declined to comment.
Children Should Be Seen and Heard
by Michael Abrahams
One of the most unfortunate adages is “Children should be seen and not heard”. It originated in the 15th century, and was coined by a clergyman. In its original form it read “A mayde schuld be seen, but not herd”. In old English, a mayde was a young woman, and the proverb originally meant that young women should not speak in the presence of adults. However, it evolved to include all children. The popular maxim is often used to scold children who interfere in the conversations of adults, or make noise while adults are interacting with one another.
Children should be taught to understand and respect boundaries. I am all for that. They must learn that when adults are conversing, they are not to butt in and offer opinions unless invited. But many people take the saying seriously and believe that it should be followed literally. What we must understand is that just because something is repeated often and with confidence, by persons in positions of authority, does not mean the utterance is valid. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" is an excellent example. We know that the effects of unkind words can affect people for a lifetime. Similarly, a mindset that holds on tenaciously to the dictate that children should be seen and not heard, is one that does not auger well for our youth, for a multiplicity of reasons.
Such a saying diminishes the value of children's opinions, which are important. Children are like sponges. They absorb the information surrounding them more than we realise. Some of the information is straightforward. Some is not. But their little brains are busy trying to decipher and interpret the stimuli they are exposed to. Being inexperienced and immature, misinterpretation is inevitable. The ability to express themselves empowers children, and affords them the opportunity to be corrected and guided appropriately.
Children today are exposed to so much more than I was during my formative years. Cable television and the Internet have given today's children access to a mind-blowing amount of content, much of which is adult-oriented. If they are uncomfortable discussing the information they come across with the adults charged with their care, they will seek audiences with their peers and, left to their own devices, draw their own misguided conclusions and construct warped value systems.
With the rampant sexual abuse of our children today, allowing them to speak is even more crucial. Recently, I was asked to speak to children from grades 4 to 6, at a popular preparatory school, about child abuse. During the question-and-answer session that followed, some of the queries directed at me were sobering. I knew that some of the children asked me questions about topics they probably would not feel comfortable discussing with their parents, such as sex, abortion, contraception, molestation and rape.
It would be wise for those who are squeamish about discussing these issues with their children to empower themselves with the courage to take on this challenge, as it can be life-saving. Too many times I have met survivors of child sexual abuse who were afraid to tell their parents about their experiences because they felt uncomfortable. I have been told on more than one occasion by a survivor of abuse that they “did not have that kind of relationship” with their parents, one that would facilitate them reporting being violated. Subsequently, they suffered in silence, sometimes for decades.
Not only should we listen to our children, but also encourage them to speak out and express their opinions and feelings at appropriate times and in appropriate places. And when we listen, we must be attentive and “listen between the lines”, as sometimes children have information they would like to share with us, but do not know how to go about doing so. They may also find themselves in situations where they may be at risk of harm and not realise it.
From my own experience, I can tell you that picking up my children from school, and simply listening to them tell me about their day, has proven to be not just a great source of amusement and comedy material, but has also helped me to bond with them and provided a space in which they can confide in me and share their concerns without fear or judgement. Our society today comes up short regarding respect. One way to teach children respect, is to lead by example and show them respect, including validating their opinions. This also empowers them with self-confidence, which is a critical tool for their survival.
The voices of our children must be heard, acknowledged and respected if they, and our society, are to be functional and healthy.
My Crushing Silence, Keeping Secret Of Being Sexually Assaulted At 7
by Susan Campbell
I was 7 when the sexual abuse started, 13 when it stopped. My perpetrator was my stepfather, a man unfit to raise chickens, much less children.
I hated him for years. I also hated myself.
I was 29 when I began seriously considering killing myself, 31 when I finally called a hotline to save me.
Immediately, I began preparing to confront my stepfather and his wife, my mother, about the abuse. Not all survivors of childhood sexual abuse confront their perpetrators, but it was important for me.
Getting to that confrontation took everything I had. Though it is not part of my culture, I put myself in talk therapy, and group therapy. I built a library of incest books, and attended weekend workshops where I felt silly talking about things like my inner child – but I talked, anyway. I trained as an Olympic athlete trains.
And then, months later with my brother next to me, I sat at my mother's picnic table listening to my stepfather lie. And with that, I realized there would be no redemption. From that day on, I became an orphan by choice, and I have expended no small amount of energy making sure no one else falls victim to this particular pervert.
So yes: #MeToo. So many of us are the sad recipients of the business end of the patriarchy, victims of a continuum of crimes that run from harassment to violent assault and back again.
But I want to talk specifically about what happens when sex is forced upon you as a child. Roy Moore, Alabama's Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, has multiple women accusing him of forcing himself upon them when they were teenagers. They came forward after decades of pain.
Why not talk about this sooner? Children aren't supposed to know how to handle these situations. They shouldn't have to. My perpetrator said that if I told any one, my mother would leave us and I'd never see her again. I was 8, 9, 10. That sounded entirely plausible. I tried to tell one adult — my fourth-grade teacher — and she sent me back to my desk. So that was that.
As Moore allegedly told one of his victims, she was a child. No one would believe her.
Maybe they'll believe now. We are in a golden hour to talk about why these sexual abuse of children is so routine, and why when those crimes come to light, people who should know better attack the victims.
That in itself would be criminal. If we aren't careful, we may lose again the voices of people who — after years of silence — have finally worked up the nerve to name their perpetrators, up to and including the president of the United States. The White House is taking the stance that any woman who accuses Trump of sex crimes is a liar. This from a man who has been recorded bragging about grabbing women by their genitalia, and of moving on a (married) woman "like a bitch." This is an environment ripe for more child victims. It normalizes abnormal and wrong behavior, when what we should be doing is turn the clock back to the '90s, and add to Trump's significant legal issues a Ken Starr-type investigation into the allegations about his predator behavior. That was good enough for Bill Clinton. It's certainly good enough for Trump.
Meanwhile, we continue to lose people to the corrosive residue of childhood sexual abuse. In Connecticut, 14 percent of adults say they have been victims of childhood sexual assault. According to the state Department of Public Health, one in five girls and one in 14 boys have been victims of such abuse, and one in seven of those children were under the age of 6 when they were victimized. Ninety-three percent of the children knew and trusted their perpetrator.
State law requires that public schools provide prevention-oriented childhood sexual abuse programs that educate students, school workers, and parents how to recognize and report childhood sexual abuse. That's a start, but it's only a start. Until we address a culture that lets men think they can force sex on children, no amount of hash tags will save us.
WHO releases guidelines on child sex abuse
by Jyoti Shelar
In a first, the World Health Organisation has formulated clinical guidelines on responding to children and adolescents who have been sexually abused. The guidelines put forward recommendations for the frontline health care providers — general practitioners, gynaecologists, paediatricians, nurses and others — who may directly receive a victim of sexual abuse or may identify sexual abuse during the course of diagnosis and treatment.
While Indian doctors have welcomed the new guidelines, they feel that there is more than just guidelines required in the country.
“We welcome the WHO guidelines. These should be followed with ground training of all first line respondents,” said Dr. Samir Dalwai, president of Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP), Mumbai chapter.
However, Dr. Dalwai says guidelines and training is not the end of the issue. “The victims and their families face the worse in terms of investigation and its outcome. It is not adequate to pass on the burden on the healthcare sector. The government needs to adopt a policy that will streamline all the other aspects as well,” he said, adding that in 2010, the IAP released similar guidelines on ‘recommendations on recognition and response to child abuse and neglect in the Indian setting.
Disclosure by child
Like the IAP guidelines, the new WHO guidelines too focus on the recommendations and good practice suggestions in terms of disclosure made by the child, obtaining medical history, conducting physical examinations and forensic investigations, documenting findings, offering preventive treatment for HIV post exposure, pregnancy prevention, and other sexually transmitted diseases, psychological and mental health interventions among others.
The guidelines highlight that child sexual abuse has a short-term as well as long-term mental health impact like lifetime diagnosis of post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, externalising symptoms, eating disorders, problems with relationships, sleep disorders and suicidal and self-harm ideation and behaviours. Health consequences of the abuse include the risk of pregnancy, gynaecological disorders such as chronic non-cyclical pelvic pain, menstrual irregularities, painful periods, genital infections and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
Forensic expert Dr. Shailesh Mohite, who heads the Multi-disciplinary Child Protection Centre (MCPC) in Nair Hospital, Mumbai Central, says the presence of guidelines and following them is extremely essential.
“One of the most commonly seen mistakes in handling child sexual abuse cases is re-traumatising the child as well as his parents with questions. Such mistakes can be avoided if those dealing with such cases are well trained,” Dr. Mohite said, adding that the staff at his centre undergoes regular trainings.
Advocate tries new approach to developing child sexual abuse prevention curriculum
by Linda Jacobson
An advocate for teaching children to protect themselves again sexual abuse says she will work with a nonprofit advocacy center to create a curriculum after the Montana Office of Public Instruction has indicated it will not create such lessons, the Missoulian reports.
House Bill 298, which passed this year, encourages the state education agency to raise awareness of child sexual abuse and increase efforts to prevent it, but it doesn't include any funding or require schools to do anything. Called Tara's Law, the legislation was named for Tara Walker Lyons, who was abused as a child and advocated for a stronger version of the legislation that would include requiring curriculum.
State education officials say that curriculum development is a local matter, but that they will focus on creating classes that address childhood sexual abuse as part of professional development requirements for educators.
With women — and some men —continuing to share #MeToo testimonies on social media, acknowledging that they were subjected to sexual abuse or misconduct in the past, the public has become aware that such incidents are far more prevalent than thought. As a result, there are increasing calls to teach children early how to refuse inappropriate touching and protect themselves.
Just before Thanksgiving, the Girl Scouts urged parents not to expect their daughters to hug or show affection to family members they might only see during the holidays. “Think of it this way, telling your child that she owes someone a hug either just because she hasn't seen this person in a while or because they gave her a gift can set the stage for her questioning whether she ‘owes' another person any type of physical affection when they've bought her dinner or done something else seemingly nice for her later in life,” the message says. The post also adds quote from Girl Scouts' developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, who said that “sadly, we know that some adults prey on children, and teaching your daughter about consent early on can help her understand her rights, know when lines are being crossed, and when to go to you for help.”
And in a related announcement, earlier this month, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence announced that it is working with Discovery Education, a provider of digital education resources, to make a teen dating violence curriculum available to K-12 schools.
According to the National Council of State Legislatures, about half of the states have some type of legislation related developing curriculum to prevent child sexual abuse or increasing teachers' abilities to recognize and report it. Other laws create task forces to study the issue. A status report from Prevent Child Abuse America is another source of updated information on what states require. But even without such laws or recommendations, school administrators can make sure educators have opportunities to learn how to recognize signs of abuse in school and understand appropriate boundaries with students.
FBI involved after Amber Alert issued for missing NC 3-year-old girl
JACKSONVILLE, N.C. - The FBI is now involved in the search for a missing 3-year-old girl who disappeared in the middle of the night in Onslow County.
An Amber Alert was issued Monday for Mariah Kay Wood, who was last seen Sunday night when her mother put her to bed at their home on Dawson Cabin Road in Jacksonville.
The girl's mother, Kristy Woods, is pleading for her daughter's safe return.
"Please, bring her back ... She's my baby, she's my everything,” said Woods during a press conference. “Just to be able to touch her and hold her and not let her go again. I'd give anything."
First responders spent Monday searching by air and on the ground.
“[Officials are] working everything that can be worked to find this little girl,” said Sheriff Hans Miller.
Four volunteer fire departments, the Onslow County Sherriff's Department and K-9 units conducted a search in the wooded area behind the girl's home as well as surrounding wooded areas, WCTI reported. They also used a helicopter and drones to aid in the search.
“We don't know what happened. It's entirely premature to try to determine what happened,” said Miller.
Officials have interviewed both Woods' mother and her live-in boyfriend and conducted a search of their home and vehicle, WCTI reported.
"I don't believe she would go out by herself, especially in the dark," said the girl's grandmother, Anne Edwards. “She's a sweet child but she's shy with strangers. So, she wouldn't just go with a stranger."
Edwards said the 3-year-old struggles to get around on her own and wears leg braces for assistance.
"It's really tough because it's just like everybody says, 'I didn't believe this could happen to me,'" she said.
Investigators have asked people in the area to check their yards and sheds.
Woods is described as white, 2 feet 9 inches tall and weighs 30 lbs., with brown hair and blue eyes.
Authorities have not said who may have taken her and where they might be headed.
Anyone with information on Woods's whereabouts is encouraged to call the Onslow County Sheriff's Office immediately at (910) 455-3113, or to call 911.
The Latest: FBI asks help identifying woman, girl in store
JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (AP) - The Latest on the search for a missing North Carolina girl (all times local):
The FBI has released a photo of a woman and child at a Walmart in North Carolina as officials search for a 3-year-old girl who was reported missing early Monday.
Kristy Woods told authorities she thinks Mariah Kay Woods was abducted from their home near Jacksonville sometime after 11 p.m. Sunday.
The FBI joined the search Tuesday and released three photos early Wednesday that show a woman and a child in a Wal-Mart in Morehead City, about 40 miles east of the girl's home.
The FBI is asking for help identifying the woman and child in the picture.
The girl's biological father is questioning the reporting kidnapping, saying it's hard to believe no one in the house heard anything.
The biological father of a 3-year-old North Carolina girl who disappeared from her home says he doesn't think his daughter was kidnapped.
Alex Woods told WCTI-TV in New Bern in an interview Tuesday he didn't know Mariah Kay Woods was missing until an Amber Alert was issued Monday.
Kristy Woods, the girl's mother, told authorities she last saw Mariah about 11 p.m. Sunday when she checked on her at their home near Jacksonville. Woods said she called authorities around 6 a.m. Monday when she noticed Mariah was missing.
Alex Woods says he can't believe someone could walk into the house and grab a 3-year-old out of her bed without her crying out or screaming. He says two adults and two other children were in the house and someone should have heard something.
The FBI joined the search Tuesday.
Authorities have stepped up the search for a North Carolina girl who disappeared from her home.
Onslow County Sheriff Hans Miller told news outlets that investigators need a break in their search for 3-year-old Mariah Kay Woods, who was reported missing from her home about 6 a.m. Monday.
A statewide Amber Alert has been issued for Mariah.
Kristy Woods told WITN-TV in Greenville that she last saw Mariah about 11 p.m. Sunday when she checked on her. She said her boyfriend saw the child about midnight when she got up and he told her to go back to bed. Once they realized she was missing, the couple said they called authorities.
The home is just west of Jacksonville and Marine Corps Air Station New River.
Mariah Woods believed dead, mothers boyfriend arrested
by Jessica Schladebeck
Authorities in North Carolina arrested the live-in boyfriend of 3-year-old Mariah Woods' mother and charged him with multiple offenses, including concealing death, despite the fact that the missing toddler has not yet been found.
The Onslow County Sheriff's Office and the FBI detained 32-year-old Earl Kimery Friday in connection with the disappearance of the toddler, WRAL reported.
The Sheriff's office in a statement early Saturday morning announced evidence collected during their investigation has led them to believe Mariah is dead.
“At this time, the location of Mariah is unknown,” the statement said. “The searches now will shift to a recovery process.”
Authorities issued and Amber Alert for Mariah on Monday, the same day her mother, Kristy Woods, reporter her missing. Woods told authorities she put her daughter to bed Sunday evening and woke up to find her gone.
Mariah's disappearance sparked a massive search effort, with investigators and volunteers from the community joining together to search for the missing toddler.
Sheriff Hans Miller during a press conference Friday told reporters he had “a long conversation” with one of Mariah's family members and that “they are cooperating.”
Kimery was additionally charged with obstruction of justice, second-degree burglary, larceny and possession of stolen property. According to state records obtained by WRAL, Kimery has previously been charged with a small string of offenses, including larceny, assault and drunk and disorderly conduct.
Mariah's mother is divorced from the girl's father, Alex Woods, who said that while his daughter is with her mother his weeks are “like hell, like a nightmare.”
“Somebody just walks right in there, grabs a 3-year-old out of the bed, she didn't cry, she didn't scream?” he told WTVR ahead of Kimery's arrest. “Nobody heard nothing? Four people in the house, two adults and two babies and somebody just comes, snatches the baby up and walks out?”
Kimery is being held in the Onslow County Detention Center in lieu of a $1,010,000 bond.
Child trafficking: AAP policy calls for training, advocacy, research to halt exploitation
by Jordan Greenbaum, M. D.
In a recent FBI operation, 120 suspected human traffickers were arrested across the U.S., and 84 child victims recovered. In 2015, Interpol and other organizations launched Operation Akoma to target traffickers in the agricultural and trade sectors of the Ivory Coast, recovering more than 48 child victims of forced labor exploitation between 5 and 16 years of age.
Child trafficking violates basic human rights and constitutes a major global public health problem. It adversely impacts the physical and emotional health of the child; causes grief, trauma and disruption to the family; alters the social cohesiveness of communities; and erodes the basic human rights underlying societies.
Pediatricians and other health care professionals (HCPs) may encounter victims who present with a variety of physical or behavioral health conditions. They may come across children at high risk for trafficking, who need resources and guidance to avoid exploitation. As such, HCPs have a role in preventing child trafficking, recognizing victimization and intervening appropriately to offer victims assistance.
Call to action
The Academy has released a new policy statement that outlines major issues regarding public policy, medical education, research and collaboration around child labor and sex trafficking and provides recommendations for future work. The policy, Global Human Trafficking and Child Victimization, from the AAP Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect and Section on International Child Health, is available at https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2017-3138https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2017-3138 and will be published in the December issue of Pediatrics.
Effectively addressing child trafficking requires a public health approach that incorporates rigorous research on the risk factors, health impact and effective treatment options for child exploitation as well as implementation and evaluation of primary prevention programs. HCPs need training to recognize possible signs of exploitation and to intervene appropriately. They need to adopt a multidisciplinary approach to service provision, working with nonmedical professionals in the community to assist victims. Pediatricians also need to advocate for legislation and policies that promote child rights and victim services as well as those that address the social determinants of health, which influence the vulnerability to human trafficking.
The policy's recommendations, which apply to AAP chapters and all HCPs serving children, include the following:
Support antitrafficking legislation and policies, including increased access to services for all victims; increased interagency collaboration; improved screening for human trafficking among immigrants detained at national borders; and assistance on immigration issues for foreign nationals.
Support legislation and policies that facilitate primary prevention of child trafficking through education of children and parents.
Support efforts to address the social determinants of health.
Advocate for policies that protect children who are victims of any type of trafficking from prosecution for related offenses, emphasizing treatment and services instead.
Work with other medical organizations to facilitate a public health approach to human trafficking and empower HCPs to use a culturally sensitive, rights-based, victim-centered approach to human trafficking.
Advocate for U.S. ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Encourage the American Board of Pediatrics to include child trafficking in its content specifications.
Encourage curricula to include strategies for addressing social determinants of health.
Advocate for financial support and resources for development and global dissemination of culturally appropriate, trauma-informed curricula for HCPs addressing human trafficking.
Rigorous, empirically based research on child trafficking is necessary to identify risk factors; improve victim identification; estimate prevalence; understand experiences during exploitation; evaluate adverse health consequences; identify resiliency factors; understand the connections between child trafficking, toxic stress and long-term health outcomes; and assess the effectiveness of treatment interventions.
Advocate for the development of intervention strategies and rigorous empirical evaluation of their impact on child health and well-being; research on trauma-informed care and on effective ways to implement this approach into a busy health care setting; centralized surveillance and data collection on identified trafficked persons; and adoption of International Classification of Diseases codes to report the types of human trafficking.
Advocate for HCPs in larger health care facilities to identify victim service providers and organizations in their communities and those working in solo or small practices to collaborate with local, state or national partners.
Speak out for development of clinic and hospital protocols outlining processes to help recognize and respond to child trafficking of all types.
Advocate for easily accessible, victim-centered, culturally appropriate medical homes for trafficked persons.
Promote outreach and awareness at the community, state, national and international levels.
Dr. Greenbaum is a lead author of the policy. She is with the Institute on Healthcare and Human Trafficking at Stephanie V. Blank Center for Safe and Healthy Children, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
NBC News fires 'Today' anchor Matt Lauer after sexual misconduct review
by Erik Ortiz
Matt Lauer, the anchor of "Today" for two decades, was fired by NBC News after a detailed complaint about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.
"Today" co-anchors Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb announced Lauer's firing Wednesday, telling viewers at the top of the show that they were processing his departure but didn't yet know all of the details.
In a memo to employees sent Wednesday morning, NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack said the complaint, which was made by a colleague of Lauer's, prompted a serious review and represented a "clear violation of our company's standards."
Lack said it was the first complaint lodged against Lauer, 59, for his behavior since he took over as anchor of the show in 1997, but there was "reason to believe" it may not have been an isolated incident.
"Our highest priority is to create a workplace environment where everyone feels safe and protected, and to ensure that any actions that run counter to our core values are met with consequences, no matter who the offender," Lack said.
Guthrie, who joined Lauer at the anchor desk in 2012, said she was "heartbroken" for both him and the "brave colleague who came forward to tell her story and any other women who have their stories to tell."
"I'm sure we will be learning more details in the hours and days to come. And we promise we will share that with you," she said.
Kotb added that she has known Lauer as a friend and colleague for 15 years and "it's hard to reconcile what we are hearing with the man who we know, who walks in this building every single day."
Guthrie said it can be difficult to make sense of accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior against a longtime colleague.
"How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly and I don't know the answer to that," she said. "But I do know that this reckoning, that so many organizations have been going through, is important, it's long overdue and it must result in workplaces where all women — all people — feel safe and respected."
Lauer's departure comes in the wake of sexual misconduct complaints lodged in recent months against high-profile men, including in entertainment, politics and media.
Last week, talk show host and journalist Charlie Rose was fired by CBS News, PBS and Bloomberg after eight women accused him of past sexual harassment and unwanted advances in a report in The Washington Post.
Rose, who co-hosted "CBS This Morning," released a statement apologizing for his behavior while maintaining that some of the allegations were inaccurate.
Lauer did not immediately respond publicly to the announcement of his firing.
President Donald Trump noted Lauer's firing on Twitter, writing, "Wow, Matt Lauer was just fired from NBC for 'inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.' But when will the top executives at NBC & Comcast be fired for putting out so much Fake News."
Earlier this month, NBC News also fired its senior vice president for booking, Matt Zimmerman, after learning about "inappropriate conduct" with more than one woman at NBC Universal, the parent company of NBC.
China child abuse scandal: Police accuse parents of making claims up
by Steven Jiang
A child abuse scandal that has rocked China took a shocking turn Tuesday, as police accused two parents for fabricating tales of their children being drugged and molested at a Beijing kindergarten.
The police statement claimed that one father coaxed his child into saying they'd been given pills and that one mother, who'd told reporters her daughter was inspected by naked strange men, had made up her story and was ready to clarify her words and apologize to the public.
Doctors and experts examined the alleged victims and found no indication of molestation, the police said. Police claim to have recovered 113 hours of surveillance camera footage from the RYB Xintiandi kindergarten and found no evidence of child abuse.
A hard drive in which videos had been stored was damaged because a control room employee "often forcibly turned it off after school hours" to keep the noise level down, the police said in the statement.
Police had previously detained a 22-year-old female teacher for her alleged role in the reported child abuse. She was said to have poked children who refused to take a nap with sewing needles as "punishment," according to the latest statement. Chinese police usually withhold the full names of suspects. They gave her surname as Liu.
Police said they had also detained another woman for "rumor mongering," accusing her of posting fabricated information online about the involvement of military personnel in the incident, which prompted an unusual denial from the country's defense ministry.
RYB Education, the Beijing-based and New York-listed company that runs the kindergarten, apologized again to the children and to the public in a statement released Wednesday, expressing "sadness" and "shame." The company stressed its policy of "zero-tolerance" regarding child abuse and vowed to take concrete action to earn the public's forgiveness.
"If children were harmed in our facility, we will not evade responsibility," it said. "We will correct our mistakes, shoulder our responsibility and bear the legal consequences."
Over the weekend, the company said it fired both the detained teacher and the head of the kindergarten, promising to provide psychological counseling to the victims, upgrade safety measures in its facilities and set up an independent supervision system.
CNN's repeated phone calls to the company went unanswered Wednesday and attempts to reach the parents were unsuccessful.
Amid city-wide kindergarten safety checks, Beijing's education authority has also announced a plan to hire an inspector at every kindergarten.
But the latest developments don't appear to have quelled intense nationwide debates about the incident. It has sparked public outrage, parental soul-searching, government pledges and widespread online censorship.
The story broke last week after numerous parents accused RYB Xintiandi of drugging and molesting their children.
In a video posted on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter, the mother who police now say was lying, said at least eight parents told the authorities that their young children had fallen victim to abuse and molestation while attending the school.
The video was viewed millions of times before being deleted from Weibo.
The unidentified mother told reporters last week that her 3-year-old daughter said she was injected with a brown liquid by a teacher and made to strip along with other children before being "examined" by a naked adult male stranger.
She said she and other parents allegedly found multiple needle marks on their children's bodies, adding that the kindergarten and the police had not allowed them to review videos from the school's surveillance cameras.
"My child said the teacher told them it was a secret and they were not supposed to tell anyone else, including parents," the mother said. "She now bursts into screaming at night, saying, 'I'm not sick, why do I have to get a shot?'"
RYB Education, whose share price plummeted on the New York Stock Exchange last week, had its stock price rebound in Tuesday's trading and closed up more than 23%. The company told investors last Friday that it would buy back shares worth up to $50 million.
The company and its franchises operate in approximately 300 Chinese cities and run about 1,300 daycare centers and 500 kindergartens around the country.
Shock and censorship
When CNN tried to visit the RYB Xintiandi kindergarten last Friday, it was relatively quiet around the campus with some parents and onlookers gathering outside the gate where a corporate statement was posted.
One grandfather, who had just picked up his granddaughter but declined to be named, told CNN that the 4-year-old mentioned her classmates being forced to take white pills for disobedience and everyone was told to keep it a secret.
Another resident of the neighborhood who gave his surname as Liu said the kindergarten is the best in the area and costs as much as 5,000 yuan ($750) a month for bilingual class students. He said he was furious at the news, but believes those were isolated cases.
Past incidents involving RYB kindergartens included two cases in northeastern China, where four teachers were each sentenced to more than two years in prison for abusing 17 children.
Amid an unrelenting outcry by the public over the scandal, Chinese government censors appear to have moved to contain the fallout. Many users have complained that their posts on the subject have disappeared from social media. The comment section for many online news reports on this story are disabled.
Zhang Quanling, a former anchor at state broadcaster CCTV with more than 11 million followers on Weibo, echoed the sentiment of many when she re-posted the police statement Tuesday night along with a sarcastic note.
"The stock price for the surveillance equipment maker should take a dive," she wrote. "What brand is it?"
Her post attracted hundreds of comments before it was removed.
Across Chinese cyberspace, parents of young children have started sharing tips on detection and prevention of child abuse and molestation -- some directly copied from school literature in the United States.
Earlier this month, videos of teachers at a Shanghai kindergarten physically attacking kids and force-feeding them what appeared to be mustard went viral. Shanghai police quickly detained several employees at the facility, while the agency involved had to apologize to the parents and to the public.
Critics have argued for many years that China's laws are too vague and lax on child abuse and sexual molestation cases.
Media in China have documented a rising number of incidents of abuse at childcare facilities, often in small cities and towns. In a lengthy investigative piece published last year, the state-run Xinhua news agency said 968 cases of sexual abuse against children were recorded nationwide between 2013 and 2015, involving at least 1,790 children, with many remaining unreported.
Why do state laws put an expiration date on sex crimes?
by Laura Santhanam
On April 27, 2016, former U.S. house speaker Dennis Hastert was convicted of breaking banking law, but crimes to which he confessed in court — sexually abusing multiple high school boys in Illinois while he served as their wrestling coach nearly four decades ago — would never be prosecuted. Their statutes of limitations had expired.
A year later, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan declared the state had removed the criminal statute of limitation for sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated sexual abuse against children. She credited Illinois' passage of that legislation with the “powerful and courageous testimony of survivors,” many of them speaking publicly for the first time after years of silence, anger and shame.
“Tragically, there are millions of people whose childhoods are tarnished by sexual assault and sexual abuse,” Madigan said in an email to the NewsHour. “For decades they struggle to come to terms with the terrible impacts these crimes have on their lives – including the troubling fact that very few of the perpetrators are held accountable.”
In recent weeks, high-profile and long-buried stories of sexual assault and harassment have cropped up across the country. Since Oct. 5, when the New York Times published its investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against Hollywood film producer and executive Harvey Weinstein, dozens of women and men have come forward with their own stories about sexual misconduct by other powerful men, from Roy Moore, Alabama's Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, to Charlie Rose, a long-time broadcast news host for PBS and CBS News.
But after they share their stories, what legal standing do victims of sexual harassment and assault have to pursue those accusations in court? That depends in large part on the statutes of limitations that apply in their state.
Nationwide, one out of three women said they have been sexually harassed or abused at work, according to a recent poll from the PBS NewsHour, NPR and Marist Poll. But according to 2016 federal data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which monitors reports of unwelcome sexual advances at the workplace, 6,914 incidents of sexual harassment were filed that year. Many more cases go unreported.
Statutes of limitations are laws designed to protect a person from being prosecuted for a crime after physical evidence has deteriorated, or become less reliable, over time . These time limits vary from crime to crime, and between states.
That's a big problem for victims of sexual violence who may need years or even decades to fully process trauma and understand what happened to them, said Rebecca O'Connor, who directs public policy for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, also known as RAINN, which tracks sexual offense statutes of limitation by state.
“There's greater understanding among lawmakers that we're not keeping pace with these individuals,” she said. “Someone's brain is impacted by trauma, and it's going to take them some time.”
Nationwide, seven states have completely dismantled statutes of limitations for felony sex crimes, according to Rainn. More than half of states make exceptions for statutes of limitation if DNA evidence surfaces, but a massive backlog of rape kits illustrates how the promise of justice through forensics has its limits. And Wyoming, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia and Maryland have no statute of limitations for felony sex crimes, according to RAINN's database.
Adult victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault may also delay sharing their stories for fear of retribution, said Jeff Dion, deputy executive director for the National Center for Victims of Crime. Other reasons include: “The person who did it was in a position of power and control. ‘I was threatened.' ‘I thought I was the only one,'” he said.
In recent months, some states, considering the kinds of issues outlined by O'Connor and other advocates, have rolled back some statutes of limitation. On Oct. 1, shortly before news of Harvey Weinstein swept the nation, Montana extended its sexual abuse statute from 10 years after a victim's 18th birthday to 20 years. On Nov. 1, Oklahoma eliminated its statute of limitation on child pornography charges, as well as for cases where a minor was raped, forcibly sodomized or the victim of “lewd and indecent acts.” (These kinds of changes only apply to those who come forward after the laws take effect.)
In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Stogner v. California that states cannot retroactively remove criminal statutes of limitations to make it easier to prosecute child sex abuse cases.
“Do these features of the law, taken together, produce the kind of retroactivity that the Constitution forbids? We conclude that they do,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the majority opinion.
Among the states that have rolled back their statutes, the changes are incremental and form a patchwork quilt of policymaking stretched across 50 states, said Marci Hamilton, who directs Child USA, a think tank that tracks child sex abuse laws nationwide, and serves as a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
Scandals that embroiled the Catholic Church for nearly two decades inspired much debate over removing statutes of limitations that apply to child sex abuse, she said, adding that those arguments are increasingly being applied to cases of adult rape.
States are “behind the curve” when rolling back statutes of limitations for adults who were targeted for sexual abuse, compared to efforts to make justice more accessible for childhood survivors of abuse, Hamilton said, “but there's no question there's been some piggybacking.”
Some states started more sweeping rollbacks on statutes of limitations for incidents of sexual violence long before the latest series of incidents received national attention.
California Senator Connie Leyva, a Democrat from Chino, said women's law and victims' rights advocates approached her office in 2015 and asked for a law to remove the civil statute of limitations from rape cases. In California, victims had to report crimes and seek charges within 10 years. Leyva said she hadn't known victims faced that “arbitrary time limit” and she “found that shocking.”
At the same time, scandal enveloped comedian Bill Cosby as women said he had drugged and assaulted them, with claims dating back more than 50 years. Some of those same women came and testified before the legislature in support of Leyva's bill, she said, adding: “Timing is everything in life.”
In August 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union opposed the bill, saying it could increase the odds of an innocent person going to prison. Natasha Minsker, who directs ACLU of California Center for Advocacy and Policy, told the Los Angeles Times, “The statute of limitations is there for a reason.”
Sandra Park advocates for women's rights for the ACLU national office and said statutes of limitations in criminal cases ensure defendants receive fair trials. She doesn't think extending statutes of limitations for sexual crimes should be a priority because that “won't address the issue” for most survivors seeking justice. Far more often, system bias stands in the way, Park said, when police officers and detectives dismiss survivor testimonies and lose or mishandle evidence. Rather than focusing on statutes of limitations, Park said policymakers instead should make sure law enforcement is trained to handle sexual assault cases appropriately.
“If a survivor comes out years later, the bias will still be there,” she said.
Despite the ACLU's objections, the California legislature gave it unanimous approval, and in September 2016, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Justice for Victims Act into law.
Policymakers are beginning to leverage a greater understanding of forensic evidence and technology, the impact of these crimes on victims and the fact that “we're not keeping pace with these individuals,” O'Connor said.
“We've hit a point where people aren't going to look the other way,” she said. “The onus is on us to seize upon the moment.”
With each rollback, she said survivors of sexual abuse have more time to heal before fighting to seek justice. Back in Illinois, Scott Cross has struggled since the 1980s with anger, pain and memories of sexual abuse he endured when Dennis Hastert coached him. In August, Cross said Hastert “will never be held accountable” for the suffering he put Cross and his classmates through. But the state's decision to roll back statutes of limitation on sexual abuse is an important step, Cross said in a statement.
“I am thankful that Illinois law will now allow survivors of these horrific crimes to come forward in their own time, and get justice – no matter how overdue.”
Deal with abuse straight away
by Lethiwe Makhanya
BEING abused as a child and not seeking and obtaining help immediately can affect you as an adult.
This is according to Nokuthula Zwane the general manager at Esther House in Pietermaritzburg, a home that takes care of abused women and children.
Speaking to Maritzburg Fever Zwane said it is important for parents to listen to their children when they confide in them, about being abused.
She hopes that the 16 Days of Activism For No Violence Against Women and Children campaign, from 25 November to 10 December, will show victims that there is help out there.
She said most abused children and women lose hope if they don't get the support and help they need.
“Most of the time we find that abused children have tried to tell their parents, but their parents did not believe them or told them to never speak about it again.
“These children then grow up with psychological problems.
“It is our job as parents and adults to protect our children. If your child tells you that she or he has been abused, don't sweep it under the carpet, believe them and support them while they are being counselled.”
Zwane said it is very important for the victim to talk about their experience.
“You get the support you need. You find someone who will listen to you and be there for you all the time.
“Moving to places like Esther House also helps because you meet other people who have had the same experience as you or even worse - that is when you realise you are not alone.”
Pietermaritzburg Police Station Captain Khosi Khonjelwayo said it is important to know that abuse is not a shame.
Khonjelwayo said most women, who do not report abuse, are trying to protect their partners, even though they are aware their partner is in the wrong.
“It starts with a slap, after that the perpetrator will bring gifts and apologise.The survivors will let it slide and it will get worse until they [victims] get killed. Abuse does not have to be physical.
“Emotional, verbal and even psychological abuse also exists. If someone insults you, calls you names or invades your privacy, that is also abuse. It may look or sound trivial, but it often leaves permanent scars.
“It is not your fault that you are being abused and you don't have to be ashamed of it.
“People in abusive relationships believe that if they go to the police to report the abuse the police will not assist.
“We want to change that perception,” she said.
Khonjelwayo said SAPS receives domestic
violence cases almost daily and prioritises these cases.
“It is a commitment of the South African Police Service to treat victims of domestic violence with sensitivity and care.
“As police officials we will treat these victims of abuse with respect and protect their dignity.
“People must not insult or blame them (victims) and suggest that it was their fault.” she said.
Where to get help?
SAPS Crime Stop
Gender-Based Violence Command Centre
0800 428 428
Stop Gender Violence Helpline
0800 150 150
SMS *120*7867# from any cell phone.
'Our mother was sexually abused as a child, but the trauma affects us all'
The moment my sisters and I discovered our mother was sexually abused as a child didn't quite go as you'd imagine.
We were stunned by the horror at first, but once the smoke cleared, we realised we finally had the explanation for her messed-up behaviour we'd been looking for. There was an explanation to her endless stints ‘in care' and her emotional unavailability when she wasn't, and it filled us with a peace that we'd never experienced before. It silenced all those questions we had as we grew up under her roof, questions such as: Was it us? Were we too demanding? Did we expect too much of her? Year after year, the questions all but drove us mad, but suddenly here it was laid out for us in black and white.
“Don't you see?” I hissed at my siblings as we gathered around the garden shed to discuss the revelation. “This finally explains everything.” And it really did.
When I was very little, I noticed our mother always wore three things: blood-red nails, heavy kohl around her eyes, and a heavy sadness that had settled around her shoulders like a fog. She was always be a big believer in hugs and kisses, so it wasn't that we didn't feel loved, but if you looked into her eyes, she was always somewhere else in her mind. You notice these kinds of things when you're a kid.
Things in our house were strange. If we behaved and acted happy, we would be showered with hugs and kisses, but if any one of her girls dared show vulnerability or cry, our mother would immediately go to her room and lock the door behind her; the situation deemed too difficult to deal with. We soon learned that even if we were in the pits of misery, we should force ourselves to smile and laugh like lunatics in the hope that she might eventually return. We ached from walking on eggshells all the time.
The first nervous breakdown – just before my tenth birthday – was a shock, although I can't deny we didn't see it coming. The silk suits had long given way to dirty tracksuits, and the endless pills on her bedside did little to prevent her from crying her way through school pick-ups and ballet practice.
“I'm so sorry,” she would say. “I don't know what's wrong with me.”
In front of my inquisitive school friends – whose own parents I noticed weren't prone to throwing themselves on the oval's grass and sobbing – I was embarrassed, but we did our best to rally around her. We cooked, cleaned and did the laundry, while she mumbled that one day we would thank her for this.
The breakdowns – and subsequent hospitalisations – kept coming, and by my mid-teens, I was over being generous. I longed to spend days shopping and lunching with her, like my friends did with their mums, but whenever I asked she would tell me she was far too busy and then she'd spend the rest of the day perfectly hand-washing three pairs of black socks. If it was a bad day, she would just sit and stare out the window, physically present but never really there. I moved out as soon as I could; we all did. And we each moved away as far as we could to get away from her.
With the discovery of my mother's secret has come the research, both painful yet cathartic.
Desperate to know more about what my mother has been living with, I pored over studies which showed adults with histories of such abuse are at significantly higher risk of developing mental health problems, and that they often rely on a range of strategies such as psychological escape and socially withdrawing to minimise distress (check and check).
Much is made about the likelihood that someone who is sexually abused will go on to abuse themselves, however what's more likely and far less visible is that the trauma can play out in emotional neglect. Other studies I came across found mothers who were sexually abused as children are at increased risk of having difficulties with parenting and connecting with their children. Disturbing stuff, I know, but as I read and read, I found that these studies were finally giving me the answers that I'd been looking for this whole time.
Today, I can see that my mother wasn't trying to be spiteful, but that she had been reacting to an incredibly traumatic event none of us knew anything about. She was trying to swim, even though she was drowning.
For many years I believed my mother wasn't fit to be a parent, and I railed against her, full of anger about why she chose to have us in the first place. But it's only after our discovery that I now can see she was doing the best she could with whatever tools she had left.
If I take into account her circumstances, I would no longer say that she was a bad mother, but a great one – even though I must admit to occasionally grieving who she could have been in another world, had she been allowed to have her childhood.
I know we'll never have the kind of mother/daughter relationship so many others enjoy, and I still often well up when a friend tells me she's off to meet her mum for dinner; but I also know that for my mother to retain the fort she has built for herself, I can no longer push.
Norway reveals rape and sexual assault scandal in Lapland
by The Local
Norwegian police said on Tuesday they had uncovered 151 alleged sexual assaults, including child rape, in a small community in Lapland, sending shock waves across the country.
The case has highlighted longstanding distrust between national authorities and the indigenous Sami community, of which most victims and suspects are part.
An investigation was launched after newspaper VG last year published testimonies of 11 men and women claiming to have been assaulted in Tysfjord, a northern municipality located above the Arctic Circle with less than 2,000 inhabitants.
A new police report identified 82 victims aged between four and 75, and 92 suspects, including three women, with some falling into both categories.
Around 70 percent were members of the Sami community. Many were also followers of Laestadianism, a conservative Lutheran revival movement.
Two people have so far been charged with 10 assaults in total, the police said, adding that more indictments could follow.
The report showed that of the 151 sex assault cases -- including 43 rapes, three of them on children -- more than 100 were dropped mainly due to the statute of limitations. Some cases date as far back as 1953.
"The police have no reason to believe that ethnicity or religious beliefs are an explanation to the assaults that took place," police officer Tone Vangen told a news conference.
But she stressed that certain "mechanisms" in this community "have made it difficult for things to emerge". She said some suspects had turned to religion for repentance instead of the judicial authorities.
There's "a strong need to close the ranks in the family in a situation where the Norwegian society is looking down on you," Vangen added.
But she also apologised for police having failed to act after several complaints had been filed.
Lars Magne Andreassen, director of a Sami cultural centre in Tysfjord, told AFP that he was divided between "pain" and "pride".
"It's painful to note that there have been so many cases over so many years... and serious for some," Andreassen said but expressed "pride over society daring to break the silence".
"In the Tysfjord case, silence of the victims was met with a similar silence from the authorities," he said.
"It's not so much the fact that the Sami have a cultural problem which we should clean up but the fact that no one has listened to them," Andreassen added.
"The scope (of the facts) is huge," the mayor of Tysfjord Tor Asgeir Johansen told Norwegian news agency NTB.
"This is a small community and this of course affects it," he added.
The Sami population is estimated between 40,000 and 60,000 in Norway but this figure is difficult to count accurately due to migratory flows and ethnic blends.
Samis received an official apology from Norway's King Harald in 1997 for facing discrimination.
Their way of life, which is closely associated to nature, has become threatened by mineral mining, wind farms and extensive logging, which are encroaching more and more upon reindeer herding grounds and fishing areas.
Mongolian President offers to restore death penalty for child sexual abuse and cruelty offenses
by AKI Press
President of Mongolia Khaltmaagiin Battulga submitted an official proposal on Restoring Death Penalty for Offenses of Child Sexual Abuse, Cruelty and Murder to Minister of Justice Ts.Nyamdorj on November 27, GoGo Mongolia reports.
“Offenses of violence, particularly violence against minors and abusing children to satisfy own sexual desires, have become an urgent problem in our society,” the letter begins.
In the official letter, the President cited from a National Human Rights Commission Report, which has included information about a case of sexual abuse of 16-month-old baby. The report also says 298 children of 2-7 years of age were sexually assaulted within last year. Also, 1,613 teenage mothers of ages between 12 and 17 gave birth, and 1,668 teenagers under 20 years of age had abortions.
“All of these numbers obviously point to the hidden issues of unwanted pregnancy and sexual violence against children,” wrote the President.
In the end of his proposal, President Battulga asked the Minister of Justice to formulate a draft law to be submitted to the State Great Khural (Parliament), as Minister of Justice administers matters of legal renovations, combating and preventing crimes, given his authorities in pursuance with the laws.
ACT government moves on Royal Commission recommendations on child sexual abuse
by Daniel Burdon
Sustained, historical cases of child sexual abuse committed in the ACT could soon be more easily prosecuted, after the government introduced new laws to enact Royal Commission recommendations.
A raft of changes to sexual offences against children were introduced into the Legislative Assembly on Thursday, with debate on the bill adjourned to until the Assembly resumes next year.
The bill is the first legislative response from the territory government to the five-year-long Royal Commission, which heard thousands of reports of child sexual abuse across the nation before releasing its final report in August.
Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said the failings exposed by the Commission had been so heinous it was difficult to comprehend and the amendments would give effect to its key recommendations.
"The amendments give effect to the model provision recommended by the Royal Commission so that the criminal act is constituted by the ongoing sexual relationship, rather than individual sexual acts," he said.
"This allows for prosecutions in a manner consistent with the ways in which victims remember abuse and has retrospective effect in recognition of the fact that delay is a typical, rather than a peculiar, feature of child sexual abuse," he said.
That offence would mean people accused of such offences could face charges related to repeated but largely undistinguishable sexual offences, rather than on each individual act.
It has been a critical issue exposed during the Commission, as many childhood victims, coming forward as adults decades later, could not remember the specifics of each individual act, or were not easily able to separate memories of different acts given the effects of the abuse.
The bill also adds two new "grooming" offences to criminalise the non-electronic grooming of a child and grooming of persons other than a child.
It would also exclude the "good character" of a child sex offender as a measure relevant to sentencing, where such a character enabled the offending - such as a person in a position of trust who abused that trust in order to commit the offence.
But the bill will also make a number of other changes to criminal laws, including to expand the Children's Court jurisdiction to all for circle sentencing for indigenous children.
That proposed measure would create a new court, essentially a childrens' version of the adult Galambany Court, which Mr Ramsay said would be called the Warrumbul court, the Ngunnawal word for 'youth'.
Other changes respond to a recent controversial case that went to the High Court involving an inmate at Alexander Maconochie Centre, child sex offender Aaron James Holliday, who attempted to get another inmate to organise the kidnapping of witnesses outside the prison.
The High Court ultimately found Holliday not guilty, as the crime had not happened, and Holliday could also not be found guilty of inciting the crime, because the other inmate did not act on his instructions.
Mr Ramsay told the Assembly the case had highlighted a "clear gap in the ACT's criminal code, and while the other inmate did nt go through with the crime, it was clearly behaviour the community expects to be criminalised.
Another change in the bill would ensure that a good behaviour order issued by the courts could not be served at the same time as a parole order issued by the territory's sentence administration board.
Michigan State accused of covering up worst sex abuse scandal in US sports
by Caleb Parke
Michigan State University is accused of covering up what is believed to be the biggest sexual abuse scandal in U.S. sports, which the public university “unequivocally denies.”
Michigan State's former director of sports and former Olympic gymnastics team doctor, Larry Nasser — accused of sexual assault by more than 150 women, including several Team USA gymnasts — now has pleaded guilty to 10 sexual assault counts as well as possession of child pornography. He also admitted in court to committing sexually abusive procedures thousands of times throughout his 20-year career.
“This is one of the largest and most prestigious public universities in the country, and they've engaged in the systemic protection of a child molester,” attorney John Manly, who is representing a majority of the victims, told Fox News. “Clearly Michigan State has a culture of secrecy. They have a report about 150 little girls being molested, and they're not going to release it? That is outrageous. President [Lou Anna K.] Simon, release the report or resign.”
Lawyers representing victims of Nassar say MSU officials could have prevented the Nassar scandal if they had followed Title IX and mandatory reporting laws — during his MSU tenure between 1997 and 2015, at least seven women or girls say they made verbal complaints to school officials.
When MSU finally conducted Title IX investigations of Nassar in 2014, the lawyers said, Michigan State botched it and allowed him to continue allegedly molesting dozens of women and girls for two more years, including Olympic gold medalists — Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, and Gabby Douglas — all under the guise of being “medically appropriate.”
MSU spokesman Jason Cody referred Fox News to a statement following the plaintiffs' press conference.
“Michigan State University continues to be shocked and appalled by Larry Nassar's now-admitted criminal conduct,” Cody wrote. “Any suggestion that the university covered up this conduct is simply false.”
He added: “As for the call for an independent investigation, the FBI and MSU Police Department conducted a joint investigation earlier this year to determine whether any university employee other than Nassar engaged in criminal conduct. … We have no reason to believe that any criminal conduct was found.”
Rachael Denhollander, the first victim to speak publicly and file a police report in September 2016, told Fox News she was “absolutely confident MSU was covering this up.” However, she was one of the last to join the lawsuit because she wanted to see how MSU would respond.
“We were silenced. We were mocked. And our abuser was told time and time again, ‘I'm on your side,'” Denhollander said. “That gives me all I need to see how Nassar preyed on women and little girls for so many years.”
Reports indicate the taxpayer-funded school paid a New York law firm more than $1 million to conduct an internal review of the Nassar scandal. Lawyers for the Nassar victims said MSU's refusal to publicize the review stands in stark contrast to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal in 2012.
“There's been no outside investigation as there was in Penn State and Baylor, and there's over 150 victims, all of which are female,” Manly said. “In the context of sports sexual abuse, it is the largest sexual assault scandal in the history of sports.”
Simon said in a previous statement to trustees that there may have been nothing the school could've done.
“I have been told it is virtually impossible to stop a determined sexual predator and pedophile, that they will go to incomprehensible lengths to keep what they do in the shadows,” she said.
In 2012, Simon, who was the NCAA Executive Committee Chair at the time, said, “People make mistakes, and some of those are purposeful and premeditated, and if you just take the Penn State experience, pretty pervasive.”
Manly called Simon's actions the “height of hypocrisy.”
“Michigan State University ignored complaints about Nassar going back to the 1990s, yet they continued to allow him to ‘treat' me and other Olympic athletes,” Jamie Dantzscher, an Olympic Bronze Medalist in Artistic Gymnastics, told Fox News. “How many other Larry Nassars are out there right now abusing children who want nothing more than to pursue their Olympic dreams? We may never know. This has to end.”
Will revelations stop sexual abuse by powerful men?
by Diane W. Mufson
Following the revelation of many instances of sexual abuse and harassment from males in powerful positions, Americans seem surprised and ask, "How could this happen and why didn't people know about it?" The answer is simple. This is as old as time and many people knew about it.
Powerful people, often synonymous with men with wealth and high political, religious or business status, have clout and control. Most were and still are immune from negative repercussions regarding their actions. Often the recipients of the abuse were punished or blamed. So today's question is this: With all the well-known sexual abusers and harassers being publicly identified, will this age-old practice stop?
In the past year or two, some of the biggest names in media, theater, politics and high places have been identified as sexual abusers or sexual harassers. Until recently, most weren't a bit worried as that's been the status quo for eons.
So, why now? Some suggest that last winter's Women's March in Washington led women to feel that they actually had a voice; others point to the rise of women in business and elected offices. Many women claim that electing a president who was recorded saying that when you are powerful you can do almost anything you want, including grabbing women sexually, put women on notice that it was their job to take control of their lives. Social media and large numbers of victims speaking out have had a major impact.
Women also can be sexual abusers. The most publicized cases usually involve young female teachers and adolescent male students. This is obviously wrong, but the frequency of these situations pales in comparison to powerful males taking advantage of females. Same-sex sexual abuse, as exemplified by Kevin Spacey, and same-sex child sexual abuse, exemplified by Penn State's Jerry Sandusky and some clergy as well, are also nothing new.
The fall of Roger Ailes from his pedestal at Fox News and well-known comedian Bill Cosby likely played a major role in identifying this year's bumper crop of sexual harassers and abusers. Those accused hold no monopoly on political party or occupation. Their commonalities are power and connections to other powerful people leading to feelings of entitlement and invincibility.
CBS's Charlie Rose, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) and Rep. John Conyers D-Michigan) and Republicans Bill O'Reilly and Roy Moore, Senate candidate from Alabama, are just the tip of the iceberg of accused sexual abusers and harassers. While people claim they are distressed about these revelations, our nation should find it sad that our president says he still prefers the election of Roy Moore to any Democrat.
No one expects those with fame or fortune to become monks or adhere to monogamy. What is hoped for is that these individuals will no longer be able to feel free to use their power to sexually intimidate others.
Multiple media sources report that the in the past two decades the Congressional Office of Compliance paid approximately $17 million in settlements for more than 250 cases of sexual and other workplace abuses by congressional employees.
Most of the individuals who have been identified as sexual abusers or harassers were not bothered by their past actions, as they knew their status and connections gave them license to do what they wanted to do. The only way that the age-old practice of sexual abuse by powerful men will change is if the women on the receiving end continue to speak out publicly and if rational women and men support them.
Diane W. Mufson is a retired psychologist.
Pennsylvania's child welfare system is broken, DePasquale says
by Beth Brelje
There is no guarantee Pennsylvania's child welfare system can keep a child safe.
State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale delivered that sober assessment in an interview with the Reading Eagle editorial board Wednesday. DePasquale was in Reading to meet with Berks County Children and Youth Services workers as he follows up on a scathing report he released in September, dubbed "State of the Child."
The report, released in September, concluded that the state's child welfare system was broken. The study found that almost half the children who died or nearly died from abuse in 2016 across Pennsylvania were already in the child-welfare system.
In Berks County, four children died in 2016 and there were three near deaths from abuse.
"It's not the fault of the case worker - it is not the fault of any one reason - but if you are (a child) of the CYS system right now, I can't say that you are safe," DePasquale said.
County agencies have a hard time finding qualified employees willing to work in sometimes volatile situations for modest pay, DePasquale said. Some caseworkers have inadequate training to handle the job and most are facing an increasing case load due to an expansion of mandatory reporter laws that compelled more people to report abuse.
"We have seen significantly more calls going into the system without the equivalent increase in staff and funding," DePasquale said. "In Berks County, each intake caseworker is now handling 30 cases."
The opioid crisis has also generated more abuse and neglect cases. Some parents are so focused on getting high they ignore their kids. Some suffer fatal overdoses, leaving children without parents.
"The opioid crisis is creating a deeper crisis for the children of Pennsylvania," he said.
Berks County faces another challenge in finding qualified caseworkers. With Reading's large Latino population, the office needs case workers who can speak Spanish.
"The amount of young men and women coming out of college with a bachelor's degree in social work, who are bilingual and are willing to do that job for $40,000 - that's not a high number," DePasquale said.
With training, anyone with a bachelor's degree can learn how to do the work, he said. But Berks County workers told him it is much more important that the person be emotionally ready for the job.
Despite the need for good employees, DePasquale said county agencies can't afford to employ case workers who aren't up for the job. Berks County dismissed two case workers in recent months because they weren't suited for the work, he said.
The emotional work has a high turnover rate. In York County, the children and youth office turned over 90 percent of its staff over a two-year span.
New caseworkers need to get up to speed on cases. It affects kids.
"You build up rapport with kids who maybe have reason not to be trusting of adults. All of a sudden that person leaves and you've got to start that all over," DePasquale said. "You have to give people a path to success in any job. You're dealing with young men and women who may be going to homes with people pointing guns at them."
DePasquale has been traveling the state meeting with caseworkers and getting feedback to include in an action plan, with suggestions to improve the system that he intends to release in the spring. He noted that some caseworkers are doing their very best to protect kids.
One common reaction to the report has been gratitude.
"Every place we've gone, we hear, 'Thank you. This is the first time we feel our voice has been heard on what the problem in the field is,'" DePasquale said.
Colorado girl, 10, commits suicide after alleged bullying incident caught on camera
by ABC 7
AURORA, Colorado -- Parents say their 10-year-old daughter committed suicide over video of a fight with an alleged bully. Ashawnty Davis of Arapahoe County, Colorado, was only in fifth grade.
At the end of October, she was involved in a fight at school. Her mother claims her daughter was confronting a bully.
They say it was her first fight and it was recorded by another student and posted on an app called Musical.ly.
The video is difficult to watch, but Ashawnty's parents are sharing it to help other parents.
The Cherry Creek School District was made aware of the video in October and told KDVR, "We are looking into this matter and will take appropriate action to ensure the safety of all students involved."
A district spokesperson clarified on Thursday that they spoke to the children involved, called their parents and handed the video over to Aurora Police.
Ashawnty's parents believe that action wasn't enough.
"There was nothing done about it. When I got the call telling me that my daughter had been in a fight, they never gave me the opportunity to meet with the other parents to come to the bottom of the line," her mother Latoshia Harris said.
"We got denied that, just to meet with the parent at the school with the staff," her father Anthony Davis said.
Cherry Creek Schools responded to the allegation by saying, "The school says they are not aware of such a request."
The couple believe that if a meeting had occurred, it could have saved their daughter's life.
"I could have taken her out of the school. It could have been different if she would have faced the girl," Harris said.
Two weeks after the fight, Ashawnty took her own life. She spent two weeks on life support at Children's Hospital Colorado, where she died Wednesday morning. Her parents say she is a victim of "bullycide," when a person died by suicide after being the subject of bullying.
Her family is now determined to hold educators accountable in cases of bullying and to figure out an anti-bullying policy that actually works.
"With the last breath in my life I'm going to make sure that the unfortunate kids are able to go to school comfortably and learn," Davis said.
The school district issued the following statement regarding the incident:
"This is a heartbreaking loss for the school community. Mental health support will be made available for any students who need help processing the loss.
"We do not tolerate bullying of any kind in our schools and we have a comprehensive bullying prevention program in place at all of our schools. The safety and well-being of students is our highest priority, and we strive every day to ensure schools are safe, welcoming and supportive places that support learning.
"We were made aware of that video when a media outlet approached us with it. We took immediate action in response, turning the video over to police and addressing the matter with students.
"It should also be noted that the video did not take place during school hours."
79 charged in child predator, pornography operation in New Jersey
TRENTON, N.J. (WTXF) - Authorities in New Jersey have announced the arrests of several dozen alleged child predators and child pornography offenders.
The announcement follows the conclusion of Operation Saftey Net, a month's long investigation targeting alleged sex offenders online and on social media with undercover operations.
Authorities say the arrests included 10 ‘hands-on' offenders in other states who allegedly tried to have children transported from New Jersey by traffickers so they could engage in sexual intercourse with the children.
The suspects also included four men in New Jersey who allegedly sought to lure children for sex, a camp counselor who allegedly sexually assaulted a girl, 14, under his supervision, and a youth minister who allegedly sent lewd photos of himself to a young girl.
Those charged in the also included suspects, ranging in age from 14 to 75, who allegedly amassed and/or distributed large collections of child pornography. Those suspects include a Trenton police officer, a swimming coach, piano teacher, and IT professional from Morris County who authorities say possible had over 1 million files of suspected child pornography.
Attorney General Christopher Porrino says the operation utilized a new mobile forensics lab and an electronics detection dog.
“The men we arrested lurked in the shadows of the internet and social media, looking for opportunities to sexually assault young children or to view such unspeakable assaults by sharing child pornography,” said Attorney General Porrino. “We set up a wide safety net in this operation to snare these alleged predators and to protect children, which remains our highest priority. With our new mobile forensics lab and electronics-sniffing dog, we're even better equipped to uncover the evidence that will keep these offenders behind bars,
where they cannot threaten or further exploit vulnerable victims.”
The suspects have all been identified by the Attorney General's Office here and, here.
Kansas child abuse deaths more than doubled in past 4 years
Many of the deaths were on Kansas DCF's radar
by Jessica McMaster
It's been two years since the remains of Judy Conway's grandson were found in a livestock pen.
While standing beneath a tree, surrounded by fallen red leaves, she decorated his grave at Oak Hill Cemetery in Lawrence, Kansas.
“He shouldn't be out here,” Conway said. “He should be decorating my grave.”
Conway wrapped white lights around a heart-shaped flower arrangement and pressed a blue lollipop into the ground, representing her grandson's favorite color.
“It's been a long-time coming,” She said. “I think he deserved it a long time ago.”
After years of abuse, Adrian Jones, 7, died at the hands of his dad and stepmom in 2015.
Due to the criminal investigation, Conway and her family did not receive Adrian's remains until the summer of 2017.
While looking down at Adrian's fresh grave, which still awaits a headstone, Conway said she wonders how many other grandparents are doing the same.
Child abuse death cases double over 4-year span
The 41 Action News investigators analyzed data from the Kansas Child Death Review Board.
Since 2012, the number of children who've died as a result of child abuse has steadily increased each year and more than doubled by 2015.
In 2015, the latest year data is available, 14 children in Kansas died as a result of child abuse.
Of those 14, the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) had involvement with eight of the families.
In 2014, data from the review board show 29 children were murdered that year. Per the data, 10 of those children died from abuse. DCF had involvement with 13 of these 29 families.
In 2013, there were 17 children killed. Eight died from child abuse. DCF had involvement with 10 of these families.
Community pleas for investigation into Kansas Department for Children and Families
In May, after revealing the horrific details that led up to Adrian's death, the 41 Action News Investigators obtained Adrian's 2,000-page file from DCF.
Adrian's abuse was not a secret.
Social workers and police had documented the little boy's abuse for years.
Pictures taken by authorities show a black eye and various markings on the little boy's body over the course of his life.
Adrian even told state employees his parents were abusing him.
Since Adrian's death, countless people from all across the country, many of whom refer to themselves as, “Adrian's Warriors,” have written letters to state leaders asking for an investigation into DCF.
Over the past six months, the 41 Action News investigators have requested several interviews with Phyllis Gilmore, the secretary of DCF, but each request was denied.
It was announced in November that Gilmore would retire on Dec. 1 amid scrutiny of the department.
It's not known if policies and procedures were followed in Adrian's case.
No independent oversight of DCF
The Kansas Child Death Review Board looks at each case in which a child dies in the state of Kansas.
However, it's not independent from DCF, and the reports are two years behind.
This year, lawmakers implemented the Child Welfare System Task Force to examine the issues surrounding DCF.
However, state Sen. Laura Kelly said, DCF doesn't always give the task force complete or accurate information.
Kelly also said DCF does not have to give the task force files of children who have died and had a history with DCF.
So, there's no way to know if protocol was followed.
“I'm concerned about the lack of transparency,” Kelly said. “I'm concerned that there's not objective review of incidents that occur.”
Who oversees Kansas DCF?
If state lawmakers can't hold DCF accountable, the 41 Action News Investigators wanted to know who could.
When looking at the rest of the country, we found that 11 states, including Missouri, have a Children's Ombudsman Office to serve as an independent watchdog overseeing protective services.
If protective services had involvement with a child who dies, the ombudsman is required to conduct a review of the child's case.
It can then determine if social workers conducted proper investigations in cases where children were abused to death.
As a result of its findings, the ombudsman can implement additional training for social workers and prompt changes in policies.
In Missouri, if someone complains that a child is being abused and social services are not appropriately following up on the case, the ombudsman can step in and remove the child from the home if necessary.
However, Kansas, has no such office.
“I think an ombudsman needs to be in there,” Kelly said. “Families who have a grievance, the only place they have to go for a grievance, is to those they feel aggrieved by. That doesn't make any sense.”
His short life is sadly reminiscent of Adrian Jones.
In 2012, 4-year-old Mekhi Boone, was removed from his biological mother's care after he was found wandering alone in a grocery store.
In November of that year, the state of Kansas sent Mekhi to live with his father, Lee Davis, even though a lawsuit later filed by his mother says it shouldn't have.
When DCF removed Mekhi from his mother, the agency alerted its contractor that Mekhi could not be placed in the care of his father because Davis was dangerous, according to the complaint.
Davis had a previous domestic violence charge on his record, but still, Mekhi was sent to live with Davis, according to the lawsuit.
Within six days, DCF received a hotline call from Mekhi's preschool in Hiawatha, Kansas.
The principal reported Mekhi had bruising on his abdomen.
According to staff, Mekhi said, “He likes going to Grammy's but hates going to his dad's. He said, ‘He slaps me.'”
When asked by a teacher where his dad slaps him, Mekhi said, “All over.”
In December, during a visit with Mekhi, a state employee noticed he had more bruises, the lawsuit states.
The boy's father claimed Mekhi fell onto a futon while playing and DCF did not remove the little boy from his father's care.
Three months later, Mekhi was taken to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City where he died.
“There is not a two-inch part of his body that does not have bruises. He was beat to death,” the record states.
Mekhi also had “sexual trauma.”
Davis was sentenced to 20 years in prison for second-degree murder.
Davis's live-in girlfriend was also sentenced to 10 years in prison for Mekhi's death, though her exact involvement isn't clear.
The lawsuit against DCF and its contractor settled out of court in 2016 for an undisclosed amount.
Like Adrian, Evan Brewer's death made national headlines.
In September, the 3-year-old's remains were found in a makeshift coffin inside a home in Wichita, Kansas, where the little boy lived with his mother and her boyfriend.
The boy's grandfather, Carl Brewer, is a gubernatorial candidate and former mayor of Wichita.
“We have to have trained individuals that are responsible for keeping an eye on our children,” Carl Brewer said.
Records obtained by 41 Action News investigators show the little boy's father, Carlo Brewer, suspected his son was being abused .
Carlo Brewer filed several protection from abuse orders, in which he states DCF was contacted numerous times with concerns over Evan's safety.
Due to the ongoing investigation, Evan's file with DCF is sealed.
It's not clear what DCF's involvement with the family was, only that a record for Evan exists.
“If we have employees and key people that have key positions and they're not doing their job, then we need to address them," Brewer said. “We need to hold them accountable.”
The judge who sealed Evan's records said there's no evidence the toddler was neglected or abused.
The boy's mother and her boyfriend are in jail on charges unrelated to Evan's death.
Learning from Adrian, Mekhi and Evan's deaths
Because so little is known about how DCF handles cases where children in the system are killed, it's not clear what, if anything, is being done to prevent another child from suffering.
In May, Dianne Keech, a former deputy director for DCF broke her silence to the 41 Action News Investigators, saying she quit because the agency was more focused on protecting its image than protecting children.
"It's hard to admit that what you've built is a death machine for kids," Keech said. "There are children dying. We are not doing what we need to do."
Keech also said an attorney for DCF advised staff to keep mistakes made within the agency out of the public's reach.
"If we took hand written notes, we were instructed to shred them afterwards," Keech said.
Kelly said she questioned DCF about Keech's claims that staff was asked to shred notes during a task force meeting earlier in November.
"I got no answer," Kelly said.
However, in a previous report from 41 Action News, DCF denied Keech's claims.
Kelly said an ombudsman office could be an option for the state of Kansas, but nothing would be implemented until 2019, upon the arrival of a new administration.
In January a vote on Adrian's Act, a bill that would strengthen child abuse reporting laws, is expected.
In the meantime, Conway said she's going to keep fighting for the children of Kansas and that "Adrian's Warriors" will be beside her.
"We're not going away. It's going to keep coming," Conway said. "The cost is too high."
Study links child abuse, high school dropout
by Duke University
Children who have been victims of violence are more likely to drop out of high school before graduation than their peers, according to a new study co-authored by a Duke scholar.
Girls who had experienced childhood violence were 24 percent more likely to drop out, while boys who had experienced violence were 26 percent more likely to drop out than their peers.
One in five people in the United States drop out of high school before graduation, which decreases their lifetime earning potential by 20 percent. Yet there has been little previous research into the link between being a victim of violence before the age of 16 and dropping out of high school.
The study, "Child Abuse, Sexual Assault, Community Violence and High School Graduation," was published in the November issue of the journal Review of Behavioral Economics .
The researchers used data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication and the National Survey of American Life to create a sample set of 5,370 females and 3,522 males. The sample was restricted to people born in the United States to create a more consistent data set.
Within the sample of more than 8,800 respondents, 34 percent of women and 29 of men reported being the victim of some sort of violence before age 16. Twenty-one percent of women reported sexual assault as opposed to 6 percent of men.
"Actually, we were stunned by the magnitude of the violence directed against young women and young men," said William A. Darity, professor at Duke's Sanford School of Public Policy, director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity and a co-author of the study.
"Moreover, these assaults are not confined to any social class, racial, or ethnic group," he said. "This is authentically an American problem. One of its manifestations is the negative effect on persistence in school for many of the victims."
Because most states require compulsory education until age 16, the study focused on the association of dropout with violence experienced between the ages of 1 and 15.
Dropout rates for people who experienced any type of violence before age 16 were compared with the rates for people who did not experience violence during the same time frame.
The researchers categorized violent experiences into three kinds: child abuse, sexual assault and community violence. Community violence was defined as violence experienced outside the home, such as being mugged or beaten by anyone other than parents. Sexual assault included violence both within the home and in the community.
They found significant differences between men and women for the three types of violence experienced. Men suffered more from community violence, 12 percent versus 3 percent for women, while more women experienced sexual assault, at 21 percent versus 6 percent for men.
Women who suffered a combination of both sexual assault and child abuse were the most likely to dropout. Among men, the highest dropout rate was highest for those who were victims of both child abuse and community violence.
Male and female victims of home violence also left school early at a higher rate than their peers who did not report experiencing violence.
Surprisingly, victims of sexual assault who experienced no other violence were no more likely to drop out than their peers who were not victims. This held true among both males and females.
The study suggests that policies to reduce violence against children or assist children in coping with violence will have the additional benefit of lowering the national dropout rate.
Bikers Against Child Abuse works to help kids
by Aja Goare
BILLINGS -- As reports of child abuse continue to rise across the nation, a group of unlikely heroes in Billings is working to help kids heal.
Bikers Against Child Abuse is a worldwide organization of bikers, founded by a licensed clinical social worker, which includes a Yellowstone River Chapter in Billings.
After his interview, Sugar, the chapter vice president, hopped on his bike with a cigarette between his teeth and revved his engine.
He didn't get his biker name, Sugar, because he's sweet. “I got hit with a sugar beet while I was on my bike,” said Sugar.
Sugar, along with Elvis, Sippy, Spice, Shaggy and Twister all ride for BACA.
“Bikers is our first word. Yes, we are bikers and I think that's why it works for the children," said Sippy. "We are intimidating and they get that sense of comfort. They know that no one is going to mess with them anymore because their new family is bigger and badder than their perp is.”
They may look tough, but when it comes to kids they have big hearts.
“All their rights were taken away from ‘em. They weren't allowed to be a kid anymore, and we step in and let them be that kid,” said Elvis, the chapter's president.
BACA empowers young victims by taking them for a group ride, letting them choose a biker name and giving them a personalized vest.
“They go from them being scared, wanting nothing to do with you, you're just another adult that's going to let them down to having them come running outside and so excited,” said Sippy. "It's great to watch them bloom."
BACA members undergo months of specialized training so they can also give kids the confidence to face their abusers in the courtroom.
Sugar said he tunes out the heart-wrenching testimony and focuses on the child. "I try to send all my positive energy to the child so they can do what they have to do on the stand," said Sugar. "I'm strictly there for them and nothing else.”
It's a sense of security and support that one Billings mother said may have saved her child's life.
"My daughter was raped by somebody we cared about and trusted," said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous. "I truly believe that if it weren't for BACA, I wouldn't have my little girl.”
She says her daughter began cutting herself in an effort to cope. But after she found a BACA flier and reached out, everything changed.
“My girls had nightmares for a long time. They don't have nightmares no more," she said. "They learn that it's OK to be broken, and there are people out there that do care and won't hurt them.”
And that moment, when a child is no longer afraid and the wounds have begun to heal, is the reason BACA rides.
"We call it the payday, when you see the child that's not scared anymore, not crying, sleeping though the night. And that's what makes us do what we do everyday,” said Sippy.
“It's awesome, it's cloud nine," said Sugar. "You leave the courtroom and your bikes not even on the ground, you're just floating in air on your way home. It's the most amazing feeling in the world.”
BACA members are not paid for their work, it's all volunteer.
The Little Belts chapter of BACA meets at the VFW in Great Falls (4123 10th Avenue South) on the second Sunday of each month at 6:30 p.m. For more information, click here, or call 406-530-9896.
Here is more information about BACA from its website:
B.A.C.A. International, Inc. (B.A.C.A.) is organized with a central contact person to receive calls from referring agencies and individuals. A recognized, authorized agency with which the child has had contact determines that the child is still frightened by his or her environment. The agency representative contacts B.A.C.A., or refers the individual to contact B.A.C.A. and the name and address of the child is given to our B.A.C.A./Child Liaison. The Liaison verifies that the case has been reported and the authorities have been contacted, and the case in being processed within the system. The Liaison contacts the family and an initial ride is organized to meet the child at their home or in some other location where the child will feel comfortable. The B.A.C.A. chapter rides to meet the child and he/she is given a vest with a B.A.C.A. patch sewn on the back. The child is free to wear the vest or not, and we support their decision. The child is also given bumper stickers, and other gifts that are generally donated by the public. These initial visits generally last about a half an hour.
Following this initial contact, the child is given the name and number of two B.A.C.A. Members residing geographically closest to them, who then become the child's primary contacts. Prior to becoming the primary contacts for the child, the bikers are cleared for participation by passing an extensive background check, have ridden with the Chapter for at least a year, and have received special instructions from the Licensed Mental Health Professional. Anytime the child feels scared and feels the need for the presence of his new B.A.C.A. family, the child may call upon these bikers to go to the child's house and provide the necessary reassurance to feel safe and protected. B.A.C.A. Members and supporters also support the children by: providing escorts for them if they feel scared in their neighborhoods; riding by their homes on a regular basis; supporting the children at court and parole hearings; attending their interviews, and; staying with the children if they are alone and frightened. The B.A.C.A. Members never go to the child's house alone and never without the knowledge or permission of the parents. Our Mission is not to be permanently engaged as the childs power. Our Mission is to help the children and their families learn how powerful they can be. Our presence will be available as long as the child needs us. B.A.C.A. also holds other functions for the children such as Bar-B-Ques, and parties.
Leading Democrats call for Nevada congressman to regsign amid harassment allegations
by Elise Viebeck
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other leading Democrats are calling on a freshman House lawmaker considered a rising star in the party to resign his seat after allegations surfaced that he sexually harassed one of his campaign aides.
In an article published Friday by BuzzFeed, Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.) was accused of making unwanted sexual advances toward his then-campaign finance director. The woman, identified only as Samantha, told BuzzFeed that Kihuen propositioned her for dates and sex and twice touched her thighs without consent.
“In Congress, no one should face sexual harassment in order to work in an office or in a campaign. The young woman's documented account is convincing, and I commend her for the courage it took to come forward,” Pelosi said in a statement released early Saturday morning. “In light of these upsetting allegations, Congressman Kihuen should resign.”
Earlier, Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), the party's campaign chief, said politicians “guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault .?.?. should not hold elected office.”
“Members and candidates must be held to the highest standard,” Luján said. “Congressman Kihuen should resign.”
Kihuen becomes the latest figure on Capitol Hill whose political future is in doubt because of accusations of misconduct. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), the longest-serving member of Congress, is under pressure from House Democratic leaders to resign amid allegations he sexually harassed and mistreated multiple female aides. And Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) came under additional scrutiny Thursday when a fifth woman accused him of inappropriate touching.
Conyers and Franken are under investigation by congressional ethics committees, but it remains unclear whether the allegations will force them from office. Franken has apologized, and his office said Thursday that he never “intentionally engaged in this kind of conduct.” Conyers, through his attorney, denied the allegations of harassment and mistreatment altogether Friday.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), a political ally of Kihuen's, said she supports a “full, fair and expedient” investigation into his behavior. She did not call on him to resign.
“Sexual harassment in any context is unacceptable. I am frustrated, disappointed, and disgusted by the stories I have learned from women and men who were harassed and disrespected by powerful men,” Cortez Masto said in a statement.
Kihuen, a protege of retired Senate majority leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), holds a seat previously represented by a Republican, Cresent Hardy.
Asked for a response to the BuzzFeed story, a spokesman for Kihuen did not reply.
“The staff member in question was a valued member of my team,” Kihuen said in a statement. “I sincerely apologize for anything that I may have said or done that made her feel uncomfortable. I take this matter seriously as it is not indicative of who I am. I was raised in a strong family that taught me to treat women with the utmost dignity and respect. I have spent my fifteen years in public service fighting for women's equality, and I will continue to do so.”
Doctors sounding alarm after spike in child abuse deaths
by Mick Akers
Even after 25 years in medicine, Dr. Jay Fisher still struggles to deal with the heartbreaking cases of child abuse he sees.
And in seven cases this year, the young lives he seeks to save have been lost.
“To lose a life is to lose a whole world, and that's seven worlds we've lost thus far this year due to child abuse,” said Fisher, director of the Children's Hospital of Nevada at University Medical Center. “Any number above zero is too many.”
Officials are sounding the alarm after Children's Hospital has seen the number of child abuse deaths this year more than double from three in 2016.
“We've seen a dramatic rise in child abuse deaths this year,” Fisher said. “We're asking all of you in the community to help be the solution to this difficult problem.”
Fisher urged people to be on the lookout for signs of child abuse. They include unexplained bruises, burns or welts or a child who appears frightened of a caregiver. Malnutrition, poor hygiene and untreated medical problems are also signs of neglect.
Child abuse deaths usually don't come without warning and are typically preceded by a pattern of abuse, Fisher said.
Parents should be cautious about whom they choose to care for their children.
People with substance abuse problems or who are involved in other criminal activity, for instance, might pose a danger, Fisher said.
If a caregiver or parent is beginning to feel overwhelmed while caring for a child, they should make sure the child is in a safe place, such as a car seat or play pen, and take a few minutes to gather themselves, Fisher said.
“We know that parenting is a 24/7, 365 day a year enterprise, and these stresses can make each one of us at points of weakness,” he said. “We ask you to pause and step away so you don't become embroiled in a situation that could lead to a child death.”
Child abuse can have serious, lifetime consequences for survivors, Fisher said. Child abuse is associated with a greater risk for mental illness, substance abuse, developmental disabilities, social problems and teen pregnancy, he said.
The hospital has created a child abuse prevention booklet that is available online at chnv.org.
Young parents charged with child abuse for dropping their infant son and putting him in the microwave and turning it on
The baby's injuries were discovered during a hospital visit
by Rachel Herron
A young Missouri couple was charged with abusing their infant after a hospital visit for treatment of a rash revealed the baby suffered injuries indicative of mistreatment.
Derick Boyce-Slezak and Mikala Boyce-Slezak, both 22, were charged on Tuesday in a St. Francois County circuit court with felony abuse or neglect of a child, reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
In April, the Boyce-Slezaks took their infant — who was younger than 4-months-old at the time — to Cardinal-Glennon Hospital Emergency Room for a rash on his face. While at the hospital, medical staff determined the rash on the boy's face was actually a second-degree burn, according to court documents.
Additional tests were administered, and they found the infant also suffered from a skull fracture and brain injury called a subdural hematoma.
At the hospital, Derick and Mikala Boyce-Slezak first claimed the burns were caused by a cleaning agent, the documents say.
However, at the court hearing on Monday, a representative of the Children's Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services testified that Mikala Boyce-Slezak earlier stated the head wounds were a result of Derick dropping the infant while trying to imitate what he saw on a television commercial.
The Children's Division employee also stated that Mikala believed Derick had placed the infant in a microwave and turned it on for a “short period of time.”
It remains unknown which commercial was reportedly being imitated at the time of the abuse.
The couple also have a baby girl, whom they've waived custody of shortly after she was born in January 2016, according to court records.
Law in Hong Kong doesn't protect children from abuse, charity warns after four-year-old girl left in semi-coma
Problem made worse as working parents often forced to turn to non-professionals for help because of a shortage of day care services, according to acting director of Against Child Abuse
by Su Xinqi
Children in Hong Kong are vulnerable to physical abuse as the law does not protect them at home, the head of a charity has warned, one day after a child being looked after by two care givers fell into a semi-coma.
The situation is exacerbated because of a shortage of day care services for working parents, who are left with no choice but to turn to non-professionals for help.
“Physical abuse is always the most reported type of child abuse to the Social Welfare Department and to us,” acting director of Against Child Abuse Wong Chui-ling said, adding that the annual number of reported physical child abuse cases has never dropped below two digits in the past two decades.
Other types of abuses include neglect, sexual abuse and psychological abuse.
On Friday, a four-year-old girl was admitted to an intensive care unit in Yau Ma Tei after she was found to have multiple bruises on her body and to be suffering from bleeding in the brain. Two women, aged 36 and 41, who had been asked to take care of the girl for two weeks by her mother, were arrested.
In 2016, among the 1,121 calls received by Against Child Abuse, 198 were alleged child abuse cases. Of which 105, or 53 per cent, were physical abuse. A total of 228 suspected abusers were involved in the 198 cases, of which eight were care givers and 144 were family members.
“Since the founding of our organisation 38 years ago, we have been asking the government to extend the ban on physical abuse against children into domestic life and every sector of society,” Wong said.
In 1976, an official ban on physical abuse was imposed at all centres taking care of children under the age of six in Hong Kong. In 1990, whipping juvenile delinquents was abolished.
And in 1991, all teachers in Hong Kong were barred from imposing physical punishment on students. But places outside care centres and schools are still free from legal regulation.
“This has made many people think that physical punishment is normal when, in fact, abuse in any form is an abuse of power and a destruction of trust,” Wong said.
Speaking of the latest case in which the mother claimed to be too busy and had entrusted her daughter to others, Wong said working parents in Hong Kong were often left no choice of professional service as the government could not provide adequate amount of day care service.
“The quality of care givers can be more uneven when parents have to turn to their friends or even neighbours for help,” Wong said.
Besides handling individual cases properly, Wong called on the government to make the city safer and friendlier to children “in a more fundamental way”, including making laws and policies for child protection, and setting up an organisation to oversee the welfare of the minors.
In her maiden policy address in October, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor proposed setting up a children's commission, in which official departments and NGOs would jointly handle problems faced by children as they grew up. But Lam said the commission would not be an independent statutory body at the initial stage.
Wong said: “I hope this committee will be given real statutory power so that it can review and improve the existing laws and policies on children's welfare, instead of just an advisory body.”
India sexual abuse: 'Four child victims every hour'
by the BBC
In India, a child is sexually abused every 15 minutes, according to the latest government figures.
The National Crime Records Bureau report, released on Thursday, shows a steady rise in incidents of offences against children.
Child sexual abuse has been in focus in recent months after the case of a 10-year-old rape victim who was forced to give birth hit the headlines.
Two of her uncles were sentenced to life in jail for raping her.
According to the report on crimes in India for 2016, released by Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi, 106,958 cases of crimes against children were recorded in 2016.
Of these, 36,022 cases were recorded under Pocso (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act.
The BBC's Geeta Pandey in Delhi says India is home to the largest number of sexually abused children in the world, but there is general reluctance to talk about the topic so the real number of cases could be much higher.
According to a 2007 study conducted by India's ministry of women and child development, 53% of children surveyed said they had been subjected to some form of sexual abuse.
Campaigners say most of the abusers are people known to the victims, like parents, relatives and schoolteachers.
DNA evidence leads to Arizona arrest in baby abandonment
by Paul Davenport
PHOENIX (AP) — A 24-year-old Mesa woman who was arrested after being located through DNA evidence and an unrelated arrest warrant is accused of abandoning a newborn girl last year.
Maricela Rocio Perez acknowledged giving birth in March 2016 and placing the hours-old baby in front of a home after deciding against taking the infant to a fire station designated as no-questions-asked haven for newborns, Mesa police said.
Perez was arrested last week and remained jailed Tuesday on suspicion of child abuse and endangerment. It was not immediately known whether she has an attorney who could comment on the allegations.
Police tried unsuccessfully in 2016 to identify the person who left the baby in the front yard of the home of a couple who called 911 after their son spotted the child.
The infant, whose umbilical cord was still attached, was treated at a hospital for low blood sugar and a dangerously low body temperature, police said.
Detective Nik Rasheta, a police spokesman, said information on the child's current situation was not immediately available.
A probable cause statement said Perez told police she "could not explain being pregnant to her current boyfriend as this was not his child."
"The defendant admitted she knew the fire station offers a Safe Baby Haven but she was concerned about being asked questions about the new baby and the fact that the baby might have meth in her system," the statement added.
Police said officers located Perez in Mesa after getting a DNA match from evidence in blood found on the baby's car seat carrier.
Police said the DNA hit resulted from a criminal case in Pima County Superior Court in Tucson.
In that case, a warrant was issued for Perez on Aug. 11, the same day that authorities filed a petition to revoke her probation, according to court records.
Perez had pleaded guilty May 23 to facilitation to commit theft of means of transportation. She previously pleaded not guilty to burglary and other crimes.