Child sex abuse referrals soar by nearly a third in a year, warns NSPCC
Ninety referrals made to police and children's services each week as local authorities face growing funding pressures-raising concerns child victims are being 'let down by the system'
by May Bulman
Child sexual abuse referrals have soared by nearly a third in the past year, the UK's leading children's charity has revealed.
The NSPCC said it is making on average 90 referrals to police and children's services each week from members of the public reporting concerns that a child is being sexually abused.
The charity's free and confidential helpline referred 4,677 calls and emails to local agencies in 2016/17 – an increase of 31 per cent on the previous year. There were also a further 3,912 contacts where helpline staff gave advice about sexual abuse against young people.
Campaigners and politicians said it was “deeply worrying” that so many children were potentially being exposed to sexual abuse, and warned that while there is optimism in the fact that the society is now more alert to the crime, many victims are still being “let down by the system”.
An estimated one in 20 children aged between 11 and 17 in the UK have experienced sexual abuse, according to previous research by the NSPCC. Child sexual abuse is defined by a child being forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities – either through physical contact or online.
The latest figures come after councils warned that children's services were reaching “tipping point” , with more than 500 child protection inquiries launched each day last year – a 60 per cent increase on 10 years ago.
Figures obtained through Freedom of Information requests in the summer meanwhile revealed that as many as 140,000 vulnerable children at risk of abuse and neglect might not be getting help because cash-strapped local authorities had been forced to shrink or abandon family support.
Compounding the concerns is the calculation that by 2020, children's services departments will face a funding gap of £2bn. Local authorities expressed disappointment at the fact that last month's Budget provided no additional funding for these services.
John Cameron, head of helplines at the NSPCC, said: “It is deeply worrying that so many children are potentially being exposed to such a devastating experience, but at the same time it also suggests that as a society we are much more alert to the risks and much more willing to come forward and share our concerns.
“Sexual abuse can do huge damage to a child's life and left untreated will often haunt them long into adulthood. It is therefore vital that anyone who suspects a young person is in danger contacts the authorities or gets in touch with us through our dedicated Helpline.”
Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England, warned more needed to be done to support child victims, saying: “My own research in 2015 found that only one in eight incidences of child sexual abuse linked to the family were coming to the attention of the authorities.
“These numbers suggest there is a growing awareness of the need to protect children at risk of or suffering from sexual abuse. It is also clear that the lives of many children continue to be blighted by abuse.
“Many child sexual abuse victims continue to be let down by the system. More needs to be done to help the dedicated professionals who support victims and to make sure that abuse is easier to prevent, to identify, to report and to prosecute.”
The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) said it has had to deal with an “unprecedented” year on year increase in reports of child sexual abuse and exploitation, which is placing an incredible strain upon officers and staff who are having to cope with these increases.
The NPCC's lead for child protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey, said: “Whilst greater victim confidence has led to increased reporting, we also have to start considering the fact that more children are being abused.
“My great concern is that by the time the police service are made aware of the abuse it is often too late and the damage has been done.
“As a society we must start to have a very different conversation, whereby parents, teachers and those with responsibility for safeguarding children, along with technology companies that provide the platforms where much of the abuse takes place, all play a role in preventing child sexual abuse.”
Emma Lewell-Buck MP, Shadow Education Minister for Children and Families, said the figures were the latest evidence that demand for child protection services is going up, just as funding is being cut.
She continued: “The Government's own figures show that spending on children's services has already fallen by a tenth under the Tories, and we are heading for a £2bn shortfall by 2020.
“Ministers should cancel their latest multibillion-pound tax break for bankers and start protecting the most vulnerable children instead.”
Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said the increase in referrals from the NSPCC was “alarming”, but was another sign that society as a whole had become more aware of the risks and of the greater willingness people have to come forward.
“Alongside properly resourcing our police services to help end the horror of the sexual abuse of children, we have to make sure that survivors are properly supported once they have coming forward,” he added.
Children and Families Minister Robert Goodwill said: “No child should suffer abuse of any kind, and anyone with concerns about a young person's wellbeing should contact their local authority children's services.
“The NSPCC plays a vital role in raising awareness and making sure that concerns raised through the helpline are passed on to the right services to be investigated. We are supporting the NSPCC by investing £8 million in Childline until 2020 to ensure children receive the support they need.
“Alongside this, we are helping to make sure people feel confident about reporting abuse and neglect through our national awareness campaign and are improving the way the police, social services and other agencies work together to keep children safe.”
Delayed reporting of sexual abuse is the norm, not exception
by Stacey Kostevicki
The recent press surrounding Roy Moore and sexual abuse allegations highlights the crucial need for public education to show how vital it is that child sexual abuse is disclosed. Sadly, much of the conversation around the recent cases is the misconception that someone who was abused at 14 and didn't disclose until adulthood was simply an opportunist. They invalidated the sexual abuse allegation and the victims themselves
Delayed disclosure is not the exception – it is the norm – and the span of time between and incident of child sexual abuse and the victim finding the courage to tell has nothing to do with the credibility of the claim. The September 2015 Juvenile Justice Bulletin said:
In a recent analysis of child sexual abuse disclosure patterns, "(University of Toronto professor and child mental health expert Romana) Alaggia found that as many as 60 to 80 percent of children and adolescents do not disclose until adulthood. If outside corroborative evidence exists (e.g., physical evidence, offender confessions, recordings, witness statements), there is still a high rate of nondisclosure (Lyon, 2007; Sjoberg and Lindblad, 2002). Furthermore, children who disclose often do not recount their experiences fully and may, over time, provide additional information (McElvaney, 2013).
According to mental health professionals and authors Malloy, Brubacher, and Lamb (2013), precipitating events or people frequently motivate children to disclose abuse. Some children require a triggering event, such as a school safety presentation, to allow them to discuss abuse without being the one to broach the subject (McElvaney, 2013).
It takes tremendous courage for a child or an adult to tell someone of their abuse. The way in which they choose to tell their story is a journey for them to live and walk through – it is not for us to judge. Disclosure is as unique as each one of us, let's try to show more compassion toward those strong enough to come forward.
Protecting our most vulnerable
by Eve Guevara
Still, it happens. And it happens far more often than most people want to acknowledge or admit.
No parent wants to think about the possibility of a child being molested or abused. While the statistics, — the sheer numbers of child abuse cases each year — can be alarming, there are ways to help prevent the crime and to protect the most vulnerable — our children.
The SunLight Project team looked at child molestation numbers, along with protection and prevention efforts throughout our coverage areas – Valdosta, Dalton, Milledgeville, Thomasville, Tifton and Moultrie along with the surrounding counties.
Experts agree the numbers, while shocking, are probably low estimates of how many instances there actually are. As with adult sexual assault victims, many cases are not reported by the victims because of feelings of shame and a fear of not being believed.
In 2016, The Patticake House in Tift County saw 33 children younger than the age of 18 for forensic interviews. So far, in 2017, they have conducted 45.
The Tifton Police Department reported it has 26 reports on file in reference to child molestation or aggravated child molestation from Jan. 1, 2016 through Dec. 12, 2017.
Child molestation is defined in Georgia law as “committing any moral or indecent act to or in the presence of or with any child under the age of 16 years with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of either the child or the person.” This includes using an electronic device to transmit these same acts.
Aggravated child molestation is defined as “an offense of child molestation which physically injures the child or involves an act of sodomy.”
The Tift County Sheriff's Department reported it has eight cases from 2016, one of which was unfounded, and 22 in 2017, five of which were unfounded.
There are three registered sex offenders for aggravated child molestation in Tift County and 29 registered for child molestation.
The Moultrie Police Department handled five reports of child molestation in 2016 and five in 2017.
The Colquitt County Sheriff's Office reported 31 child-molestation cases in 2016 and 14 in 2017.
There are 42 registered sex offenders for child molestation in Colquitt County and eight for aggravated child molestation.
In 2016, the Dalton Police Department handled 50 reports of child molestation. Through Dec. 1, 2017, it has handled 19.
In 2016, the Whitfield County Sheriff's Office handled 72 reports of child molestation. Through Dec. 4, 2017, it has handled 55 reports of child molestation.
Whitfield County has 74 registered sex offenders for child molestation and 20 for aggravated child molestation.
The Treehouse in Thomasville handled 165 cases in 2016, said Jackla Lawson, Treehouse executive director.
In 2016, 13 child-molestation cases were reported to the Thomasville Police Department. To date this year, nine have been reported.
In 2016, 46 child molestation cases were reported to the Thomas County Sheriff's Office. From Jan. 1 to Nov. 30 this year, 29 were reported.
Thomas County, including Thomasville, has 50 registered child molesters.
In Valdosta, The Haven's sexual assault coordinator, Kim Bennett, said so far in 2017, The Haven has aided 28 persons who were involved in child molestation. The count only includes those who had medical exams under Haven supervision. In 2016, it helped 18 people, she said.
The Valdosta Police Department reported four child-molestation arrests in the city in 2016 and four arrests in 2017 plus four cases which are still open.
Brad Shealy, district attorney for the Southern Judicial Circuit, said his office doesn't keep separate numbers on how many child-molestation cases it prosecutes; the cases are lumped together under the label of sex crimes. He said the DA's office prosecuted 99 sex crime cases in the circuit in 2017, of which he said, “roughly” 90 of them would involve “some form of child molestation.” In 2016, the DA prosecuted 95 sex-crime cases circuit-wide.
There are 46 registered sex offenders for child molestation in Lowndes County and 21 for aggravated child molestation.
Four people have been arrested in Baldwin County for child molestation and aggravated child molestation since Jan. 1 2016, of which three offenders are juveniles.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation's sex-offender registry lists 26 people convicted of child molestation currently living in Baldwin County.
No child is immune, but there are child and family characteristics that significantly heighten or lower the risk of child sexual abuse, experts say.
Here is what the SunLight team learned when talking to professionals in child-protection services and law enforcement:
— Risk increases where children live with step-parents or single parents. The highest risk are children who live with a single parent that has a live-in partner.
— Children living without either parent (foster children) are 10 times more likely to be sexually abused than children who live with both biological parents.
— Children are most vulnerable to abuse between the ages of 7 and 13 with 9 being the median for reported abuse. Of children who are sexually abused, more than 20 percent are abused before age 8.
— Children who witness or are the victim of other crimes are significantly more likely to be sexually abused.
The statistics do not mean every child living in single-parent, step-parent or foster home is in an at-risk environment. Officials say in many situations those non-traditional homes end up being the safest place for the child. Still, the reporting indicates where the greatest numbers of incidents occur.
Most often a perpetrator is someone known by the child and the family.
Mary Smith, the child abuse prevention program manager with the Family Support Council in Dalton, said 81 percent of child sexual abuse incidents for all ages occur in one-perpetrator/one-child circumstances. Most abuse occurs in a residence, usually the child's or the perpetrator's.
Incidents also occur in isolated areas, in church buildings, in social situations and even athletic events.
Incidents can occur at daycare centers, school restrooms, on school buses, in classrooms, in neighborhoods, at the babysitter's, at friend's houses, on playgrounds, at church service and at home.
Smith said to be aware that perpetrators can also be juveniles or older, more powerful children. This accounts for as many as 40 percent of cases where children are abused.
“One out of seven incidents of sexual assault perpetrated by juveniles occurs on school days between 3 and 7 p.m., with peak hours between 3 and 4 p.m.," she said.
Family and acquaintance child sexual abuse perpetrators have reported they look for specific characteristics in children they choose to abuse.
They look for passive, quiet, troubled, lonely children from single-parent homes, according to information gathered by the SunLight team.
They frequently seek out children who are particularly trusting, and they work to establish a trusting relationship before abusing them, Smith said. They often extend this trusting relationship to the victim's family.
Perpetrators are often very skilled at coming into your home through the internet, various websites and cell phones, the experts said.
Protection and Prevention
Law-enforcement officials and counselors agree the best way to protect children is to establish trust and communication between parents or caregivers and children.
Nancy Bryant with Ruth's Cottage and The Patticake House in Tifton said one thing she recommends to parents and caregivers is to use the technical terms for body parts.
Bryant gave an example of a little girl who told a teacher that her daddy “ate her cookie.”
“Turns out that ‘cookie' was the name that they gave her (private parts) and she was disclosing and nobody knew,” Bryant said.
Bryant compared the example to one where a little boy told his parents that someone had put their mouth on his private parts.
“There was no ambiguity about that,” she said.
Bryant said empowering children to report abuse of either themselves or their friends to a trusted adult helps find and stop abuse.
“If you have a home in which your children are afraid to tell you things that's going to be a problem,” she said. “They think they've done something wrong when this happens to them. So if they don't feel comfortable with your reaction to things, they won't tell you.”
Parents, caregivers, teachers and even children should know what to look for to spot signs of sexual abuse.
Bryant said having difficulty walking or sitting, reporting nightmares or bedwetting, experiencing a sudden change in appetite or expressing knowledge of sexual behaviors they shouldn't know about are all signs there may be abuse.
Sudden personality changes and problem behaviors are also a red flag, particularly if a child also suddenly wants to quit an activity or sport they previously enjoyed or stops wanting to go to someone's house, Bryant said.
Smith said education and awareness is primary in protecting children from child sexual abuse.
“Both adults and children must have as much information as possible to understand the issues surrounding the abuse of children,” Smith said. “Adults have a responsibility to learn the facts about abuse and take advantage of training opportunities such as Darkness to Light, Stewards of Children and should have open and ongoing discussions with children of all ages about their own safety and appropriate and inappropriate touch."
Bryant and Smith said teaching children that secrets are not OK is also important, since many abusers will tell children that the abuse is a secret and they aren't supposed to tell.
One of the best ways parents can protect their children from a predator is to establish a line of communication and watch for signals that could alert them to an issue, Colquitt County Sheriff Rod Howell said.
A child who exhibits a change in personality or changes in behavior could be tipping parents off that something is amiss.
“It doesn't have to rise to the level of child molestation,” Howell said. “It could be something that makes them uncomfortable. If you can tell when they get around somebody and they're uncomfortable, and they're distancing themselves from somebody, you should find out what's going on.”
Behavior changes and moodiness are other warning signs, but especially with adolescents, a parent can open up a conversation based on these changes.
“If they've been going to group functions and now they're withdrawn, or they were always happy and outgoing and now they're withdrawn – you look for anything out of the norm, but you look at other things, too," he said.
Most investigations involving sex with a child start with a report from a parent, Howell said. In other cases, a teacher may notice something is wrong with a student and report it if there is suspicion the child could be being abused.
“If you don't feel comfortable talking to parents,” he suggested kids “find somebody you can talk to about it.”
Detective Haley Beckham, Baldwin County Sheriff's Office, said children are often scared to say anything because they know the abuser.
“A lot of times, when kids have the unfortunate fate of being a victim of sexual abuse, they know their offender, so they don't come forward,” Beckham said. “Once children get to the age where they're talking and conversing with you, they get a bad feeling for a reason, and it's so important that you tell your child that it doesn't matter if the person is a close friend or a family member, they're OK for telling you anything that happens. A lot of times, that fear factor gets them, and it's so instilled in them that they just don't come forward.”
Police Chief Troy Rich said parents can protect their children from the possibility of molestation by becoming educated about sexual abuse and talking to their children about the child's day.
Rich said parents should always know where their children are and who they are with at all times, and that it is important to teach children that danger might come from someone they trust.
He also advised monitoring children's phones and social media closely. Do random checks to monitor their photos, online activity, text messages, chat applications, etc. Netsmartz.org is a good resource for addressing online safety issues and teaching children about internet dangers, he said.
To keep children safe, parents need to be involved in their day-to-day activities, said Lt. Tim Watkins, sheriff's office chief investigator.
"Put security monitors on electronic devices, and review children's electronic devices and social media," Watkins advised.
Filing a Report
The decision to file a complaint or tell someone about suspect abuse can be difficult.
The risk of making a false accusation is often a concern that can stall or even prevent someone from filing a complaint.
Here is what officials recommend:
— Remain as calm as possible and listen but avoid detailed questions.
— Report the incident to law enforcement or the Department of Family and Children Services, if it has not been reported already.
— Support your child and tell them you believe what they say and that it was not their fault.
— Follow the procedures by local authorities and follow through with all appointments.
This will consist of a forensic interview, in which the child is interviewed by a trained counselor to determine what happened. A forensic exam is performed when there is suspected aggravated child molestation and is done to collect physical evidence from the child's body and clothing.
— Be certain the child receives appropriate therapy for sexual abuse.
— Be aware there could be emotional and behavioral changes that should subside over time.
— Continue to love the child and know sexual abuse has an impact on the entire family.
— Parents and guardians should also get the support they need.
Though it may sound cliche the people we talked to agreed the best advice is simply, "See something. Say something." You may be protecting, or even saving a child.
Hear the children's voices, honour their cries with action
"More than 15,000 survivors or their relatives have contacted the commission."
Almost as soon as they can speak, children learn from the reactions of adults that speech has consequences. They try to work out what they should and should not say, when and to whom.
After far too many lost decades, some children - many of them now adults themselves - have had their say in the final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The commission acknowledged that thousands more remain silent, unable or unwilling to disclose what they went through.
So now it is the adults' turn to speak up. The commission's recommendation that ministers of religion, out-of-home care workers, registered psychologists and school counsellors be placed under the same mandatory reporting laws as police, doctors and nurses when it comes to child sexual abuse should be a beacon to all of us: silence is no defence. We cannot pass by and hope someone else will see, and say. In this scenario, the responsibility is ours.
The commission found that one institution after another failed children and continued to fail them. It found that leaders placed the reputation of institutions ahead of the welfare of children, even though the primary ethos of religious and educational institutions must be one of care and support for each child's development. Where the practices and traditions of such institutions - such as confession in the Catholic Church - encourage silence in the face of apparent crimes, it is surely time for such silences to be re-examined and ended.
The commission also found that our systems of child protection, criminal and civil justice had been unequal to the task of combating these institutional failures.
Here, the responsibility falls squarely on the governments that we adults elect. In their report, the commissioners envisage a total reconstruction of how the state oversees the safety of children, proposing a national office of child safety reporting to a dedicated minister and with independent oversight, and child safety officers working with schools, churches, sports and community-based clubs.
After a year in which the same-sex-marriage and dual-citizenship rows saw Parliament and government seemingly lost in navel-gazing, the commission has provided our lawmakers with a mission outside Canberra's walls that requires not only speech but measurable actions - actions that might even go some way to restoring their dwindling public standing. The commissioners recommended a national memorial for victims and survivors of abuse, and rightly so. If the political parties can work together to deliver on child protection, that surely would also be a monumental legacy.
Survivors who pushed through immense pain to give evidence to the commission say that anything other than action on the report's recommendation will render the process meaningless. They are right.
Each of the commission's proposals requires timelines, targets, penalties for failing to achieve those targets and, above all, funding - game-changing funding that so far has been notable chiefly in its absence, particularly in the provision of support services for those who do come forward to report abuse.
It may seem naive to hope for such resolutions to be made and kept, but when we say that we want the best for our children, this is surely what we mean. And when we talk about where we are going as a nation, it is surely only with them in mind.
Our children deserve to be taken seriously.
Distressing experiences as a kid impact cardiovascular health later in life
by American Heart Association News
Difficult childhood experiences — from bullying and neglect to physical and sexual abuse — are so prevalent that the American Heart Association is issuing its first scientific statement on their impact on cardiovascular health.
Fifty-nine percent of the U.S. population say they experienced at least one so-called adverse experience as a child or adolescent. The statement, published Monday in Circulation, asserts that substantial evidence links such adverse experiences to obesity, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in adulthood.
“Child maltreatment isn't something we often talk about, and it's a traumatic experience for children,” said Shakira Suglia, Sc.D., chair of the group that wrote the report and associate professor of epidemiology at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta.
While there's a lack of agreement on exactly what constitutes childhood and adolescent adversity, the experiences are defined broadly as any threat to the safety of a child's body, family and social structure. That can include dozens of specific threats, such as emotional abuse, the imprisonment of a parent, or parents getting divorced. Physical, sexual or emotional abuse and neglect are also types of childhood adversity and are known to disrupt normal development.
The general consensus is, the higher the number of adverse childhood experiences, the higher the health risks.
“I agree with pretty much everything in the statement,” said psychologist Karen Matthews, Ph.D., director of the Cardiovascular Behavioral Medicine Research Training Program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
“Research certainly is pointing in the direction of what happens early in life has long-standing effect on cardiovascular health,” said Matthews, who was not involved in writing the new statement.
The report is intended to inform the public about what's known about some of the health effects of difficult experiences early in life and present a road map for future research.
Cardiometabolic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases such as heart failure and stroke are among the leading causes of disease and death in the United States. Each year, heart disease is responsible for one in every four U.S. deaths — at least 610,000 people — and diabetes kills over 76,000 people.
Moreover, they create an escalating economic burden on society. Heart disease and stroke cost an estimated $316 billion and diagnosed diabetes costs an estimated $245 billion a year.
Three interrelated pathways — behavioral, mental health and biological — help explain how difficult experiences as a child increase cardiometabolic health risks, Suglia explained.
For example, childhood adversity is associated with coping behaviors such as smoking, overeating and inactivity, which increase the risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease. Being obese as a kid or teen is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease as an adult.
Unhealthy childhood behaviors can also negatively affect mental health and increase the risk of mood and anxiety disorders, which can lead to cardiometabolic disease. And recent research suggests childhood adversity may even alter how genes behave, Suglia said.
Very young children may be particularly at risk. Research shows they are more vulnerable to the effect of maltreatment on their behavior, suggesting there are sensitive periods during childhood when exposure to negative experiences can be especially harmful to long-term health, Suglia said.
Other factors, such as gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and place of birth, also play a role.
“Gender differences come into play on which cardiovascular outcomes are important,” said Matthews, who has studied this in adolescents. “Literature hints that exposure to violence in childhood is more impactful on obesity and depression for girls and hypertension for boys.”
Most of the existing research is based on reports by adults of childhood events. The AHA statement notes the need for more research conducted during childhood that considers the influence of race, gender, socioeconomic status and immigration history.
To date, there are no national health care guidelines or recommendations for childhood adversity, the statement points out.
“We need to look at earlier time points as to when childhood and adolescent adversities start to impact health and how interventions impact the health of children,” Suglia said. “The how is certainly something we need to do more work on.”
Teachers accused of sexual misconduct keep getting jobs in N.J. Here's why
by Adam Clark and Jessica Remo
The little girls would hold his hand and sit on his lap.
They would kiss their first-grade teacher, and he would kiss them back.
Keep it a secret, he warned the 5- and 6-year olds. Otherwise, he said, they could get into trouble.
This alarming behavior, according to court documents, was no secret to Montville Township school administrators, who warned the teacher, Jason Fennes, to stop having physical contact with the children. Fennes' "inappropriate interactions with students" even cost him a raise.
Five years after the first documented complaints, Montville suspended Fennes and he resigned. But when a private school 40 minutes away called to confirm Fennes' employment dates, Montville school officials were bound by a separation agreement. They could make no mention of the kisses, the hand-holding or parents' complaints that the first-grade teacher touched their little girls too often.
With that agreement muting his former employer, Fennes got the new job — and subsequently sexually assaulted a first-grade girl less than a year after leaving Montville. It was the culmination of a string of sexual assaults he since admitted, including six victims in the Montville and Butler school districts and at Cedar Hill Preparatory School in Somerset.
"The consequences of that molestation are made ever the more egregious by the fact that they were known to (Montville) school officials," Somerset County Judge Robert Reed said when he sentenced Fennes to prison earlier this year. "How could they fail to report or address this conduct other than passing the pedophile to the next school?"
It's called "passing the trash," a reckless cycle enabled by school administrators who fear litigation and shy away from controversy. The practice — eerily similar to scandals in the Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church — allows teachers suspected or accused of misconduct with students to move seamlessly from job to job.
Interviews with school administrators and a review of dozens of district, police and court records by NJ Advance Media reveal the damning pattern continues on, decades after its tragic faults were exposed, while a law proposed to stop it languishes on the desks of New Jersey lawmakers.
Teachers aren't being trained to look for signs of abuse, schools don't properly vet candidates and reports of questionable behavior aren't thoroughly investigated, said Virginia Commonwealth University professor Charol Shakeshaft, who has spent years studying the sex abuse of children by teachers. And there's no federal data on teacher sex abuse cases, Shakeshaft said, "even though we know the number of reindeer in Alaska."
Most alarming, experts say, is the lack of action from school officials who accept resignations or retirements from men and women who have shown questionable or even potentially criminal behavior and yet do nothing to stop them from teaching elsewhere.
Even as documented cases mount, a state law proposed this year that would require school districts to share information about teachers suspected of child abuse or sexual misconduct and grant school officials legal immunity has gone nowhere in the Legislature.
"This is not controversial. This is a simple fix," said Rush Russell, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey, an advocacy group that supports the legislation. "It's unfathomable to me to know why it can't pass."
In the absence of rigorous scrutiny, Fennes and others have moved back into classrooms after allegations of misconduct or abuse.
Art teacher Shawn Cier left three jobs under a cloud of controversy in 10 years. He continues to teach in a Newark charter school despite a past that includes an arrest, late-night texting with a student and the discovery of pornography on his school computer, according to police records and interviews with former school administrators.
Former Elizabeth teacher Robert Goodlin, charged in September with sexually assaulting a teenage student, had retired after reported misconduct only to work in two new districts as a substitute teacher, according court documents and to district records.
And Robert Cain and Jinwoo Seong, two teachers banished from New York City schools for allegations of sexual contact with students, quickly found work in New Jersey schools, according to district documents.
"We know the problem with the system," said Assemblyman Jay Webber, R-Morris. "We know there are creeps who are gaming it, and we are doing nothing to stop the creeps."
In response to Fennes' case, Webber and other Republican lawmakers proposed strict rules, modeled after laws already adopted in a handful of other states, for vetting school employees. The rules would protect students while also ensuring one false allegation doesn't ruin a teacher's career, Webber said.
But Democrats who control the Legislature have yet to act on the bill, and the state's largest teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association, hasn't taken a formal position on the proposal. The inaction leaves students vulnerable, said Ron Bolandi, a retired superintendent.
"We are not honest with each other when we do reference checks," said Bolandi, who led six districts over his 40-year career. "We don't terminate enough. We let people go, whether it's academic or misconduct. A lot of people will get pissed at me for saying that, but I've seen it time and time again.
"We don't protect the kids enough in our field. We protect the adults."
The damning words were plastered next to Shawn Cier's face.
On June 20, 2009, the first day of summer break for Hightstown High School students, a photo of Cier, then 34, appeared on the cover of the Trentonian newspaper.
"Cops: Teacher played porn for kids," the headline read in giant type.
The photo of Cier's arched eyebrows and dimpled chin landing on doorsteps across Central Jersey isn't where his story begins.
Or where it ends.
Over the past decade, Cier has taught art in four districts and a charter school, despite leaving three jobs where he was accused of misconduct, getting arrested and cultivating a social media presence replete with lewd comments and compliments about former students' physical appearance, according to police documents and interviews with former school officials.
Today, he teaches high school students at Marion P. Thomas Charter School in Newark.
"I'm surprised he's still teaching," said Bolandi, the superintendent in Hightstown during Cier's tenure.
Reached at his home in Sayreville in October, Cier declined to answer questions and dismissed the complaints against him as "hearsay."
"I just feel like, that you're on a witch hunt, basically," he said.
Before Hightstown, Cier was a popular art teacher at Bridgewater-Raritan High School from 2005 to 2007. In his early 30s at the time, Cier had a reputation as a fun teacher who wore sneakers with wheels and rolled down the hallways, a former colleague recalled.
"Like a kid," the former teacher said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of Cier's controversial departure from the school. "He fit right in with the teenagers."
He apparently talked to students like a teenager, too.
In the final weeks of the 2006-07 school year, the mother of a high school senior said she complained to school officials. Cier was texting her daughter at all hours of the day, from 6:45 a.m. to 11:45 p.m., she told NJ Advance Media, which is not naming the woman at her request.
The district investigated Cier, who had not yet earned tenure, and told him his contract would not be renewed, according to three former school officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss personnel matters.
"There was not enough to do legal action," one former school official said, "but the superintendent and the board definitely felt they needed to terminate that contract."
Bridgewater never got the chance. Cier resigned, former school officials said, and had a job in Roselle Public Schools by the time the next school year began.
Former Roselle superintendent Elnardo Webster insisted the district wouldn't have hired Cier if officials had known Bridgewater wanted him gone. Districts, however, are often in the dark about why teachers resign from a job.
In an effort to minimize legal blowback, school districts, like many employers, follow the advice of lawyers and provide minimal information – good, bad or indifferent -- during reference checks, said David Rubin, a long time school board attorney in New Jersey.
Dates of service. Salary. Courses taught. That's about it, Rubin said.
Cier resigned from Roselle in good standing after less than a year, according to the district. He then found a job at Hightstown High School in September 2008, thanks in part to what the district considered an "excellent" recommendation from a colleague in Bridgewater, Bolandi said.
But less than a year later, in June 2009, Cier was under fire again when two female students came to school officials with a bombshell: They said Cier showed them a pornographic video on his cell phone, Bolandi said.
"I could have easily said to Shawn, 'Go ahead and resign,'" Bolandi said. Instead, "I had him arrested."
Cier, also accused of making numerous sexually suggestive comments, was fired from Hightstown and charged with child abuse, harassment and knowingly exhibiting obscene material to a minor, according to media reports.
But, state records show, the criminal charges were "administratively dismissed," a catch-all term used when cases fall apart for a variety of reasons, such as problems with evidence or an uncooperative victim, law enforcement experts said.
The charges no longer appear in criminal history records, an indication they were expunged.
Fewer than 15 months after his arrest, Cier began working at Keansburg High School, despite the fact a Google search for his name yields the Trentonian article branding him "an artistic perv."
Bolandi, who retired from the district shortly after firing Cier, said he was flummoxed. How could Cier get another job, less than an hour away, after he had been fired and had his name and face on the front page of the newspaper?
"I don't know how they couldn't have found that out," Bolandi said. "Why would you hire someone who was terminated? Someone gets terminated, the red flag goes up. You're dealing with kids here."
Former and current Keansburg officials are short on explanations but said the district would have done its due diligence.
In vetting teachers, though, there's a common fear among district officials that learning too much about an applicant's personal life comes with a legal risk, such as claims of discrimination, Rubin said.
"Sometimes, there's such a thing as knowing too much," Rubin said. "You have to be careful about knowing too much."
If Cier was worried about what employers might find online, he didn't show it on social media accounts he used around the time he began working at Keansburg.
On spring.me, a social networking site where users communicate through a question-and-answer format, a user identified himself as a teacher named Mr. Cier who lived in Bedminster.
Cier, who did not deny the account was his when asked, participated in numerous vulgar, sexually charged forums on the site and referenced oral sex, sex toys and "hot girls."
Throughout his tenure at Keansburg, Cier used also Facebook to comment on photos of former female students, often describing their appearance as "beautiful" or "cute."
After receiving a tip about Cier in 2015, NJ Advance Media approached then-Keansburg superintendent Gerald North, who arrived in the district a year after Cier was hired.
Told of the texting in Bridgewater, the arrest in Hightstown and the explicit, sexual posts online, North said Cier had a legitimate teaching certificate and cleared a criminal background check when he was hired.
The spring.me posts weren't from the current school year and it wasn't clear whether Cier was communicating with minors, North said.
"We're not going to pursue anything," the superintendent said.
The following year, a student given permission to use Cier's district-owned computer for a project stumbled upon several photos of naked women while retrieving an item from the trash folder, the student told NJ Advance Media, an account confirmed through police records.
That student, along with another student who also saw the computer screen, reported the photos to a principal. North and Bolger Middle School Principal John Niesz called police, according to Keansburg police records.
Investigators reviewed the photos, along with two short videos of a woman performing oral sex, but the women in the pictures appeared to be at least 18 years old and were not Keansburg students, according to the incident report.
Cier was not charged, and the district, which had already suspended him, was left to handle the incident internally, according to the report.
The following month, Cier resigned.
"We followed exactly what we are supposed to do from a legal standpoint," said North, now the superintendent of Plumsted Township School District.
North added that he's limited in what he can legally discuss.
Since the fall of 2016, Cier has been teaching art at Marion P. Thomas Charter School in Newark, according to state records. When told of Cier's problems in three previous jobs, officials at the charter school said they could not be interviewed about personnel matters.
In a statement, they said the school runs criminal background checks and requires three recommendations from former employers. The school also gives employees a chance to address any issues that may surface after they have been hired, according to the statement.
"As a district that is based in an urban community with a student body that is predominately African American and Latino, we understand what it means to be accused of a crime or inappropriate behavior and later be found innocent or not be charged," the school said.
Though Cier's employer has not taken action, the Monmouth County Prosecutor's office has, said David Saenz, a spokesman for the Department of Education.
In 2016, after the pornography was discovered on Cier's computer, the prosecutor's office notified the state Board of Examiners of its investigation.
In November, the board voted to begin the lengthy process of considering whether to revoke Cier's teaching license. He has until mid-January to respond to claims made against him.
Finally facing charges
Thirteen years after he left his Elizabeth classroom, Robert Goodlin stood handcuffed in a courtroom in the same city.
Goodlin, 75, was arrested this fall and charged with sexually assaulting a teenage boy numerous times in the 1990s. The incidents, which the former student alleged happened more than 100 times, occurred during Goodlin's 11-year tenure as an industrial arts and special education teacher at Battin Middle School.
Depositions and school documents allege Goodlin demonstrated what experts call some of the most obvious signs a teacher could be grooming students for abuse, prompting reports from concerned teachers and calls to the Union County prosecutor's office.
Despite the red flags, Goodlin was never removed from the classroom for more than a few days. Instead, in 2004, he was allowed to retire.
Nine months later, Goodlin was at the front of a classroom again as a substitute teacher in another district.
"Those who worked with Goodlin should be ashamed," said Brian Schiller, the accuser's attorney. "They protected themselves and Goodlin, rather than the vulnerable and innocent children."
Just months before Goodlin's arrest, the Elizabeth school board settled a civil lawsuit with Schiller's client for $600,000. Questioned by lawyers in the civil case, Goodlin maintained his innocence.
Pat Politano, a spokesman for the district, said it would be inappropriate to comment because Goodlin is currently facing charges. He added that none of the current board members nor the superintendent were in their positions when Goodlin worked in Elizabeth.
Goodlin and his attorney, Ralph Ferrara, also declined to comment.
Goodlin, who came to Elizabeth in 1993 after teaching in Secaucus and Montville, was a well-liked teacher who would joke around "like one of the kids" and encourage students to call him "Bob," said Alex, 37, the accuser in Goodlin's criminal case.
In a locker-room atmosphere, Goodlin would often accuse the boys of looking at porn or ask if they "spanked their monkey," said Alex, who asked his name be changed to protect his identity.
Sexual talk in the classroom is a clear warning sign a teacher could be engaging in misconduct with students, said Shakeshaft, who was commissioned by the federal government to study sexual abuse by teachers.
"The idea is to get the talk going," she said, "and then students start to talk about themselves."
Goodlin did more than just talk, according to authorities. The teacher would touch Alex's shoulder, rub his leg or grab a muscle and compliment his "strong" physique.
Alex said Goodlin began to offer him rides home and one day masturbated him while they were parked outside Alex's house. The acts progressed to oral sex and took place in Alex's house, in Goodlin's car and at the teacher's lake house in West Milford, according to the criminal complaint.
In New Jersey, anyone who believes a child has been abused should immediately report it, according to the state's mandatory reporting law, and those who do so in good faith are immune from criminal or civil liability. Teachers should be trained to be vigilant for typical signs of grooming, such as constant attention, favoritism, gift-giving or having students call them by first name, experts said.
Other teachers and school staff often saw Alex alone with Goodlin, including leaving with the teacher at the end of the day, he said.
"And they didn't do anything," Alex said.
However, Elizabeth police tailed Goodlin during the 1990s, according to a former city police officer who was not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Then in August 2003, school officials received a damning report, which wasn't the first complaint against Goodlin, according to court documents.
A parent called the central office to complain about Goodlin's "ongoing conduct" with her son, saying the teacher "expressed both an interest and the propensity to engage in sexual activity with adolescent boys," according to a district document in Goodlin's personnel file.
The complaint was reported to what was then the state's Division of Youth and Family Services, which called the county prosecutor's office, the district document shows. Yet school officials cleared Goodlin to return to the classroom on Sept. 4, according to another memo written by an administrator.
Later that fall, Goodlin announced he would retire after the school year. But, before the school year ended, a teacher spotted him with two students in his car in February 2004.
DYFS officials described the situation as "troubling given prior allegations," but said there was "no evidence of unlawful activity," according to school records.
"If a teacher violated school policy by having youngsters in his vehicle, it should be dealt with by the district," a DYFS representative wrote.
How did Elizabeth deal with it? The principal warned Goodlin that he needed to drive home at 3 p.m. each day, reminded him he had submitted his intention to retire and "urged him this should happen without further incident," according to a district memo.
After retiring from Elizabeth, Goodlin worked as a substitute teacher for four months in Secaucus and then two years in Wood-Ridge.
New Jersey requires substitute teachers to pass a criminal history review, but the positions often come with less vetting, Shakeshaft said.
"Yet the risk is still the same," she added.
After Goodlin's arrest, more allegations surfaced. A 50-year-old man who was a student at Secaucus High School in the 1980s filed a tort claim notice in October, alleging Goodlin showed him porn and masturbated in front of him during a trip to the Ramapo Valley Reservation and tried to grope him another time.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a retired Secaucus administrator confirmed Goodlin ran the school's "Angler's Club" and took the kids on fishing trips as the lone chaperone. He knew of no issues with Goodlin during his time in Secaucus, though, he said.
Goodlin was released on house arrest in September as his case heads to a grand jury.
Robert Cain figured he would never teach again.
Initially, the New York City high school teacher denied a student's claims the two had sex for two months both inside and outside of school, according to a report by New York City schools' special commissioner of investigation.
But when confronted by investigators with surveillance video of him accompanying the student up the stairs of a hotel in 2013, Cain grew quiet and then began to ramble, investigators noted.
"So what if I took (her)," Cain said, according to the report. "It doesn't matter anymore. I'm not a tenured teacher, and I won't get a job teaching anywhere. I might as well resign."
But Cain did teach again, landing a job at Bergen Arts and Science Charter School in Hackensack for one year beginning in August 2014.
Shortly after Cain came from New York, Jinwoo Seong got hired at Paterson's Don Bosco Technical Academy after complaints he touched a student sexually and investigators determined he had "no place in New York City public schools," according to a district document.
Neither teacher was criminally charged, both passed background checks and their new schools never learned of the allegations until they were revealed in reports by the New York Post, school officials said. Both former teachers declined to comment, and Seong resigned from Don Bosco Tech after the allegations surfaced.
Prosecuting alleged abuse of a child is especially difficult, said Louis Raveson, a professor of criminal justice at Rutgers Law School, and many parents don't want their children cross-examined in court.
Lacking criminal charges, districts face the costly and time-consuming process of trying to fire a tenured teacher with no guarantee of winning.
Too often, districts feel powerless and worry about smearing a teacher's reputation, experts in classroom misconduct said.
"A teacher may do something that isn't criminal, wouldn't put them in prison, but is still not acceptable for teacher behavior," Shakeshaft said. "A lot of times school districts get confused on that and think they can't do anything about certain behaviors unless it somehow is prosecuted and the case is won."
Reason for change
When he sentenced Jason Fennes for sexually assaulting a first-grader, Judge Robert Reed wanted to send Montville School District officials to prison along with him, he said.
"Evil begins in the minds and the conduct of evil men," Reed fumed during a blistering castigation of school officials earlier this year. "But it is allowed to continue. It is, indeed, encouraged when the consequences of that conduct are hidden from public view by the very people who are supposed to protect our children from it.
"The conduct of those who remain silent when they have a duty to act, whether that duty is legal or moral, make their conduct and their silence only slightly less despicable than yours."
Fennes' case is a shocking story of passing the trash, complete with complicit silence, unspeakable acts and irreparable emotional damage, the families of his victims said. He confessed to sexually assaulting six girls over the course of 15 years, including first-graders he taught and befriended in his classroom and a teenager he coached and had sex with in the 1990s, according to court documents.
Now serving 14 years in prison for crimes in two counties, Fennes continued teaching long after the first disturbing warning signs and moved to a new job with the assistance of a legally binding separation agreement, a document that amounted to a gag order for Montville officials.
His abuse sparked cases in both criminal and civil court, where the families of victims blamed school officials for not taking action when complaints were raised.
"In many ways, this is a story of failure at many different levels," the father of one victim said during an emotional courtroom statement.
In Montville, where Fennes was hired to teach first grade at William Mason Elementary School in 1998, school officials were aware of allegations as early as 2005, according to court documents. He remained in the classroom another five years.
Fennes was kissing students, holding hands with them and allowing them to touch his legs, thighs and butt, according to an appellate court ruling in a civil case filed against the district. Warned several times to stop, he argued he was an affectionate person who couldn't quit "cold turkey."
He didn't quit, period. Not after a principal warned him to stop having physical contact with students in September 2008 or after the same principal walked into his classroom eight months later and saw three little girls sitting on his lap, according to the court ruling.
Montville school officials reported Fennes to DYFS, sent him a letter of reprimand and even withheld a scheduled raise because he wouldn't stop touching children, the judges in the appellate case wrote. But they didn't pull him from the classroom until March 2010 — after a parent complained about his continued physical contact with students and implored the district to investigate immediately.
With Fennes suspended, the investigation turned up new complaints from multiple parents, a grandparent and several staff members about Fennes' inappropriate touching of students, the court records show. A teenager also said her younger sister had visited Fennes' house.
"God forbid [Fennes] hurts a child in the future," one parent warned the district during the investigation, according to court documents. "The entire school system will have charges pressed against them for not taking the appropriate actions in seeing [Fennes] removed from the classroom."
Montville officials had to decide whether to fire Fennes, return him to the classroom or ask him to resign.
"If I were superintendent of the district, I would have gone for the throat without any hesitation," said Salvatore Illuzzi, a retired superintendent who led districts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for three decades. "Because I have to look at myself in the mirror in the morning."
On May 14, 2010, Montville entered into a separation agreement — signed and approved by the district board of education — a common method used to negotiate clean breaks.
In exchange for Fennes' resignation and promise never to apply in Montville again, the district agreed to tell future employers his dates of employment, positions held and "no further information." The district agreed not to report Fennes to the state since Montville was not pursing tenure charges.
After leaving Montville, Fennes applied at Cedar Hill Preparatory School, a private K-8 school in Somerset County.
The school obtained Fennes' references, confirmed his dates of employment and hired him without questioning why he didn't list a single reference working in the district where he was employed for the previous 12 years, the judges wrote in the civil court decision.
A month into the school year, Cedar Hill Prep received a tip about the allegations against Fennes and the fact he resigned to avoid potential termination, according to documents. The school double checked his criminal history but didn't call Montville to ask for more information and allowed him to keep his job, the court record reveals.
Seven years later, the father of a girl Fennes abused at Cedar Hill Prep stood in a courtroom wondering why school officials didn't stop the teacher before he got to his daughter, his "lovely girl."
"I wish they could be in this courtroom, and I wish they could be going to jail," he said. "Because that's where they all belong. They all had a hand in allowing this to happen."
Montville Superintendent Rene Rovtar, who was not in the district during Fennes' tenure, declined to comment, citing a pending civil lawsuit. But Board of Education President Matthew Kayne defended Montville's handling of Fennes, calling the judge's comments "defamatory and entirely out of line" in a statement read at a February school board meeting.
School officials did their part by reporting the initial complaints about Fennes to DYFS, which concluded the allegations were unfounded, Kayne said, according to the board's meeting minutes. The school board was never aware of and never discovered any substantiated allegations of child abuse against Fennes, he added.
"In 2010, neither school board officials, nor the board, nor anyone else was aware of the information about Mr. Fennes that became available years later," Kayne said.
The parents of a victim at Cedar Hill Prep sued the Montville district, claiming its negligence led to her sexual abuse.
A state Superior Court judge dismissed all claims, saying the plaintiffs failed to establish the link between Montville's actions and Fennes' abuse at Cedar Hill Prep. But an appeals court later ruled that Montville did have a responsibility to report the final complaints about Fennes to DYFS as well as to the state Board of Examiners, which could have suspended or revoked Fennes' teaching license for unbecoming conduct.
However, Montville officials had no responsibility to report the allegations to Cedar Hill Prep because the private school never asked for information beyond his dates of employment, the judges determined.
Cedar Hill Prep ran a criminal background check on Fennes, and he was thoroughly vetted with "no adverse comments" received, said Anthony Pasquarelli, the school's attorney.
Even if Montville wasn't able to reveal the complaints against Fennes under the terms of his separation agreement, Cedar Hill Prep should have seen the red flags and asked the right questions, said Jack Vlasac, the attorney representing the victim in the lawsuit against the school.
A tenured teacher leaving a job after 12 years. No references from his previous employer. A warning he had acted inappropriately at his previous job.
"Does it smell like trash?" Vlasac asked. "If it does, keep it out of the school."
Legislation at a standstill
If even one dangerous teacher slips through the cracks in New Jersey, it's one too many, said Nancy Munoz, a Republican state assemblywoman from Union County.
Munoz, a mother of five, quickly threw her support behind proposed legislation that would forbid districts from keeping child abuse or sexual misconduct investigations secret unless the allegations were proven false or unfounded.
The proposal would also require prospective school employees to disclose in writing if they were ever disciplined, had a contract non-renewed or were asked to resign during a child abuse or sexual misconduct investigation.
And, perhaps most importantly, districts would have to directly ask previous employers if a teacher was under investigation when they resigned, and those districts would be immune from liability for providing information.
Separation agreements, like the one between Fennes and Montville, would be banned.
"Keeping information secret doesn't help anybody," Munoz said. "To me, it was a no-brainer."
Lawmakers in Pennsylvania agreed. Three years ago, legislators unanimously approved its "Pass the Trash" law.
The bill gained support after a high school assistant principal was charged with sexually assaulting a 16-year-old student. The principal's personnel file in his previous district contained several red flags, according to published reports.
Over the past 15 years, about a half-dozen states have passed laws aimed at preventing teachers accused of misconduct from moving to a new district without proper scrutiny, according to Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct and Exploitation, or SESAME, a national advocacy group that helped draft the Pennsylvania law.
And, in 2015, after decades of failed attempts to better protect children, Congress passed a law calling on states to stop schools from helping a teacher get a new job if there's probable cause he or she engaged in sexual misconduct with a student. The federal law does not mandate specific measures, leaving those decisions to state lawmakers.
"It is very important that those who are given the responsibility of taking care of our children are held to a higher, not lower, standard," said state Sen. Joe Pennacchio, R-Morris, a sponsor of the New Jersey bill.
Some concerns have been raised, however.
As written, the bill doesn't apply to private schools, which have had numerous high-profile cases of sexual abuse, said Teri Miller, SESAME's board president.
Its requirement that districts question all of a job candidates' previous employers might be too difficult for small school districts, especially when hiring veteran employees, said Rovtar, the current Montville superintendent.
And the proposal also leaves a potential loophole: Unsubstantiated complaints of sexual misconduct.
Even if the bill passes, superintendents are likely to err on the side of caution when asked for information because of the litigious nature of society, said North, the former Keansburg school chief.
Neither the NJEA nor the New Jersey School Boards Association has formally endorsed the proposal, though both groups say they support the intent behind any effort to ensure the safety of students.
The NJEA has had discussions with the bill's sponsors about the best way to protect children without causing any unintended consequences, union spokesman Steve Baker said, adding that any law must also protect due process for school employees.
"We have already fairly strong protections in place to make sure that we know who is working in our schools," Baker said.
Currently, all potential school employees who would have contact with children are required to have a criminal history records check, and applicants with convictions for child or sexual abuse are barred from public schools.
State Senate President Stephen Sweeney and outgoing Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, the two highest ranking Democrats in the Legislature, are reviewing the proposed law, which was introduced in January, according to spokesmen.
The bill may not be perfect, experts said, but it would break a culture of silence and force potential school employees to answer questions about their pasts.
For Fennes' victims, any legislation to address a broken system comes too late. One victim, now in high school, stood in court in January and faced her former teacher at his sentencing.
"I hate reading the countless articles on the internet about you and what justice has happened and what justice will come," she said. "I feel so small when I'm written about in these articles, as if my fellow victims and I only add up to a pile of statistics.
"I know inside we are much more than this."
Turnbull's brutal 'redress' compensates only 'good' child sex abuse victims
No adult crime erases the legitimacy of trauma caused by childhood abuse, yet Turnbull's two-tiered scheme implies that this is the case
by Jennifer Wilson
THE ROYAL COMMISSION INTO INSTITUTIONAL RESPONSES TO CHILD SEX ABUSE hadn't quite concluded when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Social Security Minister Christian Porter embarked on their malfeasant project of creating two tiers of abuse survivors .
In their proposed and ill-named "redress" scheme (there can be no “redress”, there can only be recognition of awful suffering), a survivor of childhood sexual abuse will receive no “compensation” if he or she has spent five or more years in gaol.
Tha ABC reported :
The bill excludes anyone convicted of sex offences, or sentenced to prison terms of five years or more for crimes such as serious drug, homicide or fraud offences.
At present in this country, it is up to the judiciary to determine the punishment for crimes, not politicians and bureaucrats. Yet, if you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who has done/is doing time for your crime, you will now be further punished by your ineligibility for recognition.
It isn't enough that survivors have suffered criminal sexual assaults — the majority of which attracted no punishment at all for the perpetrators. It isn't enough that survivors are already punished as our judiciary deems appropriate. Now Turnbull and Porter have decided to further punish this group of survivors — because they can.
And because it might save them a little bit of money they can spend on Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton 's spin doctors .
Apparently, in the skewed moral universe of Malcolm Turnbull, the damage done by sexual assaults perpetrated upon you when you were a little kid is superseded by your behaviour as an adult.
This is a sickening conflation. Survivors are not being rewarded by “compensation” — it's a small financial recognition for lives ruined by the failure of authorities to fulfil their basic obligations and responsibilities to children in their care. No adult crime erases the legitimacy of trauma caused by childhood abuse, yet Turnbull's two-tiered scheme implies that this is the case.
In the Coalition's world, childhood sexual abuse in itself doesn't earn you the right to be recognised by your government and the institutions responsible for your suffering. You are only deserving of recognition if you are a good survivor.
It doesn't matter what happened to you. You still need to behave like the ruling class thinks you should behave. This is what is most important. Not the crimes committed against you. Not the trauma you've struggled with your whole life. Not the perpetrators who escape accountability, including those who covered up the crimes against you. No. None of that.
You need to be a nice survivor. You need to behave.
Time for a #MeTooMovement for Child Sexual Abuse Victims
by Mary L. Pulido, Ph.D.
The torrent of recent sexual assault allegations made by women against powerful men grows every day. Harvey Weinstein, Dustin Hoffman, Matt Lauer, Al Franken, Russell Simons… I'm having trouble keeping up with the news. The brave women who came forward should be commended. Many of them were in positions of prestige and power themselves. And, virtually all of them noted how very difficult it was to disclose the assaults, harassment and degradation that they endured.
It finally seems like the public at large has had enough. The “tipping point” has been reached whereby it's NOT okay for this assaultive behavior to continue. Perpetrators are being outed, fired, prosecuted and held accountable.
Now, let's consider children who were sexually assaulted. They too, must be supported when they have the courage to come forward and confront their perpetrator. They deserve their own #MeToo movement.
My hope is that this public outrage now funnels into action to pass the Child Victims Act – a piece of legislation that would eliminate time limits for child sexual abuse prosecution in New York. It is long overdue. The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children - New York are staunch advocates, as we work each day with children and families devastated by this crime. Numerous versions of this bill have failed to pass each year. A current version would increase the time for commencing a civil action against the perpetrator until the victim reaches 50 years of age (the current statute of limitation is 23 years of age) and the time for commencing a criminal proceeding until the victim turns 28. The Child Victims Act needs to be passed now.
Children are taught from a very early age to obey their parents and other adults in their life. This can include their parent's boyfriends, girlfriends, their neighbors, teachers, coaches, priests, rabbis and family friends. The fact is that in close to 90 percent of child sexual abuse cases, family members and trusted adults are the perpetrators. It's not strangers that are molesting children, it is people that they know and trust. Imagine the confusion, anguish and fear that this breach of trust can cause for a child. This is a very complicated dynamic.
There are interesting parallels between child sexual abuse and the current cases in the news. Most child sexual abuse perpetrators are master manipulators. They can often convince anyone, even at times professionals, that they do not have a problem. At times, the perpetrators are so convincing that parents may even doubt their own child. Perpetrators may also be very good at giving excuses, such as being intoxicated or claiming that the child “came on” to them.
Children who are sexually abused can experience a myriad of problems including depression, anxiety, anger and aggression, post-traumatic stress disorder, low self-esteem, dissociation, sexually transmitted diseases, substance abuse and self-injurious behaviors. Unaddressed, these symptoms can continue into adulthood, impacting their physical and mental health.
Many adults who were molested as children have confided that they only wish that they had known who to go to, who to tell, to stop the abuse. Instead, shamed, afraid, and embarrassed, they suffered in silence until they were old enough to get away from the abuser – one woman told me that she did not disclose the abuse until after the perpetrator had died due to her fears. The obstacles to disclosure can be overwhelming. That's why the current law in New York State to prosecute these cases, requiring disclosure by age 23, needs to be eliminated.
Survivors of child sexual abuse, whatever their age, deserve the right to hold their perpetrators accountable. Bringing them to justice will also protect other children from this horrific abuse.
For more information on keeping your children safe visit www.NYSPCC.org.
Darkness to Light CEO says prevention education is key in preventing child sexual abuse
by Megan Rivers
After two cases of people in trusted positions accused of sexual assault, Darkness to Light says it's even more critical to continue the discussion of prevention training. For many people, a church is a safe haven and schools are the foundation in one's education. But on Monday, a pastor and a teacher stand accused of sexual assault in two separate cases.
"Perpetrators look for arenas to be hired in where there are going to be children." Katelyn Brewer of Darkness to Light said.
Prevention education--that's the message from Brewer. She's the president and CEO of Darkness to Light. It's a group geared towards preventing child sexual abuse.
"I think it's important to understand how you can, as an individual, help minimize risk and react responsibly to child sexual abuse." Brewer added.
Brewer says it's often difficult for victims to come forward, "The most important part in this conversation, when someone comes to you and says, ‘I've been assaulted, I've been abused,' is to tell them that you believe them.”
She also gives this example: if two kids are waiting to be picked up, once one parent arrives, Brewer recommends they wait for the second parent. "When that parent stays, just for those few moments until that last parent arrives, that puts the teacher in a safe space, the child in a safe space and makes the parent co-responsible with the teacher for the safety of that child.”
If you've been sexually abused and want to report it, you can call Darkness to Light. That number is 866-FOR-LIGHT. You can also text "light" to 741741 or visit their website .
Child-abuse reformers ask for sit-down with state Senate GOP boss
by Kenneth Lovett
ALBANY — A coalition of child abuse survivors and advocates is pushing for a meeting with the head of the state Senate to discuss passing a bill designed to make it easier for victims to bring cases as adults.
The coalition, New Yorkers Against Hidden Predators, requested the meeting after Senate GOP Leader John Flanagan recently told the Daily News that he would be “more than willing to sit down to have real adult conversations that inure to the benefit of everyone.”
The Senate GOP has blocked the Child Victims Act from coming to the floor for a vote. The Assembly earlier this year passed the bill for the first time since 2008.
In the letter to Flanagan (R-Suffolk County), New Yorkers Against Hidden Predators said “we have been, and continue to be, ready to meet with you to convince you of the merits of the legislation and encourage you to stop blocking the bill.”
“Senator, as the #metoo movement sweeps the nation, calling out those who failed to protect the vulnerable, you do not want to be on the wrong side of history,” the coalition's founders, Marci Hamilton, Stephen Jimenez and Kathryn Robb wrote.
The three said they have “made an untold number of requests to you and your office over the years to hold such conversations, but have never been accommodated.”
They told Flanagan in the letter that they would meet as early as next week in his Long Island or Albany offices.
The newly created New Yorkers Against Hidden Predators recently held events in the districts of several Senate Republicans calling on them to pass the Child Victims Act.
“Every day more and more victims of undisclosed sexual abuse are coming forward,” Hamilton, Jimenez and Robb said in the letter. “It is time to reform New York's antiquated child sexual abuse laws and bring justice to the hidden sexual predators that lurk in our communities.”
The bill passed by the Assembly, and supported by Gov. Cuomo, would allow survivors to bring civil cases up until their 50th birthdays and felony criminal cases until their 28th birthdays. Currently, they have until their 23rd birthdays to bring such cases.
The bills also include a one-year window to revive old cases and treats public and private institutions the same. Currently, those abused in a public setting like a school have just 90 days from the incident occurring to formally file an intent to sue.
Religious groups like the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish community oppose the provision that would open a window to revive old cases.
A Flanagan spokesman had no immediate comment on the meeting request, though he said top aides to the Senate leader have met with victims in the past.
In a recent interview with the Daily News, Flanagan (R-Suffolk County) wouldn't talk specifics, but said “we're more than willing to sit down to have real adult discussions that inure to the benefit of everyone.”
He added that “the specter of a good compromise is everyone walks away a little bit unhappy. Will we have discussions about it? Absolutely. Have we had them? Yes. Will they continue in earnest? I completely believe that 100%.”
The Texas boys were beaten, abused, raped. Now all they want is an apology
The youngsters at Cal Farley's Ranch in Texas were subjected to years of abuse. But the institution's feeble response has been a slap in the face to survivors
by Jason Wilson
Steve Smith was just eight when his mother left him in the care of Cal Farley's Boys Ranch, a Texas institution for at-risk children. From the moment he got there in 1959, the place didn't sit right with him.
“I cried probably more than any boy that I know that came out [of] there, just homesick, and I didn't take it very well.”
Almost immediately upon his arrival, Steve was subject to the first of many beatings. For the following decade, he endured regular and arbitrary violence at the hands of staff. He also had to watch helplessly as his younger brother, Rick, was beaten by adults until he couldn't stand.
Along with the physical punishment, Steve's pets were killed, and his friends were worked to the bone in atrocious conditions. Some boys, including Rick Smith, were also sexually abused while under the care of the ranch.
The ordeal has permanently damaged their lives.
At the kitchen table in his immaculate home in the Amarillo suburbs, Steve, now almost 70, goes through all of the details of what happened to him without showing much pain. He's a tough man – he served in the Vietnam war and was wounded in the line of duty – and his piercing blue eyes only sprout tears twice.
The first time is when he describes how a succession of dogs he owned, all called Boots, were killed by staff members. The other is when he talks about what happened to his younger brother Rick, and how powerless he was to help him.
Rick, Steve, and six other men the Guardian spoke to named staff members responsible for the abuse, which lasted from the 1950s until at least the early 1990s. They say the abuse went beyond them, and was systemic, affecting hundreds of others who went through the ranch.
They say Lamont Waldrip, a long-serving superintendent, was one of the worst abusers. Last month, at the behest of a wealthy donor who wrote a cheque for $1m to build a new dormitory, the ranch named the new building Waldrip House .
The ranch's current CEO, Dan Adams, acknowledged the weight of the accusations against Waldrip, who died in 2013, but he said that other boys had had “very different experiences” with him and “admired and liked” him.
For the survivors who want to make the ranch accountable for the abuse – and have been encouraged to break their silence after Steve Smith brought them together in a Facebook group – this is an unbearable affront.
A very wealthy ranch – and a revolt
Cal Farley's Boys Ranch is accustomed to the generosity of well-heeled donors, but is less used to having its reputation called into question. Almost since its foundation, the “Christ-centered” but nondenominational institution has been a byword in Texas for juvenile reform and a can-do spirit. There is no suggestion that there is abuse at Cal Farley's now – indeed, there is broad acknowledgment, even from advocates for the men, that current practices at the ranch are in line with the best in the sector.
With 100 direct employees and 526 across its subsidiaries, it is no small fish, and notable individuals from the ranching and oil industries queue up to serve on its board. Cheques like the one that funded Waldrip House are not unusual: the most recent publicly available tax filings show an annual income for the ranch just north of $56.8m. About $43m of that came from contributions and grants. The ranch also owns parcels of land as far away as California.
The ranch's founder, Cal Farley, was a professional wrestler and Amarillo businessman. He had been a prominent college athlete before he moved to Amarillo, where he gained prominence as the owner of a tire shop. Throughout the 1930s, he ran a sporting club, The Mavericks, which tried to channel the energies of troubled and abandoned boys in the panhandle. Eventually he was gifted land in Tascosa, a ghost town, by a local rancher, so he could set up a more permanent home for the boys.
But for all their organizational success, Farley and his staff had no special training to deal with wayward children. In 1950, the superintendent was overpowered and thrown in the river by a group of boys who staged an effective revolt, and for a brief moment they were running things to suit themselves.
In an otherwise laudatory biography of Farley published in 1959, A Shirttail to Hang To , this moment is presented as a major crisis for the ranch. The situation “demanded immediate attention. One ‘revolution' or mass runaway would mean that Cal would never again win public support for his project.”
Faced with a risk to the ranch's prestige, Farley replaced his superintendent with a professional wrestler named Dorrance Funk, who turned to violence as a solution to the discipline problem at the ranch.
In A Shirttail to Hang To, author Beth Day writes that in the wake of the revolt, “Funk's immediate problem was to command their respect and obedience”. He would invite “the big boys to ‘work out with him' on the wrestling mat … Funk illustrated wrestling holds and techniques, and also managed to get over to each boy the suggestion of potential power … After a round apiece with Funk on the mat, not one of the leaders of the embryo revolution suggested they might throw *him* in the river.”
By the time Rick and Steve Smith arrived in 1959, there were about 250 residents, and Texas courts had taken to diverting young offenders out of the juvenile justice system and into the ranch. Those boys were thrown together in dorms with others who had never committed a crime, but whose parents could not take care of them.
‘They made me run in front of horses'
Ed Cargill lives in New Mexico now, after a stint in the US army and some years of riding motorcycles all over the south-west. His time in Cal Farley's overlapped with Rick Smith's.
After years of living in what he calls “a paradise for adult abusers”, he made repeated escape attempts. Each time he was caught, and punished. On one occasion, he says, Lamont Waldrip delivered a punishment straight out of the Old West.
“I ran away on foot and got about halfway to Amarillo when they caught me, using a helicopter. Lamont Waldrip and another staff member then took me 10 miles away from the ranch, and made me run in front of these horses all the way back. Anytime I floundered, they'd hit me with coiled-up rope or run over me with the damn horse.”
Several of the men say that another escapee was dragged for miles behind two horses back to the ranch. Again, one of the horses was ridden by Waldrip. The man in question talked about the incident in a private survivors' group on Facebook, which was set up by Steve. His comments were seen by the Guardian.
Cruel punishment wasn't the only ordeal students had to endure. Sexual abuse also happened, and Rick Smith says he was raped by another boy while under the care of the ranch.
The way Steve tells it, his brother “has been nervous all his life, like he was hiding something. Just in the last year he told me that when he moved into Maynard [his dorm], one of the bigger boys said he'd beat the hell out of him if he didn't sleep with him that night. He's had it bottled up in him all that time.”
Cargill says that the wife of a staff member was having sex with him and three other boys – in effect, statutory rape. It's only in retrospect he has come to realize how damaging this was. “I didn't realize how bad it was fucking me up. And, she was committing a fucking felony,” he says.
As for Steve Smith, he recalls seeing a dorm parent make a boy take his penis out and hit it with a ruler.
‘He was screaming and begging and I couldn't do anything'
For decades, the men say, a culture of abuse prevailed at Cal Farley's.
Martin (not his real name) was sent to the ranch in the early 1980s aged five after being brutally abused and mutilated by his father. Of that time, he says, “if you wanna know what it's like to die over and over again and watch yourself die in the mirror – I know that”.
On his first night at the ranch, an older male student “dragged me out of the bed, and I went into the bathroom and he basically stuck his dick in my mouth”.
When he committed a minor infraction not long after, Martin's female dorm parent ordered him to jump in a trash can and scrub it in freezing weather.
“When you put a little kid who's been tortured inside a trash can, upside down, and make it like a little prison cell and have him scrub … You know, you got these tiny little holes at the top just to let a little light in, you're scared, you're freezing, you know?”
Cargill says that his dorm parent would also encourage other boys to administer physical punishment. “I saw him hit two boys with his fist and then tell the rest of the dorm, ‘You better finish what I started or it's all gonna happen to you.'
“So I watched as they literally beat these two guys half to death, and me and another guy tried to intervene. We didn't get beat up as bad, but we got beat up.”
Cargill says “their only crime is they were gay. Which, that's not my place to judge, or my place to punish.”
Steve Smith remembers his helplessness while his brother was beaten mercilessly. “A staff member did it. I heard Rick screaming at the top of his lungs so I ran down there. I looked into his room and the guy was beating the hell out of him with a belt. My brother didn't even have clothes on, just his underwear. He was screaming and begging and I couldn't do anything”.
Afterwards, Rick's nervousness at being at the ranch led to a pattern of behavior that only led to more beatings.
“I pissed the bed till I was probably 10, and for that they beat the hell out of me till I bled,” he says.
Bill Varnado, who was there at the same time as Steve Smith, says “you really didn't have to ‘get in trouble' for them to beat the hell out of you.” Normally, he says, “they used a belt, but as you got older they used their fists on boys.”
Joe Stroud, who was there in the 1980s, says the ethos of punishment at Cal Farley's “went all the way from how people treated themselves, down to how people treated animals, to how people treat anything. It was a culture of violence.”
‘It's not that I don't believe it, it's just that it's past'
Jan Heimlich, a former journalist, now runs a nonprofit in Austin called the Child Friendly Faith initiative. Through her work and in a book , she has worked to expose religious groups that abuse children. “I am always in search of faith-based organizations that are really great,” she says.
When she first wrote about Cal Farley's, she used it as an example of best practices in youth care. She still maintains that currently Cal Farley's appears to be in keeping with modern and humane standards of childcare, and says they “run a flagship program for cutting-edge child therapy”.
In 2015, after she published a laudatory post about Carl Farley's on her blog, Steve Smith left comments. He wrote about the constant abuse, and the beating meted out to Rick. Alarmed by what she was reading, Heimlich got in touch with Adams, the ranch CEO.
“I asked Dan, ‘Is what this guy is saying true?' He said, ‘Yes. But we're evolved.'”
Heimlich decided to help Steve talk it out with Adams.
Their first conversation was a two-and-a-half-hour meeting on 23 March this year, which Heimlich attended as an observer via Skype. She observed that Adams's attitude to Smith was sympathetic. “We were both blown away with what Steve was telling us. Every so often Dan would reach out and touch Steve's shoulder.”
On 7 and 8 April, the three of them met in Amarillo, first at a coffee shop, and then the next morning for breakfast. At this point, she started to become concerned about how the ranch was going to deal with Smith's allegations.
“I thought that meeting was his opportunity to say, ‘Here's what we're going to do', but I was getting nothing from him.”
At breakfast, she presented a draft letter suggesting the approach Cal Farley's could take. These included investigating allegations of abuse, setting up a fund for survivors' medical needs, and ensuring that information on their website and in their marketing material was “truthful and not misleading”.
Adams, she says, was uncomfortable. Most of all, he was resistant to the idea of going public with any it. “He thought that involving the media would not bring the men the healing they were looking for,” she says.
At the same meeting, Adams told Heimlich that the ranch was planning to name a new dorm after Lamont Waldrip.
For survivors, she says, it was a slap in the face.
In conversation with the Guardian, Adams acknowledged that abuses had occurred in the past, but also reaffirmed his stance.
“I can't deny Steve or anybody else their experience,” he said. When asked if the behavior of staff at the time sounded like abuse, he responded, “absolutely, no doubt about it”. But he stressed that practices had changed, including the phasing out of corporal punishment since he took over in 1996.
“I knew Lamont. And there are guys today that had very different experiences with Lamont and admired and liked him. In his early days, I think he probably was way over his head in terms of knowing how to deal with all those kids … any time you have a system that's scantily staffed, and not trained, abuse happens.”
Adams has no plans to change the dedication of the new building.
“I do think when it comes to honoring founders or former employees, that's a collective thing, that's bigger than me, it's not arbitrary. I think [a public apology] can be disruptive, because I've got 260 kids out there that we're working very well with, and we have a lot of younger people whose experience has been good at Boys Ranch, and a lot of families that count on us.
“I don't say it's hearsay and I don't deny it. It's not that I don't believe it, it's just that it's past.”
‘I want somebody to stand up and say, Hey, I'm frickin' sorry'
The men the Guardian spoke to say they have carried the scars of this experience for decades, as well as a sense that their lives have been misshapen by their time there. Many talked about extensive substance abuse, suicide attempts,
and incarceration among alumni.
Bill Varnado wants to be very clear that they're “not looking for any monetary deal out of this. What we would like is an apology from those people for treating us the way they treated us.”
Martin asks: “What did Boys Ranch take from me? I don't know. My sense of security, my sense of self, my sense of being comfortable in my own skin.”
Arnold Wells says he's still not sure he's an “adapted person” in adulthood. “It got ingrained into me for a period of five years that violence fixes everything,” he says.
Ed Cargill says: “I want somebody to grow a pair of balls, stand up and say, ‘Hey, I'm frickin' sorry'.”
For all the abuse Rick Smith endured, he is more concerned to talk about his brother, and the years it took him to live down what happened to him, and to get past his drinking and anger.
“Let me tell you, he's just so proud he didn't let it get him down. Because it was for a while, and he overcame a lot. He was headed for the wrong, wrong place.”
He's skeptical that they will ever receive an apology. “It's not gonna happen. Because they are committed to the hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank. They're committed to that.”
And because of this lack of closure, he also doubts he and his brother will ever get over it.
“Steve and I will die. We'll go to our grave and I'll guarantee you it'll be one of the things we think about when we take that last breath: how they got away with it.”
Child Abuse-Why We Need To Act Immediately
by Arun Ag
Children are often treated as divine gifts for the humanity. Every human being must treat children with care and affection. Children are also tender beings who can be scarred by witnessing different kinds of atrocities. In view of that, the United Nations declared the United Nations Convention on the Right of Children.
But what is the current situation? Does that declaration seem enough to protect the children?
One of the pertinent issues faced by our country is the overwhelming increase of child abuse. We can find plenty of news articles on a daily basis which report children being abused through various means. These incidents depict the dark and cruel face of our country, otherwise known for a rich and vivid cultural heritage.
The most prominent reason for this ever increasing rate of child abuse, is the lack of ignorance and awareness about the issue. People seldom talk about the issue and like to cover up or ignore such incidents, which often benefit the perpetrators. It is high time now to start creating awareness and encouraging discussions regarding this matter.
Child abuse can be found in every nook and corner of our country in various forms. India is home to 450 million children and records the most number of child sexual abuse cases. About 69% of Indian children are physically abused including more than half of our street children. India also leads the world with the most number of child labourers. We even have a law which supports child labour, which is like spitting our own face. It is also a fact that, in every seven seconds, one adolescent is killed due to violence globally. These facts and figures show the dismal and pathetic situation of our children, who are meant to lead our nation towards a brighter future.
The popular notion regarding child abuse is that, it is sexual and just that. But in reality, it is more than that. WHO defines child abuse as “Any act that is potentially or actually harmful to a child's health, survival, dignity and development is abuse.”
Child abuse can be broadly classified into five types:
1. Physical Abuse – Physical abuse includes any activity which intends to harm a child physically. This includes beating a child, wounding a child and even murdering a child.
2. Emotional Abuse – Emotional abuse is one of the most common forms of child abuse. This includes ridiculing a child, bullying or making fun of a child, threatening and pressuring a child to meet adult needs and expectations
3. Sexual – The most popular form of abuse. Child sexual abuse is one of the hot and most discussed topics all around the world. This includes molesting a child, forcing a child to touch private parts of a person and exhibiting private parts in front of a child
4. Neglect – Neglecting a child's well being is also a type of abuse. Not providing ample time to play with or listen to the child, ignoring children's presence or partiality in upbringing are some examples of neglect
5. Exploitation – Child labour and child trafficking comes under this category
The implications of these activities on a child are unthinkable. For a child, the effects of abuse last a lifetime. If we trace back the history of many criminals, we can find the signs of child abuse and the implications of that, which led them to become anti-social.
Children may be affected by behavioural problems like increased anger and lack of orientation. Depression, suicidal tendency, alcoholism, drug abuse can also be termed as after-effects of child abuse. Many children may cultivate low self-esteem and an array of phobias due to the trauma created. It is also likely for them to become abusers in the future as a measure of revenge.
The common myth regarding abuse is that strangers mostly abuse children and only girl children are abused, but the facts show otherwise. In 95% of the reported cases, the perpetrator is known to the family. It can be a father, mother, brother or any other relatives. Boys are also abused in the country same as of girls, and the rate of such abuses is alarmingly increasing. The major challenge faced related to these incidents is the reluctance of the child's family to properly report the incident or the manipulation by the concerned authorities to wash off the case.
The only way to contain and prevent these abusive incidents is to act against it continuously. We all have the power to act on it. What we need to do, is just start the movement.
Start providing proper sex education through schools and develop policies which encourage sex education.
Provide cascading training to teachers and counsellors about prevention of child abuse.
Start door to door awareness campaigns like vaccination campaigns.
Build the capacity of the parents to act against child abuse.
Media/Public campaigns – Through Public and Social media regarding the prevention and support system of Child Sexual Abuse. Organizing street plays or other creative methods with the aim of making public speak out. We can promote film actors, child artists as brand ambassadors of these campaigns.
Strengthening ‘Action Committees' at grass root level.
Crime mapping – The objective is to identify the geographical area or specific spots which are prone to get abused. This can be done effectively among school children separately for boys and girls. This will help us to ensure Police patrolling in those areas.
Rehabilitation – Care and Support
Formation of groups among caregivers of child survivors even if it is family or institution to enhance mutual support.
Continuous psychological support to the survivors and their families to get rid of the traumatic situations by a government practitioner or health team specially trained on child sexual abuse.
Promoting community rehabilitation of these children (Education, employment etc.) through continuous follow-ups by professionally trained persons.
Regular monitoring by various government authorities on the effective rehabilitation of child survivors.
If you are a survivor, parent or guardian who wants to seek help for child sexual abuse, or know someone who might, you can dial 1098 for CHILDLINE (a 24-hour national helpline) or email them at email@example.com. You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.
Stress can increase child abuse and neglect during holidays; here are tips, reminders of responsibility
by the Northern Kentucky Tribune
Stress can increase during the holidays, even in the most loving of families. And that can put some children at risk for abuse or neglect.
With children home from school, holiday travel and seasonal shopping and associated expenses, parents can get frazzled more easily than usual. What is typically a fun and joyful time for children can become devastating when parents or caregivers cope with stress by becoming abusive or neglectful to children.
The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), the state agency charged with child and adult protection, reminds adults to ensure children are protected from abuse and neglect.
“Parents enjoy spending time with their children, but frustration can escalate during times of high stress,” said Adria Johnson, commissioner of the CHFS Department for Community Based Services (DCBS). “It's never OK to hit a child.”
Johnson and Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky (PCAK), one of the cabinet's community partners, offered these tips to keep children safer this season:
· Count to 10. It's a tried and true method to diffuse high emotions and clear your head before you say or do anything.
· Get some space. If you are so upset that you feel like screaming — or more — leave the room. Say, “I'm so angry; I need a minute to think.” Then leave the room or send your child to his room so you can calm down and regroup. You'll get yourself under control, and it's a good example for your children.
· Be quick. Catch your child in the act. Delayed reactions dilute the effect of the punishment.
· Use selectively. Use timeout for talking back, hitting and safety-compromising problems. Don't overuse it.
· Keep calm. Your anger only adds fuel to the fire and changes the focus from the behavior of the child to your anger. This prevents you from being in control.
· Model disciplined behavior. Ask other adults around your children – even house guests – to do the same. Children are usually better behaved when their parents and caregivers are happier and more relaxed.
· Teach children to communicate, too. Ask them to talk about what's bothering them rather than reacting by hitting or yelling.
· Talk it out. If you're under stress, talking to someone is an easy and effective outlet. Looking to other parents for advice helps mothers, fathers and other caregivers feel less isolated in their problems. Online communities and resource sites can offer support and solutions.
· Stick with it. Once you punish or say “timeout,” don't back down or be talked out of it. If you decide to use timeout to control hitting, for example, use it every time your child hits, even if he spends most of the day in timeout. Eventually, he'll decide that it's more fun to play without hitting than to sit alone in his room.
Johnson said staff at county DCBS offices may help parents by finding resources to deal with the problems that may cause stress, such as the loss of a job. Community resources are often available to assist families who need help with services like utilities, child care or job training.
“The local offices can assist with referrals to appropriate agencies,” Johnson said.
Log on here to find the phone number for the DCBS office in your county.
Drug and alcohol abuse may increase during the holidays, leading to an increase of child safety risk, Johnson said. Families who need help with these issues can get information about prevention resources from the CHFS Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities' Substance Abuse Prevention Program here.
Johnson said that anyone responsible for children – parents, family members, baby-sitters – should be aware, not impaired.
“Drinking and drug use impair your ability to care for a baby or a child,” she said. “Substance use impedes your judgment and behavior. We see lot of tragic incidences of caregivers' unsafe sleep with children involving alcohol and drugs.”
Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky (PCAK is a statewide nonprofit agency whose mission is to prevent the abuse and neglect of Kentucky's children through its outreach.
“Abuse and neglect are associated with short- and long-term consequences that affect not only the child and family, but also society as a whole,” PCAK Executive Director Jill Seyfred said. “PCAK gives parents and caregivers expert guidance on child safety. We're proud to be one of DCBS' partners in prevention.”
PCAK works with a statewide network of providers to offer parent education and support to help prevent child abuse.
To learn more about the self-help, parent education and support group providers serving Kentucky, contact Joel Griffith, firstname.lastname@example.org . To learn more about PCAK's other prevention opportunities and how you can help, call 800-CHILDREN, or visit PCAK online .
Johnson said it takes effort from entire communities to stop abuse and neglect. Kentuckians should remember that if they even suspect child abuse or neglect, they must report it. “It's the law,” she said.
In state fiscal year 2017 (July 2016-June 2017), more than 56,700 reports of abuse met criteria for investigation, and more than 16,500 of those were substantiated.
Call your local police or the cabinet's child abuse hotline at 877-KYSAFE1 – 877-597-2331 – to report suspected abuse. Hotline callers remain anonymous.
Learn more tips on safe sleep here .
From the Department of Education
Fighting Off the Wolves: ED and HHS Host Landmark Human Trafficking Prevention Event
Human trafficking, exploiting people through forced labor and commercial sex, is modern-day slavery. ED's Office of Safe and Healthy Students maintains that schools can and should be safe places where students can thrive. Unfortunately, the trafficking of America's students, both for labor and for commercial sex, is a dark presence in our nation's schools, jeopardizing the health, safety, and the very lives of students.
In late October, ED hosted a powerful event in tandem with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), during which a panel of parents, survivors, and subject matter experts, along with representatives from ED, HHS, and the community, discussed ways in which we all need to be working to keep our children out of harm's way. In addition, attendees were privileged to view an advance screening of “I Am Little Red,” a groundbreaking short film co-written by young trafficking survivors and aimed at students.
Human trafficking involves exploiting a person through force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of forced labor, commercial sex, or both. Victims of human trafficking include men, women, boys, girls, and transgender individuals from other nations lured by the promise of a better life in the United States, as well as adults and children who were born and raised in the United States. In fact, many child victims of human trafficking are students in the American school system. School administrators and staff need to be aware that cases of child trafficking are being reported in communities throughout the nation. No community—urban, rural, or suburban—school, socioeconomic group, or student demographic is immune.
Federal Actions to Combat Human Trafficking
At ED's event, which focused on trafficking awareness and prevention, officials from ED and HHS opened the session by discussing actions the federal government is taking to combat trafficking, as well as future plans for policies and procedures. David Esquith, the Director of ED's Office of Safe and Healthy Students (OSHS) in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, spoke about ED's role in working with school communities.
“We inform school communities about the problem,” he said. “We provide technical assistance; we encourage [schools] to embed human trafficking into their emergency operations plans. And we work with partners at the federal, state and local level to come up with solutions to this very serious problem. We've put out a guide called Human Trafficking in America's Schools . It's intended to address and help schools respond to this issue, to recognize the problem, and to take the proper course of action.”
He also called out the multi-pronged approach ED is using in the fight against trafficking. “We host webinars, we use social media, and we present at national conferences,” he said, pointing to four technical assistance centers based in OSHS: the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments ,, the National Technical Assistance Center for the Education of Neglected or Delinquent Children and Youth , the National Center on Homeless Education , and the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance Center .
Esquith then shared success stories, noting that individuals in school communities already have been spurred to action as a direct result of working with ED. “Upon reading the guide, we had one parent inspired to set up an organization called Impact Virginia ,” he said. “She is planning a summit in 2018. It's that kind of grassroots activity that we hope the work at the Department and our partners at HHS have inspired and supported.”
“When schools reach out to us, to all of you, we have to be there for them,” he said, charging the audience to view trafficking as a human rights crisis. “It's our responsibility as not only the adults, but as the professionals in this field. That's why we're here today.”
Modern Day Slavery
Charles Keckler, an associate deputy secretary at HHS, reflected upon our nation's great orators to conceptualize the scale of the problem. “Trafficking is modern day slavery, and it put me in mind of what Lincoln said: If slavery is not wrong, then nothing is wrong,” Keckler said. “That tells us, if trafficking is not wrong, nothing is wrong.”
Keckler outlined the steps HHS is taking as they approach trafficking from a public health perspective, discussing the programs of the Office on Trafficking and Persons, which funds a national network of victim assistance programs to support survivors of trafficking, and collaborates with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to provide resources and information on trafficking through the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. He also mentioned that the HHS-funded National Human Trafficking Hotline increasingly is expanding beyond just a voice number to texting and social media strategies to engage youth affected by human trafficking.
Keckler also commented that HHS is paying close attention to the potential for trafficking in the nation's child welfare system, commenting on how HHS's Children's Bureau manages grants to address trafficking in the child welfare system. The Family and Youth Services Bureau also addresses issues of human trafficking that involve runaway and homeless youth.
“The people and the children that are affected by trafficking are far too often those who, to put it simply, don't have somebody looking out for them,” Keckler noted. “So… what we have to do as a government, as a department, and as a society, is to help them look out for themselves, and to provide resources and people and communities who can help look out for them.”
“Because, as we can see today, the wolves are out there.”
Movie Sneak Preview
The session then segued to the exciting advance screening of “I Am Little Red,” by filmmaker Mary Mazzio. Mazzio introduced the eight-minute short by discussing why she wanted to create a product that would speak directly to children. “We've heard from survivor after survivor that none of them had a clue that this was happening, and they turned around and there it was,” she told the audience. “Many of these children were three to six months in to what seemed to be a relationship with a close friend, friend of a brother, or friend of an uncle, without understanding.”
“Then, all of a sudden, they were in a room all alone with two adult men.”
To achieve her goal, Mazzio worked directly with young trafficking survivors, who gave her specific situations and language to use. She also consulted with parents who had experienced trafficking of a child, and trafficking survivors who now are parents seeking to break the cycle of intergenerational abuse and trauma. As a result, “I Am Little Red” uses the familiar story of Little Red Riding Hood to depict four common situations that can lead to trafficking, and to help young children recognize warning signs.
Panelists Share Their Stories
Following the screening, a panel of parents, survivors, and subject matter experts shared their perspectives on how trusted adults can prevent trafficking. The panel consisted of Yvonne Ambrose, whose 16-year old daughter became a victim of human trafficking; Elizabeth Corey, a former trafficking victim who now is an advocate and life coach for trauma survivors; and Savannah Sanders, a former trafficking victim who founded the resource website Sex Trafficking Prevention . Each woman shared the similarities and differences in their stories, emphasizing what could have been done differently to help them.
Ambrose, who recently testified before the Senate , talked about how trafficking can lurk anywhere, even in places that look innocuous, and on websites that sound harmless. Ambrose's daughter, Desiree Robinson, was led into a trafficking situation through a classified advertising website. When Robinson realized what was happening and tried to escape in December 2016, she was violently beaten and murdered.
Corey emphasized the idea that children can be trafficked anywhere, commenting that traffickers can lurk in schools and in average communities. “A lot of times when I speak with people who are just hearing about trafficking for the first time, the first thing they say is ‘Oh yeah, I hear that happens in Asia,' ” she said. “Or, if we're really lucky, they might see media of it happening in the U.S. They'll say ‘Yes, it happens to foster children, right? I think I saw something on that.' This is about bringing it to everyone, so that those people who are parents in the schools, around the country can understand that this is happening in their child's school. It is happening. I don't care what school it is, it's happening in their child's school.”
Elaborate Cross-Section of Victims
The panelists shared with the audience the necessity of not viewing trafficking victims as a homogenous group with a specific profile. Sanders pointed out that the elaborate cross-section of victims creates complexity in looking for red flags, because exploitation can happen in many different ways.
“We often kind of see this ideology of what trafficking is, with stories about pimps with stables and multiple young girls, but… it can be parents that are trafficking their children for rent, drugs, or money,” she said. “It can be something that happens to somebody that's experienced abuse. It could be somebody that's recruited online. It's not a simple issue. We have to look at the complexities of children and their families and their systems, and we have to start creating change within an entire system.”
She also pointed out how many victims are trafficked by a familiar person. “A lot of my work in training parents is actually trying to break that mentality of stranger danger,” she observed. “We tend to focus on the people that might look different from us, or act different from us, or have different jobs than us, but … over 90 percent of victims know their abuser. It's about what they're doing, not what they look like.”
Interconnected to Other Forms of Trauma
Corey then shared part of her story, which was unique in that her biological parents were her traffickers. While her life looked perfect from the outside, there were unimaginable horrors occurring on the inside.
”My parents were married, and they were people in society that everybody thought were powerful and great and good,” she told the crowd. “I grew up while being trafficked in that type of home, and nobody was really paying attention. I really want to stress that we have to take the spotlight off of trafficking just by itself, and really look at the way trafficking is interconnected and interrelated to other forms of trauma. There was plenty of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and neglect that was happening within my house. Not all parents have the best interests of their child at heart.”
Sanders outlined how in her situation, a long history of sexual abuse and trauma made her a prime target. “When I was trafficked at 16, I was trafficked by a gang, because I had a long history of sexual abuse and trauma,” she recalled. “One of the things that I talk about in my book is the way a trafficker can spot a vulnerable child from a mile away, yet most of the adults in their lives cannot spot that vulnerable child. By the time I met the man that would traffic me, I was so broken down, so vulnerable, so hurt, and in so much pain, he didn't even have to use any of those tactics. He just simply put his hand on my back and told me I'd be working for him. My life to that point groomed me for that moment.”
“We have to flip that script,” she continued. “Instead of a vulnerable child being available to be exploited, we need to be seeing that vulnerable child so we can love the hell out of them while they grow up and release those vulnerabilities.”
Corey noted that educators have the best opportunity outside of the family to recognize trauma. “Educators … have a lot of responsibility to see the traumatic behaviors,” she said, even as she acknowledged that teachers already have full plates, and it is asking a lot to challenge them to step into the realm of recognizing traumatic home lives. “Yes, I'm putting a ton on you, but it's so important that we educate ourselves as to what it looks like. Trafficking, sex, internet safety — all of these things come into our schools. The more we can get kids to disclose if something is wrong at home, the better.”
The panelists examined the role technology and social media are playing in sex trafficking today, observing that children are exposed to technology at ever-younger ages, and that the anonymity of the internet creates dangerous situations, such that parents need to be well-versed in the potential dangers accessible on every computer and mobile device. “Nowadays, with social media, you don't know who's on the other side talking to you,” said Ambrose. “It could be an adult, or it could be another kid who is trying to befriend you to traffic you. We need to educate ourselves, we need to educate our educators, and we need to educate our health care providers as well.”
A Hopeful Note
The hopeful note on which all three panelists agreed was that a child at the intersection of trauma and trafficking has the opportunity to avoid danger if an adult in their life can reach out a hand. “I'm not expecting teachers to be therapists,” said Sanders. “Every single classroom in America [contains] traumatized children. There's no way to get around that. But what are we doing to incorporate support systems in our schools for trauma? It's about identification. It's about just seeing a child. Now that I'm an adult and I look back on my life, I know who my abusers were. I know what they did to me. It was horrific and it was sad. But do you know who I remember? I remember every safe person that came into my life through that process. They saw me and they loved me. When I felt seen, I felt connected. That's my call to action.”
Read the HHS story on this event .
View the event in its entirety on Mediasite.
Eight Former Child Actors Accuse Hollywood Producer Gary Goddard of Sexual Abuse
by Hunter Harris
Eight men have told the Los Angeles Times they were sexually abused by Gary Goddard , the Hollywood producer and theme-park designer. Actor Anthony Edwards , former actors Mark Driscoll, and Bret Nighman, and four other men who have asked to remain anonymous said Goddard abused them on Disneyland rides, during overnight stops during a statewide theater tour, and backstage in the 1970s. A eighth man, Linus Huffman, said Goddard attempted to use mentoring as a way to inappropriately touch him. The men claim that Scott Drnavich, a former actor who died in 1997, also said he was sexually assaulted by Goddard as a boy. Barbara Costa, the woman hired to care for the production's child actors on tour, told the Times that she was suspicious of Goddard's behavior, but that her higher-ups declined to take action. Goddard, through a publicist, has denied all wrongdoing.
In an online essay and subsequent Times interview, Edwards said Goddard molested him during the Santa Barbara–based California Youth Theatre's production of “Peter Pan,” directed and choreographed by Goddard. Nighman recalled fighting Goddard off one night and watching him molest Edwards instead. Multiple men on the tour and friends of Drnavich's as an adult say that before his death he described being assaulted by Goddard multiple times. His mother told the Times he never told her about any abuse.
According to Costa and the men, some parents were concerned about Goddard's behavior on tour. He allegedly insisted on being the only adult to bunk with the young male actors, Costa said. During a 1990 reunion of the Santa Barbara theater alums, many men recounted being abused by Goddard, according to the Times . Driscoll told the paper the men went to Goddard's house and confronted him, and Goddard apologized.
In 2014, Goddard, along with frequent collaborator Bryan Singer, was accused of sexually assaulting actor Michael Egan III . Egan later withdrew his lawsuit. Singer is facing new scrutiny after he was accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old.
Goddard is currently taking a leave of absence from his company, the Goddard Group. “If it were possible to prove a negative, Mr. Goddard would debate these 40-year-old allegations,” his publicist told the Times , adding that his client would “categorically deny” these allegations.
Surviving the Holidays
The holiday season has arrived and adult survivors of child sexual abuse will once again be navigating festivities where their perpetrator may have a seat at the table.
by the Lansing City Pulse
The holiday season has arrived and adult survivors of child sexual abuse will once again be navigating festivities where their perpetrator may have a seat at the table.
It is common for survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence to skip family reunions, birthday parties, funerals, weddings, and holiday dinners to avoid having to share these experiences with the person who sexually abused them, while other family members act like nothing ever happened. If they choose to speak up and set appropriate boundaries, they are often ignored, victim blamed, and shamed. Survivors are asked to offer forgiveness and trust without ever being offered a process for accountability and justice.
They won't be alone. The holidays are incredibly difficult for trans people, people of color, people with disabilities – people on the margins. That's why it is critical to have a concrete plan of action to safeguard the vulnerable people in your life.
Here are some steps you can take to be a good ally to the survivors of child sexual abuse and other forms of oppression this holiday season:
Review your guest list and reflect on who will be around your table. A quick review will likely reveal that you already know who is most likely to do harm and to whom. Spend some time talking with the survivors or vulnerable people you've invited to discuss what you can do to support them and then do those things.
In some cases, you may have to rescind a few invitations. If you know that there is a survivor of child sexual abuse who will be triggered by a guest's presence or behavior, choose the survivor. Always. They are the ones who get to determine when and if it will ever be appropriate for them to have their perpetrator at the same table with them. They get to choose the boundaries and your job will be to support them.
If you know that a guest will not respect the pronouns or gender identity of your queer or trans loved ones, let them know that they are welcome to eat at a different table this holiday season. They can spend the next year doing their own work to educate themselves so that they won't have to miss the next shindig.
It is your job, as the host, to set clear expectations about how people are to be treated. This is your opportunity to flex your ally muscles. You can send out educational resources and be a resource for folks who have questions about anything before they do or say something harmful.
You're not done yet. Once everyone has arrived and the party has begun, it is now your job and the job of other allies in attendance to intervene if any of your guests behave in a manner that upholds rape culture or any other system of oppression including but not limited to: white supremacy, rape culture, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, or xenophobia. We all have a lot of learning to do and it's important to foster an environment where we can all learn how to treat each other with dignity and respect.
This year, make sure that the people who need safe, loving community the most are sitting at your table.
Royal commission sheds light on another uncomfortable truth: harmful sexual behavior in children
by Wendy O'Brien
In Australia, as in most comparable countries, the development of a proper understanding of child sexual abuse has been appallingly slow. In the absence of an appropriate policy framework to prevent child sexual abuse, generations of children have endured terrible harm.
Within the broad scope of “child sexual abuse”, one issue has been a particular subject of silence, confusion, and fear. Harmful sexual behaviours by children continue to be very poorly understood.
Through private interviews, written submissions, expert evidence, and a case study focused on harmful sexual behaviours in schools, the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse focused its considerable analytical expertise on this much-neglected issue. The findings demand our attention and action.
The commission's findings
During private sessions, the commission heard that nearly one in six survivors of child sexual abuse had been abused by a person under 18. Incidents had occurred across a range of institutional settings, including out of home care, school, and youth detention. During its term, the commission built a nuanced picture of the harms endured by children subjected to sexual abuse by another child:
We became aware that children with harmful sexual behaviours harming other children is a kind of abuse that has occurred across all levels of society and in many different settings, in historical and contemporary times.
The commission's work dispels the powerful misconception that children with these behaviours warrant the same response as adults who perpetrate child sexual abuse. In many cases, these behaviours in children are a trauma response, a replication of prior abuse, or a reaction to exposure to pornography. The commission reports that children exposed to violence in the home are considerably over-represented in the group of children with harmful sexual behaviours.
Further distinguishing children from adult perpetrators, the commission affirmed that children's developmental stage means they have a particular capacity for rehabilitation and, when provided with appropriate therapy, are unlikely to continue with the behaviours.
Yet a widespread lack of understanding about these behaviours means that children are not always provided with the appropriate response:
We learned that few people understand how to identify, react and respond to children's harmful sexual behaviours or fully appreciate the damage the behaviours can cause.
“Harmful sexual behaviours” encompasses a broad range of acts, and the commission is clear that a one-size-fits-all response is inadequate. At one end of the spectrum, a child's problematic (rather than harmful) behaviour may be outside the developmentally-appropriate range, or outside accepted social norms, such as self-stimulation in public. The commission recommends that early and appropriate responses require adults who work with children have knowledge about children's sexual development.
Where a child's behaviour harms other children, adults, or animals, it is important that the seriousness of the behaviours be acknowledged. Timely reporting and appropriate specialist assessments are also paramount.
At present, the lack of understanding in Australia means incidents may be overlooked or dismissed as child's play - an outcome recounted repeatedly to the commission. Where adults dismiss or deny harmful incidents, they actively perpetuate the harm for both the child with the behaviours, and children subjected to the behaviours.
The commission's recommendations
At present, policy and therapeutic responses vary between states and territories . The commission found that:
Overall, Australia lacks a comprehensive overarching framework to guide formal systems, individual institutions and practitioners on how to provide effective, consistent responses to harmful sexual behaviours by children.
Addressing this requires leadership from all levels of government. The commission has called on government to:
fund a network of specialised therapeutic services;
facilitate timely and expert assessments and referrals; and
ensure that clinicians in this specialised field are provided with ongoing professional training and clinical supervision.
The commission also stresses the importance of ongoing research and evaluation.
The commission placed considerable emphasis on education, consistent with the public health model that identifies the importance of prevention and early intervention. It noted that child sexual abuse prevention education is a priority, but is not available to children in all schools. Research also shows that while educating children is important, it is only part of the answer .
To address the lack of understanding, the commission recommends education on preventing harmful sexual behaviours be provided to the broader community. This includes parents, carers, and professionals that engage with children.
The commission's work, and the testimony of survivors, has brought to light an issue that has been denied for far too long.
It is understandable that many people find it confronting to contemplate children engaging in acts that cause such harm. This must now be put aside. It is infinitely more confronting to know that the ignorance or inaction of adults perpetuates harm, and denies children the therapeutic supports they need.
Ensuring that we are educated about developmentally appropriate sexual behaviours is an excellent place to start.
Child abuse on planes can create 'gray areas' for airplanes
by Regina Garcia Cano
LAS VEGAS – Flight crews can restrain passengers or even divert flights when violent behavior erupts midair, but when the situation involves a parent potentially abusing a child, the decisions are not so clear cut.
A 5½-hour JetBlue flight earlier this month continued to its final destination after three passengers reported a mother mistreating her 8-year-old son, including grabbing him by the neck and shoving him against a window as he cried.
The same day, the airline diverted a flight to Las Vegas after a man reportedly hit and bit other passengers.
The airline did not respond to requests for comment on the incident involving the child, and a federal complaint against the mother does not say whether the flight attendant who received the passenger complaints intervened.
While it may vary by airline, flight attendants are trained in how to de-escalate violent situations under widely accepted procedures, and it is likely that JetBlue concluded it was safest to leave the mother and son together and not disrupt the flight, aviation experts say.
"This is certainly a very unpleasant situation, but it is one that is full of, if you will, gray areas, as opposed to a black-and-white type of situation," said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst.
"The challenge is that if you separate the parent from the child, it could elevate the anxiety between the two," he said. "If the flight attendants were to physically restrain the mother, that too could exacerbate the anxiety in the child by seeing his parent restrained and possibly in harm."
A misdemeanor complaint filed in U.S. District Court accuses Cherice Dawn Klipfel of assaulting her son during the flight from Boston to Salt Lake City on Dec. 10. Her attorney did not return a call seeking comment.
A woman sitting next to Klipfel told an FBI agent that she saw the mother strike, slap, kick and shove her son, who had a window seat.
"Each violent episode would be followed by a loving period where (Klipfel) would calm down and they would sit without a problem," according to the complaint. "(Passenger) was adamant that the violence (Klipfel) was committing against (son) was absolutely not parenting but abuse and assault. (Passenger) described (Klipfel) striking and shoving (boy) while (boy) pleaded for her to stop."
The complaint says two other passengers saw Klipfel "tightly cover" her son's face and "shake him aggressively" while the boy cried.
The airline faced another midair disturbance that day, when a passenger going from Los Angeles to New York had to be restrained after hitting and biting others, according to cellphone video shared with a TV station. Officers met the plane after it was diverted to Las Vegas, but no police report was taken and no arrest was made.
Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA union, said many factors play into a decision to divert a flight, including whether the violent behavior has stopped and how quickly the aircraft can secure a landing spot at an airport.
She added that flight attendants know to intervene to try to stop violent behavior by giving clear verbal commands, restraining a person or separating passengers regardless of their relationship.
"Bottom line, the actions of the mother in assaulting her son would create a very high level of threat," Nelson said. "This goes beyond the relationship between the mother and son. This is a passenger that is acting violently against another passenger in a small space where people cannot get away and situations can escalate quickly."
A grand jury on Wednesday returned a misdemeanor indictment against Klipfel of Lakewood, Colorado. She has been released from custody, and her trial on an assault charge is scheduled for February.
Janet Rosenzweig, executive director of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, praised the three passengers who complained to the flight attendant. She said it's difficult for some to intervene to help a child because Americans believe it is against social norms.
"If you ask people, 'Would you intervene if you saw a child being abused?' The majority of people say they would. But if you ask them, 'Would other people intervene?' The majority of people think the rest of the world wouldn't," she said. "The good news is that people were willing to stand up and try to help a child."
Court dismisses posthumous child abuse claim against Michael Jackson
by Andy Malt
A court has dismissed a sexual harassment claim made posthumously against Michael Jackson. This is the second such ruling made against the case.
As previously reported, choreographer Wade Robson launched his legal action in 2013, alleging that Jackson had sexually abused him over a seven year period from his early teens. Legal reps for the Jackson Estate hit back at the allegations, noting that Robson had testified for the defence in the singer's 2005 criminal trial over other child abuse claims – at which Jackson was acquitted – taking to the witness stand to deny he had ever been molested by Jackson and criticising other witnesses who said he had.
Robson had also paid tribute to Jackson at the time of his death in 2009. But the accuser's legal rep said – when he later went legal – that psychological damage caused by the abuse had prevented her client from accepting he had been molested by the singer as a child until more recently.
In 2015, the Jackson estate itself was dropped as a defendant – a court then ruling that Robson had left it too late to go legal. He was, a judge said, four years past the statute of limitations, having failed to pursue a legal case before he turned 26. However, Robson continued on with his legal claim, seeking damages from two companies controlled by the estate, MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures. It is these claims that have now been dismissed on the same grounds after the companies requested a summary judgement.
According to the Hollywood Reporter , judge Mitchell Beckloff said: “There is no dispute plaintiff brought this action well after his 26th birthday. Today plaintiff is 35 years old; he was 30 years old when he filed this action … Plaintiff filed his action four years too late, and his action is barred by the statute of limitations”.
The judge also argued that Jackson's companies could not be held liable for the actions of their owner. Although, he noted, there would be an exception – both to the liability of the companies and the cut-off for the statute of limitations – if either company was aware of unlawful sexual conduct by an employee and failed to take action. However, there was no evidence that this was the case, said the judge.
“Here defendants' relationship with Michael Jackson did not result in the exposure of plaintiff to the alleged sexual abuse”, said Beckloff. “These facts distinguish this case from those where the sexual abuse suffered was directly related to the inherent relationship between the perpetrator and the entity such as teacher/school, scout master/scouting organisation, priest/church or coach/youth sports organisation”.
In a statement to THR, the Jackson estate said that it “believes the court made the correct decision”. Attorney Howard Weitzman added: “In my opinion Mr Robson's allegations, made 20+ years after they supposedly occurred and years after Mr Robson testified twice under oath – including in front of a jury – that Michael Jackson had never done anything wrong to him, were always about the money rather than a search for the truth”.
Robson, meanwhile, indicated that he intends to appeal the latest ruling, saying: “I respect but disagree with the court's ruling and will be challenging it through the appellate courts. I am determined to see this case through to a determination on the factual merits by a jury of twelve”.
Advocacy experts ask parents to spot the signs of child sexual abuse
by Jesse Horne
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Inside the Chippewa Valley Child Advocacy Center, there's a room that looks fun and comfortable – but, that's the point. It's where children can open up about cases of alleged sexual assault – a topic that has been hard to talk about, but now is seeing more light brought to it.
"I think now that we're having more conversation about it and more education on it that more is coming to light and these children are being able to express what's happening to them and disclose and talk about these things and parents are having those conversations as well,” Kayla Lauderdale, an advocate care manager at the Chippewa Valley Child Advocacy Center, said to WEAU 13 News on Thursday.
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, child protective services find evidence or substantiate one claim of child sex abuse in the nation every eight minutes.
Numbers like that can be startling for parents to hear, but child advocacy experts say there are signs to be aware if there is any possible abuse for their children.
Last year, the Advocacy Center conducted 328 interviews with children, with ages ranging from 3 to 18. Sixty percent of them (197) were female, with sexual abuse the primary allegation in 55 percent of the boys and 75 percent of the girls.
Staff at the Advocacy Center say the vast majority of child sex assault cases involve someone with a child knows very well and that likely could be a relative of theirs. With the holidays in full swing and family get-togethers being planned, Gregory Lynch, a forensic interviewer at the Advocacy Center, said keeping a watchful eye and open ears to your kids is essential.
"If a parent is concerned that their child is being abused in some way or is being victimized and some way, it can be an excellent time to just, you know, spend more time with that kid, take a good opportunity to talk with them, when it's a calm moment,” he said to WEAU 13 News on Thursday. "Parents should be vigilant and kind of be alert to who their kids are with and maybe be also alert to cues that their child may be giving them, in terms of maybe their child is really uncomfortable to certain person ... you know, just to be aware of that"
But, if parents begin to wonder if there's been abuse, Lauderdale said don't wait to report it.
Kayla Lauderdale / Advocate Care Manager - Chippewa Valley Child Advocacy Center
"Being able to make that call for concern – whether or not you know for sure if it's happening or not – definitely making that call to Child Protective Services or law enforcement if you have any suspicions whatsoever is really important."
Lauderdale said one tip they give parents is to give their kids a code word or phrase to use. That way, if a child feels they've been touched inappropriately, they can let their parents know – even if they're in a public setting.
Police: Mother led investigators to child's remains buried in backyard
by Crimesider Staff
CLEVELAND -- A Cleveland mother led investigators to a child's body buried in the backyard of her home Tuesday, and the remains are believed to be her missing, disabled son, according to court documents. The child's body reportedly showed signs of abuse.
Larissa Rodriguez, 34, was charged Thursday with murder. Court records don't indicate whether she has an attorney and she is scheduled to appear in Cleveland Municipal Court on Friday.
The remains have not been positively identified as Rodriguez's missing 5-year-old son Jordan, according to the documents. The medical examiner will identify the body and determine a cause of death following a Wednesday autopsy.
Cleveland police have said Jordan died Sept. 22. The arrest affidavit submitted by a Cleveland homicide detective Wednesday said Rodriguez "buried the child inappropriately" and led authorities Tuesday to where his remains could be found.
The affidavit said that the "corpse exhibited multiple signs of abuse, including broken ribs."
Police were tipped off Monday when they received a 911 call from the brother of Rodriguez's boyfriend, reports CBS affiliate WOIO . The caller, who lives in Pakistan, said the man called him and said he came home to find the child dead several months ago.
"He said, when I came home, the kid was already dead," the caller told a dispatcher, according to a recording of the call obtained by the station.
The brother told 911 the boyfriend cried as he said he helped Rodriguez bury the body.
"He told me that something happened with one of the kids and they didn't call the cops. Basically him and his girlfriend buried the kid in the backyard," the caller said.
Investigators first responded to Rodriguez' Cleveland home Monday, but didn't uncover anything. FBI and medical examiner investigators continued the search Tuesday and dug for about three hours before finding the remains.
History of child welfare investigations
Rodriguez, a mother of nine, has a long history with local child welfare officials. Social workers have opened 13 neglect or abuse investigations on the woman since 1999, a Cuyahoga County spokeswoman told Cleveland.com . The latest was in December 2016, and that case was closed in February, the website reports.
Officials removed four children from the home Monday night, and the children were placed in emergency custody in foster care. Those four range in age from 16 months to 12 years, county spokeswoman Mary Louise Madigan said.
The home was found in "deplorable and unsanitary condition," according to documents filed by the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services and obtained by WOIO.
The home was dirty, with an infestation of cockroaches and rats, and one child was seen eating a sandwich that contained cockroaches, the document said.
The documents say the mother was arrested in connection "with the death of a child who is believed to be the sibling of these children."
Madigan said Wednesday that Rodriguez lost custody of her two oldest children many years ago, but Madigan would not reveal why.
"Our focus is on the safety of the children," Madigan said.
In an emotional statement to reporters, Rodriguez's sister Ana Rodriguez claimed the woman abused the boy. Ana Rodriguez said she notified child welfare officials numerous times and that they would respond but then close out the cases.
"That boy was sick, that boy was special needs, premature, he needed help, and all they did was [expletive] beat on that little boy," Ana Rodriguez said.
Larissa Rodriguez told police she has nine children and five live with her. She allegedly said Jordan, who has special needs and is unable to speak, left with his aunt on Dec. 2 to visit his father in Texas.
According to a police report obtained by WOIO, Rodriguez said she did not know the phone number or address for the father or the aunt.
The boyfriend is currently jailed in another Ohio county on drug charges. He has since been transferred to a maximum security cell, according to WOIO. He has not been charged in the case.
Rodriguez couldn't be reached for comment while in custody.
McKayla Maroney sues USA Gymnastics for paying her to keep quiet about sexual abuse
Maroney is also suing the U.S. Olympic Committee and Michigan State
by Sam Brodsky
On Wednesday, McKayla Maroney filed a lawsuit against USA Gymnastics alleging that they tried to silence her sexual abuse claims against former U.S. women's gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar with a confidentially agreement in December 2016.
The suit was filed in Los Angeles and states that USA Gymnastics (USAG) made her sign the non-discosure agreement as part of a financial settlement to " obtain funds necessary to pay for lifesaving psychological treatment and care."
"After suffering for years from psychological trauma of her sexual abuse at the hands of Nassar, and in need of funds to pay for psychological treatment," she was forced to sign the agreement, the suit states. It also names Michigan State University (MSU) — where Nassar was employed full-time — and the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) as defendants, alleging that they " failed to properly investigate , discipline or remove Olympic Team doctor Larry Nassar."
Under the agreement, Maroney would have been charged "penalties of over $100,000" had she come forward about her alleged abuse. Maroney's current attorney, John Manly, called the settlement "an immoral and illegal attempt to silence a victim of child sexual abuse."
American women's rights attorney Gloria Allred was representing the Olympic medalist at the time, and The Wall Street Journal reported that Maroney received $1.25 million.
Allred told Metro that she had no comment.
When allegations against Harvey Weinstein started surfacing in October, bringing these non-disclosure agreements into the spotlight, Allred told the LA Times that, in some cases, such agreements can benefit a victim of sexual abuse.
"If she resolves it in a way that's positive for her and that she feels good about, then that's what's most important," Allred said. "And yes, it may mean that others may not know. But should it be mandated that no settlement should be confidential? We don't think it's a good idea." The alternative, she said, is "facing years of litigation and the risks inherent to that and the expense inherent to that."
Maroney comes forward
Maroney, now 22, was one of over 140 women — including 2012 London Games "Fierce Five" team members Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas — to accuse Nassar of sexual abuse during medical treatments.
Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on Thursday, December 7, on three charges of child pornography. According to Huffington Post , he is to serve 20 years for each of these charges consecutively. In January he will go on trial for 10 separate counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, the first seven of which he will be sentenced for on January 12. It will be here that the victims will be able to give their impact statements.
Back in October, Maroney posted to social media detailing years of abuse from Nassar since she was 13, also recounting a time when, at 15, Nassar allegedly drugged her with sleeping pills. She called this night the "scariest" of her life.
"Dr. Nassar told me that I was receiving ‘medically necessary treatment that he had been performing on patients for over 30 years," Maroney wrote in a statement. "It started when I was 13 years old, at one of my first National Team training camps, in Texas, and it didn't end until I left the sport. It seemed whenever and wherever this man could find the chance, I was 'treated.'" She originally shared this statement on Twitter, but it has since been deleted. A Facebook post, however, still remains.
By speaking publicly about her claims, Maroney went against her non-disclosure agreement with USAG, potentially opening herself up to a countersuit. Manly told ESPN that this outcome is unlikely.
Was the settlement legal?
According to Manly, no.
He said that these types of agreements are "unlawful" in California, stating, "We're basically saying USAG and its lawyers violated the law by asking McKayla to agree to it and that she should be free to talk about her abuse to whomever she wants, whenever she wants."
"I want people to understand that this kid had no choice. She couldn't function. She couldn't work," Manly continued. "They were willing to sacrifice the health and well-being of one of the most famous gymnasts in the world because they didn't want the world to know they were protecting a pedophile doctor."
Manly further detailed to Metro that California CCP section 1002 , which went into effect August 23, 2006, "specifically outlaws 'confidential settlement agreements in any civil action the factual foundation for which is a felony sex offense.'" It was then amended "and made stronger with more stringent penalties for those parties or lawyers seeking to force plaintiffs to sign such an agreement." The amendment went into effect January 1, 2017, and Manly said that the last signature on the settlement between USAG and Maroney dated January 9, 2017.
Report calls for DCYF to make immediate changes in wake of child deaths
by Jennifer Bogdan and Tome Mooney
The report cites state social workers for incomplete or inaccurate record-keeping that helped perpetuate a series of incorrect assessments or decisions in some cases, including one case that led to the eventual death of an infant boy.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — For the second time this year the state's Office of the Child Advocate has released a critical review of the way the state child-welfare system handled cases of children in its care who either died or were seriously injured, noting that many “vital” recommendations first made more than a year ago remain unmet.
Those recommendations, included in a report released Wednesday, center on basic principles of caring for vulnerable children: Don't ignore credible phone calls to the child-abuse hot line, verify with mental-health professionals a parent's competency instead of relying on the word of family members — and actually visit the home where a child lives to ensure his or her safety.
The advocate's report — the work of hours of investigation by a nine-member panel of child-welfare experts — centered on two deaths that occurred in July and November and four recent cases of “near deaths” of children.
With these cases included, at least 12 children — either in state care or whose families may have received state services — have died this year. And at least another 12 were reported as near-deaths. Most were infants or toddlers.
The report cites state social workers for incomplete or inaccurate record-keeping that helped perpetuate a series of incorrect assessments or decisions in some cases, including one case that led to the eventual death of an infant boy. Police have charged his parents with cruelty and neglect.
That case involved the death of Tobi Olawusi. Neither he nor any of the other children are named in the report. But Tobi was the subject of a Providence Journal investigation examining the procedures the Department of Children, Youth and Families uses to allow newborns to go home when the competency of a parent is in question.
The report also says the court-appointed lawyer in Tobi's case should have pressed harder to prevent the infant from going home with his mentally ill mother.
The report recommends that such court-appointed lawyers, who serve as legal advocates for the children, should, prior to any court hearing in a case, independently gather information from “case participants,” social workers and private service providers to “verify that the information provided to the court is complete and accurate.”
To that end, the report suggests that “any attorney serving as a child's guardian ... meet with their clients face to face in their residence and attend any and all meetings necessary to be an effective advocate for the child.”
The report acknowledges that the DCYF is already working on several deficiencies that were noted, such as standardizing how it assesses risk and launches case investigations of possible neglect.
But while the DCYF is “actively working to upgrade” those policies, the review panel said the department should make immediate changes to protect the children in its care.
One suggested immediate change: Any time the agency receives a phone call alleging abuse or neglect of a child younger than 6, an investigator “should be mandated to respond to the home and put eyes on the child, to assess potential risks and ensure the safety and well-being of the child.”
The report notes in bold lettering that this recommendation was made in a similar report in March 2016 and again in March 2017, “and is being recommended again.”
DCYF Director Trista Piccola challenged that finding, saying that whenever the department determines there's a credible allegation of child abuse or neglect, an investigator indeed goes out to the home. “This is pretty standard, pretty basic and fundamental, to child protection,” she said. “You go out and make contact.”
In fact, Piccola said, all of the recommendations made in a previous March 2017 child-fatality report — some of which were being raised again in this report — were followed up on and progress reports presented to lawmakers.
Piccola said she would meet with Child Advocate Jennifer Griffith to discuss the report.
In a statement, Griffith said she looked forward to collaborating with Piccola and was optimistic that the report's findings, coupled with the office's report from this March, “will generate the systemic change needed to ensure the safety and well-being of children in state care.”
Much of the report is centered on the deaths of two infants, including Baby Tobi, who died in November at Hasbro Children's Hospital weeks before his first birthday.
He had spent eight months on life support since a rescue crew brought him to the hospital in April, clinically dead. Police and case documents say he suffered numerous head and bone fractures over days of cruelty.
The DCYF had allowed the boy, born Dec. 23, 2016, to go home with his mother, who suffered from mental illness and who already had her only other child taken away.
The other death case involves an infant who died in July. The baby's mother had a long history of substance abuse and mental-health issues, and the state had removed her other children from her care years earlier.
In that case, the state medical examiner ruled the cause of death “sudden infant death while bed sharing.” No criminal charges were filed.
In both cases the infants were allowed to remain in their families' care under so-called “safety plans,” despite repeated calls to the department questioning the children's safety, with callers noting their parents' drug use and mental-health issues.
In both cases social workers determined children were “safe” without ever taking steps to determine whether information the families and friends provided was true, the report concludes.
“The opinions of friends and family members regarding mother's mental health were relied upon when making a determination to send a newborn home — not a medical professional,” the report states.
In the case of Tobi Olawusi, the report notes that the child's “safety plan” relied on his mother never being left alone with him. The child's father told social workers he held a construction job for a year and was concerned about missing work, but was confident he could take six weeks off to be with the child before he was sent to day care.
Despite that specific plan, six days later a DCYF social worker was instead checking in with a full-time nanny and reporting “there were no concerns.”
The child advocate's report, however, states: “There is no indication that the DCYF social worker met with the nanny, reviewed the safety plan with the nanny or independently verified any of the information provided before concluding that ‘there were no concerns.'”
Task force to combat sex trafficking
by Jake Judd
A $313,000 grant will form a task force to combat sex trafficking in the St. Cloud area.
The Stearns County Attorney's Office calls sex trafficking a significant public safety issue.
The Central Minnesota Sex Trafficking Investigative Task Force (CMSTITF) will work with state and federal agencies to investigate and prosecute sex traffickers and provide services to the victims of sex trafficking.
The task force will be made up of officers from the St. Cloud and Waite Park Police Departments and the Stearns County Sheriff's Office.
Waite Park Police Chief Dave Bentrud told the Stearns County Board that when
investigators started digging into the problem of trafficking, they found it extended beyond the metro area into smaller communities.
“It ties to gangs, violent offenders, and drugs,” he said. “We felt that trying to figure out a way to allocate more investigative resources to the problem made sense.”
County Attorney Janelle Kendall says that trafficking prosecutions involve not only domestic and sexual violence, but often drug use and sales and other related property crimes to ensure profitability for the career criminals involved.
She says the St. Cloud area, sitting at the intersection of I-94 and Highway 23,
is a natural crossroads for both sex traffickers and sex buyers, creating the highest demand outside the Twin Cities metro area.
The grant is from the Minnesota Office of Justice Programs (OJP).