More young kids come forward with stories of Indiana high schooler's abuse
by Matthew Glowicki
A Jeffersonville High School senior already charged with child molestation is facing new allegations that he abused more than a dozen other youths.
Michael Begin Jr., 18, is now charged with 24 counts of child molestation after police say he inappropriately touched 17 children ages 3 to 8 while working as a teaching assistant at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School and at the YMCA in Jeffersonville, Indiana.
After Begin was charged in October 2017 with two felony counts of child molesting stemming from his time at the elementary school, more children came forward.
Police now say four additional girls at the elementary school were touched inappropriately by Begin in the library or in the hallway, according to a probable cause affidavit filed Friday in Clark Circuit Court.
The newly filed affidavit also states that Jeffersonville police were first notified on Sept. 25 that a 5-year-old told her mother she was molested by Begin on the YMCA playground.
Investigators went to the YMCA on Oct. 3 and spoke with two members of leadership who said they were aware of the investigation and knew it involved Begin.
Steve Tarver, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Louisville, said in a statement that Begin was suspended "as soon as the allegations emerged" and fired "once the investigation began."
A spokeswoman declined to clarify when exactly those actions were taken.
"As always, we continue to evaluate policies and procedures to maximize the safety of those we serve," Tarver said.
On Oct. 17, police were told of two separate reports of child molestation at the elementary school.
According to court records, two 6-year-old students told their parents that Begin had touched them under their clothes during the school day.
Surveillance video at the school recorded that moment and corroborates the child's account, prosecutors said in court records.
Begin was arrested and charged the next day. He has pleaded not guilty.
As news of the arrest spread, Jeffersonville police were told of five children who attended the YMCA in 2017 who said that "Mr. Michael" either touched them inappropriately as they worked on homework or colored, tickled them or made them lift their shirts while they were at the YMCA.
While talking with one of those children, a 7-year-old girl, police were told of another child, a 4-year-old, who said she experienced the same abuse at the YMCA.
That 4-year-old disclosed she saw Begin do the same thing — inappropriate touching underneath a table — to another child.
When police pulled video surveillance from the YMCA, according to court records, only one day's worth of footage from days Begin worked was recovered. Investigators were led to four more youths by watching that video.
According to police, Begin is seen in the recording touching a 5-year-old beneath a table as she colored, occasionally looking up at the door where people could enter the room.
He then attempted to do the same to a 4-year-old sitting next to the other girl, but she slapped his hand away.
In total, police say 17 children were victimized between January and October of 2017.
Begin was at the elementary school as part of his high school's Cadet Teaching Program.
A call to a school district spokeswoman was not immediately returned.
When Begin was arrested on Oct. 18, he told police he was sorry, that he wasn't sure why it happened and that it was an error in judgment.
Dramatic Video Shows Man Kidnapping Minor In Illinois
by Riddhima Kanetkar
(Video on site)
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Friday released a video of a child who was kidnapped in December 2017 from a suburb of Chicago.
According to a report published by FBI's Chicago field office, the incident occurred on Dec. 20, 2017, at 3:30 p.m. local time (4:30 p.m. EST) in the area of 153rd Street and Burnham Avenue in Calumet City, Illinois.
In regards to the case, the FBI arrested an Indiana man named Bryan Protho. According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Protho allegedly grabbed the child from the sidewalk and forced the minor into his red Ford Explorer sport-utility vehicle.
Protho was indicted on a federal kidnapping charge for allegedly abducting a child from a Calumet City street in broad daylight last month. The complaint states that Protho then parked the vehicle in an alley and assaulted the child. The press release says law enforcement was contacted only after the victim somehow managed to escape and flag down another passing vehicle.
It also states 38-year-old Protho was arrested on Dec. 27, 2017, and is still in federal custody.
As of now, he has been charged with one count of kidnapping and his arraignment is set for Feb. 20 before U.S. District Judge Charles P. Kocoras. Protho currently faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The FBI also noted that though the time stamp and date on the video is wrong, it does capture the December kidnapping.
Speaking about releasing the footage after a month of the incident, FBI's Chicago bureau said the video was released as a part of an ongoing investigation to check and see if the said vehicle might be connected to other crimes.
In addition to releasing the video, the FBI asked anyone with information regarding the vehicle to contact the FBI Chicago Field Office at (312) 421-6700 or to write them at email@example.com.
Uber enlists its drivers in the fight against sex trafficking with new national campaign
by Marco della Cava
SAN FRANCISCO — Uber wants its drivers to help stop sex trafficking, an enduring problem that has prompted activists to press workers on the front lines of the travel industry to alert authorities if they see it happening.
Over the past few years, Uber has enlisted its drivers in local and regional efforts to help fight human trafficking of adults and minors. But the new initiative , which begins Monday, at the end of Human Trafficking Awareness Month, targets all 750,000 active U.S. drivers and eventually will expand to other countries.
"This is a global problem that affects all our cities and communities, and we realized our drivers are uniquely positioned to make an impact," Tracey Breeden, a former police officer who spearheaded the program as Uber's Global Safety Communications lead, tells USA TODAY.
Breeden says the expansion of the program to foreign markets will take time because "we have to make it fit each country, with its own unique hotlines and support organizations, but that's definitely our goal."
Among Uber's partners in the U.S. initiative are The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, anti-trafficking tech company Thorn, and The McCain Institute for International Leadership, whose efforts to battle human trafficking are led by Cindy McCain , the wife of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
The new Uber program comes at a time when the ride-hailing company is trying to burnish its image after a year of reports on its toxic corporate culture and ethical lapses. An area of particular focus for new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is drivers, who previously had a sour relationship with former CEO Travis Kalanick.
Uber has spent the past six months instituting a variety of driver-oriented changes ranging from establishing a hotline for questions to adding a tipping option.
Unlike New York City taxi and limo drivers, who by law must watch a video on trafficking before being approved for service, nothing about the new Uber human trafficking awareness push is mandatory.
When Uber drivers log on to the app, they will be presented with information that includes how to spot victims of trafficking and best practices for reporting tips to the police and anti-trafficking support groups such as Uber partner Polaris.
Those tips include spotting clothing or behavior that seems inappropriate for the age; a younger rider displaying fearful emotions in the company of a fellow adult rider; tattoos that appear more like ownership branding than art; and ride requests that stop at multiple hotels for short durations.
Human trafficking experts say technology has made it easier for criminals to exploit victims by providing a global communications network and online payment options. But new digital-age conveniences such as Uber, which pimps may use to transport sex workers without themselves being seen, can be part of the solution.
"Drivers are the ones who will be able to get a sense of whether there is threatening behavior, so it's important they know what to do," says Bradley Miles, CEO of Polaris, who adds that reporting by Uber drivers can help the organization add critical information to its database of 40,000 cases.
There is evidence that a growing participation in this effort by a range of hospitality-oriented companies is helping make a dent in human trafficking, which affects some 21 million people worldwide, according to the International Labour Organization.
Between 2012 and 2016, the number of human trafficking cases logged and reporting calls made has roughly doubled to 7,600 and 26,700, respectively, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
"It's not that we're having a moment, it's more that this is a movement," says Michelle Guelbart, director of private sector engagement at ECPAT-USA (which stands for End Child Prostitution and Trafficking). "Over the past five years or so, we've developed an industry standard on training, and gotten more and more companies to take interest."
Guelbart says that so far, 45 companies, including Uber, have collaborated with ECPAT to raise awareness. In the last year alone, roughly 86,000 travel company employees — working for the likes of Carlson Wagonlit, Delta Airlines and Hilton — were trained to spot human trafficking.
ECPAT's airline industry partners have trained 140,000 front line employees so far. American Airlines says it has run 60,000 of its employees through an online course. While declining to share statistics, American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller says "there have been many instances where our staff has seen something and alerted authorities."
In fact, Uber drivers have done the same on their own initiative in Pennsylvania , Arizona and California. In Uber's online communication about its new program, the company highlights the story of Keith Avila, a driver in Sacramento, Calif., who in late 2016 gave a ride to three women.
Two older women started talking to the younger one about what sounded like an impending sex-for-money encounter. Avila dropped them off, but quickly called 911. Police officers arrived and made arrests. The girl, a runaway, was placed in alternative housing.
Says Uber's Breeden: "We have a lot of eyes and ears on the road, and if we can help just one child, it's worth it."
Remove the stigma of trauma and change culture
by Lisa Rayner
Thank you for the recent Searchlight New Mexico articles on the serious adverse effects of childhood trauma (“Childhood trauma, lifelong damage,” Jan. 22 and “Abuse, trauma can alter a baby's brain, change DNA,” Jan. 22).
I'm 51. I experienced at least four adverse childhood experiences: psychological and sexual abuse, and emotional and physical neglect. In 1999, I learned I had complex post-traumatic stress disorder.
I stuttered; I was a quiet child. I was labeled “gifted and talented,” and I didn't fit gender norms. These things were enough to make me a target for school bullying and shunning early in life. Neither my parents nor teachers intervened effectively. Many of my teachers believed that bullied children needed to “toughen up” without protection from adults. To avoid additional abuse from junior high through high school, I didn't eat or drink at school, so that I didn't have to use school restrooms. Home was not a sanctuary; it was a place of more bullying and emotional neglect and extreme academic pressure.
I became withdrawn and anxious. I lost my ability to experience restorative sleep. I had panic attacks beginning at age 9. I was severely depressed and suicidal by age 12. Taking AP classes, four SAT tests, getting good grades and becoming a National Merit Scholarship finalist, all while severely sleep-deprived, dehydrated and experiencing daily abuse and neglect, almost killed me. I made two suicide attempts at age 18. Like many survivors, I experienced more abuse as an adult due to vulnerabilities from my childhood abuse: rape at age 21 and domestic violence with my first spouse.
Dr. Judith Herman's book, Trauma and Recovery , was an eye-opener. More recently, I read another very important book, The Body Keeps the Score , by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, founder of the Massachusetts-based Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute in Brookline, Mass. I dearly wish that every therapist, primary care physician, social worker and other professionals would read these books. These books and researchers have formed the foundation of modern trauma research.
Your articles mention treatment options. It's problematic that many effective treatments are either not available from qualified professionals in New Mexico or are not covered by health insurance, like neurofeedback, which I'd like to try. Finding a well-trained, trauma-informed therapist also is difficult. More professionals now have some knowledge of PTSD but usually don't have a well-rounded understanding of complex PTSD due to childhood trauma.
Today, I am in no sense cured. I usually feel like an outsider. I find it difficult to make friends. I'm too disabled to work at an outside job; I earn a little money as a weaver and fiber artist. However, I have come out as a bisexual, nonbinary transgender person. My spouse is a transgender woman who also had a severely abusive childhood. Healing relationships are crucial to traumatized people.
The most important thing I have done to help myself heal, besides finding a healing relationship, has been to be a social justice activist helping to prevent others from being traumatized. Trauma, by definition, is caused by helplessness when an overwhelming traumatic event, or series of events, occurs; taking action as an activist counteracts that ingrained feeling of being trapped in an abusive situation. I lived for almost 30 years in Flagstaff, Ariz., before moving to Santa Fe in 2016.
In Flagstaff, I worked to pass a civil rights ordinance that protects people from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on gender identity and sexual orientation. I also felt it was my duty to convince the local school district to adopt a safe schools policy, even though I never had children. In addition, I have been open about being a victim of bullying, rape and as a domestic abuse survivor. Removing the stigma of trauma is crucial to changing our culture.
When will we learn to believe victims of sexual abuse?
by Roger Sherman
When will we ever learn? That is the question that came to mind when I read the details of the sexual abuse allegations against former state legislator, Brandon Hixon, who killed himself earlier this month. His first young victim, at the time a 10 year old girl who was Hixon's neighbor, told her mother about the molestation she had suffered and she was the one sent to a counselor. Why don't we believe the children?
Hixon's other known victim, a now teenage relative whose abuse started at age 4 or 5, displayed classic signs of having been abused. She refused to go to the Hixon home and avoided going near it. In hindsight her parents can now see why. Why do most of us not see what is right in front of our eyes?
Over one hundred girls and women testified in court against USA Gymnastics' team physician, Larry Nassar, who exploited his position to sexually abuse the girls. Many of these elite athletes say that both USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where the doctor was employed, knew about the allegations but had refused to do anything about them. Many of the now-women told of how their lives had been changed forever as a result of the abuse they suffered at Nassar's hands. When will society put the lives of these and countless other brave survivors ahead of the reputations and careers of the adults who perpetrate the abuse?
What risks are we all willing to take on behalf of our children and the children in our communities? Is this not our highest calling?
Child sexual abuse has been called a silent epidemic. At least one in ten children in the United States have been and will be sexually abused according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most of those will never be reported even in situations where an adult has been informed. How can we change this?
The first thing we need to do is believe the children who take the brave step of disclosing. There are very few false allegations.
Next, we need to learn how we can prevent abuse from occurring in the first place. The Idaho Children's Trust Fund is working with people and organizations throughout Idaho to promote the research based curriculum, Stewards of Children, which teaches steps to prevent and respond appropriately. Over 15,000 Idahoans have been trained in this curriculum. Contact us if you or your organization wants to get trained.
Finally, 36 states have passed legislation to require training of teachers and students in their public schools. This is something for our policymakers to consider. If there is anything good that can come out of the tragedy surrounding Brandon Hixon, I hope it is that we learn how to stop abuse right now.
We have heard many disturbing revelations about child sexual abuse over the past few weeks in Idaho and nationally. As the director of the Idaho Children's Trust Fund, which is also the state affiliate of Prevent Child Abuse America, I have the privilege of working with people throughout Idaho and the nation who are working to change this. My hope for change is based in their good work.
Roger Sherman is the executive director of the Idaho Children's Trust Fund/Prevent Child Abuse Idaho.
There can be no sidelines in fight against child abuse
by Tracy Cook
The story out of California is heart-breaking: 13 siblings who were allegedly chained and starved by their parents. But also heart-breaking is the news that some neighbors thought something was wrong, like when they saw the siblings eating food from trash cans, but did not know what to do to help.
In my work at ProKids over 25 years, I have seen how any community member – a neighbor, colleague, family – can step up and alert authorities (such as 513-241-KIDS in Hamilton County) when they have a serious concern. And I've also seen where the community can step up and make a difference for abused and neglected children by being a ProKids CASA Volunteer.
Court Appointed Special Advocates, known as CASA Volunteers, are amazing, ordinary people who bring the gifts of time, common sense and caring. They come from all walks of life and are united in their deep belief in a safe, permanent and nurturing home for every child.
These volunteers visit our children; call their social workers, therapists and teachers; and work with all of these individuals to create plans to get each child to their forever family.
We are facing some brutal truths in our community. Abuse and neglect, mental health, substance abuse, and poverty are completely intertwined, leaving kids so traumatized it affects every part of their lives.
Another brutal truth we must face is that children are pouring into the system. In just the last two years, there has been a 36 percent increase in the children entering the child protection system due to abuse and neglect. Often, they become foster children.
There is no sign of this trend letting up.
It is painful and heartbreaking to know children suffer. But we are not helpless. Growing up, my dad often said, “you are either part of the problem or part of the solution.” There are no sidelines to watch from. We have the power to save our children.
ProKids exists because we share a vision of a safe, permanent, and nurturing home for every child. We work to achieve this vision by mobilizing our community to break the vicious cycle of abuse and neglect. We recruit, train and support community volunteers to speak up for them and help guide them to safe environments where they can thrive. Since 1981, ProKids has served thousands of children.
At ProKids, we also work to create partnerships within the child protection system to maximize outcomes for our children. We want everyone to pull together for our kids because it is not an agency or a system that cares for our children: it is a committed community.
Since we began asking our community to join us in our work, our volunteers and supporters have shown us what is possible. We have more than doubled the children we serve, advocating last year for 887 children thanks to 267 CASA Volunteers.
These volunteers joined ProKids to look out for the best interest of children. It's critical we have more volunteers who can not only be moved by the story of broken children, but also by the possibilities they have to heal and grow up differently.
By working together, we have stopped abuse and neglect for 99 percent of the children we served in the past year – a rate we've maintained for over two decades.
As the neighbors in California speak of their disbelief and shake their heads, wishing they could have done something, you can do something. Let someone know when you have a serious concern (and call 513-241-KIDS in Hamilton County).
And become a CASA Volunteer so that when a traumatized child in our own community needs a voice, you can be the person who stood up and made a difference.
ProKids Executive Director Tracy Cook is from Clifton. Find out how to be the someone who changes a child's life. Learn more about ProKids at www.prokids.org/volunteer and sign up for an introductory session called a Snapshot.
California Child Abuse Case Revives Home-School Regulation Debate
by Carolyn Thompson
Just over a week after California officials found 13 malnourished siblings allegedly held captive and apparently not missed by schools because they were being home-schooled, home-schooling advocates say they are bracing for calls for stricter oversight of the practice.
The advocates say they were horrified by accusations that the children's parents kept them shackled in a filthy home in the Southern California city of Ferris, and some said they support mandatory medical visits or regular academic assessments of home-schooled children.
But others contend moves to step up home-schooling controls in the name of exposing child abuse earlier could lead to overregulation and intrusion that punishes parents.
“Right now the biggest threat is that lawmakers might make a decision based on the emotion of the moment, rather than looking at the empirical evidence,” said Scott Woodruff, senior counsel with the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association. He said national organizations that track risk factors for child abuse, including the U.S. Commission to Eliminate Child Neglect and Fatalities, don't list home-schooling among them.
One California lawmaker has floated the idea of requiring annual walk-throughs of home schools by state or county officials because of the case of the 13 siblings and “a number of legislators have expressed interest in doing something,” the HomeSchool Association of California said in a statement.
“We can't prevent evil,” the association said, “and trying to prevent it by taking away the freedom of law-abiding people is not a price our society should pay.”
In Watertown, Connecticut, Chemay Morales-James home-schools her 4- and 6-year-old children because she wasn't comfortable with her local school options and says she worries that “things are going to change now.”
She rejected the notion that home-schooling hurts children's socialization and said many home-schooled children, like hers, spend most of their time out and about in their communities.
“I'm hoping this is one of those things where it's hot for the moment and then it dies down,” Morales-James said.
Disputes over the right level of home-schooling regulation have simmered for years as the number of home-schooled children in the U.S. skyrocketed from about 15,000 in the 1970s to about 2 million today.
The practice was first driven largely by families' preferences to include religious teaching at home along with standard education. It gained wider acceptance as parents dissatisfied with their neighborhood schools turned to it to customize their children's education and nurture family bonds.
In the absence of federal guidelines, levels of oversight vary widely by state. Alaska and Idaho have virtually no regulations, while New York and Pennsylvania families must submit annual instruction plans to the district, administer standardized tests taken by public school students statewide and provide academic progress reports.
California treats home schools like other private schools and requires them to register. Private schools are subject to annual fire inspections, but no agency regulates or oversees them.
The Massachusetts-based Coalition for Responsible Home Education lobbies for mandatory medical visits or academic assessments that would ensure home-schooled children are seen by someone trained to recognize abuse. Less than half of U.S. states now require academic assessments, the Education Commission of the States said in a 2015 report on home-school regulations.
“There's no better way to isolate your child if you are an abusive parent than to home-school,” said Rachel Coleman, executive director of the coalition, which maintains a database of home-school abuse cases.
In recent years, the trend in state laws has been toward loosening government oversight of home-schooling, said Joseph Murray, a Vanderbilt University education professor who has researched home-schooling. West Virginia, for example, in 2016 reduced the number of annual assessments parents must submit to the district, and Arkansas eliminated an academic assessment requirement in 2015.
“There are states now where you don't really have to do anything. You don't even have to notify anybody that you're home-schooling,” Murphy said.
Recent efforts to put more controls on home-schooling at the state legislative level have largely failed.
Senate leaders declined to consider a 2017 Kentucky bill introduced after an 8-year-old home-schooled girl was tortured by her father and his live-in girlfriend that would have barred families with histories of child abuse from home-schooling.
After two home-schooled children were found dead in a Detroit freezer, a 2015 Michigan bill would have required documented meetings with a teacher, doctor or clergy. The bill stalled in a legislative committee.
In Iowa, a bill requiring quarterly checks of home-school students was introduced in 2017 after a home-schooled teen starved to death. It, too, remained in committee.
And in Kansas, a grandmother unsuccessfully pleaded for stricter home-school control in 2015 after her 7-year-old home-schooled grandson was starved and killed by his father, who fed his body to pigs.
In the California case, authorities have said the 13 children of David and Louise Turpin — ranging in age from 2 and 29 — who were rescued Jan. 14 from a home that looked well-kept on the outside but where authorities say they were kept chained to beds for months and so malnourished their growth was stunted. The parents have pleaded not guilty to torture, abuse and other charges.
State Assemblyman Jose Medina, a Democrat who represents the area, said he is “extremely concerned about the lack of oversight the state of California currently has in monitoring private and home schools.” He said he is considering proposing legislation mandating an annual walk-through of home-schooling residences “to ascertain the safety and well-being of the students.”
Morales-James, the Connecticut mother, said part of her decision with her husband to home-school her children came about because she is of Puerto Rican descent and her husband is a black Trinidadian. They feared their kids could face racism and marginalization. She was concerned that regulations could lead to more restrictions that would threaten her home-schooling option.
Alarmed by some of the anti-home-schooling commentary in recent days, Morales-James noted traditional schools have had their share of abuse scandals.
“Do we have to shut down public or private schools or increase regulations?” she asked. “I don't think I've ever seen a huge debate over that.”
Fundraiser to add almost $4oo,ooo for children of Southern California torture case
by Susanne Hart
Inland Southern California residents and others around the world have sent nearly $400,000 in donations along with cards, gifts and encouragement to help soften the plight of siblings rescued from the Riverside County home where authorities say their parents tortured, starved and imprisoned them.
An anonymous out-of-town donor gave $100,000 Friday, and a pair of North Carolina women put 10 dolls in the mail for the girls. Locally, the Corona Rotary Club is donating iPads, and the Corona Chamber is organizing a restaurant fundraiser this Wednesday for what the group has dubbed the “Magnificent 13” Turpin siblings.
As of late Friday afternoon, 28 restaurants in Corona, Riverside, Menifee and beyond had agreed to donate up to 20 percent of sales proceeds. Restaurants throughout California can participate and the list will be updated on the chamber's website , said Chamber CEO/President Bobby Spiegel.
All 18 Miguel's Jr. and Miguel's restaurants in Southern California have agreed to take part, said Spiegel, who urged people to ask their favorite restaurants to participate.
“These kids were handed a lousy deck of cards. And now we are being blessed in being able to try to make a difference in their lives,” he said.
Friday's $100,000 donation went a fund for the siblings set up by the Corona Chamber Foundation, raising that fund's total to $170,000. Businesses in that city got involved because the seven adult Turpin siblings were taken to Corona Regional Medical Center after they were rescued Jan. 14.
At least 2,105 contributions totaling about $213,000 by midday Friday had been made to a fund set up Jan. 18 by the Riverside University Health System Foundation . Its hospital was treating the six minor Turpin children.
The two funds eventually will be combined into one trust administered on the Turpin siblings' behalf, RUHS Medical Center spokeswoman Kim Trone.
That amount of money may seem like a lot, but the siblings' needs are going to continue into the future, said Corona Chamber Foundation President Don Williamson, the chamber's finance chairman.
“There's 13 of them. It's going to be a long haul,” Williamson said.
Donations have come from as far away as Scotland, France and Germany. In addition to money, people have sent handmade and store-bought cards, new clothes, stuffed animals, toys, games, personal-care products and electronics.
“This has just touched people's hearts,” Williamson added.
At least six adult survivors of child abuse have emailed or called Trone at RUHS Medical Center to offer the siblings hope and encouragement.
“The gifts and the support have been amazing,” she said. “I think the sentiment is, they're going to need all that we can raise.”
On Wednesday, nine members of the Circle City Rotary Club in Corona promised to buy iPads for the siblings, unless a club representative can persuade Apple to donate the devices.
Officials at Corona Regional Medical Center asked for iPads to help educate the siblings, who are aged 2 to 29. The club donated about $900 the previous week.
At Wednesday's Rotary meeting, Spiegel, a club member, asked for the name of a computer store.
Instead, a Rotary member offered to buy one iPad — and then one by one, eight others also volunteered, said club president Gordy Wolfe, co-owner of Majestic Sign Studio.
On Friday, Sara McCord and Shane Hodges, who recently started a small Christian doll-making business in North Carolina, shipped 18-inch “Girls of Faith” dolls to the Corona Chamber for the 10 Turpin girls.
The women quickly raised funds to send the 10 vinyl-and-cloth “Audrey” and “Hannah” dolls, which retail for $99 each. McCord, who has been a foster parent, said she was somewhat “consumed” by what happened to the Turpin siblings.
“It's really affected me, as it's affected thousands of people across the country,” McCord said.
The lesson for us all in the Larry Nassar case: Teach children about sexual assault
by Kristen Jordan Shamus
We heard 156 girls and women talk about the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of former Michigan State University sports medicine doctor Larry Nassar in a Lansing courtroom over the last two weeks.
We heard them describe how he molested girls as young as 6 years old — masquerading his assaults as cutting-edge pelvic-floor treatments designed to relieve their pain. Sometimes, he even did it in front of their parents.
It's hard to comprehend how Nassar managed to be so slick in his deceit that he fooled so many people for so long or how he convinced little girls that it's ever OK to touch them in that way.
Janice Tracht, a retired clinical social worker with a background in working with children who've been sexually abused, likened Nassar's deceit to a magic spell he cast on those around him, grooming them to believe that he was the utmost authority on treating these young athletes.
"This is a doctor," said Tracht, 68, of West Bloomfield. "He's going to take care of you. These kids come in with that trust. ... They were at such a disadvantage because of this. … And that's what makes this all the more cruel.
"These girls, they were groomed. And they were also very young, and under the guise of being a doctor and saying things like, 'Your anatomy has to be flexible and this is the way we do it.' He had free reign over them.
"He was very adept at grooming them to fulfill his sexual needs. They thought they were being examined."
While the Nassar case is horrific and disturbing, it's also a wakeup call to parents.
We can start by talking to our children early, Tracht says, beginning as young as 3 years old, that no one should ever touch them in their private areas. And if someone does — even if it's someone they love or respect like a teacher or a family member, close friend or a doctor! — that they should shout, 'No! Don't touch me like that!' And then tell their parents or other trusted adult.
Tracht stressed that people need to be sure that they don't allow their confidence in medical professionals to blind them when standards of care are not being met.
Parents should insist on being in the room every time a medical professional touches one of our children, Tracht said. Parents can also ask for a nurse or medical assistant to be in the room, too, for any medical treatment or exam.
"The only good thing that will come from this is that parents will be more aware," Tracht said. "When your daughter is that young and is going to be examined by a doctor, there is no reason ... why a mother can't be in the room, and a nurse, too. These girls should know that a nurse should be in the room with the doctor."
And if you're in the room, watching a doctor perform a treatment or procedure on your child, be present. Don't look at your smartphone. Don't be distracted by the artwork. Don't allow the doctor to position his body so you can't see what his hands are doing. Watch that doctor's every move.
"It's a wake-up call on so many levels here," Tracht said.
"Doctors who are good and caring, who understand and respect human nature will always let a mother come in, will always have a medical assistant there. They are protecting the child and they are protecting themselves."
Do your research, too.
The public can search the state's Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs website to see whether disciplinary action has been taken against any licensed medical professional in the state through its "verify a license" site: www.michigan.gov/verifylicense .
Colin Parks, program manager for Children's Protective Services for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, acknowledged that talking to children about sexual abuse can be difficult and uncomfortable, but it's so important to make sure that kids know they can trust their parents and that they can be open about anything that happens to them.
"One of the things that we know about children who are sexually abused is oftentimes, those things are not talked about," he said. "It's always very traumatizing for a child, so talking about it can be difficult. It can be embarrassing. It can be humiliating. It can be frightening.
"Those who victimize children sexually can threaten them, so that can add to a child's unwillingness to talk about what happened. Oftentimes they will only talk about sexual abuse with someone they have faith in, someone they have an established relationship with. Information may not come out quickly."
Sometimes, clues that a child is being molested are evident in how they behave. Always be watchful, Parks said, for signs that something might be awry, especially if your child:
Is acting differently from the norm and seems to deviate from their ordinary personality.
Is becoming withdrawn.
Does not want to spend time with a caregiver or trusted adult, or seems to be unusually nervous around someone.
"The important thing is when you're seeing those behaviors change in a child, to be very cautious about how you address it with the child," Parks said, "and allow the child to kind of take the conversation, to allow the conversation to be very open, not ask closed-ended questions or try to lead the child.
"And just be cautious around people who are adults who want to spend an inordinate amount of time with the child. That in and of itself is very unusual, so keeping an eye on people who are spending time with your child is critical."
Parks said children need to know that they can come to you with anything and would never get in trouble for telling.
But above all, he said, when they tell, parents must believe them and act on it.
"Always take it as though it is the complete truth," Parks said. "Hear them, and listen to them. I think once you invalidate a child once when something has happened they are very unlikely to ever share that with you again, and they are very likely to identify you as somebody that they just can't go to with this."
It's not up to a parent, friend or caregiver of a child to decide whether the claim is legitimate, said Parks said.
Just report it.
"We really need to encourage both our mandated reporters and the public, if they have reasonable cause to suspect abuse and neglect, they need to make the call," he said.
"They need to not assess themselves, 'Gosh, did abuse or neglect happen? I really don't know. ... Maybe once I find out for sure, I'll make the call.' People can't wait for that. They need to report as soon as they have reasonable cause to suspect. That's the threshold for our mandated reporters and it should the threshold for the public, too.
"You don't need to see a mark on a child to say, 'OK, it's clearly abuse, I need to call and report it.' Just suspecting is enough."
The state has a toll-free 24-hour hotline for reports of child abuse and neglect, including sexual abuse. It's 855-444-3911.
"If we don't know, we can't get involved," said Parks.
Reports of suspected abuse — both at the state and federal level — are kept confidential. The person who is accused will never know who reported him or her to authorities, Park said.
"I think often because there's a lot of anxiety about reporting, even somebody you don't know, people can be anxious about the idea of reporting. But certainly when it is someone you know, people think about the repercussions of that. They'll be like, 'They'll know it's me or they'll figure out it's me,' and they'll worry about that outcome.
"But the bottom line is, if you don't report, what is the outcome there? Could the abuse and neglect continue? Could it get worse?"
In the case of Larry Nassar, many of the women he molested did report his abuse, and yet, they said coaches, trainers and in some cases their own parents didn't believe them, invalidated their concerns or failed to take the proper steps to trigger an investigation.
There is recourse for anyone who feels as if a complaint isn't being taken seriously by an agency or law enforcement. Michiganders also can call the Office of Children's Ombudsmen, which reports directly to the governor and is overseen by the governor's office. The toll-free number is 800-642-4326.
Cathy Leary from Troy, a former nurse and mother of three daughters, said another way to ensure a complaint about a medical professional — whether it's a nurse or doctor or social worker — is heard is to report it to directly to the state's Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
An agency spokesperson said LARA works closely with law enforcement and other agencies to ensure reports are fully investigated. If warranted, the person could lose his or her professional state license to practice and other actions can be taken to stop him or her from harming others under the guise of treatment.
All complaints to LARA must be made in writing. You can obtain instructions and a complaint form online at www.michigan.gov/bpl .
To file a complaint against a licensed nurse, go to: http://www.michigan.gov/lara/0,4601,7-154-72600_73836---,00.html
To file a complaint against all other health professionals, go to: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/lara/lara_ED_200PKT_AllegationPkt_477156_7.pdf
If you file a complaint with LARA, your identity will remain confidential unless you include a written release to allow your identity to be shared.
Tracht said the survivors of Larry Nassar's abuse did more in the last two weeks than tell their stories of abuse. They did a public service by educating us all about the what can happen when a master manipulator is able to fool the masses.
"We need to listen to children," Parks said. "We need to get past our own discomfort in engaging children about this topic and have this conversation about what's OK and what's not OK, and have that conversation regularly with them."
With Spotlight on Child Sexual Abuse, How to Stop It?
by Eric Tegethoff
BOISE, Idaho – Stories of sexual assault against children have been in the news recently in Idaho and nationwide, including details of allegations against former state Rep. Brandon Hixon since his suicide earlier this month.
Nationally, the former physician for the USA gymnastics team, Dr. Larry Nassar, was convicted of sexual assault charges. He was accused of molesting more than 150 under-aged girls.
Roger Sherman, head of the Idaho Children's Trust Fund , says these two accounts have a lot in common.
He says in both cases, children weren't believed when they spoke up, and even when they did, he maintains these men were shielded so their reputations wouldn't be harmed.
"They protected the adult and the adult's reputation and the adult's career over the child,” Sherman states. “We have to be willing to take some risks on behalf of kids, and sometimes that's going to be messy and often that's going to be difficult. But if we don't do that, children are the ones who will suffer."
Sherman says child sexual abuse is prevalent and known as the "silent epidemic" because people don't want to acknowledge it.
He points out at least 1 in 10 children in the United States has been sexually abused, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with much of that abuse never reported to authorities even when a parent is told.
So what can be done to stop abuse before it happens? Sherman says more than 15,000 Idahoans have been trained in the Stewards of Children curriculum, a program from the group Darkness to Light that teaches people how to prevent and respond to child abuse appropriately.
Around the country, 36 states require training for teachers and students in public schools to prevent abuse.
Sherman says some school districts in Idaho are doing this as well.
"We've seen that happen in the Parma School District, in the Vallivue School District,” he points out. “Boise State University has adopted programs, and we get a lot of people to do it voluntarily. But it would help to have legislation that would require it."
Sherman says prevention is key to making sure children don't suffer the lifelong effects from sexual abuse, often regarded as the most traumatic experience children can have.
Sherry Johnson was raped, pregnant and married by 11. Now she's fighting to end child marriage in America
by Moni Basu
Tallahassee, Florida (CNN)In Florida's halls of power, Sherry Johnson is somewhat of an anomaly: a black woman who grew up destitute and survived child abuse.
Her story is shocking. Raped at 8 and pregnant at 10, she was forced to marry her rapist at 11. She had to abandon high school after the babies kept coming.
For years, she kept silent. But now, her voice rings clear in chambers where the state's laws are made. Her unrelenting public pleas to end child marriage are being heard.
After a lifetime of struggle, Johnson's time has come. Finally.
At 58, she sports a head full of thick, tight curls and a pantsuit that would make Hillary Clinton proud. She navigates the corridors of the Capitol with a black binder tucked under her left arm, a purse slung over her shoulder and a fierce look of determination.
I struggle to keep pace with her as she makes her way past sepia-toned photographs celebrating Florida in the early 20th century, as though they were glorious times for everyone. Past the rows and rows of framed faces of lawmakers who gained fame within these walls.
"All men," Johnson observes, as we dash by.
On this winter morning, days into the 2018 legislative session, she is on her way to meet with a state senator co-sponsoring a bill to abolish child marriage in Florida. An identical version has been introduced in the House.
Johnson has spent the last five years lobbying lawmakers to stop the kind of abuse she suffered in her childhood. An effort to ban child marriage under the age of 16 got traction in the Florida House in 2014 but went nowhere in the Senate. Since then, Johnson's words have fallen on deaf ears. Doors have closed on her. Until recently.
As incredible as this may sound, Florida stands poised to become the first state in America to say no, unequivocally, to all marriages of minors.
Last year, Texas and Virginia enacted new laws limiting marriage to those 18 and over, but they made narrow exceptions for minors granted adult rights by the courts. The bills before the Florida legislature set 18 as the age for marriage and allow zero exceptions.
In Suite 202 of the Senate Office Building, Johnson gets a hug from Lauren Book, a 33-year-old senator from the south Florida city of Plantation who herself is a child abuse survivor and activist.
Book has blond hair, a Florida tan and big, bookish glasses. Her walls are blanketed by inspirational quotations from Plato, Shakespeare and even Coco Chanel: "If you're sad, add more lipstick and attack." She displays a brass desk plate that asks: "What would Beyonce do?"
"Sherry and I have a lot in common," Book tells me.
"Until you put a face on this issue, people don't understand," she adds. "And Sherry has been that face. She has been able to destigmatize the process."
Book signed on as co-sponsor of the Senate child marriage bill introduced by Lizbeth Benacquisto, a Fort Myers Republican and rape survivor. The two women legislators embraced the #MeToo movement and have been vocal on sexual misconduct allegations clouding the Florida Legislature.
In Book, Johnson sees an ally. If the bill passes, Johnson wants to stage a play based on her 2013 autobiographical novel, "Forgiving the Unforgiveable." She's also compiled a budget for a bus tour to promote awareness. She asks Book to help her brainstorm ways to raise money.
"When the bill passes, I want the community to know this has happened," Johnson says. "I just want ideas. This is all so new to me."
"You've been working so hard to make all this happen," Book replies. "You have a lot going on. Take a break."
"I can't relax right now," Johnson says without hesitation. "I'm on a journey."
'I'm coming out'
I first spoke with Johnson a couple of months ago and was taken aback that child marriage was still a persistent problem in the United States.
Child marriages are legal in every US state because of a hodgepodge of exceptions that let minors get married with parental consent or judicial approval. A majority of these marriages are coerced and involve girls marrying adult men, according to the Tahirih Justice Center, a national nonprofit group that tracks child marriage and aims to end gender-based violence.
The US State Department considers forced marriage a human rights abuse and, in the case of minors, a form of child abuse.
Though child marriages represent a fraction of all US marriages, the numbers remain significant. The Pew Research Center found that in 2014, nearly 60,000 15- to 17-year-olds were in marriages.
Few perceive America as a land where child marriage occurs; we think of developing nations like Afghanistan, Somalia and my homeland, India, which ignobly led the world with almost 27 million child marriages in 2017.
My own grandmother was the same age as Johnson -- 11 -- when she was married off to my grandfather. My great aunt was 14 on her wedding day. When her husband died soon after, she led the austere life of a Hindu widow, ostracized by society until her death at 90 as though she were somehow to blame.
I was drawn to Johnson's story and am even more so now, when increasing numbers of women are feeling empowered to speak out about abuse.
The women's movement has been gaining momentum and has helped push forward child marriage bills. Besides Florida, a dozen other states have legislation pending, though not all would set a strict age floor at 18.
In Florida, Johnson has been instrumental. She has been vocal about the cruel story of her childhood. She hopes that one day soon, she might be able to stand next to the governor as he signs a child marriage ban into law.
That would be the vindication she has so earnestly sought.
There has been little opposition to the bill, though critics would still like Florida to make exceptions for minors who are voluntary participants or if their would-be spouses are in the military. Young servicemen and women sometimes want to marry their girlfriends or boyfriends before deploying on dangerous missions.
To that argument, Johnson retorts: If you are under 18, you cannot make any other legal decisions. You cannot buy a house, join the military, vote, rent a car or drink alcohol. How is it possible then to make a wise decision about entering into a legally binding partnership, one that is meant to be permanent?
Johnson leaves Book's office brimming with excitement.
"You know that song, 'I'm Coming Out' by Diana Ross?" she asks as we climb into her car. She starts belting out the lyrics: I want the world to know... There's a new me coming out. And I just had to live. And I want to give. I'm completely positive.
"This is exactly what's happening," she says. "People are coming out. My soul is so happy right now."
She has ambitions to organize a conference for survivors of child abuse and child marriage, so they can express themselves in public, just like she did when she testified before lawmakers. "So they can get it all out," she says.
She knows the importance of that firsthand.
A mother and wife by fifth grade
As a little girl, Johnson lived with her mother in Tampa in the back of the parsonage of their church. She was an only child.
Johnson and her mother belonged to an apostolic church and went to mandatory service six days a week, sometimes seven. Hats and long sleeves were required for the girls and women; they could not wear pants or jewelry. They behaved in accordance with strict church guidelines, and the elders told them what they could say or do.
Johnson's mother spent little time with her. When she did, it was to bake biscuits and fruit pies for the church. There was no television in the house, but her mother would, on occasion, sit down with Johnson with a coloring book and pencils. That is the fondest memory Johnson has of her childhood.
Each day before school, Johnson sought out her aunt for lunch money because Johnson's mother worked as a substitute teacher and could barely make ends meet. Her aunt lived nearby in the same house as the bishop of their church, and one day, when Johnson was 8, he summoned her into his bedroom.
I got your lunch money. Come and get it.
He forced her to lie on the bed, used petroleum jelly and penetrated her. He said nothing and then sent her on her way, blood dripping down her legs. Johnson ran to a bathroom to wash herself, but she was a child in the fourth grade. She could not understand what had happened.
After that, she was raped repeatedly by the bishop and also a church deacon. But when she tried to talk about it, no one believed her, not even her mother. It happened so frequently that Johnson accepted it as a part of growing up.
Her elementary school classmates cruelly told her she smelled like fish.
Several months passed when, one day in class, she was summoned to a room where students received their vaccinations. Johnson was confused. She never got shots; her church forbade them.
She was examined by a nurse and sent back to class. A few minutes later, she heard her name again, blaring through the intercom. She was to collect all her belongings and wait in the office for her mother to pick her up. What had she done wrong?
You're going to have a baby , her mother blurted out in the car. Who's been messing with you?
I tried to tell you, Johnson replied. But you said I was lying.
A doctor examined her and gave her the news: She was seven months pregnant. She did the math and knew it was the deacon's baby.
Her mother stood up in church and told everyone her daughter was lying about being raped. She blamed Johnson for bringing shame on the family and sent her away to Miami with the bishop who had raped her. She was dropped off at Jackson Memorial Hospital and left there alone to have her baby.
On a February night in 1970, Johnson, only 10 years old, waited in a hospital hallway. She tried to imagine how a baby would come out of her body; no one had explained it to her. The stares burned through her; she felt like an oddity at an amusement park.
At 1:54 a.m., she gave birth to her first child. When she returned to Tampa, a child welfare worker came by to ask questions. She figures her elementary school must have tipped off the state.
The men who had raped her were adults and if the truth were to surface, they would face statutory rape charges. Instead, Johnson's mother arranged for her daughter to marry one of her rapists, the deacon. She bought a white dress and veil for her daughter and accompanied bride and groom to the Hillsborough County courthouse in Tampa.
Johnson was 11. The man she was marrying was 20.
Johnson remembers sitting at a long table that seemed bigger than her house. She remembers her mother speaking with the judge. The judge refused to marry a girl so young, even though she had a baby.
But a month later, they tried again, this time in neighboring Pinellas County, where Johnson was allowed to sign on the dotted line. The judge was fully aware of her age; the license lists her date of birth.
She had not finished fifth grade yet on March 29, 1971, when she became a wife as well as a mother.
So began a life of burden, a life she was forced to accept.
Marriage before adulthood often has crushing consequences, undermining a girl's access to health, education and economic opportunities. Girls and women in abusive relationships often suffer from low self-esteem and can fall into a self-destructive pattern of attracting more exploitation. Johnson was no exception.
At first, she returned to school while her mother looked after the baby. But her church prohibited the use of birth control, and Johnson had baby after baby.
Her husband abandoned her each time she was pregnant. She had no choice but to take him back when he returned after the baby was born. They lived in the same parsonage house with Johnson's mother and slept in Johnson's old bedroom surrounded by cribs.
Girls her age played with baby dolls. Johnson found herself with real babies.
She washed diapers, cleaned the house and cooked one-pot stews. Her husband rarely spoke with her; she was just there for sex. They struggled to pay the bills.
She was too young to know how to act, so she watched married couples in church and mimicked their behavior at home.
She loved studying and even skipped a grade one year. As it turned out, school was the only normal thing in her life. But that, too, was taken from her. She made it somehow to the ninth grade but then could go on no longer. By the time she was 17, she was raising six children. She never knew what it was like to play sports or go to the prom or graduate. Robbed of her childhood, she lost all motivation.
Every day when she woke up, she cried.
It was her husband who should have been handcuffed, she thought. She felt she was handcuffed instead.
She grew tired of her husband's lack of support and sought help from Legal Aid. They wrote her a check for $75 to pay an attorney to file for divorce. But not long after, at 19, she married a 37-year-old man. He, too, hurt her verbally and physically. She bore three more children and was 27 when her youngest daughter was born.
By then, Johnson felt the weight of nine children -- five girls and four boys -- and an abusive husband pulling her down. She was frustrated, tired, bitter and, most of all, angry that this life had been forced on her. It began to affect her relationships with her kids. She hollered and fussed at them more often and tried her best to remember they didn't ask to be born. It wasn't their fault.
She smiled on the outside, but inside she was always crying.
She felt worthless and even contemplated driving her car off the Howard Frankland Bridge that spans Tampa Bay.
It was only after she left her mother's church that Johnson was able to start healing. Through a new church, she met a psychologist, Joan Gaines. The two women began talking. It was the first time, really, that anyone had listened to her.
It had taken almost half her life for Johnson to find her voice.
I listened to Johnson recount her story, but I couldn't fully understand how she was able to heal after such horrific experiences. I called Gaines for her perspective.
"She was a child with nine children," Gaines told me. "She began to grow up much later in her life."
Gaines described Johnson as a smart, resilient woman who was keen on setting herself on a better path. She was like a round-bottomed roly-poly toy: No matter how many times you knock it over, it comes right back up.
Gaines, too, was an only child, but she had a happy childhood. Johnson's mother's actions were beyond comprehension.
"You don't have to be nurturing to be a mother," Gaines said. "All you have to have is a vagina."
Johnson leaned on Gaines and looked inward. She turned to her faith in God, and she learned to forgive her rapists, her mother and, most important, herself.
It was time, she realized, to escape the dungeon of bitterness that was sapping her energy. The past was hurting her because she had chosen to hold onto it.
For Johnson, forgiveness was the only way to move forward, the only way she could speak freely about what she had suffered so she could save others.
'The whole state of Florida failed me'
Hours after her jaunt to the Capitol, Johnson makes her way across town to see Tommye Hutto, a 78-year-old woman curtailed by rheumatoid arthritis.
Playing lobbyist is Johnson's passion, but her job as a private caregiver pays the bills. She also had been teaching behavior-challenged children at an elementary school but gave that up to focus her energy on the legislative session.
Hutto retired as communications director for the California Teachers Union and moved to Tallahassee to be near her daughters. She lives by herself in north Tallahassee, needs assistance around the house and is one of several elderly clients Johnson sees.
The day before, Johnson helped a woman in her 90s who can no longer fend for herself. Johnson fixed her a dinner of fish sticks and steak fries and then wrote out a checklist: Make sure the bed rails are up on both sides in the highest position; insert an extra pad in the adult diaper for absorbency; check that her life alert is around her neck; empty the trash; tidy the house.
I watched Johnson intently before blurting out the obvious question: "What's it like to take care of people after you did nothing but that all your life?"
"Well, I have to earn money somehow," she answered.
She took this job, she explained, because caregiving is what she's good at. She raised nine children, after all.
She moved to north Florida in 2008 after she remarried again. She and her third husband ran a barbecue place together in Tallahassee. But that marriage, too, ended in divorce.
Johnson could have returned to Tampa, where all her children were. But that was when she felt a calling. She felt compelled to share her story to make things better so no one else would have to endure what she had. She did not want her obituary to be confined to mother, grandmother and divorcee. She stayed in Tallahassee and launched her crusade.
She turned a small third bedroom into a home office and surrounded herself with her achievements. They serve as reminders that her life is no longer broken: a volunteer of the year award, a congratulatory letter from Michelle Obama on her book, a high school diploma from Franklin Academy. Johnson took classes online and at the age of 55, marched in the school's 2015 commencement ceremony.
By her desk is a card one of her sons sent her on Valentine's Day. "Of all the moms in the world, you are by far the best the world has seen."
Despite her struggles, Johnson has no regrets about having her children.
"I still feel like I did everything I could do as a parent. I gave it my best shot with what I had," she told me. "I don't feel less than a mother."
On this evening at Hutto's house, her motherly instincts kick into gear. She fixes dinner for Hutto and plops down on the living room couch. It feels like a long day after her rounds at the Capitol.
Sometimes, the two women watch "Wheel of Fortune" together. Tonight, they decide on conversation instead. They discuss the tribulations of aging and one of their favorite foods: fried chicken from the Publix deli. And, they talk about the one thing they have in common: being an only child.
"I guess there's good and bad to that," Hutto says.
"What's the good part?" Johnson asks.
"Well, you get all the attention. You get to choose what you want. It's fun."
"I don't know any fun part," Johnson says, raising her eyebrows.
Hutto knows most of Johnson's story and was, like others, in disbelief that such things could happen in America. She's glad to know the child marriage bill is well on its way to becoming law and that it's getting attention.
"What caused you to start advocating?" Hutto asks, her curiosity piqued.
Johnson mentions her book and a non-profit she launched to support abuse victims after she began speaking at small gatherings and realized the need.
Hutto says she knew of one girl in her high school who got pregnant, had her baby and then came back to school. But she didn't get married.
"Did you know there were over 200,000 child marriages in America in the last 14 years," Johnson says. "Over 16,000 were in Florida."
"That's amazing," Hutto replies. "I had no idea. How did we not know?"
Johnson brings up her own case.
"The hospital knew. The school knew. The courts knew," she says. "So plenty of people knew, but nothing was done. The whole state of Florida failed me.
"I feel my life was taken from me," she says. "The ones who were supposed to protect me, didn't."
No response seems appropriate in this moment, and seconds pass in silence. Johnson looks down and takes a slow bite of fried chicken.
In a few days, she will be back at the Capitol, making her rounds -- and hoping that the state that failed her will not fail again.
Catholic Church group fights Colorado bill to reform system of reporting child abuse
by Robert Garrison
DENVER — Legislation that would reform a mandatory system of reporting child abuse in Colorado is not getting support from the Catholic Church.
Senate Bill 18-058 would extend the statute of limitations in cases where a person is required by law to report child abuse but fails to do so.
Currently, the statute of limitations for failing to report child abuse or neglect in Colorado is 18 months, which could result in dropped charges in the recent indictment against three Cherry Creek school leaders accused of hiding allegations made by a specific student in 2013.
The measure, sponsored by state lawmakers Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora) and Terri Carver (R-Colorado Springs), comes on the heels of the Cherry Creek case and indefinitely extends the period of time mandatory reporters could be prosecuted for not contacting authorities in child abuse cases.
A mandatory reporter is someone in a specific occupation that must report suspected child abuse. In Colorado, 40 categories of professions are covered under the law, including all public and private school employees.
However, the lobbying arm for the three Catholic Dioceses in Colorado argues the bill goes too far. In a statement sent to Denver7 Monday, the Colorado Catholic Conference states:
The concern with Senate Bill 18-058, as written, is that it creates an indefinite statute of limitations regarding mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect. The principle of statutes of limitation acknowledges that as time elapses, evidence goes stale, memories fade, witnesses die or disappear. In cases of child abuse, we should do everything possible to encourage victims to come forward as soon as possible and for those aware of the abuse to report it as soon as possible. Our State law should reflect this policy as a matter of basic fairness to those involved and not go down a slippery slope that potentially creates unfair and unjust situations.
The statement stops short of detailing how the bill would impact the church, which has been rocked by a decades-long child sex assault scandal. And in some cases, clergy members have been accused of not reporting suspected child abuse.
The Colorado Catholic Conference says the church has "a zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse." And calls the abuse of a child a "despicable crime, regardless of whether the offender is a member of the clergy, a teacher, counselor, or family member."
Meanwhile, the bill continues to move through the legislator. It will be discussed during a Senate State, Veterans, & Military Affairs committee hearing next Monday.
Who buys a trafficked child for sex? Otherwise ordinary men.
by Tim Swarens
More than 1 million children, according to the International Labour Organization, are exploited each year in the commercial sex trade. IndyStar columnist Tim Swarens, through the support of a Society of Professional Journalists fellowship, spent more than a year investigating a lucrative business where children are abused with low risk to buyers or traffickers, despite tougher laws and heightened international awareness of the scourge. Google, Eli Lilly and Co., and Indiana Wesleyan University provided additional support for this project.
This is the first of 10 columns in the EXPLOITED series, which explores the cultural and economic forces that contribute to commercial sexual exploitation.
On the day she met Marcus Thompson, the girl later told the FBI, she had been ready to leap from a bridge to end her life.
She was only 15, pregnant and alone on the streets.
And in this wounded child, Thompson saw a means to make money. He promised that if she left her small Illinois town with him, he would make her a model. Grasping for hope, she climbed into his truck.
But the promise was a lie.
Instead, in the summer of 2015, Thompson and his wife, Robin, forced the girl on a nightmarish six-week trek across the southern United States. Photographed in suggestive poses and marketed online, she was sold out of hotel rooms and truck stops to any man with the money and the desire to buy sex.
The justice system eventually would work well in this case in several respects. The victim was rescued and provided with treatment. The traffickers who exploited her were caught, pleaded guilty and were sent to prison.
But what of the men who paid to rape this child? What consequences did they suffer?
Not a single one was ever charged.
That same breach of justice is the norm in thousands of trafficking cases. About 10,000 children a year suffer the horrors of commercial sexual exploitation in the United States. Each victim on average is forced to have sex more than five times a day.
Yet the buyers who fuel the child sex trade are seldom held accountable. Most just blend back into their families, jobs and neighborhoods. Until the next time.
In the Thompson case, the victim, too young for a driver's license, told the FBI she was beaten once for attempting to escape and was threatened with being “thrown to the alligators” if she tried to run again. Marcus Thompson, according to federal authorities, raped the girl five times.
Still, the child retained enough independence to say no when a buyer demanded anal sex. But her refusal came at a brutal price. The man who bought her complained to the man who sold her. And she was beaten again.
At a hospital in St. Louis, the abuse finally ended when the girl was identified as a sex-trafficking victim. The Thompsons, based on her descriptions, were arrested.
Marcus Thompson is now serving a life sentence. Robin Thompson, who helped place the online ads and book the hotel rooms, was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
At Robin Thompson's sentencing, Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Reagan described the couple's crimes as among the worst he had seen in 16 years on the federal bench.
In her victim impact letter, read by Reagan at the sentencing, the girl wrote, “It's hard to wake up every day and remember the people I had sex with.”
In the past 16 months, I've witnessed the worst of human behavior while reporting for this project, one that's taken me across eight countries on five continents. I've talked to 6-year-old trafficking victims, visited a shelter where the oldest survivors were only 11, met a 5-year-old boy living with his parents in a squalid brothel in India and interviewed survivors who were raped by hundreds of men.
Yet the ordeal of that one child from Illinois — beaten for saying no — has haunted me in particular.
It's stuck in my mind because it exposes a harsh truth: In the sex trade, buyers and sellers view the children they torment as property.
And property cannot say no.
“Despite 20 years of efforts, the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism has expanded across the globe and outpaced every attempt to respond at the international and national level... As a result, the risks of child sexual exploitation are increasing.”
— The Global Study on Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism, 2016.
This project began with a question: Who buys a 15-year-old child for sex?
The answer: Many otherwise ordinary men. They could be your co-worker, doctor, pastor or spouse.
“They're in all walks of life,” a 17-year-old survivor from the Midwest, trafficked when she was 15, said about the more than 150 men who purchased her in a month. “Some could be upstanding people in the community. It was mostly people in their 40s, living in the suburbs, who were coming to get the stuff they were missing.”
The scale of the trade indicates that it's not a small number of men who pay to have sex with kids. A 2016 study by the Center for Court Innovation found that between 8,900 and 10,500 children, ages 13 to 17, are commercially exploited each year in this country. Several hundred children 12 and younger, a group not included in the study, also suffer commercial sexual abuse.
The researchers found that the average age of victims is 15 and that each child is purchased on average 5.4 times a day. I've interviewed victims who were forced to have sex with more than 30 men in a week; more than 100 in a month.
To determine a conservative estimate of the demand, I multiplied the lower number of victims (8,900) identified in the Center for Court Innovation study by the rate of daily exploitation per child (5.4), and then by an average of only one “work” day per week (52). The result: Adults purchase children for sex at least 2.5 million times a year in the United States.
The number of identified victims in the U.S. is on the rise. The National Human Trafficking Hotline recorded a 35 percent increase in reports in 2016. Most of the cases involved sex trafficking and many of the victims were children.
Brad Myles, CEO of the Polaris Project, which operates the hotline, said the increase largely can be attributed to better identification of trafficking victims and heightened public awareness that the hotline exists. Yet, Myles said, "The vast majority of victims are still not being found."
International numbers are even more staggering. Sex trafficking, according to the United Nations' International Labour Organization, is a $99 billion-a-year global industry. The exploitation of more than 1 million children accounts for more than 20 percent of those profits.
And there's evidence that the child sex trade is growing. ECPAT International, a research and advocacy organization, concluded in 2016 in a first of its kind global study that more children than ever are at risk of abuse.
Mark Capaldi, ECPAT's lead researcher, said in an interview at the organization's Bangkok headquarters that rising global incomes, cheaper air travel and better internet access have fueled the increase in demand. In short, it's cheaper and easier than ever for adults to exploit children.
Another reason for the growing exploitation: Buyers face little risk. “You're unlucky if you get caught,” Bjorn Sellstrom, the head of INTERPOL's Crimes Against Children unit, said in Lyon, France. “It's fairly free of risk to travel to another country and abuse children.”
It's a low-risk crime for domestic abusers as well. In 2015, Congress strengthened federal anti-trafficking laws to provide prosecutors with more tools to go after sex buyers. Prosecutions have only modestly increased as a result.
A U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman, in a written response to questions, said the primary objective is to focus “our limited resources on apprehending the traffickers, who pose the most imminent threat to the victims.”
She provided examples of about 30 buyers, including former Subway pitchman Jared Fogle, convicted on federal charges in 2015 and 2016. But she said state and local prosecutors are in a better position than the federal government to hold accountable those who pay to exploit children.
Like the federal government, state and local jurisdictions tend to use sting operations in which undercover officers pose as exploited children to stop buyers. Although such operations net thousands of would-be sex buyers each year, most of the men arrested plead down to lesser crimes.
And it's rare for police and prosecutors to pursue buyers after they've paid to abuse children. That's true even in the most nauseating of crimes.
In 2016, police rescued a 12-year-old Texas girl who was held captive in a hotel room in a wealthy suburb of Nashville, Tenn. Authorities said the child, found with bruises and scratches on her face, had been advertised on Backpage.com and sold to sex buyers for a month in the Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville areas.
A 36-year-old Nashville man, Tavarie Williams, was charged with multiple counts of trafficking, kidnapping and rape. He is awaiting trial. But, as in the case of the 15-year-old from Illinois, none of the men who paid to sexually abuse a middle school-age child were ever charged. (A spokeswoman for the Davidson County (Tenn.) District Attorney's Office said authorities were unable to identify any of the buyers, who could have faced felony charges).
"That child will have to fight the stigma of what happened to her for the rest of her life," said Alex Trouteaud, director of policy and research with Demand Abolition, a Massachusetts-based organization that works to reduce demand for commercial sex. "Meanwhile, the buyers will never be held accountable. It's what we call the culture of impunity."
Prosecutors note that they face several obstacles in pursuing charges, including the need to show that a buyer knew or should have known that the person he paid to exploit was underage. Victims — traumatized, frightened, frequently dependent on drugs and alcohol — often don't make strong witnesses. Prosecutors also must weigh whether putting a child on the stand, where defense cross examinations can be rough, will further wound the victim.
It's tempting to put buyers who exploit children in a box — to say that all of them are pedophiles, a small percentage of the population driven by a deep sickness. But researchers and survivors say that's not the case.
ECPAT International researchers found that the great majority of men who pay to exploit children are opportunists. They don't set out specifically to buy sex with a child, but neither do they walk away when faced with the temptation.
Survivors I interviewed reported similar experiences. One of them, exploited when she was 15, said only two men turned and left the motel room when they saw how young she was. Even those two didn't notify police about the ongoing abuse of a child.
More than 100 other men who paid to have sex with her stayed. “They just didn't care” about her age, she said.
In a room full of sex buyers, enrolled in a court-ordered program in Seattle, I asked: “Do you ever think about the life stories of the girls and women you purchased?”
The men appeared uncertain about how to answer. Then a former once-a-week buyer, arrested for attempting to purchase sex from a police officer posing as a 15-year-old girl, said, “I don't want to know how the sausage is made.”
A piece of meat. A commodity to be consumed.
Not a child. Not a life.
Later in this series, we'll further explore the factors that drive men to buy sex with children. But let's take time now for a dose of inspiration.
We'll find it in a sewing room in Mumbai, India, where a group of remarkable women are waiting to greet us.
Priya, her body ravaged by HIV, was barely alive the day Seena Simon, director of Care and Development for the Cincinnati-based Aruna Project, found her on the street in Mumbai's Grant Road red light district.
Trafficked at age 13, Priya had worked in the brothels for 15 years before she was kicked out because of her illness.
“She shared with me that in one night 15 to 20 men used her. That was her life,” Simon, who's worked with trafficking victims in Mumbai for the past 15 years, said. “She didn't have the strength or energy to do that work. So she was not earning any money for the brothel keeper and they didn't want her.”
Told by doctors that Priya wouldn't survive, Simon found the still-young woman a bed in a hospice, where she went to die.
Except Priya didn't die.
7 ways to help fight human trafficking
Her white blood count began to improve. She began to eat, to regain weight and energy. After three months, Priya left the hospice for an after-care home.
At around that time, Simon had been talking to Ryan Berg, an American from Cincinnati who worked for an NGO with operations in India, about the need to provide jobs in a sheltered work environment for trafficking survivors.
“Employment was the gap,” Simon said. “Once they were trained in some kind of skill, we sent them for work, but they couldn't cope with the pressure. Finish the deadline, finish the targets — they couldn't do it. There was an internal conflict and many of them failed. And some I know went back to the red light district.”
From that need, and from Berg and Simon's shared passion to help trafficking victims, a business plan was born. In the U.S., Berg founded The Aruna Project, a Cincinnati-based nonprofit that stages 5K runs in multiple states. Registration fees and other proceeds from the races are used to pay salaries for trafficking survivors in Mumbai.
In Mumbai, Simon manages production and counsels survivors, who are employed to make athletic bags and headbands distributed to participants in Aruna Project races in the U.S. More upscale bags also are sold online.
In 2015, Aruna hired its first survivor, Priya. Simon said the company pays better than market rate salaries and benefits. It also provides group homes for those survivors who are not yet ready to live on their own.
The fight against human trafficking inspires incredible passion among many people, but that passion is sometimes misdirected. More than a few nonprofits working to combat trafficking are less than effective. And when I first heard about The Aruna Project's approach, I was skeptical. Can 5K runs in America really make a difference for women living in India?
But then I stepped onto the production floor in Mumbai, and I saw the women's smiles. It's always humbling for me as a man to meet a survivor. In the sewing room, IndyStar visuals editor Mykal McEldowney and I were surrounded by 22 survivors, women like Priya who had suffered unspeakable horror.
The women answered our questions through a translator and asked their own questions of us. They laughed and giggled and showed off, with clear pride, the bags and other products they had made. They also told us about their dreams for the future — one wants to become a fashion designer, another a tailor.
And a young woman named Ruby, no more than five feet tall, hopes to become a singer. When we asked if she would sing for us, she smiled and chose a worship song, a hymn of thanksgiving.
As her clear, strong voice filled the room, she sang not about the pain of the past but of hope for the future.
Coming together to fight human sex trafficking
by Richard Hutton
NIAGARA FALLS — Niagara is not immune to the seedy business of human sex trafficking, community stakeholders said at a roundtable hosted by Progressive Conservative MPP Laurie Scott and Niagara Falls Conservative MP Rob Nicholson.
“There is a huge awareness that there's a lot of victims of human trafficking that are in our community," Scott said. “We've heard the same story in every part of Ontario that we've travelled.”
Scott and Nicholson met with representatives of various groups, including the Niagara Regional Police, Victim Services Niagara, YWCA Niagara, Hannah House and others at Betty's Restaurant in Chippawa. The focus of the roundtable was to get input that could help form legislation to help put an end to the unseemly practice.
“Rob (Nicholson) arranged a roundtable of service providers here, the police, to give us an idea of what they see on the ground, where we can help strengthen their fight, their ability to rescue these victims of this most horrendous crime you'll ever come across," said Scott.
She called the practice “modern day slavery” and said that more than 90 per cent of the victims are Canadian.
“People have to realize the fact they're grooming, luring and exploiting our children for this situation — and our young women.”
She said the community needs the right tools to help rescue victims and to raise awareness of the situation and educate everyone from teachers to hotel and motel workers and even family members, who can help by monitoring what their children and teens are doing online.
“Online has changed the world,” she said. “Right at home, your daughters, your nieces, your grandchildren can be lured into their horrific lifestyle in which they can't escape without our help.”
The information gathered at the roundtable will help form future legislation Scott will bring forward. It's something she has done on previous occasion at Queen's Park in her role as an MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes.
"I brought in several private member's bills, the latest being ‘Saving the Girl Next Door' because we're trying to save the girl next door but I want to hear people say, ‘Why does she need to be saved' and then to realize it's happening," said Scott. "It's happening in our towns, our cities. It's one of the largest growing crimes that affects our children and I'm going to push the government to do more.”
Nicholson, a former justice minister and attorney general under the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, said the issue is not just in Niagara Falls.
“It's think it's an issue everywhere,” he said. “But we are a border community, there is the possibility that people could come and go through our area and we have to raise awareness of it, but it's an issue everywhere.”
He said he was happy that Scott decided to meet with the local groups.
“We have to do everything we can to stop the exploitation of these people who have been or are being exploited.”
Nicholson praised Peter Warrack, who helps track money laundering for the Bank of Montreal and has spearheaded Project Protect. Launched in 2016, Project Protect aims to facilitate the reporting of “suspicious behaviour pertaining to money laundering” to the FIU (Canada's financial intelligence unit) and the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC). The program brings together representatives of financial institutions, regulators, law enforcement and policy makers.
“Traffickers generally tend to use their victim's accounts to conduct their business,” Warrack said, adding that traffickers make it difficult. “The money comes in, and the money goes out and then it disappears.”
But like others at the roundtable, he said, awareness of human trafficking is important.
“When I initiated Project Protect, it started twofold," said Warrack. "One is raising awareness and the second is to equip law enforcement with the intelligence that they need to go after these people.”
For YWCA Niagara executive director Elisabeth Zimmerman, the roundtable was a golden opportunity to raise awareness of the issue and talk about services that are available.
“It's a big issue in the Niagara community,” she said. “And so to be able to talk about human trafficking which in particular effects women and girls.”
She said the agency has been involved with helping to create an emergency human trafficking protocol.
“It's an important issue to us,” said Zimmerman. “Certainly within our work in women's shelters and our drop-in program that we run for sex trade workers, we're seeing this as an important issue. It's great to see that some attention is being paid to it.”
Is Smoking Pot While Pregnant Safe For The Baby?
Two-year old Maverick Hawkins sits on a red plastic car in his grandmother's living room in the picturesque town of Nevada City, Calif., in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. His playpal Delilah Smith, a fellow 2-year-old, snacks on hummus and cashews and delights over the sounds of her Princess Peppa stuffie.
It's playtime for the kids of the provocatively named Facebook group "Pot Smoking Moms Who Cuss Sometimes."
Maverick's mother, Jenna Sauter, started the group after he was born. "I was a new mom, a young mom — I was 22 — and I was just feeling really lonely in the house, taking care of him," she says. She wanted to reach out to other mothers but didn't want to hide her marijuana use.
"I wanted friends who I could be open with," Sauter says — "like I enjoy going to the river and I like to maybe smoke a joint at the river."
There are nearly 2,600 members now in the Facebook group. Marijuana, which became legal for recreational use in California earlier this month, is seen by many group members as an all-natural and seemingly harmless remedy for everything from morning sickness to post-partum depression.
Delilah Smith's mom Andria is 21 and a week away from her due date with her second child. She took umbrage when an emergency room physician recently suggested she take "half a Norco"— a pill akin to Vicodin, an opioid-based painkiller — for her excruciating back pain.
Smith is disdainful. "She was like, 'We know more about Norco and blah, blah, blah and what it can do to you, but we don't that much about marijuana,' " Smith says.
"I was like, 'Test me!' I was like, 'Observe me. My kid could count to 10 before she was even 2 by herself, and I smoked pot throughout my whole pregnancy. She's not stupid! There is no third eye growing.' "
The number of women in the United States who use marijuana during pregnancy has been difficult to gauge, partly because some women are reluctant to tell their doctors; at least 24 states consider substance use during pregnancy a form of child abuse, so divulging such information can have serious consequences.
Still, a number of studies nationally suggest there's been a sharp jump in pot use among pregnant women, especially among younger mothers.
Smith and Sauter both told their doctors of their marijuana use, and after they gave birth, their babies were tested for signs of marijuana's chief active ingredient, THC .
Researchers say psychoactive compounds in marijuana easily cross the placenta , exposing the fetus to perhaps 10 percent of the THC — tetrahydrocannabinol — that the mother receives, and higher concentrations if the mom uses pot repeatedly.
Dr. Dana Gossett , a research obstetrician and gynecologist at the University of California, San Francisco who also treats patients, says studies show marijuana increases the risk of stillbirth and adversely affects how a baby's brain develops.
Gossett cites some research that suggests children exposed to marijuana while growing in the womb can have poorer performance on visual-motor coordination — tasks like catching a ball or solving visual problems like puzzles.
And studies also show, she says, these kids may have behavioral problems at higher rates than other children by the age of 14, and are at greater risk for initiating marijuana use.
"That is biologically plausible," Gossett says, "because the effects of THC in the brain may actually prime that child for addictive behavior, not just to marijuana but to alcohol as well."
There has been little research on the effects of THC passed to a baby via breastfeeding. But because there isn't enough evidence to determine the risk, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists discourages marijuana use during pregnancy , and warns breastfeeding moms to avoid eating or smoking marijuana or inhaling its second-hand smoke — since some amount of THC, just like alcohol, can pass into the baby that way.
To Andria Smith's point that her daughter, Delilah, is just as smart as her peers, studies do show that, in general, children exposed to marijuana in utero don't score worse on reading or mathematics as they get older.
After their babies tested positive for THC, Sauter and Smith were visited at home by county social service workers, who gave the women information about the effects of marijuana use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Sauter says she and her friends don't smoke near their children, nor do they spend their days stoned to oblivion.
"It's not like being totally out of it," Sauter says. "I'm completely aware of my surroundings. I'm watching my kid, watching my friends' kids. I'm hanging out. You totally know what's going on."
Sauter says many parents she knows are uncertain if they can get in trouble using pot now in California. Indeed, child protection laws in most states remain at odds with liberal marijuana laws. Some moms on the Facebook page will not go to the doctor — even when they're sick.
"They don't want to get tested," Sauter says. "And that's dangerous. We should be able to be open about it. Because if something does go wrong, we've got to know."
ACOG does not endorse mandatory testing for THC in pregnant women or newborn babies — out of concern that women could be jailed or have their babies taken from them. Instead, the organization urges obstetricians to ask pregnant women about drug use during prenatal visits, counseling these patients against substance use and helping them alleviate their nausea, back pain or post-partum depression with medications deemed safe by federal drug regulators.
But with recreational cannabis now legal in at least eight states and the District of Columbia, physicians like Gossett are worried that newborns and young children, whose brains are rapidly developing, constructing billions of neural connections, will come to know the world in an altered state.
"They're learning what things look like and how things move and how to respond to the world," Gossett says. Marijuana's psychotropic effects, she adds, will change "a child's ability to interpret the world around him."
NY governor's subpoena bill aimed at internet crimes against kids
The governor wants lawmakers to grant the head of the state police the power to issue subpoenas during investigations into sexual offenses targeting kids online
by The Associated Press
ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants New York lawmakers to grant the head of the state police the power to issue administrative subpoenas during investigations into sexual offenses targeting children online.
The Democrat unveiled legislation Tuesday as his administration's law enforcement officials testified at a hearing in Albany on Cuomo's public safety portion of his state budget proposal.
Cuomo says his measure would authorize, under state law, the issuance of administrative subpoenas by the state police superintendent during active investigations into internet crimes against children.
State Police Superintendent George Beach II testified at the hearing that the governor's legislation was aimed at "ever-increasing incidents" of crimes against children carried out over the internet.
Beach says the legislation would allow investigators to act more quickly to capture online data that could lead to a suspect's arrest.
Congress Passes Bill To Protect Young Athletes Following Nassar Sentencing
"How a serial predator like Dr. Nassar could have preyed on so many young girls for a log time in such a flagrant fashion is appaling."
by Alanna Vagianos
The House passed a bill on Monday night that protects amateur athletes from sexual abuse by enforcing mandatory reporting regulations and extending the statute of limitations for child victims.
The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), came up for a vote one week after Larry Nassar was sentenced in what was the largest sexual abuse scandal in sports history. Congress agreed to use the Senate's version of the bill to speed up its passage; it passed with a vote of 406-3. It just needs President Donald Trump 's signature to be made into law.
Nassar was sentencing to 40 years to 175 years in prison on seven counts of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree. The former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor has been accused of sexually abusing more than 150 young women and girls under the guise of medical treatment.
“ As the Nassar sentencing comes to a close and the Olympic games quickly approach, we are reminded of the importance of protecting the safety and well-being of all of our athletes,” Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) said.
The bill has a three-pronged approach to protecting athletes and regulating governing bodies of amateur athletics.
First, it requires coaches, trainers and others to report any sexual abuse allegation to the police within a 24-hour period. Several women said they reported Nassar to MSU representatives and others as early as 1997 , but Nassar's abuse was allowed to continue because no one adhered to mandatory reporting regulations.
Secondly, the legislation extends the statute of limitations to up to 10 years after a victim realizes he or she was abused. It's not uncommon in child sexual abuse cases for survivors to have a delayed realization of the abuse they endured. Many of Nassar's victims did not realize they had been abused until other women came forward with their stories.
Lastly, the bill limits athletes under the age of 18 from being alone with an adult who isn't their parent. Nassar often abused young girls while he was alone with them during medical visits, and many survivors said the isolation of elite gymnasts allowed the abuse to continue.
“ How a serial predator like Dr. Nassar could have preyed on so many young girls for a long time in such a flagrant fashion is appalling,” Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) said during a House debate of the bill.
Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) addressed several athletes who helped create the bill, including Mattie Larson, Jamie Dantzscher and Jeanette Antolin, during a news conference on Tuesday.
“It may be too late to protect these brave young women. But now you are here doing the protecting. You thought you'd be champion of the Olympics, but you are champions of human rights,” she said.
Antolin told HuffPost that the bill is meant to protect all amateur athletes, not just gymnasts.
“[This bill] goes across all amateur sports, not just gymnastics, not just swimming ? it's all amateur sports to protect all kids,” she said. “Because all kids should be able to go and do sports without having to worry about adult predators.”
Lawmakers from both parties have also called for an investigation into USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee.
“The abhorrent abuses associated with this case are outrageous, and raise serious concerns about your organization's ability to oversee your sport and protect your athletes from abuse and mistreatment,” multiple members of Congress wrote in a letter to USA Gymnastics.
Several officials at USA Gymnastics, MSU and the U.S. Olympic committee have resigned in the face of harsh criticism. MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon resigned last week. The entire USA Gymnastics board resigned , and former Olympic coach John Geddert retired . The NCAA also opened an investigation into how MSU handled the Nassar case.
Nassar is currently serving 60 years in prison on child pornography charges and awaits sentencing on three other charges of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree.
Zero tolerance? The facts don't support the pope's claims on child abuse
Pope Francis says there's no leniency for clergy accused of child sex abuse. It's not true
by Kieran Tapsell
On his return flight from Lima to Rome in January, Pope Francis claimed, as he has so often before, that he has zero tolerance for clergy who sexually abuse children: “I continue with the policy of zero tolerance initiated by Benedict XVI, and in five years I have not signed a single request for leniency. If the appeal court confirms the decision of the lower court, the only other avenue is to ask the pope for leniency. In my time as pope, I have received some 25 requests, and have signed none of them.”
On hearing Francis's claims, an ordinary person might believe that the Catholic church insists on dismissing priests who sexually abuse children – but that is not what usually happens.
There are three ways under canon law by which a priest can be dismissed: 1) by a canonical court, with the priest having the right of appeal to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which is the Vatican department in charge of child sexual abuse allegations against clergy; 2) a bishop can ask the CDF to dismiss a priest directly; 3) the CDF can refer the matter to the pope with a request that he dismiss the priest.
Francis's claim that he has never exercised leniency after a canonical trial and appeal may well be true, but it is not true where he has been requested by the CDF to dismiss a priest, and it is not true of the CDF when it exercises its own powers.
In 2010, the Holy See issued a guide to understanding CDF procedures for sexual abuse allegations. Where the accused has admitted his crimes, the guide says that the CDF can require him to “live a life of prayer and penance”, with restrictions on his public ministry.
In cases under the third procedure, Francis has granted leniency by refusing to accept CDF dismissal recommendations for some of the worst offenders, and instead, required them to live a “life of prayer and penance” with restrictions on their public ministry.
Fr Mauro Inzoli , accused of abusing dozens of children over a 10-year period, was dismissed under Benedict XVI in 2012, but Francis reinstated him in 2014, allowing him to live a “life of prayer and penance” while restricting his public ministry. In November 2016 Inzoli was convicted by an Italian court and sentenced to four years and nine months imprisonment. Seven months later, Francis dismissed him for the second time.
In March 2017 Marie Collins, an abuse survivor, resigned as a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, established by Francis, because she said that what was happening behind closed doors conflicted with what was said in public, and that Pope Francis “does not appreciate how his actions of clemency undermine everything he does in this area.”
In January 2014, Archbishop Tomasi, the Holy See's envoy to the United Nations, presented to the committee on the rights of the child a document showing that since 2004, more than 3,420 credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors had been referred to the CDF. As a result, 848 priests had been dismissed, and lesser disciplinary measures had been applied against the other 2,572. That's 75% tolerance, not zero.
In January 2017, Archbishop Coleridge of Brisbane told the Australian royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse that he had sent to the CDF requests for dismissal of eight of his priests who had been convicted by Australian courts of child sex offences. One priest had died, one case was still pending, and five of the six applications for dismissal were refused. In the case of the Brisbane archdiocese, the tolerance rate had risen to 83%.
The Australian royal commission agreed with Pope John Paul II, in 2002: “People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young,” and recommended that in all cases of child sexual abuse, the perpetrator should be permanently dismissed from the priesthood and religious life, that is, real zero tolerance.
Francis used specious arguments of the same kind in his formal response in September 2014 to the United Nations' committee on the rights of the child when he claimed that the Holy See was only responsible under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child for the 31 children resident in the Vatican City, despite the fact that within those 44 hectares, the Holy See decides whether thousands of clerics from all over the world should continue as priests after the church had found them guilty of sexually abusing children.
Francis further claimed that attempting to implement the provisions of the convention in the territory of other states, such as by mandatory reporting to the civil authorities under canon law, could constitute a violation of the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of states. While states have differing and sometimes no mandatory reporting laws for child sexual abuse, none of them prohibit such reporting. Mandatory reporting to the civil authorities under canon law would assist states in the enforcement of their criminal laws designed to protect children.
Ambiguous statements and phoney arguments of the kind that Francis has been employing has led in the past to the word “Jesuitical” entering the English language. Despite the best efforts of modern Jesuits to dissociate the Society of Jesus from that derogatory term, Francis, the first Jesuit pope, has given it a boost.
Kieran Tapsell is a retired civil lawyer and an author on canon law
Child abuse and neglect: know the signs and symptoms
by MTN News
Recent cases of child abuse in the community have many people concerned - and also wondering how they can help prevent it, and/or identify it.
The Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services launched the First Years Initiative earlier this month. The program will provide new resources for families during a critical period, from before a child is born through the first few years of his or her life.
Leaders say the initiative comes as a response to a recent review of child deaths reported to Montana Department of Justice's Chief Child and Family Ombudsman. In just over one year, the ombudsman found 14 cases where children died after a report was filed with the state Child and Family Services Division. Ten of the children were younger than 1 year old.
The Child & Family Services Division of the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services operates a toll-free child abuse hotline 24 hours a day (1-866-820-5437). Specialists screen calls, assess the level of risk to children, and prioritize reports of abuse, neglect, and abandonment according to the urgency with which social workers need to respond. The specialists forward reports of suspected child abuse, neglect, or abandonment to social workers in county offices for investigation.
Social workers then investigate reports and help parents find solutions to problems that may interfere with their children's safety. If the parents are amenable, the social workers can help the family get in-home services , such as home management skill training, parenting education classes, modeling skills for parents, and supervised visitations. These can be provided directly by CFSD social workers or by private agencies on contract with the division. Division policy is to provide protective services to children in their own homes when it is possible to do so without risking their safety.
To help family members become involved in addressing the care and safety of their children, the division uses Family Group Decision-making Meetings. These meetings bring together family, friends, social workers, and service providers to share concerns, knowledge, and skills.
The Mayo Clinic website provides the following information:
Any intentional harm or mistreatment to a child under 18 years old is considered child abuse. Child abuse takes many forms, which often occur at the same time. Types of abuse include physical, sexual, emotional, medical, and neglect. In many cases, child abuse is done by someone the child knows and trusts — often a parent or other relative. If you suspect child abuse, report the abuse to the proper authorities.
A child who's being abused may feel guilty, ashamed or confused. He or she may be afraid to tell anyone about the abuse, especially if the abuser is a parent, other relative or family friend. In fact, the child may have an apparent fear of parents, adult caregivers or family friends. That's why it's vital to watch for red flags, such as:
Withdrawal from friends or usual activities
Changes in behavior — such as aggression, anger, hostility or hyperactivity — or changes in school performance
Depression, anxiety or unusual fears or a sudden loss of self-confidence
An apparent lack of supervision
Frequent absences from school or reluctance to ride the school bus
Reluctance to leave school activities, as if he or she doesn't want to go home
Attempts at running away
Rebellious or defiant behavior
Attempts at suicide
Specific signs and symptoms depend on the type of abuse and can vary. Keep in mind that warning signs are just that — warning signs. The presence of warning signs doesn't necessarily mean that a child is being abused.
Physical abuse signs and symptoms
Unexplained injuries, such as bruises, fractures or burns
Injuries that don't match the given explanation
Untreated medical or dental problems
Sexual abuse signs and symptoms
Sexual behavior or knowledge that's inappropriate for the child's age
Pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection
Blood in the child's underwear
Statements that he or she was sexually abused
Trouble walking or sitting or complaints of genital pain
Abuse of other children sexually
Emotional abuse signs and symptoms
Delayed or inappropriate emotional development
Loss of self-confidence or self-esteem
Social withdrawal or a loss of interest or enthusiasm
Headaches or stomachaches with no medical cause
Avoidance of certain situations, such as refusing to go to school or ride the bus
Desperately seeks affection
A decrease in school performance or loss of interest in school
Loss of previously acquired developmental skills
Neglect signs and symptoms
Poor growth or weight gain
Lack of clothing or supplies to meet physical needs
Taking food or money without permission
Eating a lot in one sitting or hiding food for later
Poor record of school attendance
Lack of appropriate attention for medical, dental or psychological problems or lack of necessary follow-up care
Emotional swings that are inappropriate or out of context to the situation
Sometimes a parent's demeanor or behavior sends red flags about child abuse. Warning signs include a parent who:
Shows little concern for the child
Appears unable to recognize physical or emotional distress in the child
Denies that any problems exist at home or school, or blames the child for the problems
Consistently blames, belittles or berates the child and describes the child with negative terms, such as "worthless" or "evil"
Expects the child to provide him or her with attention and care and seems jealous of other family members getting attention from the child
Uses harsh physical discipline or asks teachers to do so
Demands an inappropriate level of physical or academic performance
Severely limits the child's contact with others
Offers conflicting or unconvincing explanations for a child's injuries or no explanation at all
Although most child health experts condemn the use of violence in any form, some people still use corporal punishment, such as spanking, as a way to discipline their children. Any corporal punishment may leave emotional scars. Parental behaviors that cause pain or physical injury — even when done in the name of discipline — could be child abuse.
You can take simple steps to protect your child from exploitation and child abuse, as well as prevent child abuse in your neighborhood or community. The goal is to provide safe, stable, nurturing relationships for children. For example:
Offer your child love and attention. Nurture your child, listen and be involved in his or her life to develop trust and good communication. Encourage your child to tell you if there's a problem. A supportive family environment and social networks can foster your child's self-esteem and sense of self-worth.
Don't respond in anger. If you feel overwhelmed or out of control, take a break. Don't take out your anger on your child. Talk with your doctor or therapist about ways you can learn to cope with stress and better interact with your child.
Think supervision. Don't leave a young child home alone. In public, keep a close eye on your child. Volunteer at school and for activities to get to know the adults who spend time with your child. When old enough to go out without supervision, encourage your child to stay away from strangers and to hang out with friends rather than be alone — and to tell you where he or she is at all times. Find out who's supervising your child — for example, at a sleepover.
Know your child's caregivers. Check references for baby sitters and other caregivers. Make irregular, but frequent, unannounced visits to observe what's happening. Don't allow substitutes for your usual child care provider if you don't know the substitute.
Emphasize when to say no. Make sure your child understands that he or she doesn't have to do anything that seems scary or uncomfortable. Encourage your child to leave a threatening or frightening situation immediately and seek help from a trusted adult. If something happens, encourage your child to talk to you or another trusted adult about the episode. Assure your child that it's OK to talk and that he or she won't get in trouble.
Teach your child how to stay safe online. Put the computer in a common area of your home, not the child's bedroom. Use the parental controls to restrict the types of websites your child can visit, and check your child's privacy settings on social networking sites. Consider it a red flag if your child is secretive about online activities. Cover ground rules, such as not sharing personal information; not responding to inappropriate, hurtful or frightening messages; and not arranging to meet an online contact in person without your permission. Tell your child to let you know if an unknown person makes contact through a social networking site. Report online harassment or inappropriate senders to your service provider and to local authorities, if necessary.
Reach out. Meet the families in your neighborhood, including parents and children. Consider joining a parent support group so you have an appropriate place to vent your frustrations. Develop a network of supportive family and friends. If a friend or neighbor seems to be struggling, offer to baby-sit or help in another way.
If you worry that you might abuse your child
If you're concerned that you might abuse your child, seek help immediately. These organizations can provide information and referrals:
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: 800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453)
Prevent Child Abuse America: 800-CHILDREN (800-244-5373)
Or you can start by talking with your family doctor. He or she may offer a referral to a parent education class, counseling or a support group for parents to help you learn appropriate ways to deal with your anger. If you're abusing alcohol or drugs, ask your doctor about treatment options.
If you were a victim of any type of child abuse, get counseling to ensure you don't continue the abuse cycle or teach those destructive behaviors to your child.
Remember, child abuse is preventable — and often a symptom of a problem that may be treatable. Ask for help today.
You can also report possible child abuse or neglect to the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services by calling 1-866-820-5437.
Sports impacted by sexual abuse cases
by The Associated Press
The fallout continues from disgraced doctor Larry Nassar's molestation of young athletes within USA Gymnastics, including the resignation of the governing body's entire board of directors. Several sports have been impacted by sexual misconduct and abuse cases involving authority figures and children in the past decade. Among them:
Nassar, a 54-year-old former doctor for USA Gymnastics and member of Michigan State's sports medicine staff, admitted to molesting athletes while he was supposedly treating them for injuries. Nassar was the U.S. national team's doctor from 1995 to 2015.
Some of the more than 150 women and girls who have accused him said they complained about his behavior as far back as the late 1990s. Olympians McKayla Maroney, Simone Biles and Aly Raisman are among his accusers. Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison .
Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon resigned and athletic director Mark Hollis retired in the wake of the case.
In November 2016, a handful of former soccer players broke their silence about the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of youth coaches. The effect has been bigger than they could have imagined.
According to the most recent figures issued by a specialist police unit investigating non-recent child sexual abuse in British soccer, 294 alleged suspects have been identified and the number of victims stands at 839, ranging from age 4 to 20.
One former coach, Barry Bennell, is currently on trial in Liverpool, England, accused of 48 counts of child sexual abuse against a total of 11 complainants. He has already pleaded guilty to seven counts of indecent assault.
Jerry Sandusky , a longtime assistant coach at Penn State under Joe Paterno, is serving up to 60 years in prison for sexually abusing 10 boys between 1994 and 2009. He met his victims though a charity he ran for at-risk youth.
Penn State's former president, Graham Spanier, and two other ex-administrators, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, were prosecuted for child endangerment for not reporting a 2001 complaint about Sandusky showering with a boy. Sandusky's arrest a decade later blew up into a scandal that led to Paterno's dismissal in 2011.
As of last year, Penn State had paid nearly $250 million in fines, settlements and other costs associated with the scandal.
In 2010, a report on the television news program 20/20 addressed sexual abuse within the sport, noting that 36 coaches had been banned for life. That list has since grown to nearly 150 coaches.
Andy King was sentenced to 40 years in prison in 2010 for molesting girls training with the San Jose Aquatics Club. He was charged with 20 counts of lewd acts with girls 15 and younger. He was alleged to have impregnated one of his victims when she was 14.
In 2008, Central Indiana Aquatics coach Brian Hindson was accused of setting up hidden cameras in locker rooms. He pleaded guilty to charges including distribution, production and possession of child pornography and was sentenced to 33 years in prison.
USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus, who died last year, came under fire for his handling of sex abuse cases. While he at first denied culpability, he later apologized in a blog post: ”I wish my eyes had been more open to the individual stories of the horrors of sexual abuse. I wish I had known more so perhaps I could have done more.”
Boston Bruins forward Sheldon Kennedy came forward in 1997 with claims he was sexually abused by Canadian youth coach Graham James beginning in 1984 when he was 14. Some six players ultimately said they had been abused by Graham, including Theo Fleury. Graham served two different stretches in prison.
Graham was a prominent coach in the Western Hockey League, leading the Swift Current Broncos to the Memorial Cup title in 1989. He was named Man of the Year by The Hockey News following the championship, an honor the publication later rescinded.
Kennedy has since become an advocate for victims' rights.
Boyfriend, social services worker charged in investigation of Cleveland mother charged with killing, burying son
by Cory Shaffer
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The boyfriend of the Cleveland mother accused of killing her 5-year-old son and burying his body in her backyard has also been charged with murder.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley also said a grand jury has handed up charges against a social services worker accused of buying thousands of dollars in food stamps off of the mother, Larissa Rodriguez, in a years-long scheme.
Christopher Rodriguez is charged with murder in the death of Jordan Rodriguez, and Nancy Caraballo, a contract parent educator with the Bright Beginnings agency, is charged alongside Larissa Rodriguez with illegal trafficking in food stamps and bribery, O'Malley announced.
Bright Beginnings is a publicly funded nonprofit organization under the Cuyahoga County Educational Services Department.
Caraballo was employed by Catholic Charities, to which Bright Beginnings contracted some of its social services, and was assigned to visit the Rodriguez home once a month since at least 2014 to teach the children, O'Malley said. She had a mandatory requirement to report abuse or neglect, O'Malley said.
But O'Malley said Caraballo filed false reports to cover up the fact that she skipped at least 11 visits, including one the month before investigators found the boy's body, O'Malley said.
Investigators found the home infested with bed bugs and cockroaches, but Caraballo did not report the family, O'Malley said.
Larissa Rodriguez got $1,000 a month in food stamps to help feed her children. She developed a personal relationship with Caraballo, and the two hatched a scheme where Caraballo would buy a certain amount of stamps off the mother each month at half-price, O'Malley said.
Investigators obtained surveillance camera video showing Caraballo using Rodriguez's food stamps card, prosecutors said.
"This food stamp transaction is a bribe," O'Malley said. "[Caraballo] was being bribed to look the other way."
Caraballo also visited the home on Dec. 10, nine days before the boy's body was discovered, O'Malley said.
O'Malley said investigators do not have information to show whether Caraballo knew of the boy's disappearance or death, but said his office would consider levying additional charges if the county's medical examiner's office determines that malnourishment played a role in how Jordan died.
Bright Beginnings director Karen Mintzner said she was "deeply disturbed to hear about the allegations" and said the agency, a political subdivision of the Cuyahoga County Educational Service Center, was cooperating with the investigation.
"From what we've heard from the investigators, this is an isolated incident," Mintzner told cleveland.com.
Catholic Charities said in a statement that they fired Caraballo after they learned of the allegations and are also cooperating with investigators.
"We are shocked and disappointed that this former employee violated our policies and failed to adhere to the standards required of all employees at Catholic Charities," the statement said.
Larissa Rodriguez, 34, is being held in the county jail on $1 million bond on murder, felonious assault, child endangering and gross abuse of a corpse charges. She faces up to life in prison if convicted.
The new charges handed up Wednesday could put her in jail for up to another 50 years if she is convicted on all counts.
She pleaded not guilty to the murder charges. John Stanard, an assistant Cuyahoga County public defender representing Larissa Rodriguez, declined to comment on her behalf.
The remains of Jordan Rodriguez, were unearthed Dec. 19, one day after the brother of Rodriguez's boyfriend called Cleveland police from Pakistan and reported that he helped the mother bury her son in the backyard of her home on West 80th Street.
The call prompted authorities to dig up the backyard, where they found Jordan's body which showed multiple signs of abuse, including broken ribs, court records say.
Investigators now believe that Christopher Rodriguez played a role in both the boy's death and the disposal of his body, O'Malley said.
Christopher Rodriguez is currently in the Medina County Jail.
Jordan was last seen alive in September, and investigators believe he died sometime around Sept. 22.
Rodriguez is a mother to nine children and is pregnant with her 10th. County social workers said in court documents that her home was in "deplorable and unsanitary conditions." It was also infested with rats and cockroaches, and social workers found one child eating a cockroach-filled sandwich when they arrived at the house, records say.
The four children who lived at the home have been taken into emergency custody by the county, which has opened 13 abuse or neglect investigations into Rodriguez since 1999.
"Breaking the silence is where everything starts": Men affected by sexual abuse share their stories
by Courtney Allen
Women are not the only individuals facing sexual assault, rape or societal stigma — but under the guise of society today one might think so. Approximately one in six men face sexual assault before they reach the age of 18 according to a national page for male survivors.
Yet many of these stories go untold, unshared and buried inside.
Centre County is not above this statistic, and The Centre County Women's Resource Center (CCWRC) is raising awareness to combat the illusion that men cannot be victims too. Beginning today, and all throughout February 2018, a series of events catering to being inclusive of male survivors of sex abuse will take place across Centre County to combat harmful stigma.
The CCWRC held an event that displayed “ The Bristlecone Project ," an ongoing documentary that collects the stories of male sex abuse survivors — along with hosting a panel consisting of male survivors, including teens and local human service professionals. Testimonials and information were provided for the needs of the community.
Jordan Gibby, prevention educator at the CCWRC, explained that there needs to be a sense of vitality in society in regards to being inclusive of all genders that face childhood sex abuse and sexual assault in their adult lives.
“Many men feel very alone in this, especially because some of the difficulties for men in speaking about things like this, [are that] men are supposed to be 'tough' and not be vulnerable — to man up and handle it on their own. Right?” Gibby said.
The documentary, "The Bristlcone Project: Men overcoming sexual abuse and assault," highlights many men who explain they believed they were the only people who had experienced sexual abuse as children and young males.
“They can hurt your flesh, but they cannot hurt you spirit,” David Washington, a man in the Bristlecone Project, said.
There is a strong definition of manhood generated by society that consists of false realities, and Gibby explained that society tends to equate manhood with lack of emotion.
The notion is pushed that men cannot display an ounce of weakness, that they must be stoic and unmoving figures that are not allowed vulnerabilities. The men affected by sexual assault who came forward explained that their live-changing moment came when they acknowledged and announced their stories; however, a public announcement is not a requirement for healing.
Teenagers also took a stand at the event.
Thomas Williams, a 14-year-old male who said he was a survivor of incest and child-on-child rape, from Altoona Area Junior High School, said he "wanted to give a perspective to all kids that they have a voice and that they can speak up.”
Williams said his perpetrator, a half brother, threatened to kill him if he told anyone about the abuse, so he kept quiet.
Founder of the Bristlecone Project, David Lisak, talked of the stigma that men who were abused as children are automatically assumed to transition into abusers as adults.
A sexual abuse expert on the panel discussed how victims of sexual abuse either pull in, isolating themselves from society due to their experiences, or they lash out, and harm society due to their experiences.
“Breaking the silence is where everything starts; that is where the survivor realizes, 'If I talk about this, the world is not going to explode,'” Lawrence Conrad, panelist and male sex abuse survivor, said
Gibby explained that due to the socialization in society, men often feel isolated and alone in their problems stemming from unwanted sexual experiences, and sexual violence. However, he said he has seen success with men coming forward and speaking up about their past. The act is very powerful, Gibby expressed, due to men's recognition that they are not as solitary and different as they may individually feel.
One man also affected by abuse as a child, Chris Sims of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, explained that his mother would caress him, put pubic hairs in his cereal, and began making him watch porn with her at age 7. He stated that isolation is the enemy to discovery.
“They recognize that they are not alone, that this has happened to others,” Gibby said. “The Sandusky scandal showed us it happens to boys in our community, and that was just a glimpse”.
The CCWRC provides a 24/7 hotline available 365 days a week for anyone to call who has experienced unwanted sexual experiences, who face post traumatic stress and/or for people who wish to remain anonymous, yet still want to reach someone. The hotline is run by volunteers within the community that go through an 80-hour training course, which certifies them in Pennsylvania as crisis counselors for sexual abuse and domestic violence.
The goal of the CCWRC is to get ahead of the sexual abuse and violence people face, and then prevent it before it can ever begin victimizing people in the first place.
The CCWRC not only promotes awareness, it provides services for both men and women to help combat stigma. Giving those who do not a have a safe space, an area to come and have a voice. Gibby states the name 'Center County Women's Resource Center' may be misleading, but the goal is to shift the narrative of assault being restricted to one gender.
Services such as: 24-hour hotline —1-877-234-5050 — individual counseling, support groups, legal advocacy and representation, medical l advocacy, housing and shelter, sexual violence protection orders and more are all available for men and women. All services are free.
You do not have to have experienced sexual assault yourself to reach out, if you need assistance with someone you know who has, the CCWRC provides help with this as well.
There will be future awareness and information sessions at the following times and locations:
Millheim: Feb. 3 - 1:00 p.m. at the Green Drake Gallery and Arts Center
Bellefonte: Feb. 15 - 6:00 p.m. at the Centre County Library
Philipsburg: Feb. 17 - 11:30 a.m. at the Holt Memorial Library
The CCWRC maintains that all events and services are open to all members of the community, whether or not their lives have been directly affected by sexual abuse.
Beshear: Prevent child abuse with your state tax refund
by Staff Reports
FRANKFORT — One of the simplest ways to help prevent child abuse in Kentucky is to check the box on the state income tax refund form and designate a portion to the Child Victims' Trust Fund, said Attorney General Andy Beshear.
“Kentucky's children are at risk and the need is great,” said Beshear. “Anyone who can help will have a sense of pride in knowing that their donation will go directly toward fighting child abuse in Kentucky and supporting victims.”
Beshear said over the past two years, the Child Victims' Trust Fund has provided $260,000 to support statewide and regional child abuse prevention programs and organizations like Child Watch Counseling and Advocacy Center's Safety Tools and Golden Rules program.
The program received more than $16,000 in trust funding in July 2017 to provide sexual abuse prevention education to more than 12,000 pre-school and elementary students in Ballard, Calloway, Carlisle, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Livingston, Marshall and McCracken counties. The funds also help the program reach more than 300 campers from across the state at the Kentucky Sheriff's Boys and Girls Ranch in Gilbertsville.
“With support from the Child Victims' Trust Fund we will provide thousands of children in the Purchase area with sexual abuse prevention education, empowering them with the knowledge to prevent or stop child abuse from occurring,” said Child Watch's Executive Director Janie Criner. “We are extremely grateful for this grant funding.”
More than $160,000 in funding also went to support Children's Advocacy Centers across the state to help pay for hundreds of child sexual abuse medical exams.
The Children's Advocacy Center of the Bluegrass relies on the funding to seek justice for child victims throughout the Bluegrass region.
“This funding is critical to our mission of helping reduce the trauma experienced by sexually abused children,” said the organization's Executive Director Winn Stephens. “Through our partnership we are able to provide comprehensive medical examinations that help children overcome the abuse they have suffered and bring perpetrators to justice.”
More than 1,200 prosecutors, social workers and community advocates have also received training through the fund on how to protect Kentucky's children from sexual abuse.
Beshear said trainings currently provided in partnership with Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky are helping youth-serving organizations like daycares, summer camps and churches to evaluate their programs and implement an action plan that will strengthen protocols and policies to safeguard children from sexual abuse.
“Funding from the trust fund has been critical to our statewide efforts to reach out to youth-serving organizations to provide them the tools to help keep kids safe while in their care,” said Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky Executive Director Jill Seyfred. “We have reached thousands of Kentuckians through the written protocol and onsite trainings. We know these funds have helped save children in our state from being sexually abused.”
Created in 1984, the fund, administered by the Office of the Attorney General, depends on tax-deductible contributions to aid child abuse prevention organizations. The Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention Board, a 170(c) (1) nonprofit, distributes the funds through a grant process.
Since taking office, Beshear has made protecting children from abuse one of the top priories for his office. Beshear's cyber crimes unit has nearly tripled the number of child sex offenders they have removed from Kentucky communities.
Beshear reminds Kentuckians that everyone has a moral and legal duty to report any instance of child abuse to local law enforcement or to Kentucky's Child Abuse hotline at 877-597-2331 or 877-KYSAFE1.
Visit the Child Victims' Trust Fund website at https://icareaboutkids.ky.gov/ .
Warning signs Child sexual abuse signals shouldn't be ignored
by Steve Foley
The Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal sent a shockwave not only throughout Michigan last week, but nationwide.
On Wednesday of this week, a Michigan judge said the number of known sexual abuse victims of the former USA Gymnastics doctor has grown to 265.
Nassar, who is already serving 60 years in prison for possession or child sex abuse images, was sentenced last week to 40 to 175 years in prison after nearly 160 women testified he had molested them.
Many victims of Nassar's abuse claim he was a master manipulator, a narcissist and a predator who created a large number of followers and admirers, many of whom would shut down reports of abuse or publicly call victims liars.
Former gymnast Bailey Lorencen said in last week's Nassar hearing “it took 37,000 pornographic images of children on his computer for people to believe that Nassar could do something like this.
“Any you wonder why nobody wanted to speak up?”
Thalia Ferenc, a clinical social worker specialist based at The Serenity Center in Charlevoix — who for years specialized in child sexual abuse — said children will not speak up in most cases if they are being abused.
“The first thing you'd look for is a change in normal functioning,” Ferenc said. “If you're seeing a child shut down that was normally pretty talkative, or vice versa, who may look anxious and is talking too much, those are signs.
“They're just not functioning as they once did,” Ferenc added. “Their sleeping patterns may be disturbed, their appetite has changed or something may just be off. At that point you may not be sure what it is ... it could be lots of things. It's also a sign that you (parent) need to pay attention to and follow up.”
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, perhaps the most critical child sexual prevention strategy for parents is good communication with your child. This is not only challenging to every parent, but also can be difficult, especially for working parents and parents of adolescents.
“Younger children in particular, listen to their play,” Ferenc said. “Because play is the language of children and they will play out scenarios, they'll play (scenarios) out during play or when they're playing house they'll pretend they're a grown-up mom, but when children are sexually abused often that will come out in play stories and they'll be using little play figures or mention strange things or sexual behaviors.”
Ferenc said typically some warning signs might come up if you listen in on a child's play.
“We do that (listening) sometimes, but not enough with our young children to pay attention to what they're saying when they're playing,” Ferenc said. “We can get a lot of clues.”
Along with play, children who may be too frightened to talk about sexual molestation may exhibit a variety of physical and behavior signals. Parents should assume responsibility for noticing such symptoms, including regression to more infantile behavior such as bed wetting, thumb sucking or excessive crying, unusual interest in or knowledge or sexual matters, expressing affection in ways inappropriate for a child of that age or fear of a person or an intense dislike at being left somewhere or with someone.
“A red flag could be they're perping on other kids,” Ferenc said. “It could be minor, like pulling somebody's pants down, but it could be much more explicit such as actually sexually abusing, fondling or touching.”
Ferenc said another red flag is when a child tends to talk more about sex.
“They know it's not OK to talk about it because they've been told by a perpetrator not to talk about it,” Ferenc said. “There may be implied threats and there's lots of ways perpetrators get kids to believe that something horrible will happen, and they let the kids' imaginations take over.”
Ferenc said if a child is learning things beyond their precocious knowledge, a parent, guardian or teacher should pay attention for that child's sake and talk to a school counselor about what the child is saying.
“If it's a red flag, report it to children protective services immediately and let them sort it out,” Ferenc said. “They have trained investigators who will not traumatize the child.”
A common mistake Ferenc said many parents make if they suspect sexual abuse is to dig the answers out of their child.
“That not only can be traumatic for the child, but it usually makes them shut down and not want to talk,” Ferenc said. “It also contaminates what the child is saying, so you're now suggesting things to the child by your questions, and if there's really something going on, it's much more complicated and difficult for protective services or the police to sort out what's real and what the parents inadvertently suggested to the child by asking leading questions.”
If you suspect a child has been abused, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that believe the child, commend them for telling, convey support, temper your own reaction and report the suspected molestation to a social services agency or the police.
To contact Child Protective Services, call (855) 444-3911.
The virtual door to online child sexual grooming is wide open
by Michelle McManus and Louise Almond
The nature of sexual offending has changed with most interactions occurring online and involving younger victims. This change is seeing people taking more risks by virtually opening their door to “strangers” .
A harsh reality of “contact” sexual offending is that many offenders will use various grooming techniques to enable them to commit sexual offences. Whether this is an online conversation manipulated into a face-to-face meeting, or a chat in a cafe or bar resulting in a victim being led to a less crowded area, the reoccurring themes are coercion, control and trust.
A new offence of sexual communication with a child was introduced in April 2017. Before this, police could not intervene until groomers attempted to meet victims face-to-face.
The latest figures reveal that a staggering 1,316 offences were recorded in the first six months of this law being introduced in England and Wales. There are now calls for social media sites to do more “grooming prevention” and consider the use of “ anti-grooming alerts ” for potential victims. But there are some key issues that should be considered before furthering this idea.
What is the true scale of online grooming?
Crime figures released for 2015/16 indicate there were 37,778 child sexual offences (including grooming) in England – that's 36.3 sexual offences per 10,000 children under 16. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland recorded even higher rates.
Within these figures, the NSPCC reported that there were 11,230 child rape offences and 25,577 involving sexual assault/sexual activity against children. These figures are much higher than the reported grooming offences ( 1,316 over six months ). But why?
Crime data does not detail how many sexual offences also included grooming, or whether grooming offences are dropped when evidence of child sexual abuse is found. Undetected grooming offences can lead to horrific sexual abuse, such as in the much publicised Rochdale grooming case (where young girls were targeted by older men who plied them with alcohol) and in the online grooming world too. Child victims describe grooming as a key feature of their abuse.
Is it that the intelligence tools available are unable to identify interactions in time to stop contact sexual abuse occurring? There is no doubt that the demand on police is ever increasing, with this type of crime requiring specialist skills and expertise.
Responsibility on social media companies
Social media companies should do all they can to reduce illegal behaviour on their platforms. A key issue centres on the ability to accurately identify potential groomers. Various studies have reported good results in identifying grooming behaviour . But research has also noted that offenders are using a wide variety of grooming processes to snare their victims.
Evidence of differing functions within offender-victim interactions have been observed with some restricting their sexual behaviour to online (fantasy-driven) and others using the internet to facilitate the abuse of children (contact-driven). Research has also shown that a key part of the “offending pathway” from online to contact abuse is grooming.
Consequently, many researchers agree that although the motivations behind interactions are sexually deviant, they may seem innocent in nature when observed, making it difficult to identify before actual abuse occurs. This becomes more problematic if young people are the groomers, displaying complex grooming behaviours . Using multiple social media platforms, as well as online and offline methods, further reduces the ability to identify offenders.
There is also the controversial belief that some offenders find engaging in sexual deviant fantasies online reduces urges to commit contact offences. A real fear is that social media warnings could push these offenders to interact offline.
But if the intention is for social media companies to give potential child victims “ grooming alerts ”, this puts the onus on victims to acknowledge that they may be subject to grooming. The power a groomer has over a victim may override any considerations to stop interactions.
Those committing these offences are often highly skilled at identifying vulnerable victims, and manipulating them by giving compliments and attention.
Developing grooming alerts may also inadvertently lead to parents/caregivers taking their eyes off the ball when it comes to their childrens' social media accounts. Assumptions might be made that the technology is able to detect suspicious behaviour better than they can. Not enough is known about childrens' online interactions, with reports only just highlighting this issue within adult populations .
The new child grooming law was introduced to reduce the risk of contact sexual offences. However, it seems the ability to identify grooming behaviours before sexual abuse still falls short. There are issues here for social media companies, the police, teachers and parents. But the message is clear. The virtual door to strangers is wide open. More needs to be done to identify and respond to online sexual grooming.
This story about emotional abuse and the kindness of strangers is resonating with thousands
by Kaitlin Standord
A Twitter thread started by writer and producer Ed Solomon earlier this week is going viral, thanks to the simple yet powerful message it's spreading about how deep an impact words of kindness can have upon us — as well as words of anger.
The story Solomon shares is really one he heard secondhand, from a woman who suffered significant emotional abuse throughout her childhood. One day, he says, she found herself standing in an elevator with her mother, who was berating her in front of a group of strangers.
“When the door opened on their floor the mother bolted out,” Solomon relays, “but just as she started to go a stranger — a random person who happened to be there — whispered, ‘Hey.' And the (then 11 yr old) girl turned back. The stranger said: ‘It's not you. It's her.'”
Those five little words were never forgotten by the little girl, who Solomon explains is now a 53-year-old woman. She carried them with her throughout her childhood and straight on through adulthood, so that whenever life gets hard or people test her, she calls upon them like a personal mantra to guide her through.
“When life gets really dark, when she hears her (inner) mother's voice telling that she's sh*t, she can't do it, or to just plain give up,” Solomon writes, “she then sees that stranger's face as the door closes in front of her.” In fact, sometimes, Solomon says, “it's the only thing that keeps her going.”
I'll be honest, I've read this Twitter thread through at least five times by now, and each time, it hits me right in the heart — for a few reasons.
According to studies, 1 in 8 American children suffer some form of emotional abuse , neglect, or physical abuse during their childhood. To put it in perspective, that's about 5.7 million kids each year — and those are just the cases we know about. That abuse can often have lasting negative impacts, and, according to researchers, lead children to have “higher rates of mortality, obesity, and human immunodeficiency virus [HIV] infection” later in life. It can also lead to a shattered sense of self-esteem; something the woman in Solomon's story no doubt faces on a daily basis.
The story is ultimately an inspiring one, reminding us that we are not forever defined by the things that happen to us, the people who hurt us, or the circumstances we're born into. Sometimes, it's them, not us .
But there's another message that Solomon hopes we all take away from this story, and that's this: “If you have a nice thing to say — a word of encouragement, a compliment — even if it's to a passing stranger, don't hold onto it. Cause you just never know where and when it will land.”
Oh, how true those words are.
The Twitter thread, which was originally posted on January 29, has racked up thousands of likes and retweets in the last few days, and has led to an outpouring of emotional stories in reply.
“Thanks for this,” one Twitter user wrote Solomon. “A couple of years ago I heard a mother berating a little girl. I'd have given anything to know what to say or do in that moment. I just felt so sick and helpless.”
“I was beaten and abused as a kid,” wrote another, “and my teacher told me at age 9 (she whispered), ‘One day you'll write all your wonderful stories down and people will listen to the girl that you hide just now … it will come out and you'll be proud of yourself' … I never forgot Miss Miller.”
“It's the replies to this that've blown me away,” Solomon later wrote in a follow-up tweet. “We THINK power only comes from being in a lofty ‘position.' And that's a KIND of power, for sure. But the REAL power is in our every day, moment-to-moment interactions with people. We ALL have incredible power. It's kind of amazing.”
It certainly is.
Child abuse in the US: Resources for journalists
by Chloe Reichel
Virtually every week, chilling accounts of child abuse make headlines nationwide — from children reportedly chained to beds and starved by their parents to hundreds of gymnasts accusing their doctor of molesting them.
Beyond the details of these nightmarish incidents, the same questions emerge: How many more cases lurk in the shadows, in quiet homes on tree-lined streets? Why do parents hurt their kids? How is justice done for the abused?
Two national efforts, the National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS) and the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), attempt to document the incidence of child abuse.
NCANDS consists of data submitted by Child Protective Services (CPS) agencies across the country. The Department of Health and Human Services publishes a report summarizing the findings from NCANDS annually.
According to this data, in 2015, CPS investigated or responded to 3.4 million children and determined that 683,000 were victims of abuse, which translates to 9.2 victims per 1,000 children nationwide. This represents a 3.8 percent increase since 2011. These cases were roughly split between boys and girls. Children younger than 3 years old comprised 27.7 percent of victims. By race, African-American children had the highest rate of victimization, though most cases of abuse — 43 percent — occurred among white children.
NCANDS reports that roughly 75 percent of abused children referred to CPS were neglected, about 17 percent were physically abused, 7 percent suffered other kinds of maltreatment, and 8 percent were sexually abused. Worldwide estimates for child sexual abuse published in the International Journal of Public Health range from about 8 to 31 percent for girls and 3 to 17 percent for boys; other research has focused on all forms of maltreatment globally .
In the Journal of Child and Adolescent Trauma , researchers have put a finer point on forms of child abuse, defining child torture as severe, repeated abuse through the analysis of numerous cases.
NCANDS data documented 1,670 child fatalities in 2015. Three-quarters of these children were younger than 3 years old. Nearly 80 percent of these deaths involved parents, though in 19 percent of fatalities someone else was to blame
A look into case files from the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office in Chicago, Illinois spanning 2007 to 2012 found that head injuries were the leading cause of death in child abuse homicides. A national review of child deaths from 2005 to 2009 found similarly that 30 percent of child maltreatment deaths had head trauma .
Many abuse fatalities likely were preceded by a history of maltreatment. Research on the link between child maltreatment and death finds that “children with a prior allegation of maltreatment died from intentional injuries at a rate that was 5.9 times greater than unreported children.”
The National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS) also collects data from CPS along with “sentinel” agencies such as schools and health and law enforcement organizations. The latest NIS report, referred to as NIS-4, was published in 2010, and reviews data from 2004 to 2009. NIS estimates of abuse are higher than NCANDS figures. Its data suggests approximately 1.25 million children — or 1 in 58 nationally — experienced maltreatment in the study year, 2005 to 2006. The agency reports that 61 percent were neglected and 44 percent were abused. About 58 percent of these cases of abuse were physical, 24 percent were sexual and 27 percent were emotional. Neglect was primarily educational (e.g., truancy) — 47 percent of cases — but also physical (38 percent) and emotional (25 percent).
Some studies put children's rates of exposure to violence and maltreatment even higher. A 2011 phone survey, the National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence , found that over 40 percent of children experienced physical assault in the previous year, and nearly 14 percent were maltreated by caregivers.
What puts kids at risk of abuse and neglect? Most abuse occurs in the home. NCANDS found that only 13.3 percent of maltreated children were victimized by a perpetrator other than a parent. Accordingly, research has focused on the specific social and environmental factors at play, including personal and family dynamics, socioeconomic status and parenting styles. The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children suggests corporal punishment increases the risk of abuse.
NCANDS identifies three main risk factors, including caregiver drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence. Caregiver mental illness can pose a risk as well. One study published in Children and Youth Services Review found that among impoverished families, children with depressed caregivers were twice as likely to suffer physical neglect compared with those whose caregivers were not depressed. Some children suffer abuse through Munchausen syndrome by proxy , a psychological disorder in which caregivers induce in others the signs and symptoms of illness or injury. Some parents withhold essential care for their children on religious grounds .
Other research published in Child Abuse and Neglect suggests an association between impoverishment , dense housing and increased risk of maltreatment. An analysis of NCANDS data by researchers at Bridgewater State University suggests that families in which fatal maltreatment occurs experience more financial and housing instability and use fewer social services as compared with families in which non-fatal child maltreatment occurs. Another study that looked at patterns of abuse and neglect in recent history suggests a link between increased risk of child abuse and the Great Recession . The researchers indicate that economic stress might explain this association.
Whatever the cause, child maltreatment has profound effects on mental, physical and emotional well-being. This includes disruptions in brain development , poor social functioning in childhood, and increased risk of mental disorders , psychosis and attachment anxiety in adulthood.
Despite this, research published in Trauma, Violence, and Abuse indicates that child maltreatment is less likely to lead to filing criminal charges and incarceration than many other alleged felonies. Other academics suggest this might be due in part to the difficulties of procuring evidence and working with child victims.
An investigation by The Denver Post found that sentences for child homicide resulting from abuse tended to be less severe than comparable felony charges for adults, which Post journalists suggest might also stem from challenges relating to evidence. An academic study of child abuse homicide in Utah, however, found no significant differences in conviction levels or sentence severity for perpetrators whether their victims were children or adults.
The legal system provides opportunities not just for punishment but also for prevention of child abuse. Over the past few decades, lawmakers have attempted to enact policies targeting child maltreatment, including the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), which was signed into law in 1974. It funds programs that work to prevent, investigate, and prosecute abuse and neglect. Parenting programs are one such intervention shown to reduce the risk of future abuse. Other state laws and policies that, according to researchers, have had some success, include home-visiting programs that provide support to parents.
Reflections on the 'Moral Monsters' Dominating the News
Depravity's Roots Run Deep
by Robert Berezin M.D.
I've been thinking about the so-called "torture parents," David and Louise Turpin, and their 13 children, and Larry Nassar, the pedophile doctor who preyed on hundreds of innocent girls. As a psychiatrist, I have heard many such horrific stories of child abuse from my patients, each one worse than the last. When I think I have reached the very bottom, a new, more depraved story comes to light.
I have seen the damaging consequences that innocent children experience from sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, from emotional deprivation. Recovery requires years of psychotherapy, and even when successful, traumatic experiences always leave scars. I know firsthand the depth of pain, self-loathing, shame, and shattered esteem with which my patients deal. I know the hard work it takes to find one's way to self-worth and love, to re-establish a loving trust when one dares to be emotionally open again.
Raising our children well is of utmost importance not just to parents, but for the well-being of society at large. We want our children to grow up to be loving, responsible, self-reliant, and to raise their own children well. Child-rearing is a wonderful, trying, and difficult commitment whose basic principles are boundaries and love. No one can be perfect; we just have to be good enough.
This holds true all the way from infancy to adulthood. Love and respect begets love and respect. When sufficient love is not available and abuse takes its place, people fill the emptiness and attach by virtue of sadomasochistic relating. This is infused in the limbic mapping of emotional experience. It is the source of all psychiatric symptoms. Likewise, it is this substitute foundation that creates human evil.
I don't know anything about the formative years of Larry Nassar and the elder Turpins, or what traumas they may have entailed. But I do know that their characters were founded in sadomasochism. They represent the extremes of moral monsters. The harm they have done to children is unconscionable. They have passed it on to these children ("the sins of the father").
The Role of Parents and Psychiatry
What about the rest of us who are not monsters? We need to look to ourselves to provide the best loving environment for our children. It's a tall order. Under the best of circumstances, being a loving couple who looks out for their children is extremely difficult. We have so many broken families, unhappy marriages, divorces, single parents, parents lost to premature death, children having children, etc. It's a difficult world out there.
Explorer scouts across Ohio among victims of sexual abuse nationwide by adult leaders
by Ron Regan
An Exclusive 5 On Your Side Investigation reveals a disturbing pattern of sexual abuse among Explorer scouts across Ohio — and nationwide – by adult leaders who exploited their roles as mentors and advisors for sex.
The Explorer Program operates under “Learning for Life”— an affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America — and offers teens an opportunity to learn about career fields ranging from law enforcement to aviation. The program is built around mentoring and developing trusting relationships with adult volunteers.
Our investigation included a review of court records, published reports and academic studies. We found the victims ranged from 14 to 20 years old and included 61 girls and 25 boys.
It began following the indictment in March 2017 of a Cleveland adult advisor who was charged with sexual abuse involving four members of an Explorer post where he volunteered.
Christopher Collins was a Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority police officer and worked with teens in the department's law enforcement Explorer post. He faces an 18-count indictment and is scheduled to go on trial March 31, 2018.
He was accused of taking one teenage explorer for weekend trip to a Sandusky resort where he was allegedly abused. He was also accused of inappropriate sexual relations with three other Explorers.
In the months following Collins' arrest, our investigation found five other cases across Ohio involving adult advisors in police Explorer posts.
Among other victims was a 17-year-old girl who signed up in an Ohio Explorer post designed for teens hoping to become firefighters and paramedics.
Instead, she says an adult volunteer, Thomas Watson, raped her.
“It's hard for me to trust people," she said. "Now I get anxiety when I go to the store."
Watson agreed to plead guilty to lesser charges and served no prison time. He also does not have to register as a sex offender.
Her mother says it took a devastating toll on her daughter.
“It's very upsetting,” her mother said. “Because I watched my daughter go from somebody who could have been doing something with great with her life...Right now, she's way behind her peers.”
Other cases involved Dale Stewart, a police Explorer leader who sexually molested two teenage boys and served eight years in prison, as well as John Swing, who served just 30 days in jail after a female Explorer said she sexually assaulted following a ride along in Swing's police cruiser.
Charges in Swing's case were reduced to misdemeanors.
In two more cases, teenage girls described being raped by cops. In one case, the adult leader served just two months in prison. In the remaining case, the officer was found guilty only of dereliction of duty.
Anthony DeMarco is an attorney who has represented abuse victims and says there are “hundreds of cases” across the country.
DeMarco also believes sexual abuse is both underreported as well as poorly overseen by “Learning for Life” officials, who he said “have never revoked the charter of an Explorer post” involved in sexual abuse.
Our investigation found the organization does have a protection plan, but DeMarco insisted abuse has continued for years.
“But again,” DeMarco said, “these are model policies where ‘Learning for Life' and the Boy Scouts have completely fallen down in attempting to put a stop to molestation in actually imposing these policies or enforcing these policies.”
Dr. Sam Walker is a nationally recognized expert involving police and Explorer abuse, who also believes that it remains a serious problem and that “cover-ups” continue.
“People had to have known,” Walker said. “People not involved had to have known. They didn't report it, they turned a blind eye, they didn't go into the chief and say, ‘Hey chief, we got a problem.'”
The Boy Scouts of America sent the following statement to News 5 on Thursday:
Nothing is more important than the safety of our youth members. We are outraged there have been times when Explorers were abused and we sincerely apologize to victims and their families. Even one instance of child abuse is unacceptable.
We seek to prevent child abuse through comprehensive policies and procedures to serve as barriers to abuse, and continue to strengthen those efforts at every level of our organization. These include a thorough screening process for adult leaders and staff, requiring youth protection training of all adult leaders and volunteers, and the prompt mandatory reporting of any allegation or suspicion of abuse.
We are committed to continuous improvement as youth safety requires sustained vigilance. We regularly consult with experts from law enforcement, child safety, psychology and other relevant fields to create policies that reflect society's best understanding of child abuse and best practices for prevention. We are introducing an updated youth protection training that will cover additional areas of child maltreatment, including neglect, emotional abuse and exposure to violence, which experts agree are important to address in order to help keep youth safe.
The BSA offers assistance with counseling to any youth member, former youth member, or the family of any youth member who suffered abuse during their time in Exploring. The BSA has a dedicated 24/7 Scouts First Helpline at 1-844-726-8871 and email contact address (firstname.lastname@example.org) for these sensitive matters and to report any suspicions of inappropriate behavior.
For more information about the BSA's youth protection policies, please visit bsayouthprotection.org.
New Data: child abuse deaths rise, notably in Texas, Indiana
by Brian Slodysko and David Crary
INDIANAPOLIS — Newly released federal figures show a sharp rise in child abuse fatalities in the U.S., with the bulk of the increase occurring in two states — Indiana and Texas — where child-welfare agencies have been in disarray.
According to a report released this week by the Department of Health and Human Services, there were 1,700 fatalities resulting from child maltreatment reported in fiscal year 2016, compared to 1,589 the previous year — a 7 percent increase. The figures encompass data from every state but Maine, as well as from the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Accounting for most of the increase were Texas, where fatalities jumped from 162 to 217, and Indiana, where the death toll more than doubled from 34 to 70.
“It breaks my heart for the kids in this state right now,” said Juvenile Judge Marilyn A. Moores, whose Indianapolis courtroom has seen a surge in child welfare cases due to the opioid epidemic.
“Traditional systems of early warning are overwhelmed. And parents, because of addiction, aren't seeking intervention because their kids are going to be removed,” she added. “It allows kids to die. It's a fact.”
Long festering problems in Indiana's child welfare system exploded into public view in December, when the director of the Department of Child Services resigned with a scathing letter that accused Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb of making management changes and service cuts that “all but ensure children will die.”
“I choose to resign, rather than be complicit in decreasing the safety, permanency and well-being of children who have nowhere else to turn,” wrote Mary Beth Bonaventura, a former juvenile judge appointed to lead the agency by then-Gov. Mike Pence in 2013.
In recent years, the number of child welfare cases in Indiana has skyrocketed, rising from about 13,000 in 2012 to nearly 24,000 last year. Funding, meanwhile, has not kept pace, said Cathy Graham, executive director of the Indiana Association of Resources and Child Advocacy.
Advocates paint a picture of an agency in perpetual triage, with caseworkers spread so thin that they have little choice but to cut corners. The agency does not have enough caseworkers to meet a minimum requirement set in state law and turnover has been a major problem, according to the agency's most recent annual report.
Holcomb launched a review in December. A preliminary report released Thursday found the state has an inadequate case management system.
In Texas, abuse-related fatalities have continued to rise despite high-level personnel changes at the child welfare agency, new legislative appropriations, and a federal judge, Janis Graham Jack, declaring in 2015 that the foster care system violated the constitutional rights of youngsters' placed in long-term foster care.
In January, the judge issued her final order in the case, saying the state's foster care system remained “broken.” She also ordered improvements in regards to record keeping and the handling of foster care placements. Texas appealed the ruling.
Two years ago, a commission created by Congress concluded that the United States lacks coherent, effective strategies for reducing the number of children who die each year from abuse and neglect. Although the number of such deaths reported by HHS has hovered at around 1,500 to 1,600 annually in recent years, the commission — citing gaps in how the data is compiled — suggested the actual number may be as high as 3,000 a year.
The commission issued an update this week noting that states across the country were moving to implement some of its recommendations for preventing maltreatment deaths.
The new report released by HHS's Children's Bureau, formally known as the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, does not offer theories explaining the sharp rise in child fatalities, but it provides demographic data on the victims.
According to the report, 70 percent of the victims were younger than 3. Fatality rates were higher for boys than for girls, and higher for African-American children than for whites and Hispanics.
Parents — acting alone, together or with other individuals — were the perpetrators in 78 percent of the deaths.
Looking more broadly at national trends, the report estimated that 676,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect in 2016, a 1 percent drop from 2015. Most of the cases involved neglect; about 18 percent involved physical abuse — up slightly from 2015.
Victim of abuse teams up with Attorney General to tighten child abuse law
by Jeannie Nguyen
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico woman who was allegedly molested by an Espanola school teacher is making a plea to lawmakers, to make sure what happened to her doesn't happen to another child.
Nallely Hernandez says the principal at Fairview Elementary didn't believe her when she went to report her teacher for inappropriately touching her. Now, she's hoping this new bill will help change that.
“I just didn't understand why an adult would do that to a child when they're supposed to take care of them,” she said.
Hernandez says she was in fourth grade at Fairview when her teacher, Gary Gregor, touched her and a group of other young girls more than 10 years ago.
She says the principal and school administration did nothing to protect her after she confided in them about what happened.
Now, she's hoping to change that by joining forces with State Attorney General, Hector Balderas on Senate Bill 87.
The bill would make it a law to report any acts of child abuse from any person in any situation, like teachers, doctors, or church leaders.
Right now, only family members or guardians can be reported.
“The duty to report, the duty to investigate is something that we need strengthened and we think the governor and the legislature can make a real difference to save lives and moving forward,” said Attorney General, Hector Balderas.
Hernandez says it took her a long time to trust adults after the alleged abuse.
She's hoping by being involved with this bill, she can be the voice for victims who are too afraid to speak up.
Under the bill, anyone who fails to report suspected child abuse could face a misdemeanor charge.
How to deal with your child being sexually assaulted
"I think a lot of times teens are afraid to tell their parents because they know they'll be upset," said Harbin. "And they think 'If I don't talk about this it'll go away." The problem is, it doesn't go away."
by Grant Bissell
The Larry Nassar sexual abuse trial captivated Americans. Friday 's attempted attack on Nassar by Randall Margraves , the father of two of Nassar's victims, proved to be one of the most explosive moments of the case.
Many parents might identify with that father's reaction. But how should you deal with learning your child was the victim of sexual abuse?
Licensed Professional Counselor Heidi Harbin, MA, of Safe Connections said it's complicated.
For young people, dealing with sexual abuse or assault can be as confusing as it is traumatizing. That's why Harbin says it's critical for parents to stay calm, make the child the focus and take the time to get them the help they need.
Teens who were abused or assaulted can have a hard time talking about it and often feel they're the ones responsible.
“I think a lot of times teens are afraid to tell their parents because they know they'll be upset,” said Harbin. “And they think 'If I don't talk about this it'll go away.' The problem is it doesn't go away.”
That's why she feels the women who've come forward in the Nassar case are inspirational.
“They're basically saying, ‘Hey, I'm bigger than this. You can't silence me by putting shame on this. It's not my fault what happened to me and I'm going to tell the truth.'”
Harbin said parents will naturally have questions when they learn their children were abused. And it's easy to push too far or get upset.
“Fight the impulse to grill them and ask every detail. Stay with them, provide the emotional support first. Let them know that you're not blaming them for anything that happened,” she said.
And what if your child tells you about abuse or assault, but begs you not to report it to authorities for fear of embarrassment or shame?
“For those parents I would say please, think not just about your child, but about other people's children and the precedent that's being set by the decisions you make,” she said.
Harbin said each case is different and talking with your child about their needs is the first step.
Safe Connections is one of many resources in the St. Louis area where parents and children can get help.
Parents needing to report child abuse of any kind can call 1-800-392-3738 in Missouri or 1-800-252-2873 in Illinois.
Is the Super Bowl really the U.S.'s biggest sex trafficking magnet?
by Sebastien Malo
NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - With a million party-minded football fans flocking to Minneapolis for Sunday's Super Bowl - dubbed the biggest trafficking event in the United States - dozens of agencies are gearing up to bust criminal networks and rescue victims.
Minneapolis police says it is working with 23 law enforcement agencies, patrolling the web to target people buying sex online and monitoring hotels for sex trafficking.
While the anti-slavery group Polaris will be staffing up its anti-trafficking hotline, its chief executive Bradley Myles cautioned against painting the country's largest sporting event as a sex trafficking magnet.
“All this is, is a one-day snapshot into what otherwise is a 365-day problem,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“The same traffickers that are committing trafficking ... during the Super Bowl, they're going to wake up in the morning on Monday and do the same thing.”
Big sporting events, from the World Cup to the Olympics, regularly trigger a panic over an influx of sex-trade workers, with many being victims of human trafficking.
Arrests of pimps running underage sex rings are reported at the National Football League's championship game almost every year, with girls being trafficking from as far away as Hawaii to hook up with clients via the Internet, hotels and strip clubs.
Some 1.5 million people in the United States are victims of trafficking, mostly for sexual exploitation. The majority are children, according to a U.S. Senate report published last year.
U.S. police arrested about 750 people in nationwide sex-trafficking sting operations ahead of last year's Super Bowl, the largest sweep since operations began 13 years earlier.
Although the attorney general of Texas dubbed the Super Bowl the “single largest human trafficking incident” in the United States in 2011, this is largely a myth, academics and anti-trafficking campaigners said.
The commercial sex market grows modestly during Super Bowls, but also during other large events, from the Las Vegas consumer electronics show to Memorial Day weekend, said Lauren Martin, a trafficking expert at the University of Minnesota.
After reviewing 55 academic papers and more than 100 media stories about prostitution and the Super Bowl, Martin says research points to a likely spike in sex trafficking because 5 to 20 percent of sex workers are trafficking victims.
“But after the event is over, the levels of activity in the commercial sex market will go back to what they were,” she said, adding more research is needed as it is a relatively new field.
Artur Dubrawski found online escort ads proliferated when U.S. cities hosted large public events in his regularly-cited 2016 study, but recognizes some have criticized his approach.
“Certain researchers question the validity of using web advertisement” to size up a city's commercial sex market, the Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist said.
The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) is among the most vocal critics of those who link the Super Bowl with a spike in trafficking, dismissing it as “manufactured media hype” that seeks to raise funds and attract attention.
This is damaging, says the coalition of nonprofits, which campaigns for the rights of sex workers, migrants and domestic workers, as well as trafficking survivors.
“What is the cost of such rumors?” asked Annalee Lepp, an expert in human trafficking at Canada's University of Victoria and GAATW board member.
“There are really harmful effects ... on the very people that everybody is so concerned about.”
GAATW says the “moral panic” over sex trafficking at sporting events wastes resources that are needed elsewhere and increases criminal penalties against sex workers who are displaced in city ‘clean up' efforts.
Campaigners are hopeful that officials are starting to recognize trafficking as a complex, long-term problem.
“We know sex trafficking occurs, it occurs every day,” the City Attorney of Minneapolis, Susan Segal, said at a public briefing of lawmakers about the sporting mega event in January.
“It's going to occur well after the Super Bowl has come and gone.”
This impressed Michelle Guelbart of campaign group ECPAT-USA, who helps businesses stop child sex trafficking.
“The conversation is moving in the direction that we want it to,” she said.
510 Arrested in California Sex Trafficking Sting; 56 Victims Rescued
by Donald Kaufman
The Los Angeles County Regional Human Trafficking Task Force has announced the arrest of 510 people in a statewide crackdown on human trafficking. The three-day sweep started Jan. 25 and was a collaboration among more than 85 federal, state, county and local law enforcement and nonprofit community organizations.
KTLA reports :
A total of 56 trafficking victims were also rescued in the operation, which took place last week and was led by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department with the cooperation of 85 other federal, state and local agencies.
The results of the fourth-annual series of raids known as “Operation Reclaim and Rebuild” — which refers to the goal of helping victims of the sex industry to reclaim and rebuild their lives — were presented by L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell during a news conference at the sheriff's headquarters in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday.
McDonnell described the sting as a “three-day assault on one of the most heinous crimes of modern times: the sexual exploitation of another human being for profit.”
Of the 56 victims rescued, 11 were juveniles, and all were female. Officials said the average age of a juvenile human trafficking victim in California is between 12 and 14 years old, and 70 percent of victims come from the foster care system, but did not provide details on the specific victims rescued this week.
Since November 2015, Operation Reclaim and Rebuild raids have led to the arrest of 948 people, with over 221 victims rescued, including 157 children.
Despite the gains made in the recent raids, the epidemic of underage trafficking continues to grow as the underworld makes more and more money off these crimes. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), over 1 million children are exploited each year in the commercial sex trade.
The U.S. Senate last year disclosed that 1.5 million people in the United States , the majority of them children, were victims of sexual exploitation.
A total of 3,500 sex trafficking cases were reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center last year. Although this number may seem high, it is dwarfed by the magnitude of the exploitation.
Tim Swarens writes in USA Today:
A 2016 study by the Center for Court Innovation found that between 8,900 and 10,500 children, ages 13 to 17, are commercially exploited each year in this country. Several hundred children 12 and younger, a group not included in the study, also suffer commercial sexual abuse.
The researchers found that the average age of victims is 15 and that each child is purchased on average 5.4 times a day. I've interviewed victims who were forced to have sex with more than 30 men in a week; more than 100 in a month.
To determine a conservative estimate of the demand, I multiplied the lower number of victims (8,900) identified in the Center for Court Innovation study by the rate of daily exploitation per child (5.4), and then by an average of only one “work” day per week (52). The result: Adults purchase children for sex at least 2.5 million times a year in the United States.
The number of identified victims in the U.S. is on the rise. The National Human Trafficking Hotline recorded a 35 percent increase in reports in 2016. Most of the cases involved sex trafficking and many of the victims were children.
The recent arrest of buyers in the underage sex market in California is unusual. Rarely found by police enforcement, some buyers continue to exploit their underage victims even after sex traffickers are apprehended.
According to the ILO, the business of sex trafficking internationally involves $99 billion. Twenty percent of the profits come from the exploitation of over 1 million children.
Sweden's Secret Weapon in the Fight against Sex Trafficking, and Why It's so Effective
by Paul Strand
Some in the battle against sex trafficking have praised what they call "the Swedish Model" for fighting prostitution and other parts of the illegal trade.
A big part of the Swedish Model was to make it illegal to buy sex, but not to sell it.
Per Sunesson, the Swedish Ambassador-at-Large for Combatting Trafficking in Persons, told CBN News why Sweden decided to do this and why it's been hugely successful.
"Prostitution used to be legal in Sweden and we had a big problem with gender inequality, a big problem with men's violence against women," Sunesson said. "So we really looked into this issue and the connection to prostitution. There was a lot of violence going on, and allowing men to buy women is not exactly gender equality, right?"
Criminalize the Buyer, Not the Seller
He said the country definitely decided it had to deal with these problems and launched an investigation in how best to do it.
Seeking solutions, Sunesson said his country asked questions like, " 'Should we criminalize both the buyer and the seller?' Well, the investigation that was done in Sweden and all the investigations that were done after that showed that most of those who are in prostitution, they have been sexually abused when they grew up; they come from troubled backgrounds, drug abuse problems and all that. So they are pretty much victims already… a lot of them… most of them."
"So the government said, 'No, we're not going to criminalize the one who's selling. We're going to put the shame and the blame on the person who's using the vulnerable person. So we're only criminalizing the purchase of sex,' " Sunesson explained. "And we put provisions in our law that Social Services must provide and offer help to those that are in prostitution."
At the same time, the government made a big effort to educate police officers, prosecutors and judges about this new way to handle prostitution.
'Real Men Don't Buy Sex'
It also launched efforts to stigmatize the idea that it was okay for men to pay for sex.
One example of this Sunesson cited: "We had some high-profile sportsmen come out and say 'real men don't buy sex' and stuff like that."
Before the new law took effect in 1999, the population was split about 50-50 over the idea that just the buying of sex – not the selling of it – should be criminalized. Now, about 85 percent of Swedes back the law.
"And it really changed the mindset of Swedish people," Sunesson explained. "I'm 54 years old and I would say there are still people my age who thinks it's okay to buy sex. But my son, who is 26, in his generation, no one would even think the thought to buy sex."
"So it really lowered the demand for girls and women in prostitution," he told CBN News. "Sweden now is pretty much a dead market for human trafficking for sexual exploitation. We have almost no organized crime regarding that at all."
In fact, not one violent crime against a prostitute has been reported since the law took effect, according to the ambassador.
Can 'John Schools' Can Rehabilitate Offenders?
"And if you think about it, you really change the power balance," Sunesson said. "Because if I were to go out and buy sex in Stockholm today, I would be so afraid that someone would find out. I would lose face. I would lose my job. If I would go to a prostitute and act up, I know she can call the police and I'm the one who's going to get busted."
Those caught trying to hire the services of a prostitute face penalties of up to a year in prison. But Sunesson said authorities usually just fine first-time offenders.
Sweden has instituted "john schools," though, to change the mindset of offenders and rehabilitate them.
"A lot of those who buy sex, they are married," Sunesson pointed out. "And I think one way of saving their marriage would be to go to the john school."
Sweden may have had great success in dealing with human trafficking, but the ambassador warned the problem is growing worse in much of the rest of the world.
The International Move to Legalize Prostitution
"So many conflicts going on and with the war in Syria and displaced people all over the world has led to a lot of desperate people seeking shelter and desperate to go from one place to another," Sunesson explained.
"And they connect to human smugglers. If those people don't have money, the human smugglers team up with the human traffickers and say, 'Okay, we'll take you from point A to point B, but we need something. You need to pay, and if you don't have any money, you have to pay with your own body – prostitute yourself.' "
He said Sweden is worried the problem is only going to grow worse from an international effort to legalize prostitution and brothels.
Sunesson pointed to a country not all that far from Sweden: Germany.
"They have legal brothels and more than 400,000 girls in prostitution. They have 1.26 million purchases per 24 hours," Sunesson stated. "And 98 percent of those who are working at the brothels in Germany are girls from Romania, Macedonia, Bulgaria and other developing countries."
"And that's always the picture, wherever you go in the world," he noted. "It's always the most vulnerable who end up serving at brothels and in prostitution."