National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

child abuse trauma prevention, intervention & recovery

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"News of the Week"  

February, 2018 - Week 3
MJ Goyings
Many thanks to our very own "MJ" Goyings, a resident of Ohio,
for her daily research that provides us with the news related material that appears on the LACP & NAASCA web sites.


Medical personnel, schools lead sources locally of CPS reports

by Patrick Johnston

Each year in Wichita County, about 1,900 reports are filed with Child Protective Services based on suspicions of child abuse or neglect.

In the past five years, the agency has fielded almost 9,500 reports in Wichita County, according to data on CPS intakes available of the state's website .

While not every investigation results in the suspicions being confirmed, local agencies who work with CPS request the public to continue to consider a potential victim's safety and notify authorities.

"We don't want you to try to guess," said Denise Roberts , executive director of Patsy's House Child Advocacy Center. "Let the professionals investigate and do what they need to do. If you have reasonable suspicion of abuse, make the report and err on the side of safety."

Despite recent allegations of two Wichita Falls ISD principals failing to report suspected cases of child sexual abuse on their campuses, schools have steadily remained one of the top sources of allegations received by CPS in Wichita County.

WFISD Communications Director Ashley Thomas said the district has not compiled the data of how many CPS reports have been made by each school.

According to CPS data, schools in Wichita County have submitted an average of 281 cases per year for the past five years – the second largest single source each of the past four years.

At least within the past five years, medical personnel have filed the most reports to CPS in Wichita County with an average of 321 per year.

Relatives – 236 reports per year – are the third largest source of allegations in Wichita County during that time span, according to CPS data.

An average of about 266 people in Wichita County each year file allegations with the agency either anonymously or leave the source blank or unknown.

According to Texas law, professionals – such as medical personnel and educators – legally must make the report within 48 hours.

The law defines a professional reporter as "anyone who is licensed or certified by the state or works for an agency or facility licensed or certified by the state and has contact with children as a result of their normal duties."

They also may not delegate their responsibility to anyone else or rely on another person to make the report of suspected abuse.

However, any adult who has a reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect is required by Texas law to notify either local authorities or CPS.

Once received, the state agency screens the intake report is assigned a priority to establish a time frame for the investigations.

Around 1 in 5 cases in Wichita County are assigned as a "Priority I" response, meaning they "concern children who appear to face an immediate risk of abuse or neglect that could result in death or serious harm." In these situations, CPS must initiate its investigation within 24 hours.

About 66 percent of cases locally are assigned a "Priority II" response, meaning the investigation must begin with 72 hours. These are situations where there doesn't appear to be an immediate threat to the child.

In Wichita County, between 11.3 and 13.5 percent of cases in the past three years are not assigned. The average for the Abilene region, which includes Wichita and 29 counties, is about 17.9 percent over the same span.

During their investigations, CPS caseworkers look into a variety of allegations – sometimes multiple types of abuse or neglect in the same case.

In their data, CPS categorizes the allegations into 10 types – abandonment, emotional abuse, labor trafficking, medical neglect, neglectful supervision, physical abuse, physical neglect, refusal to assume parental responsibility, sex trafficking and sexual abuse.

While there may be several types of abuse alleged in a report, neglectful supervision accounts for nearly half of the complaints made in Wichita County.

Neglectful supervision is defined by CPS as "placing the child in or failing to remove the child from a situation that a reasonable person would realize requires judgment or actions beyond the child's level of maturity, physical condition, or mental abilities."

It must also result "in bodily injury or a substantial risk of immediate harm to the child."

The category can also pertain to putting or keeping a child in a situation where he or she "would be exposed to a substantial risk of sexual conduct harmful to the child."

Out of the 9,636 allegations made locally in the past three years, 4,907 pertained to neglectful supervision. There were also 1,871 reports of physical abuse and 1,040 reports of sexual abuse.

There were 2,116 confirmed victims during that span following the investigations. Of those, 1,439 suffered neglectful supervision, 227 from physical abuse and 136 from sexual abuse.

Physical neglect, or the "failure to provide the child with food, clothing or shelter necessary to sustain the life or health of the child," is the other most common allegation and confirmed cases in Wichita County.

In these investigations, caseworkers are required to exclude if the parent, guardian or caretaker can't provide these things adequately primarily due to "financial inability unless relief services had been offered and refused."

In 2017, there were 3,167 total allegations made with 693 confirmed victims.

There were 1,634 reports made of neglectful supervision with 448 confirmed cases, and 364 reports of physical neglect with 98 confirmed.

Of the 600 complaints of physical abuse and 359 reports of sexual abuse made, 79 and 45 victims, respectively, were confirmed by investigators.

If you see or suspect any of these types of things are happening to a child, call the Texas Abuse Hotline at 800-252-5400 if the situation is urgent and needs to be investigated within 24 hours.

If it is an emergency or life-threatening situation that must be dealt with immediately, call 911 before calling the hotline.

For situations that don't need to be investigated right away, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has provided a secure website ( ) to report suspicions of abuse, neglect and exploitation of children, adults with disabilities or people 65 years of age or older.


United Kingdom

Parents' drinking linked to more than a third of child abuse cases

by Ashitha Nagesh

Parental drinking is linked to more than a third of cases of severe child abuse and neglect in England. A new study has found that alcohol misuse was implicated in 37% of cases where abuse or neglect led to a child's death or serious injury between 2011 and 2014.

Liam Byrne MP warned that parents who misuse alcohol can cause ‘horrific' problems for their children. Some 15% of children have their bedtime routine disrupted by their parents' drinking, and 18% are embarrassed at seeing their parents drunk. Children living with alcohol-dependent parents reported feeling socially isolated, but were reluctant to seek help due to feelings of stigma, shame and guilt about not wanting to betray their parents.

Freedom of Information trawls revealed that more than half of councils still lack a strategy to help children of alcoholics, and that referrals to alcohol treatment services are falling in more than 50% of local authorities.

It was also found that 92% of the 53 councils that provided information to the study are cutting their budgets for alcohol and drug treatment services. Cuts differ in size, ranging from an £87,000 cut in Wolverhampton, to a £9.6million one in Lancashire. The average drop in local authority funding was around £198,000. However, around 61% of care applications in England involve the misuse of alcohol and/or drugs.

The All-Party Group for Children of Alcoholics report called for better funding to help children affected by parents who drink. Mr Byrne, who lost his father to alcoholism in 2015 and is chairman of the parliamentary group, said: ‘Millions of parents drink too much and their misuse of alcohol causes horrific problems for their children. ‘Parental alcohol misuse scars kids for life and can lead many into a life of drinking too much themselves. ‘Our campaign has now won a new commitment from Government for a national strategy to stop parental alcohol misuse.

‘This new report shows just why the Government must act fast to put an effective plan in place.' A spokeswoman for the Department for Health and Social Care said: ‘We are acutely aware of the impact some parents drinking can have on their children – that's why work is well underway on a new Children of Alcoholics Strategy, which will look at what further support we can provide to families to tackle alcohol harms. ‘This comes in addition to our new higher duties to target cheap, high strength cider and the UK Chief Medical Officers' guidelines, which help adults make informed decisions about their drinking.'



Extreme child abuse: Does rash of recent cases mean it's on the rise?

by Rose Velazquez

Stories of abused children kept confined in homes have been emerging both locally and nationally recently.

Two Mardela Springs women face child abuse charges after a January investigation by police revealed they had not only beaten three children, but kept two of them locked in a closet over the summer.

In Accomack County, a mother was indicted in October on five counts of child abuse after social workers found her two toddlers living in cribs that had lids screwed onto the top so they couldn't escape.

Two California parents have been charged with torture and child endangerment after officers found multiple children inside their home chained to beds.

While each case has gained a lot of media attention, there's no data to say whether or not cases of children being confined in homes have been increasing, said Richard Barth, University of Maryland School of Social Work dean.

In fact, as more children are enrolled in preschool and kindergarten programs, he said the likelihood decreases that they'll be victims of abuse and neglect because there are more eyes on them.

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows the percentage of children ages 3 to 5 enrolled in preschool has steadily remained around 50 percent since 2000, with kindergarten enrollment increasing to top 80 percent in 2015.

However, that doesn't mean reports of abuse are on the decline.

"We do know that from the last child maltreatment report that came out from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services earlier this month that there is a reported increase in child abuse for the first time in some time," Barth said.

Overall, the national rate of victimization was 9.1 per 1,000 children in 2016, which is up from 8.8 in 2012 and 2013, but down slightly from 9.2 in 2015, according to the report published on Feb. 1. In total, 676,000 children across the country in 2016 were victims of maltreatment.

A likely reason behind recent increases in child abuse is addiction among parents, Barth said, with the Child Maltreatment 2016 report showing increases in the percentages of victims whose caregivers are abusing drugs or alcohol.

But another factor that's garnered attention in the wake of the California abuse case, he said, is the impact home-schooling can have on a child's safety. The parents were able to keep the children home-schooled with limited oversight, which restricted their access to the outside world.

"Fewer eyes on the child allows for some lack of protection for the child," Barth said. "That's a concern."

A pattern of abuse

An investigation by police that began Jan. 26 revealed Amanda Rachelle Wright, 29, and Besline Joseph, 25, both of Mardela Springs, had beaten three children in their care with sticks, belts and extension cords and threatened them with death if they told anyone.

The women also used a Taser on the children, according to charging documents, and even made one of them "retrieve dog feces from the yard and put it in his mouth."

Over the summer, charging documents state that two of the children were locked in a closet for four months. They were allowed out only to go to the bathroom and fed little other than bread, water and oatmeal during that time.

Since December, one of the children had also been forced to sleep in the laundry room with the dog, according to records, and another had been sleeping in the basement.

Social workers testified that five children ranging from 1 to 6 years old were found living in the Mears, Virginia, home of 39-year-old Malista Ness-Hopkins, which was littered with debris, broken glass, rotting food, dirty diapers and other trash, as well as cockroaches.

A social services worker said during a September hearing that it took more than 20 minutes to remove the lid from the crib of a 2-year-old child, who made noises described as "animal sounds" while trapped inside.

A 17-year-old girl escaped David and Louise Turpin's home in Riverside County, California in January with a cellphone to call police and tell them that her 12 siblings were being held captive.

Initially, authorities believed the 13 siblings living in the home, some of whom were found chained to beds, were all malnourished minors, but later determined that seven of them were in fact adults ranging in age from 18 to 29 years old.

Investigation has revealed that the children endured a number of abuses, according to the Riverside County District Attorney, including being beaten and denied food, medical care and not being allowed to take showers more than once a year.

The long-term effects

Complex abuse cases like the one out of Mardela Springs can impact children in a variety of ways, Barth said.

Physical abuse, for example, can teach children to see the use of force as a primary method for working out their differences with others and managing their relationships.

"When children are beaten, they learn to use force against others to solve disagreements so they become more likely to become bullies, to later become involved with intimate partner violence," he said.

Much like children can be traumatized by physical abuse, Barth said they can also be traumatized by being neglected, locked away for long periods and denied food.

"You can develop a traumatic response that is generated from the fear that you'll never have control over your life again," he said.

The fear that a child might not be able to eat or escape a basement where they've been confined can lead to anxiety that makes it difficult to concentrate and even cause physical symptoms.

Children might struggle to focus on the tasks in front of them because they're constantly worried about what's going to happen to them and consumed by their past experiences.

Barth said victims of these kinds of maltreatment can ultimately become skeptical and wary of others, finding it difficult to believe that people can genuinely be good and helpful.

"They may become hardened to the idea that they want to be involved with people because what happens to them is so harsh when they are," he said.

In Maryland, Barth said the line between discipline and physical abuse is clearly defined.

"The law is clear that if you spank a child and do it in a way that doesn't leave a bruise, that that's legal, but other hitting of a child is not," he said.

However, things get murkier when talking about child endangerment.

Timeouts, for example, should be limited, Barth said.

When a child is sent to another room so that they're separated from other family members or kept from watching TV, he said that kind of isolation should last for minutes, not hours.

"At some point, it becomes dangerous to have a child who's by themselves," he said. "It becomes degrading and unnecessary."

In cases like that, it's up to a child welfare professional to make a determination after talking with the family, the child, teachers and making other efforts to understand the overall impact of the parenting style.

Generally, he said the family is given the benefit of the doubt as long as the punishment wasn't "highly damaging" and the family understands it wasn't an optimal form of discipline and is willing to embrace safer alternatives.

However, if a child is being regularly denied food or forced to attend school with clothes that are unwashed so that their classmates make fun of them, Barth said those are punishments that can be concerning to a caseworker because they affect the child's general well-being.


Once allegations of abuse or neglect in Maryland have been screened by a local Department of Social Services, they're assigned either an investigative or alternative response.

An alternative response lets the assigned caseworker tailor an approach to low-risk cases.

Rather than resulting in a formal finding of neglect, an alternative response could allow the caseworker to refer a parent who's been leaving young children home alone while at work, for example, to services and supports that suit their needs.

More urgent cases of abuse and neglect are generally assigned to the traditional investigative track once they've been screened for validity.

When the Department of Social Services takes a family to court in Worcester County and a child ends up in foster care or under protective supervision, the local Court Appointed Special Advocates program can assign a volunteer to the victim.

Director Brigitte Southworth said the program is often described as another arm of the court in cases of abuse and neglect.

Volunteers go through intensive training that teaches them about a variety of subjects, including the laws surrounding abuse and neglect, signs to watch for, child development, mental illness and substance abuse issues and writing court reports.

They serve as an extra set of eyes and ears, Southworth said, writing in-depth reports that help the judge make decisions in the best interest of the child.

While that's a significant element of their role in the child's life, she said they also work to ensure that children receive the services they need.

If volunteers are assigned to a child who's falling behind in school, for example, they might recommend they get extra attention in the classroom or be enrolled in an after-school program.

In addition to meeting with the child they're assigned to several times each month, Southworth said volunteers also meet with other family members, foster parents, caseworkers, teachers and therapists to keep track of the child's needs.

"We don't do any direct service, but we make recommendations and keep regular contact with the caseworker on the case and just hope that all the child's needs are met and that they don't fall through the cracks," she said.

What to watch for

One of the most common signs of physical abuse is injuries that children struggle to explain, Barth said.

Often, he said victims of maltreatment might try to make excuses or give very general answers to questions about how they're doing or where an injury came from because they're afraid.

"They think they have been bad, and they don't want to get in trouble," he said. "They often don't want to get their families in trouble."

In school, Barth said they might hide or make other efforts to keep people from paying attention to them.

They might also flinch or back away when people raise their voices or step toward them too quickly, he said. Anxiety can make it difficult for them to speak very loudly as well.

"They may have been beaten or put in the closet or put in a very long kind of seclusion because they were talking back or they were making too much noise or they were interrupting the family or something like that," Barth said.

If a child isn't being fed regularly, he said they'll likely be sleepy, withdrawn, struggling to concentrate and showing other signs of poor health.

While any of these signals could be unrelated to abuse, Barth said it's important that people not wait until they have actual evidence to report, but simply a reasonable suspicion.

Southworth said CASA volunteers are trained to keep an eye out for any significant changes in behavior that might indicate something's not right.

"The goal is for our volunteer to get to know that child really well so that if something is going on, that child feels comfortable sharing it with their CASA volunteer," she said.

Sometimes she said volunteers will spend time observing children in school and take note of things that seem out of the ordinary, such as being withdrawn or falling asleep in the middle of class.

While social workers may be handling multiple cases, CASA volunteers are assigned to one child at a time, Southworth said, which means it's easier for them to reach out and build relationships with everyone involved in a child's life.

By keeping in touch with people like day care workers, teachers and therapists, volunteers hear about instances when a child shows up looking disheveled or tired that could be cause for concern.

"If they have any concern, we need to report it and let the state do their job," Southworth said.



More children die from abuse in Texas than in any other state

by Claire Ballor and Robert T. Garrett

In 2016, 4-year-old Leiliana Wright was brutally beaten to death while in her mother's care even after social workers had been warned the Grand Prairie girl was in danger. Her story led to outrage and scrutiny of the state's child welfare system, but she was far from the only child to die in such a way.

A report released this month by the Department of Health and Human Services shows that Leiliana was just one of 217 Texas children killed by child abuse that year — a 34 percent increase from 2015.

Texas reported more child fatalities than any other state in 2016, a sobering distinction it is has held since 2012, according to the report.

Nationally, the number of fatalities resulting from child maltreatment rose 7 percent from 1,589 to 1,700 in 2016. In almost 30 percent of those deadly cases, child protection agencies had contact with the child or someone in their lives at least once within three years of the child's death, the report found.

The Grand Prairie girl was one of 103 Texas children who had an open CPS case or a history with the agency when they died from abuse or neglect in fiscal 2016, according to the state.

Before Leiliana's death, her grandmother had sent photos of the girl's bruised face to CPS, but that didn't save her. Police later found Leiliana's purple body, streaked with whip marks, in a hallway by the bathroom where her mother said the girl had collapsed in the shower.

Her mother, Jeri Quezada, pleaded guilty in 2017 to felony injury in the girl's death. Quezada's boyfriend, Charles Phifer, is also accused of beating Leiliana with a belt and a bamboo stick and has been charged with felony injury to a child.

Troubled system

The number of child fatalities related to abuse and neglect declined to 172 in 2017, according to data from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

But such fatalities have continued to be a significant problem despite high-level personnel changes at the child welfare agency, new legislative appropriations and a declaration by U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack in 2015 that the foster care system violated the constitutional rights of children 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 record keeping and the handling of foster care placements.

Texas appealed the ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Attorney General Ken Paxton argued that Jack had misapplied the law and that her ruling would "irreparably harm" Child Protective Services.

Lawyers for the state's 10,700 children in long-term care responded to Paxton in a brief, saying that children are harmed every day because of "deliberate indifference" by the state. They said that the state had refused to correct structural flaws, such as shortages of caseworkers or child care licensing investigators and inspectors.

At stake is whether Texas for another two years can ignore Jack and her far-ranging demands and continue to repair the system as state Republican leaders see fit.

In January, Jack said that although many recent actions by Gov. Greg Abbott and lawmakers to improve CPS and foster care were "admirable," they didn't erase violations of the children's "substantive due process" under the 14th Amendment to be free from unreasonable risk of harm.

Abuse nationwide

According to the report, 70 percent of the victims were younger than 3. Fatality rates were higher for boys than for girls, and for African-American children than for white and Hispanic ones.

Parents — acting alone, together or with other individuals — were the perpetrators in 78 percent of the deaths.

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.


The costs of surviving childhood sexual abuse

The impact of child sex abuse is not just emotional for victims, but financial as well

by Marci Hamilton

It is difficult not to be stunned into silence by the testimony of 156 female gymnasts against serial pedophile Dr. Larry Nassar. His “practice” was a factory assembly line of abuse — one girl after the other, day after day. He was prolific but not a rarity: child sex abuse in the United States is a mass epidemic that saturates our culture and even impacts the economy. And as the national #MeToo movement has shown, the time is now, to say, “enough is enough.”

Ignorance, discomfort and a legal system geared toward adults rather than children have kept these stories from the public. The numbers are staggering: research by the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. That means that in every classroom, team and congregation it is likely that there are children who have been or are being victimized.

Victims often do not disclose their abuse until they are in their 40s , according to the University of Georgia School of Law's Child Endangerment and Sexual Exploitation Clinic. While 38 states have eliminated the criminal statute of limitations (SOL) for at least some child sex crimes, most have not done so for all of them, leaving large loopholes that protect many perpetrators whose “lesser” abuse can still yield enormous harm. Many more states have not yet eliminated the civil SOL, which means institutions and their insurers have not been adequately incentivized to change their practices to deter child sex abuse effectively. Indeed, the worst states , like New York, Alabama and Michigan, permit institutions and predators to revel in SOLs that cut off claims once the victim reaches their early 20s.

For the victim, the impact of child sex abuse is not just emotional but financial as well. Up to 50 percent of child sex abuse victims develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Teens who were victims of child physical or sexual abuse are three times more likely to develop substance abuse problems. On average, violent trauma in childhood costs the victim $210,000 over their lifetime — that's $13.5 trillion over a generation in the United States alone.

The public also pays. The states with short SOLs force not just victims and their families, but even taxpayers, to foot the cost. Our tax-dollar funded prisons are filled with victims of abuse: over 80 percent of female inmates and nearly 60 percent of male inmates were physically or sexually victimized as children. Many victims go on to file for disability and also receive Medicaid and other state and federal support, while the person responsible for the harm pays nothing. For example, in New York, taxpayers underwrite the costs that should be paid by the institutions hiding predators. A change in law would save taxpayers no less than $250 million a year by reviving expired and extending civil SOLs to hold abusers accountable.

And of course, this abuse is also expensive for the institutions that enable and protect predators, which is why groups like the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts have spent millions lobbying to kill reform that would hold them accountable. There is the cost to reputation and careers: look at the fallout in USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University after it was discovered there was direct knowledge of Nassar's abuse for years. The sitting presidents of Penn State and Michigan State lost their jobs over Jerry Sandusky and Nassar, respectively. There is also the cost of the lawsuits: jury verdicts in child sex abuse cases have registered all the way up to $100 million . Because of the potential for these sky-high verdicts, institutions typically aim for mass settlements: the Catholic Church cases have yielded average settlements of $100,000-500,000 per victim, with combined payments at this point well over $4 billion . Every university, religious organization, sports organization and institution needs to realize these numbers could be their future and must act now to institute best child protection practices. This includes reporting allegations of abuse to the authorities, providing internal whistleblower protections and restricting adults from being alone with children. They must cycle the poison out of the system or compound the impact.

These numbers are real, and what they should tell lawmakers, business leaders and their number-crunchers, is that child sex abuse prevention is not only the morally right path, but also the only one they can reasonably afford.



Tackling violence against children

GOVERNMENT ministers and heads of the Unicef, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as senior officials from development agencies, foundations, and non-government organizations worldwide are gathering today in Stockholm, Sweden for in The Agenda 2030 for Children: End Violence Solutions Summit.

As the title of the program says, it's about ending violence against children, a reality that prevails despite many efforts to reduce this.

As the WHO reported, upto one-billion children aged 2 to 17 years – or one in two children – have suffered physical, sexual or emotional violence or neglect in the past year.

"Violence is the second leading cause of death in boys aged 10-19 years, with a global homicide rate for that age group of 7 per 100 000 population. Across their lives, more than 1 in 5 children have experienced physical abuse, while more than 1 in 3 children have experienced emotional abuse. Around 18% of girls and 8% of boys have experienced sexual abuse," WHO reported.

Beyond just the violent incident that victimizes the child are the consequences of having been the subject and this can grow into more complex situations as the child grows us. Children exposed to violence are more likely to do stuff we'd rather not them get into, like alcohol and drugs, high-risk sexual behaviors, and smoking.

All these contribute to health concerns later in life, whether it be sexually transmitted diseases or anxiety and depression or other diseases that alcohol, drugs, and smoking brings about.

It is thus helpful if communities and barangays look into the seven strategies crafted by WHO in its Inspire program that seeks to end violence against children.

These are:

1. Implementing and enforcing laws (e.g. banning violent discipline and restricting access to alcohol and firearms);

2. Norms and values change (e.g. altering norms that condone the sexual abuse of girls, or aggressive behaviour among boys);

3. Safe environments (e.g. identifying neighbourhood “hot spots” for violence and then addressing the local causes through problem-oriented policing and other interventions);

4. Parent and caregiver support (e.g. through the provision of parent training to young, first time parents);

5. Income and economic strengthening (e.g. providing cash transfers to families on the condition that their children attend school);

6. Response services provision (e.g. ensuring that children who are exposed to violence receive effective emergency care and appropriate psychosocial support), and

7. Education and life skills (e.g. providing children with life and social skills training, including the skills to manage emotions, maintain self-control, empathize with others and express themselves assertively).

As the adage says, it takes a village to raise a child, and in a society that is becoming more violent against children as urbanization creates communities mired in poverty who are barely able to provide their basic needs and create an environment that breeds hooliganism and gangsterism, the concern is not just about the child now, but the person he becomes as he plays an active role in society, or not.



Upstate New York

We're all soldiers in war on child abuse

from Observer-Dispatch

Often it's not until some horrendous case makes headlines does the tragedy of child abuse come to the front burner. Then things settle down and we tend to forget about it. Until the next time.

The next time came last month after 13 malnourished siblings allegedly kept captive in filthy conditions by their parents were discovered in a Southern California home on Jan. 15 after a 17-year-old daughter jumped out a window and called 911.

What police found was horrifying. Deputies said some siblings were shackled to furniture in the foul-smelling home - so malnourished that the older ones still looked like children. Their parents - David Allen Turpin, 56, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49 - were arrested on multiple counts of torture, child abuse, dependent adult abuse and false imprisonment. David Turpin also pleaded not guilty to performing a lewd act on a child under age 14. They were jailed on $12 million bail each.

Child abuse must never be relegated to the back burner. Sadly, this is a boiling pot that cannot be left unattended.

The statistics are ghastly. According to Childhelp, the United States has one of the worst records on child abuse among industrialized nations – losing on average between four and seven children every day to abuse and neglect. Every year, more than 3.6 million referrals are made to child protection agencies involving more than 6.6 million children. A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds.

The California case put to rest the myth that such awful things only happen in poor neighborhoods. This suburban Riverside County middle class neighborhood was lined with neat homes and the children's father worked as an engineer at the Northrop Grumman aerospace company where he reportedly earned $140,000 a year. The couple, according to the Associated Press, has been married 32 years and moved to Southern California from the Dallas area in 2011. They bought the home in 2014 in the rapidly growing city of Perris 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles, the AP reported.

The family apparently hadn't been on the police radar for any reason. And while there was a sense of normalcy about them, there were some signs that might have sent a signal that all was not quite right.

Neighbors said the family kept to themselves and never so much as waved. Also, the AP reported, the parents sometimes dressed the kids alike, kept them away from outsiders and cut the boys' hair in a Prince Valiant-style resembling that of their father. And they all were painfully thin.

“They weren't allowed to watch TV. They weren't allowed to have friends over — the normal things that kids do,” the children's aunt, Teresa Robinette, told NBC's “Today” show.

Another aunt told ABC News' “Good Morning America” that she tried for years to get in touch with her sister, the children's mother, but was shut out.

Though perhaps not glaring, the quirks were enough to raise a red flag.

We must all be alert to red flags.

The National Children's Alliance reported earlier this year that in 2015, an estimated 1,670 children died from abuse and neglect in the United States. Children's Advocacy Centers around the nation served more than 311,000 child victims of abuse, providing victim advocacy and support to these children and their families, it said.

In Oneida County alone, the Child Advocacy Center investigated 755 cases of abuse last year - up 61 from the previous year - and made 114 arrests, according to Oneida County Sheriffi's Deputy Joe Lisi of the center. It provided counseling to more than 200 children.

According to the Alliance:

• Nearly 700,000 children are abused in the U.S annually. An estimated 683,000 children (unique incidents) were victims of abuse and neglect in 2015, the most recent year for which there is national data.

• CPS protects more than 3 million children. Approximately 3.4 million children received an investigation or alternative response from child protective services agencies. 2.3 million children received prevention services.

• The youngest children were most vulnerable to maltreatment. Children in the first year of their life had the highest rate of victimization of 24.2 per 1,000 children in the national population of the same age.

• Neglect is the most common form of maltreatment. Of the children who experienced maltreatment or abuse, three-quarters suffered neglect; 17.2 percent suffered physical abuse; and 8.4 percent suffered sexual abuse. (Some children are polyvictimized—they have suffered more than one form of maltreatment.)

• About four out of five abusers are the victims' parents. A parent of the child victim was the perpetrator in 78.1 percent of substantiated cases of child maltreatment.

There are many forms of abuse, ranging from physical abuse — hitting, kicking, shaking, burning or other violent acts — to emotional or sexual abuse. Any form of abuse can trigger other health issues, according to the Centers for Disease Control, including mental problems, social development and risk-taking behavior.

Abuse can go undetected for years, as was the case in California. And that's why it's so very important that we be the eyes and ears of a frightened constituency that otherwise might find no escape. Teachers, coaches, youth leaders, day care providers, relatives, neighbors and anyone else in a position to see signs of abuse must speak up. Know the warning signs and don't ignore them.

Kids are innocent victims. Frightened. Sometimes alone, with no place to turn.

We must all be their guardians.

Not all odd behavior means abuse. And while some warning signs might be clear, others could be fuzzy. If something seems peculiar, it might be worth paying closer attention.

You might make the difference.

We must make a difference.


Some signs that might signal the presence of child abuse or neglect:

The child:

* Shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance.

* Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents' attention.

* Has learning problems (or difficulty concentrating) that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes.

* Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen.

* Lacks adult supervision.

* Is overly compliant, passive or withdrawn.

* Comes to school or other activities early, stays late, and does not want to go home.

The parent:

* Shows little concern for the child.

* Denies the existence of – or blames the child for – the child's problems in school or at home.

* Asks teachers or other caregivers to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves.

* Sees the child as entirely bad, worthless or burdensome.

* Demands a level of physical or academic performance the child cannot achieve.

* Looks primarily to the child for care, attention and satisfaction of emotional needs.

The parent and child:

* Rarely touch or look at each other.

* Consider their relationship entirely negative.

* State that they do not like each other.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Make the call

Child Protective Services investigates reports received through the State Central Registry that allege abuse or maltreatment for any child younger than 18. Responsibilities include the provision of protective and rehabilitative services to the children and their families.

To report a case of suspected abuse or maltreatment call toll free: 800-342-3720


Staying in Control Can Help You Live Longer

New research shows that perceived control can protect people coping with trauma

by Romeo Vitelli Ph.D.

When we are forced to endure what we cannot endure, something breaks inside our minds. That broken-mindedness is commonly called trauma.” ?John A. Macdougall

Trauma can occur in many ways.

Whether it happens while on a military tour of duty in a war zone, being the victim of assault, surviving a natural disaster, or growing up in an abusive household, the consequences can last a lifetime and, in many cases, can mean a drastically shortened lifespan.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the impact that trauma can have on the mind and body. Trauma survivors are often vulnerable to a wide range of psychiatric and medical conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic pain disorders, cancer, depression , and social anxiety . Studies also show that repeated exposure to trauma across the lifespan has a cumulative effect that makes survivors even more susceptible to health problems over time.

Still, despite the cumulative harm that can arise from long-term trauma exposure, there are also protective factors that can boost the body's ability to recover. One of the most important of these factors is high perceived control , or the belief in one's own ability to overcome whatever adversity is being faced. In the same way that learned helplessness plays a role in depression, perceived control can be critical in the ability to handle whatever stressful experience you might encounter.

And this sense of control can also moderate the impact that trauma has on the body, both in terms of the direct effects of trauma as well as reducing the likelihood of risky behaviors that people often engage in to cope with stress . These can include risky sexual practices, substance abuse , or smoking which, not coincidentally, can also lead to a shortened lifespan in many people.

A comprehensive new study published in the journal Health Psychology provides clear evidence of the important role that perceived control can play in moderating cumulative trauma. In this study, Ari J. Elliot of the University of Rochester and a team of co-researchers used data taken from the Midlife Development in the United States Study (MIDUS).

MIDUS represents one of the most ambitious longitudinal study of its kind following 7000 Americans aged 25 to 74 from 1995 to the present day. Of the original sample, 4,963 participated in a second wave of the study (MIDUS 2) conducted between 2004 and 2006. The MIDUS 2 results included survey items measuring:

•  Lifetime trauma exposure focusing on twelve specific types of traumatic experiences including parental substance abuse , parental death, emotional or physical childhood abuse, parental divorce , physical or sexual assault, experiencing combat, serious accident or injury, or death/serious illness of a child. Along with reporting on how often one or more of these experiences occurred, participants were also asked the age when it occurred and how it affected them in the long run.

•  Perceived control was measured by looking at two dimensions of control often used in research. The first of these, mastery , is defined as how people perceive their ability to achieve a given goal while the second factor, perceived constraints , is defined as the belief that life is controlled by outside forces rather than the actions people can take. With the MIDUS 2 study, mastery was measured with survey items such as "“I can do just about anything I really set my mind to” while perceived constraints was measured with items such as "What happens in my life is often beyond my control.”

•  Demographic factors such as gender , age, parental education , ethnic background, and socioeconomic status.

•  Health status including whether participants suffered from any of the 29 different medical conditions listed. They were also asked to rate how their health issues affected their ability to carry out basic activities of daily living (bathing, carrying groceries, climbing stairs, etc.). Participants were also questioned about how they perceived their own physical health in general on a five-point scale ranging from poor to excellent.

•  Psychosocial factors such as whether they were feeling depressed, how they scored on a test of neuroticism , and level of social support from family, spouse, and friends, were also measured for each participant.

•  Participants were also asked about risky health behaviors such as smoking and alcohol use and the period in life when this was most severe. Survey items measuring psychological problems stemming from alcohol use were also included.

In addition to the survey questions, mortality data for each participant up until October 2015 was collected by checking the National Death Index as well as conducting closeout interview with family members of the deceased.

Overall results showed that at least half the participants in the study reported experiencing at least one traumatic event with thirty percent reporting two or more. For deceased participants, the average age at time of death was 74.9 years though results showed a significant link between amount of lifetime trauma and higher mortality for all causes.

When looking at the role that perceived control played in mortality, results showed that the impact of trauma was much less for people reporting high levels of mastery (belief in one's ability to achieve a goal). As well, participants reporting higher levels of perceived constraints (belief in external forces beyond one's control) were also more likely have experienced trauma in childhood (such as abuse), though this had less of an effect on later mortality.

In summary, these results appear consistent with previous research suggesting that the sense of being in control is a key factor in coping effectively with traumatic events. Studies looking at resilience (positive or better-than-expected
outcomes despite exposure to significant risk or adversity) have shown that perceived control can help prevent many of the health problems that might otherwise occur due to traumatic stress. On the other hand, people who believe themselves to be unable to control their lives are much more likely to develop health problems depending on the amount of stress they accumulate over time.

So, why would perceived mastery make people less vulnerable to stress? According to s ocial learning models developed by Albert Bandura and his colleagues, perceived control is linked to other aspects of self-efficacy , including problem-solving ability, being able to manage negative thoughts and emotions, and having a pragmatic viewpoint that allows us to "keep cool" during crises. Not only does this enable us to handle stress that might otherwise be overwhelming, but it helps us avoid many of the physiological changes that are often associated with extreme stress.

These changes can include repeated activation of the "fight or flight mechanism" and disruption of the autonomic nervous system, increased telomere shortening, and increased inflammation (which can compromise the immune system). Reduced stress can also mean being less dependent on unhealthy coping behaviors such as using tobacco, alcohol, or drugs though little evidence of this was found in the present study.

As Ari Elliot and his co-authors point out in their conclusions, providing treatment programming to boost perceived mastery in people exposed to trauma can have tremendous health benefits, including helping them live longer. As one example, research has already shown that cognitive behavioral therapy can help adult survivors of childhood trauma take control of their lives and is also extremely effective in treating PTSD . Teaching coping skills such as stress management and problem-solving can also help boost resilience in trauma survivors.

While exposure to trauma is something that everyone faces sooner or later (and often more than once), it's the ones who give in despair and lose hope that they can improve their lives who seem to be most at risk for health problems. Having confidence in your own ability to survive may well be the key to overcoming adversity and having a long and normal life.



Safe vs. unsafe secrets: How to talk to kids about sexual abuse

by Megan Erbacher

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Knowing the difference between a safe secret and an unsafe secret could help protect your child when it comes to sexual abuse, said Holly's House Executive Director Sidney Hardgrave.

The phones at Holly's House buzzed all morning on Monday with concerned parents and citizens after a Scott Elementary School third grade teacher was arrested Friday on charges of molesting a student on three separate occasions.

Justin Wolf, 25, initially denied the allegations, according to a Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Office probable cause affidavit, but eventually “apologized for his actions and gave a detailed statement.”

Wolf was immediately suspended without pay by the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. and is banned from all EVSC premises, according to a statement from district spokesman Jason Woebkenberg.

The Courier & Press spoke with Wolf in March 2016, when he was a student teacher in a first-grade classroom at Caze. Woebkenberg said in a statement that officials were not aware of any issues during his time at Caze.

Conversations about abuse with your children need to be open and start early, Hardgrave advised.

The idea of secrets can be confusing for kids, she said, especially younger children. Holly's House Think First & Stay Safe program educates elementary students about personal safety.

Since 2010, Hardgrave said Holly's House has partnered with 94 percent of public and private schools in a five-county area: Gibson, Pike, Posey, Vanderburgh and Warrick.

The EVSC is one of those schools, Hardgrave said, and was a pilot site for the program.

“So yes, their (EVSC) students have been participating in this program over the years,” she said.

So, what's the difference in safe vs. unsafe secrets?

Safe secrets are those that are fun, involve kindness or a surprise, Hardgrave explained. For example a birthday gift or a cake you're making for grandpa. A safe secret is something that will eventually be revealed.

An unsafe secret is something that may make your child feel scared, frightened or worried about safety for themselves or a peer, according to Hardgrave.

“We tell kids those aren't secrets you can keep,” she said. “Those are unsafe secrets. Those are the secrets you need to talk to your trusted adults about.

“Predatory behavior secrets are what allows the predator to continue to have access to that child,” Hardgrave said. “The predator relies on the child keeping the secret in order to continue the abuse. That's an important conversation to have with your kids to let them know if somebody is asking you to keep a secret from your parent, then that's your first clue it's not a safe secret. Whether it's a gift they've given you, anything, you don't keep secrets from your mom and dad.”

Crystal Sisson, Holly's House prevention educator, said the program helps children recognize situations and that they have the right:

•  To say no

•  To report it to an adult they trust

•  Stand up for themselves

Sisson said a parent guide is sent home with children after the program so the conversations can continue.

It depends on the developmental age of child, Sisson said, but some possible signs to look for if you suspect something out of the ordinary with your child include:

•  Withdrawn behavior

•  Trouble in school or acting out

•  Bedwetting

•  If the child seems hesitant to go with a certain person who they usually like to be around but for whatever reason now don't

The conversation of safety and that your child can talk to you about anything needs to start when they're young, Hardgrave said. It's important to be age appropriate with them because you don't want to overwhelm them with information they're not mature enough to process.

“The better informed a child is, then the better prepared they are to seek out help if someone is trying to hurt them. … We do encourage parents to always say to their children, ‘There's nothing we can't talk about.' And let them know, ‘If anybody ever tries to hurt you, you need to tell me. We need to talk about it. I'm here to help you,'” Hardgrave said.

Holly's House is the only children's advocacy center where interviews concerning child abuse are conducted, according to Hardgrave. However, she said they partner with Albion Fellows Bacon Center and the Lampion Center to provide prevention programs with a consistent message to minimize and recognize danger and how to get help.

Between the agencies, Hardgrave said there's a 3-level approach:

•  Holly's House provides elementary education to K-6 students

•  Albion offers a teen prevention program on safe dating

•  Lampion offers Stewards of Children that targets adults to inform them how to recognize child sexual abuse, create safe spaces for children and what to do if a child confides in you

One in 10 children are sexually abused, according to Lampion Center Clinical Services Director Emily Morrison, and more than 90 percent of kids know their abuser.

"Child sexual abuse is not a problem that happens somewhere else but in our own neighborhoods, schools and families," Morrison said. "This is very different than the idea of 'stranger danger' that many adults were taught growing up."

If a child confides in you, Morrison advised to listen and offer support but not to ask leading questions. An appropriate response is, "Thank you for telling me. What else would you like to tell me about what happened?"

Lampion's program is a free, two-and-a-half hour training for adults that focuses on five steps. So far, more than 4,000 people in the community have been trained. The next training is from 1-3:30 p.m. March 16. A group of adults can also schedule a group training.

Investigation updates

Wolf was also suspended indefinitely as a part-time employee at the Downtown YMCA and banned from the facilities.

As of Monday afternoon, the YMCA was still not part of the sheriff's office investigation into Wolf.

Vanderburgh County Sheriff Dave Wedding said detectives made the Evansville Police Department aware Wolf was employed at the YMCA, which is located within city limits. So if allegations come forward, Wolf's name would be on their radar. Wedding said the two agencies could simultaneously investigate if accusations are made.

For now, Wedding said the sheriff's office is focusing on “where the allegations actually occurred.”

“Our detectives are still focused on reaching out to family members to determine if we have any more victims at Scott School,” he said. “We're just hoping we have everyone covered at the school that may have a question, concern or even an allegation.”

YMCA spokeswoman Lisa Verkamp told the Courier & Press officials will cooperate if called upon but noted YMCA officials did not receive allegations of inappropriate behavior by Wolf at the YMCA.

Regardless, YMCA officials suspended Wolf's employment indefinitely after his arrest and barred him from their facilities.

"We are deeply disturbed by the alleged actions of Justin Wolf, a part-time employee at our Downtown YMCA," Derrick Stewart, YMCA chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Wolf was in his second year teaching at Scott, according to a school bio that has since been taken off the website.

Woebkenberg noted the EVSC offers support to students through counselors, social workers and psychologists.

The EVSC School Board will receive a formal recommendation regarding Wolf, according to a school district statement. The board meets again Feb. 26.

As of Monday morning, Wedding said no other victims had officially come forward. He said he doesn't know for sure there are more victims, but his "gut feeling tells him (Wolf) probably bothered" more kids.

“When an educator does something like this, I mean, it just betrays the trust of everybody that's associated with that school,” Wedding said. “It's a horrible event.”


To report suspected child abuse or neglect, call:

•  The state Child Abuse and Neglect hotline at 1-800-800-5556.

•  Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Office at 812-421-6201.

•  Evansville Police Department at 812-436-7896

Holly's House can answer questions from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 812-437-7233.

Albion Fellows Bacon Center offers a 24-hour hotline for sexual assault victims and their loved ones at 812-424-7273.

Lampion Center at 812-471-1776.



A hidden crime: Child sex trafficking is on the rise

by Judith Spitzer

In 2010 Nacole, a Head Start teacher, and her husband Tom, a truck driver, were raising their three children, a 17-year-old son and two younger teenage daughters, in a middle-class suburb in Auburn, Wash.

Their youngest daughter, a 15-year-old, was seemingly a happy teen, a freshman honor student who loved playing the violin and running with her high school's track team.

One day in March of that year she changed all of their lives forever.

“(She) disappeared. She left a note with a friend, but it didn't say much,” Nacole said. “In the note, she said she loved us, but she needed to go find herself. She added that if we loved her we shouldn't go looking for her.”

Stunned at their daughter's disappearance, Nacole and Tom were frantic and desperate – questioning what had happened to her. It turned their world upside down. The couple reported their daughter missing to local law enforcement and began anxiously searching for her.

What happened to their 15-year-old daughter surpassed even their worst fears.

The last name of the family is not being disclosed out concern for their safety and privacy.

“In 36 hours, my daughter went from being a 15-year-old, all-American kiddo, to being sold for sex on,” Nacole said. “She had never been away from home overnight. She didn't know anything about being out on the street, and they told her: ‘Let's just go and have some fun.' They took her to go drink and smoke some pot. She was the perfect victim.”

Although she returned home 10 days after being recruited in Seattle, on the first trip she had met another runaway at a homeless shelter for teens and subsequently ran away a second time several months later. Then she was recruited by a 32-year-old man who groomed her and eventually beat and raped her before advertising her as an escort.

Sex trafficking occurs when someone uses force, fraud or coercion to cause a commercial sex act with an adult or causes a minor to commit a commercial act. A commercial sex act includes prostitution, pornography and sexual performance done in exchange for any item of value, such as money, drugs, shelter, food and clothes.

Definitive numbers regarding the exact number of child victims of sex trafficking in the United States remain unknown. However, it is estimated that 300,000 Americans younger than 18 are lured into the commercial sex trade every year, according to the Ark of Hope for Children, a national nonprofit social network for abused children.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, human trafficking is the second fastest growing crime in the country and is on the rise in cities and towns in all 50 states – even here in Spokane.

Nacole tells her story

In 2010 Nacole, a Head Start teacher, and her husband Tom, a truck driver, were raising their three children, a 17-year-old son and two younger teenage daughters, in a middle-class suburb in Auburn, Wash.

Their youngest daughter, a 15-year-old, was seemingly a happy teen, a freshman honor student who loved playing the violin and running with her high school's track team.

One day in March of that year she changed all of their lives forever.

“(She) disappeared. She left a note with a friend, but it didn't say much,” Nacole said. “In the note, she said she loved us, but she needed to go find herself. She added that if we loved her we shouldn't go looking for her.”

Stunned at their daughter's disappearance, Nacole and Tom were frantic and desperate – questioning what had happened to her. It turned their world upside down. The couple reported their daughter missing to local law enforcement and began anxiously searching for her.

What happened to their 15-year-old daughter surpassed even their worst fears.

The last name of the family is not being disclosed out concern for their safety and privacy.

“In 36 hours, my daughter went from being a 15-year-old, all-American kiddo, to being sold for sex on,” Nacole said. “She had never been away from home overnight. She didn't know anything about being out on the street, and they told her: ‘Let's just go and have some fun.' They took her to go drink and smoke some pot. She was the perfect victim.”

Although she returned home 10 days after being recruited in Seattle, on the first trip she had met another runaway at a homeless shelter for teens and subsequently ran away a second time several months later. Then she was recruited by a 32-year-old man who groomed her and eventually beat and raped her before advertising her as an escort.

Sex trafficking occurs when someone uses force, fraud or coercion to cause a commercial sex act with an adult or causes a minor to commit a commercial act. A commercial sex act includes prostitution, pornography and sexual performance done in exchange for any item of value, such as money, drugs, shelter, food and clothes.

Definitive numbers regarding the exact number of child victims of sex trafficking in the United States remain unknown. However, it is estimated that 300,000 Americans younger than 18 are lured into the commercial sex trade every year, according to the Ark of Hope for Children, a national nonprofit social network for abused children.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, human trafficking is the second fastest growing crime in the country and is on the rise in cities and towns in all 50 states – even here in Spokane.

Nacole tells her story

Nacole was a guest speaker at the Red Lion Inn in downtown Spokane in December when more than 250 professionals packed into a conference room to learn about child sex trafficking – how to recognize victims, what victims need, ways to prevent trafficking and how traffickers are targeting children online.

The community training was hosted by Spokane-based Partners With Families & Children, a nationally accredited children's advocacy center in Spokane, and Lutheran Community Services Northwest, a nonprofit human services agency serving the Inland Northwest.

Nacole and her daughter's story also are the focus of a documentary called, “The Long Night,” directed by Seattle-based journalist Tim Matsui, as well as another documentary called “I Am Jane Doe.” Both films were shown and discussed at the Spokane conference.

Sex trafficking of children is one of the most horrific and sickening crimes there is, yet it's nearly invisible to the public and sometimes even to those who work with families and children, said Linda Safford, PWFC director. Safford said the organization received a $55,000 grant last year to develop resources in the community to combat child sex trafficking in Spokane.

Safford initiated talks in the community over the past year to find out where her organization could help identify gaps in service and resources.

PWFC specializes in forensic medical exams for children who have been abused. One of its nurse practitioners is a state expert in diagnosing child abuse who provides expert testimony in court cases.

Any type of immediate victim support, whether it's food, clothing, medical care, housing or transportation is provided.

Most of the children are “12 and under and mostly 10 and under,” Safford said. “Teens are typically referred to adult services.”

Between January and November 2017, PWFC in Spokane helped 342 children under the age of 12. Of those, 204 were sexually assaulted, according to Safford.

Local law enforcement officials say people are surprised to learn that child sex trafficking happens even in smaller communities like Spokane.

Spokane Police Detective Harlan Harden, who investigates sex trafficking, works closely with the local FBI-led Child Exploitation Task Force. Harden said he sees kids firsthand every day, who are desperate for money recruited in the Spokane area. Many have been sexually or physically abused already

Selling kids for sex is a billion-dollar industry, experts say.

“Human trafficking is a renewable resource,” Harden says. “We've heard stories of pimps making $5,000 to $6,000 in a day. Which means these (victims) are having sex with 10 or more people in a day.”

Although men and boys are also subjected to sex and labor trafficking, the vast majority of human sex trafficking victims are female, Harden said.

“In some ways we're social workers with a gun. It's very challenging. We don't push ourselves on victims,” he said.“A lot of juveniles we're seeing lately are involved with gangs.

“They're these young girls who get caught up with gang members and we work with the gang task force to address the gang problem here.”

Traffickers often target runaways and kids with a history of drug and sex abuse.

Experts estimate that the average age of entry into commercial sexual exploitation for girls is 12 to 14.

Runaways especially vulnerable

One out of every six runaways reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in 2014 was likely a victim of sex trafficking, according to the organization's website. “Traffickers constantly seek out opportunities to engage with and exploit vulnerable youth, and runaways are particularly vulnerable,” the site reads.

Mabel Elsom, a human trafficking specialist with Lutheran Community Services, leadsa countywide task force of local, state and federal enforcement agencies, created in 2012 to address the issue. She works with trafficking victims to provide comprehensive services and assistance, including 24-hour emergency response, food and safe housing, immigration and legal advocacy, physical and mental health treatment and other resources.

While Elsom's caseload averages about 25 human trafficking victims (both sex trafficking and labor trafficking), those numbers can go as high as 40 to 45 on a monthly basis.

“At any one time I'm usually working with about 10 teens who are victims of sex trafficking,” Elsom said.

“We go to the hospital to meet with them and go over their rights as victims, how the process works, we explain how the medical exam works and what to expect, and we talk to them about their rights in reporting a crime,” said Elsom.

“If a victim is 18 or older, they have a choice of whether to call law enforcement,” she said. “If it's a teen under 18, parents have to be notified. We may call Child Protective Services as well. If they're minors, there are no charges filed against them. The awareness is that these are victims, these are kiddos that are being exploited – they are not prostitutes.

“Although they may be charged with other secondary crimes,” she added.

Sometimes she says teens are angry, frustrated, or coming down from drugs when she meets with them.

“There is a lot of denial. You're not going to meet with someone who is going to be extremely grateful,” Elson said. “Sometimes you get ‘I don't need your help' or ‘there's nothing wrong with me.' So that's why building trust is crucial.”

Because sex trafficking is so lucrative, victims typically get brainwashed to believe that the pimp cares about them and is looking out for their welfare, she added.

“I have worked with victims who are being sold 10 to 20 times a night. That's $1,500 a night,” she said. “One guy was making more than $40,000 a month on just one girl. So they are going to make sure that they brainwash this kiddo, and make sure they tell them that ‘you cannot talk to law enforcement, you can't trust your family, and you cannot go back home. If you go back home, I'll hurt your family,' ” Elsom said.

Threats and intimidation, physical violence and forced drug addiction are all used, she added.

“If that was your income, would you want to let that person go? No you're going to make sure that you've trained them to say whatever they need to say so that you don't lose your income. And eventually they believe it,” she said.

Elsom said many kids deal with not being accepted and loved, and “this person gives you more acceptance and love than anyone else has ever given you even though it's a lie … and when you add that component of violence, it's (understandable). It's the same cycle as domestic violence … the victim always wanting to please and waiting for the person to love them – which is never going to happen.”

Social service agencies and nonprofit organizations collaborate well in Spokane County, she said. No one agency provides a holistic hub. If she needs a resource in an emergency, having contacts in the community enables her to provide for victims immediately.

Sexual exploitation online

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children operates the CyberTipline, a national centralized reporting system for suspected child sexual exploitation. In 2017, the tipline received more than 10.2 million reports, a number that has been growing each year.

Online enticement of victims covers a broad spectrum of victimization, and occurs on all platforms, experts say. Someone enticing a child online can have a variety of motives and tactics. Often it can involve enticing a child to share sexually explicit images, meeting in person for sexual purposes, engaging the child in a sexual conversation or, in some instances, to sell or trade the child's sexual images to others.

Paul Farina, with the Internet Crimes Against Children unit in Kootenai County, said victims of online sexual predators are getting younger and younger.

“When I first started this job in 2011, we saw 15 and 16-year-olds that were enticed online by adults, but now we're starting to see 11 and 12-year-olds being recruited online. That's huge,” Farina said.

“Victims are getting younger, they're getting phones at a younger and younger age, and that's something that our community just doesn't want to talk about. Nobody wants to talk about child porn. We have more work than what we can do.”

The ICAC program is a national network of 62 coordinated task forces representing more than 4,500 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The program was developed in response to the increasing number of children and teenagers using the Internet, the proliferation of child sexual abuse images available electronically, and heightened online activity by predators seeking unsupervised contact with underage victims.

A sex trafficking case Farina worked on for the past several months resulted in the conviction of a Hayden, Idaho, man charged with five counts of child pornography. Jason McGovern was sentenced last week to 23 years in prison. Farina said McGovern had over 20,000 illegal images on his phone and computers.

In that case, the parents of a girl in New Jersey contacted law enforcement, who tracked McGovern to Hayden and contacted law enforcement there, he said.

“Any time sex offenders are reaching out to children that case kind of rises to the top of the list and we drop what we're doing to work on that issue,” he added.

Internet electronic service providers like Facebook and Snapchat are bound by federal law to monitor the Internet for suspicious activity. Farina said online apps used by teens are different in most regions of the country and many teens here use KIK, an instant messaging mobile app.

“When they see stuff, they report it … saying this person has uploaded child porn or whatever,” he said.

Farina, who talks regularly to parents of teens, says parents need to learn what their kids are using and really communicate with them.

“We just can't put our heads in the sand anymore with all these devices. We've got to really learn what the kids are using and have to build that trust,” he added. “We go through a graduated driver's license program before we can drive. But we don't do anything for our kid's cell phones. This is just as dangerous as driving a car.

“People need to hear it … and it's not going away, it's getting worse. We need to learn how to deal with it. I tell parents that they've got to model good behavior. When it comes to putting the phones down in the evening, and have them all in a central location, parents have to model that,” he said.



Crime Victims' Center of Chester County will begin new anti-abuse effort

by Michael Rellahan

WEST CHESTER >> Victims of child sexual abuse in many cases keep information about what has happened — or is happening — to them, out of fear or embarrassment or confusion, sometimes for years.

Now, a newly funded effort by the Crime Victims' Center of Chester County will attempt to not only help those victims open up about their experiences, but also to teach them and their parents how to prevent the abuse in the first place.

On Tuesday, it was announced that the organization will join with the Chester County District Attorney's Office and public elementary schools across the county to combat child sexual abuse. The program will be funded by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network at Penn State, and will bring the center's child safety programs that are already in place to children on a pro-active basis.

The Safe and Healthy Communities initiative (SHC) is a three-year program expected to reduce rates of child sexual abuse, according to a press release announcing the effort. It is the first of its kind to tackle child sex abuse in such a comprehensive manner, going beyond the programs the center now provides on a by-request nature to install them in public schools on a regular timeline.

In addition, through the SHC Initiative, the organization will offer free, two hour in-person workshops and online trainings to adults in the community who have been identified as having at-risk children by the county's Department of Children, Youth, and Families (CYF), according to the announcement. The training includes compelling stories from experts and survivors about the importance of talking to kids early and often. These trainings equip the community with the knowledge to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.

The program is in keeping with the objective of the center's new executive officer, Christine Zaccarelli, to bring the organization's services more to the attention of the community.

“We at Crimes Victims' Center are honored to be facilitating such an important initiative that works to prevent child sexual abuse in Chester County before it happens and to also provide the adult population with the knowledge to recognize and react to red flags,” Zaccarelli said Tuesday.

Deborah Ryan, a former prosecutor in charge of the DA's Child Abuse Unit who now works at the center, will be the coordinator of the SHC programs. The sessions will be run by center staff members — trained facilitators who will appear in person in the county's schools to talk with kids about appropriate touching, whom the kids can talk to about issues, and other simple topics.

“This program will enable us to provide both children and adults the vital education necessary to stop child sexual abuse,” Ryan said. “Child sexual abuse is a chronic, underreported crime. One in 10 children will be sexually abused before their eighteenth birthday. As many as 90 percent of children are abused by either a family member or by someone a family trusts.

Ryan said that the program will help children feel comfortable about reporting incidents of sexual abuse they experience or witness. “Most children do not report the abuse because they are scared, ashamed, confused or do not even know the conduct is wrong,” she said. “Kids are often told to keep the abuse a secret and then suffer in silence for years. The consequences are often life-altering. Many survivors report excessive substance abuse, as well as psychological, emotional, social and physical problems that may last throughout adulthood.

“These programs will have a huge impact in protecting our children,” Ryan said

In the release, District Attorney Tom Hogan stated, that the program “will teach children and adults how to begin an open dialogue about identifying signs of abuse and how to report the abuse. The recent Larry Nassar case that rocked the U.S. gymnastics community is a prime example of the type of crimes that this program attempts to prevent.”

Hogan's office recently released figures showing a steady increase of reports in the county of child abuse in the wake of the Penn State Jerry Sandusky scandal, which set new rules and procedures for reporting. In 2017, the number of cases of reported abuse that were made to county sources were 1,924, up from 1,681 cases in 2016, an increase of 14.4 percent. However, the 1,924 reported cases were an astonishing 364 percent higher than those made in 2014, the first year of statistics released by the DA's Office. The number of reports that year was 414, 1,510 fewer than 2017.

“Chester County has seen a significant increase in child abuse reports over the past six years,” said John Sanville, superintendent of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, one of the 12 districts that have agreed to participate in the program. “This is a nationwide problem where adults need to take action to protect our most vulnerable population. Chester County has seen a significant increase in child abuse reports over the past six years.

“Our law enforcement has done a tremendous job in investigating and prosecuting these cases,” Sanville said. “This training will help prevent the abuse in the first place. We are optimistic that these programs will make a difference and help our children.”

For more information on the Safe and Healthy Communities Initiative or to schedule free in-person or online workshops please contact Deborah Ryan at or (610) 692-1926 ext. 220.



Michigan Senate panel votes to create child abuse registry

by Justin A. Hinkley

LANSING - Michigan would create a registry of convicted child abusers similar to what already exists for sex offenders under a package of legislation advanced Tuesday by a Senate panel.

"Wyatt's Law," as the bipartisan trio of bills is known, would require the Michigan State Police to track individuals convicted of abusing kids and post information about them on a public website. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday voted unanimously to send the bills to the full Senate for consideration.

The legislation is named after Wyatt Rewoldt, a St. Clair Shores boy who was permanently disabled after his father's girlfriend abused him. The girlfriend, Rachel Edwards, had two previous child abuse convictions but Rewoldt's mother, Erica Hammel, couldn't find those records and couldn't keep her son from the woman.

Similar legislation is pending in the state House but hasn't been voted on in committee.



Morehead to host child abuse prevention training sessions

by Paul Hitchcock

Attorney General Andy Beshear, the Kentucky Association of Children's Advocacy Centers and Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky today announced upcoming child sexual abuse prevention trainings in Morehead for organizations that serve children.

The April 5 trainings at the Rowan Public Library, 175 Beacon Hill Drive, focus on helping daycares, summer camps, churches and other youth-serving organizations evaluate their programs and offer strategies to strengthen protocols and policies to safeguard children from sexual abuse.

There will be two trainings at the library April 5 – one in the afternoon and one in the evening. Those interested in the trainings may pre-register.

“Across the country every year, approximately 35 million adults in youth-serving organizations come into contact with more than 70 million children and teens,” Beshear said. “Through this training in Morehead we are providing support to many organizations in the state that are working hard to create and maintain a safe place for children, employees and volunteers.”

Staff from the AG's Office and Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky will provide the training.

Jill Seyfred, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, said the organization will continue to partner with Beshear to protect children.

“The training will help us move the needle one tick closer to achieving our ultimate goal of ensuring our children are safe; not only in their own homes, but at school, summer camps and everyplace they go,” said Seyfred.

As a training partner, the Kentucky Association of Children's Advocacy Centers will host trainings at advocacy centers across the state.

“Youth serving organizations are poised to serve as a first line of defense in the battle against child sexual abuse, said Executive Director Caroline Ruschell . “By implementing the right strategies, these organizations can create an environment that fosters open dialogue and reduces opportunities for an act of abuse to occur.”

The Office of the Attorney General's Child Victims' Trust Fund (CVTF), administered by the Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention Board (Board), is providing the funding for the trainings. The board also approves annual grants from the CVTF to support child abuse prevention programs.

Last year, the board sponsored statewide trainings for law enforcement, prosecutors, social workers, community advocates, religious affiliates, parents and educators on how to protect children from predators.

Beshear said the new trainings are a critical next step in protecting Kentucky's children – one that allows his office to provide youth-serving organizations information from the risk reduction handbook that Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky developed with the assistance of a CVTF grant.

Beshear said supporting the CVTF is a direct investment in our children and encouraged others to consider making a donation, which can be made in three ways:

• Through a private donation directly to the CVTF.

• Purchase of an “I Care About Kids” license plate at your county clerk's office.

• Donations made through the state income tax refund check-off program.

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.



Bill calls for child sexual abuse prevention training for Utah teachers

by Marjorie Cortez

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah schoolteachers would undergo training for child sexual abuse prevention every other year under HB228 , which was unanimously approved Wednesday by the Utah Legislature's House Education Committee.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, requires school districts and charter schools to conduct the training and "provide, upon the request of the State Board of Education, certain evidence of compliance."

Deondra Brown, a member of the classical piano sibling quintet The 5 Browns and a survivor of child sexual abuse, said HB228 is also important to her as a parent of a daughter who is in the first grade.

"I see the importance her teachers play in her life. I see their influence for good every day, and I trust we're working together to watch out for her every day," Brown said, noting that her daughter would be late to school Wednesday because she wanted to watch her mom testify before the committee.

"I'm proud to be from a state where we make the protection of children a very high priority, and I ask you to support HB228 to help continue this very important work," Brown said.

Adults need to "step up to the plate" to reduce numbers of child sexual abuse cases statewide, she said.

"It's our responsibility to be educated on how to prevent abuse. It's our responsibility to protect children, and it's our responsibility to act," Brown said.

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, said when she was a public schoolteacher, such training was not available, and when students confided in teachers they had been molested, teachers were unclear what to do.

"This is really, really important. Kids often will confide in a trusted teachers before they will tell a parent or someone in their family," Moss said.

The bill, as drafted, called for annual training, but it was amended by the committee to be required biennially. Romero said she considered the change "a friendly amendment."

Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, said lawmakers must also be mindful of teachers who act out inappropriately with vulnerable students.

"The definition of a child is under 18. You can't turn 18 in the middle of your senior year and think all of a sudden you're having a consensual relationship. There can't be grooming. There's been a half-dozen or so highly publicized incidents. I wish it never, never happened, and I wish it never, never even had to be discussed," he said.

The instruction for teachers must also include "the same training internally with their educators so it's widely known and recognized that it just can't happen and it must not happen," Christensen said.



Washington Could Provide Sexual Abuse Prevention Training in Schools

Erin's Law: 31 States Currently Teach Children About the Danger of Sexual Abuse

by Taylor McAvoy

OLYMPIA — A proposed bill would establish a task force to provide child sexual abuse prevention curricula for all schools in the state.

First introduced in 2015, House Bill 1539, sponsored by Rep. Gina McCabe, R-Goldendale, unanimously passed the House of Representatives on Monday, Feb. 12, and awaits a hearing in the Senate.

“We teach our children in schools K-12 what to do in the event of an earthquake, what to do in a fire drill, or stranger danger,” she said during floor debate. “But we're not teaching our children what to do in the event of being sexually assaulted. I implore you today to let us be the voice for the kids who are too scared to speak.”

The legislation tasks the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction with establishing a program and curriculum for age-appropriate sexual abuse prevention. The program would have to be available to all school districts in the state.

The bill, also called Erin's Law, is named after childhood sexual abuse survivor and sexual education activist Erin Merryn, 33, of Illinois. She is pushing all 50 states to adopt a requirement for schools to teach sexual abuse prevention efforts. Currently 31 states have done so. The first was Illinois in 2011.

“The time is up. We must not let another year go by with Erin's Law dying in Washington,” Merryn wrote in a press release. “There are precious lives waiting to be saved from abuse. Did we learn anything in the wake of the #METOO movement? Over 150 U.S. gymnasts were victims of sexual abuse by a trusted doctor. Had these girls been educated, we would be looking at a lot less victims right now. Washington needs to do the right thing and pass Erin's Law now.”

Rep. McCabe's bill would be voluntary for schools and is not part of the basic education funding, but ensures that the curriculum and tools necessary to implement policies would be available to schools who want to use them. Three of the 31 states that have Erin's Law implemented it as a voluntary provision.

Merryn said she supports the bill as it's introduced in Washington State as a first step, but hopes future legislation will make Erin's Law a requirement for schools. She said her law only teaches children about personal body safety, dispelling a misconception many parents have about sexual education.

“I loved my grandpa,” Olivia Holderman, now an adult, said beginning her testimony to lawmakers in the House Education Committee in January. “We did fun things together. We played games, we had tea parties. My grandfather was also a pedophile. He hurt me. He made me do things I would never think about doing, and I was terrified. If Erin's Law had been there, I could have told.”

Under current Washington State law, teachers must report abuse to local police if a student informs them of that behavior. But children and young adults can be afraid to speak.

The U.S. Department of Justice names several reasons for this fear. Children fear a negative reaction or blame from their parents, the research shows. A majority of sexual perpetrators are known to the victim, and about 30 percent are family members, according to research cited by the Justice Department.

But not all perpetrators are adults. The Justice Department estimates that 23 percent of reported cases are perpetrated by minors. Research from the Centers for Disease Control estimates that nationally, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18.

Nearly 1 in 5 high school seniors and 1 in 8 eighth graders reported unwanted sexual contact, according to the 2016 Washington State Healthy Youth survey from the Department of Health and Social Services and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“I'm only 17 but I've already had to watch too many of my own close friends experience sexual assault and rape at the hands of their peers,” Allison Bunker, a high school senior from Seattle, said during testimony on the bill in January. “And I've seen the long lasting effects and challenges that follow for those individuals.”

Speaking in support of the bill, she called on lawmakers to consider education around the issues of consent and the culture change the curriculum could have in schools.

Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, chair of the House Education Committee, said during the floor debate that child sexual abuse prevention is already addressed in other statutes.

But speaking in support of the bill, Santos said it provides a valuable curriculum to help schools implement useful policies. Elements of the curriculum include recognizing warning signs of sexual assault, preventing victimization, and taking advantage of existing resources. The bill would also ensure the curriculum is distributed to all school districts.

Laurie Dils, program supervisor for sexual education with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, spoke in support of the bill at its public hearing but said it needs to include trauma and sexual assault experts on the task force. She also said that every school district is different and they should have multiple models to choose from rather than a uniform model across the state.



Effort to extend Colorado's statute of limitations for failure to report child abuse fails after opposition from Catholic church, teachers group

by Jesse Paul

An effort to extend Colorado's statute of limitations for the crime of failing to report child abuse died in a Senate panel Wednesday following opposition from a teacher's organization and the Catholic Church.

The vote for Senate Bill 58 was 3-2 along party lines in the Republican-controlled Senate's State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

The legislation would have changed the start of the statute of limitations for failing to report child abuse — a Class 3 misdemeanor — from 18 months to five years. It would have specifically applied to so-called mandatory reporters, people who are legally bound, such as a doctor or school officials , to report abuse to authorities when they are told about or discover it.

The legislation was sparked by charges that were filed against three Cherry Creek School District leaders accused of failing to properly report claims of sexual assault by a teacher against a teen student.

Photo courtesy of Aurora Police DepartmentBrian Vasquez, a teacher at Prairie Middle School, has been accused of sexually assaulting several children, Aurora police said.

Charging documents alleged the victim, a young girl, was pressured to recant her disclosure of sexual abuse by the teacher and then later suspended. The teacher, Brian Vasquez , has been charged with sexually assaulted five students.

“Eighteen months is just not enough time for prosecutors,” said Sen. Rhonda Fields, an Aurora Democrat who sponsored the measure.

According to legislative analysts, there have been more than 25 cases of failure to report child abuse or neglect filed over the past three years.

Republican George Brauchler, the 18th Judicial District attorney whose office is prosecuting the school leaders and the teacher accused of sexual assault, backed the legislation, saying “we have a very weak law right now.” The Colorado District Attorney's Council was on board, too.

However, state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, a Sterling Republican who is also the Senate's president pro tem and cast one of the three votes to kill the bill, said the legislation “does nothing to protect kids.”

The Colorado Education Association and Colorado Catholic Conference also both opposed the bill.

“Just extending the statute of limitations will not fix what is needed to address student safety,” the education association said in a written statement. “Educators do report to the authorities and law enforcement investigates those reports. The issue for mandatory reporters, which is not clear in SB 58, is when to report incidents where the facts are not clear. There needs to be clearer guidelines and training on that issue. Student safety is of paramount concern for professional educators.”

The Catholic Conference, which called sexual abuse against children “despicable,” took issue with what they said was the bill's creation of an “indefinite statue of limitations.”

“The principle of statutes of limitation acknowledges that, as time elapses, evidence goes stale, memories fade, witnesses die or disappear,” the conference said in a statement. “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.”



90% of child sex abusers are people victims know, trust, counselor says

by Nadia Romero

SEATTLE – It seems like we keep hearing about cases of alleged child sex abuse at the hands of adults. Hundreds of victims came forward to speak out against former Dr. Larry Nassar . The statistics are alarming. One in four girls and one in six boys is abused nationwide.

We've heard those same allegations happening right here in our community. Thursday, a Seattle Public Schools teacher aide was charged with child rape and molestation after allegedly forcing himself on an elementary school student.

We all learned “Stranger Danger” about a creepy man canvassing neighborhoods luring children with offers of candy only to kidnap and sexually assault them. But Shepherd's Counseling Services Executive Director and Therapist Janice Palm says 90% of the time, it's someone the child knows and trusts.

“They may like this person a lot. They might not want this person to go away from their lives. They may not want this person to get in trouble,” said Palm.

People like teachers, coaches or babysitters who have power or authority over kids and who have opportunities to be alone with them.

A former coach at Kirkland's Puget Sound Adventist Academy faces voyeurism charges, accused of recording student athletes while they undressed.

Ask "why this adult might be forming a relationship with your child, for example. And question your child how does it feel to be hanging out with this person? And a lot of times it doesn't make sense,” said Palm.

And most recently, former US Swimming Olympian Ariana Kukors from Auburn.

“No matter where I am, I've lived in a lot of places the last three years. Seattle is home. The Washington community is home. This is what it says on my bio, Auburn, Washington,” said former U.S. swimming Olympian Ariana Kukors from Auburn in 2012.

Now, she says ,while training in Federal Way, she was sexually assaulted repeatedly by a former coach who convinced her it was OK after years of grooming.

The former coach has denied any wrongdoing, and he has not been arrested or charged.

“Takes the time to form a relationship not only with the child but the child's community and child's parent and by the time, a great deal of time, by the time the abuse happens the red flags don't go up because this person isn't a threat certainly not to the community or the child,” said Palm.

So as a parent, who can you trust?

“The message here is not distrust everyone either the kids or the parents. The message is keep children safe always. Understanding that this can happen gives parents an extra sort of radar,” said Palm.

It is happening right here in our neighborhoods in Western Washington. In charging documents, Seattle Public Schools teacher's aide Albert Virachismith was said to have made, “threats of violence toward the child victim.” Palm says that behavior is not uncommon from abusers. It took Kukors years to do it.

“They don't understand what's going on so they might not speak up about it because they literally might not have the words to do that,” said Palm.

So if a child does talk about their abuse…

“The correct response is I believe you. Let's talk. I want to hear more about that. That's it. It's really all about the child,” said Palm.

In every case when it's a teacher or coach, investigators say that poses a greater risk to the community because that person had access to many kids over the years. That means there could be more victims who haven't come forward.

Shepherd's Counseling Services in Seattle helps adult survivors of child sex abuse.


New Jersey

Hunting for New Jersey's pedophiles in a time of digital hide-and-seek

Who's winning the war against online child abuse in New Jersey? Authorities or those who engage in child exploitation and trade in child porn?

by Kastie Park

HAMILTON – “I can be generous for your trouble.”

Craig Kirschner, police allege, thought he was chatting online with a 15-year-old boy.

He was not.

In fact, authorities said, Kirschner was messaging, sending photos of his genitalia and suggesting oral sex to an undercover police detective posing as a teenager.

Kirschner, 39, of Marlboro, was arrested Aug. 21, among a pack of accused sex offenders.

“Operation Safety Net,” the results of which were announced in December, netted 79 people suspected of exploiting children.

Most were accused of owning and sharing child pornography, or material that shows children being sexually abused. Ten people actively used the internet to actively solicit children for sexual activity, authorities said.

The high-profile police campaign engendered tremendous public interest, as New Jerseyans pored over the list of names and accompanying photographs – among them a youth minister, piano teacher, engineer and a Trenton police officer – for people they, or perhaps their children, might know.

Left unanswered at the time: Who's winning the war against online child abuse in New Jersey? Was it law enforcement? Or those who trade or engage in child exploitation?

New Jersey State Police Lt. John Pizzuro, the commander of New Jersey's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force – abbreviated to ICAC and pronounced eye-kack – told The Asbury Park Press that law enforcement has ever-sophisticated tools and technology to engage those who exploit children, as evidenced by last fall's arrests.

The challenge for investigators: Their adversaries have an array of tools as well, and their young targets, more and more, are as accessible as ever by mobile devices.

Making matters worse, the pursuers and their targets often meet on an ever-changing menu of social media platforms, investigators say.

“The more individuals have technology – the more individuals rely on technology – the more predators will be out there,” said Pizzuro, a 22-year employee of the State Police.

Pizzuro, confronting a reality that did not exist a generation ago, said he sees more younger children with their own mobile phones, along with their own internet connections.

At a recent presentation on internet safety, he said, 22 students polled had smartphones – and just two students did not.

The audience: a classroom of first-graders.

Factor in a lack of adult supervision, Pizzuro said, or a child simply exercising their curiosity – and there is ample opportunity for a predator to attempt to find an avenue for forging a relationship with a child.

At State Police's Digital Technology Investigations Unit — part of State Police headquarters in Hamilton — wall posters showcase recent major child exploitation operation.

Operation Safety Net and another investigation, called Operation Statewide, are among them.

There are rows of mugshots.

Hundreds of pairs of eyes bear down, frozen in glossy ink.

The arrests are the work of the State Police and the state's Division of Criminal Justice, along with prosecutor's offices and municipal police departments in each of New Jersey's 21 counties.

“One of the things we have found today is that wherever children are, predators go,” Pizzuro said.

In 2017, ICAC detectives investigated and arrested 230 people from all around New Jersey, Pizzuro said.

In 2016, that number was around 200, he said. In 2015, approximately 170 people were apprehended.

In other words – investigators on the state's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force are kept busy.

The pace of work is unlikely to slow.

Starting this month, in compliance with a state law enacted in July, investigators began looking for people who possess child erotica – or what the state defines as “images that depict nearly naked, suggestively posed, and inappropriately sexualized children.”

Under the law, such images are part and parcel to child pornography and exploitation.

On a slightly drizzly, overcast Friday morning, weeks before the law went into effect, investigators permitted The Asbury Park Press to gain a glimpse into the mechanics of their job – and what lies ahead in a struggle that pits abusers against children.

The technology

With their backs to a wall, two men hunch over a small, clunky-looking laptop in an annex at State Police headquarters.

The pair are mostly silent; their mouths are set in straight lines. When they talk, they do so quietly – at least in the presence of strangers.

Sitting on a table before the computer, a black case lined with foam is open.

The people at work are detectives pulling contents from a mobile phone as part of a standard investigation into child exploitation, Pizzuro said.

The computer and the case's contents are part of a setup from Cellebrite, or a program that specializes in mobile phone data extraction.

“I got a big heart for kids,” said New Jersey State Police Detective I Joseph Santamaria. “Unfortunately, someone's gotta do it. The content we've got to see ..."

His voice trails off.

“It's rewarding to get those guys,” Santamaria continued.

Cellebrite wasn't cheap. It cost the New Jersey State Police around $20,000, Pizzuro said.

There are only a few companies that sell programs capable of mobile phone data extraction, Pizzuro said, so the ones that do charge a handsome fee.

Members of Pizzuro's unit also receive a “couple hundred thousand dollars” a year in specialized training. It costs a lot to keep up with rapidly changing technology — used by both law enforcement and child predators.

Investigators will target one predator-favored software program one day, only to have them switch to another program, Pizzuro said. It's on detectives to move quickly enough to keep up with the onslaught of new mobile applications and websites frequented by child exploiters.

“Technology advances,” Pizzuro said. “What we know today is different tomorrow.”

For the moment, with the near ubiquity of cell phones, mobile forensics is “the new wave,” Pizzuro said, adding that more predators are also using the Surface Web – or the "regular" internet – instead of the Dark Web, which is not easily accessible, or indexed by search engines.

For a minority of users, mobile devices are just another way to look at explicit material of kids, he said. They also use computers.

“This is normal,” Pizzuro said. "Everything I'm telling you – this (using devices to target children) happens on any app that you can get off iOS or an Android. This happens every day.”

Currently, Pizzuro said investigators conduct at least one on-location search around the state each week, utilizing a van that doubles as a mobile cyber forensics work station.

The van, Pizzuro said, is a new resource for law enforcement, as is Mega, a German Shepherd that can detect hidden electronics by sniffing for triphenylphosphine oxide – TPPO, for short.

TPPO, a compound, is a substance that coats most electronics to prevent overheating.

“The dog's imprinted on that chemical,” said New Jersey State Police Trooper II Slawek Stepien.

Mega, who graduated from training in June and started working the same month, can detect anything with TPPO, Stepien said – “from laptops, computer hard drives, thumb drives, SD cards, micro SD cards.”

If it sounds like a gimmick – it's not, authorities say.

New Jersey State Police troopers recalled a TPPO-sniffing dog in Indiana helped find a thumb drive that investigators had initially missed while searching the home of Jared Fogle, the former spokesman for the Subway sandwich chain.

In 2015, Fogle pleaded guilty to federal charges of child pornography possession and traveling to pay for sex with minors. Fogle, 40, is serving a maximum of 15 years, 8 months at Federal Correctional Institution, Englewood, in Colorado.

In Hamilton, New Jersey State Police's own TPPO-detecting dog, Mega – a nickname of his full name, Megabyte – bounded into Digital Technology Investigations Unit.

Eyes alert and tail wagging, the 2-year-old canine, who is the eighth TPPO-sniffing dog in the country, barked excitedly.

“He's ready to go to work,” Stepien said.

Outside State Police headquarters, the cyber forensics van – immaculately clean, with space to set up computers and view seized material on a flat-screen television – provides investigators with a relatively quiet, less hectic environment to quickly review what they find in a home and charge the suspect on the spot.

The van is used for various types of criminal investigations, authorities say, and not just for those concerning child exploitation.

“It's not easy to look at (child pornography),” said Scott Donlan, who has been a detective with the state's Division of Criminal Justice for 17 years. “But the job satisfaction of catching the people who are looking at this is very high. It's a trade-off.”

The victims

Of the children who come under the influence of a predator, Pizzuro said it's sometimes not their first time being a victim.

“Predators are going to search up children specifically with low self-esteem,” Pizzuro said. He noted school bullying often manifests in feelings of poor self-worth among victims.

Add in the internet, and bullying follows school kids home in the form of disparaging texts and posts, Pizzuro said. That takes a toll on children already struggling with self-esteem.

“Today, because of the way things are, and especially in schools with bullying, there is no end to the school day,” Pizzuro said. “It doesn't end at 3:30. It continues all the way through.”

Online, children turn to social media or games, Pizzuro said. There, they might meet a seemingly kind companion who befriends them and begins to forge an intimate connection.

That is often when “grooming” begins – or the process of a predator coercing a child online, Pizzuro said.

Predators commonly start seeking children on Facebook or Instagram, Pizzuro said, and then move the interaction toward other platforms, such as the mobile app, Kik, which allows its users to anonymously message others and exchange photo and video.

Other popular platforms Pizzuro noted were Yellow, or a Tinder-like setup for kids that arranges friend meet-ups instead of dates;, a lip-synching app, and Xbox games.

Until it shut down in April, Yik Yak – a social media app that organized conversations into threads – also had a large following among youth.

Like thousands of other apps, the platforms that are popular among children will constantly change. But what law enforcement consistently sees now is that there is more predatory behavior on apps than on websites, Pizzuro said.

In Operation Safety Net – the massive roundup of alleged predators announced in December – several of the accused had chatted with children, detectives posing as children or both, according to investigators.

Kirschner, the Marlboro resident, ran into a member of law enforcement on an app, according to investigators. Authorities did not identify the app.

Isaac Toney, 40, of Trenton, used an app to solicit oral sex from an undercover detective who pretended he was a 14-year-old boy, police said.

A California resident – George Castillo, 36, of Inglewood – thought he was chatting with a human trafficker who was selling sex with a 4-year-old girl, police said.

Joseph Donohew, 26, of Brownsburg, Indiana, believed a man with a 9-year-old daughter was offering her for sexual activity in exchange for money, the authorities said.

No such trafficker or father existed.

They were undercover New Jersey State Police detectives.

But not all the interactions are contrived.

Donald Beckwith, a 34-year-old Air Force captain stationed in New Jersey, encountered a 14-year-old girl in an online chat group for children and met her twice in Delaware, police allege.

The first time they met, Beckwith allegedly tried to touch the girl under her shirt. The second time, police said he repeatedly asked the girl to lie on a bed in the back of his car and watch a movie with him.

None of the men could be reached by the Press. It was unknown how the defendants pleaded to their pending charges.

“The individuals in those cases – they actively looked for children to target,” Pizzuro said, standing in a small, computer-lined room he calls the "undercover" room.

The computers in the undercover room are used to seek out people “lurking for children,” Pizzuro said, and to find users who own and share child pornography using file-sharing software.

“The subject matter is difficult,” Pizzuro said. “What we do is very difficult. However, we keep in mind the impact that we're making, and that's what's making a difference.”

The investigators

How does a detective deal with regularly looking at child pornography as part of the job?

For one — they take breaks, Pizzuro said.

They also don't keep personal photos next to the forensic machines, he said, or look at explicit material at the end of the day shortly before they go home to their families.

Investigators use software that can detect potential child pornography, depending on elements like skin, faces and nudity, but Pizzuro said much of the work must still be done manually.

“There's a lot of things that we institute to make sure that we keep the well being of the people involved,” Pizzuro said.

But the nature of the job is, fundamentally, a challenging one.

Sometimes, children are in the home as suspects download and share child pornography, Pizzuro said.

He recalled a case where a perpetrator stated he wanted to sexually assault a 4-year-old and make the child cry.

Gracing the walls in the Digital Technology Investigations Unit is a large sign for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's cyber tipline.

All the cyber tips from the center are received electronically and the tips are then triaged, or prioritized, often depending on the ages of victims, he said.

A victim's age, the level of child endangerment and risk of child suicide all contribute to how law enforcement prioritizes tips.

“Ninety-nine percent of the cases that we get here are all 12-year-olds, 11-year-olds,” Pizzuro said. “… In some of these cases, we've had infants as young as 18 months.”

Around 10 percent of the tips from the National Center are credible, Pizzuro said, but detectives investigate every tip they receive.

In 2016, investigators received 2,500 tips from the National Center, Pizzuro said. In 2017, the number of tips spiked to around 4,000, but he attributed the increase to more internet providers divulging explicit content involving minors to investigators.

“There's a lot of people here that are parents,” Pizzuro said. “ … We look at our own children, and we're trying to help as many children as we can, and eradicate this behavior that's out there.”

The law

Child predatory behavior falls on a continuum, authorities say.

Viewing child erotica is a stepping stone that can lead to viewing child pornography, Pizzuro said, noting that the worst offenders can progress to committing “hands-on” sexual offenses against youth.

“We were hearing more and more that there were people who possessed child erotica but not child pornography," said former New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino. "We decided there was more that needed to be done.”

Enter S-3219 – the law that expanded the definition of child pornography in New Jersey to include child erotica.

New Jersey now joins several other states that criminalize child erotica, said state Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-14. Those states include Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Vermont and Virginia, she said.

"...We (at the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General and the New Jersey State Police) had a very active role with drafting 3219, so we're quite happy with it,” Porrino said. “It didn't get watered down."

While Porrino — then the highest-ranking law enforcement official in the state — and legislators lauded the law they helped to create, two criminal defense attorneys said trial courts would struggle to interpret the state's amended definition of child pornography.

"Undoubtedly, this will result in an increase in arrests, complaints and criminal convictions," said criminal defense lawyer Tara Breslow-Testa, who owns her own law office in Red Bank.

The new law holds violators culpable for being the "leader of a child pornography network" if they create or maintain a digital presence and distribute child pornography files to an "organized group."

The law additionally established a gradient to child porn possession.

People convicted of owning at least 100,000 items of child porn could be charged with first-degree possession. Less than 100,000 items but more than 1,000 could warrant a second-degree child porn possession charge. Owning at least 1,000 files could be a third-degree crime. Each child porn video, or segment of a video, would count as 10 separate items.

The law would also label people with at least 1,000 items of child porn as "super-possessors."

Under former law, people who shared 25 or 10,000 files of child porn faced a charge of second-degree distribution of child pornography, despite the wide disparity in file volume.

Under the new law, a person who distributed more than 1,000 items would be convicted of a first-degree crime. Distributing less than 1,000 items would still be a second-degree crime.

Those convicted of owning at least 1,000 files of child pornography could be held to lifelong parole supervision, be subject to commitment at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Woodbridge, and be required to register as a sex offender in New Jersey.

In the Operation Safety Net arrests, 11 of the accused possessed at least 1,000 files of child sexual abuse; on possessed some 10,000 files, and one possibly possessed more than 1 million files, according to the officials.

The law, criminal defense attorney Matthew W. Reisig said, presents "dramatic changes" to charges of possession and distribution of child porn, and "demonstrates an effort" to change the law in tune with technological advancement.

"Here, the notion of what constitutes 'child erotica,' or not, will be vigorously contested,” said Reisig, who works at the Freehold-based firm, Reisig Criminal Defense & DWI Law.

Reisig said it is "certain" that defense lawyers will argue that child erotica is not sexual, but art.

"Ultimately, what 'child erotica' is, or is not, will be determined by the Appellate Division and the New Jersey Supreme Court," Reisig said. "That is as certain as the sunrise tomorrow."

Picking up the pieces

Reducing the amount of online child exploitation largely starts with parents, Pizzuro said.

With more and more children being allowed to roam the internet on mobile devices, the onus is on parents – or those who care for children – to monitor online activity, he said.

But more than that, Pizzuro said, the people who have kids' welfare at heart must communicate with the youngest members of society – meaningfully.

“More than anything, I think we've lost communication,” Pizzuro said.

His theory: when technology supplants genuine human connection and conversation, children can pay a price through exploitation, Pizzuro said.

The trauma doesn't end for a child once a predator is arrested or convicted.

Sexual exploitation can leave lasting scars – both physical and mental.

“If they've been traumatized once, we don't want to do that again,” Pizzuro said. “We have to get the information, which is really difficult for a child to talk about how they've been taken advantage of and sexually assaulted.”

Minors are forensically interviewed at child advocacy centers, Pizzuro said, adding that his office employs two interviewers.

Pizzuro noted, however, that images or videos of child sexual abuse don't always disappear once a person has been convicted.

Some images continue to be shared online, passed from one predator to another.

“I've seen those images,” Pizzuro said. “They're devastating.”



Study Finds Arizona Children At Higher Risk Of A Lifetime Of Hardship

by Holliday Moore

A newly released national study has found Arizona kids, on average, face far more adversity while growing up than most children in our country.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACE score, measures whether a child has witnessed or endured abuse, lived in poverty, been neglected and other negative factors. The more adversities a child suffers through, the higher their risk for long-term health diseases and learning disabilities.

The study that began more than 20 years ago by the Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, measures eight factors.

Child Trends, a national research organization for child health and welfare, looked at the most recent ACE scores on a state by state basis.

The co-author of that study , David Murphey, found in Arizona more than a quarter of the children asked suffered economic hardship, while nearly one-third lived with one parent, and between 10 to 15 percent lived with an addicted parent, a mentally ill relative, an abusive adult, or had a parent serving jail time.

Arizona's children scored fourth worst for ACE scores, along with Arkansas, Montana, New Mexico and Ohio, where one in nine children had experienced three or more ACEs.

The immediate common link between all five states, Murphey noted, was insidious erosion in child welfare and family programs.

When asked what will reverse the trend for Arizona children, Murphey suggested Arizona lawmakers and voters “support (at risk children's) parents and their families to provide the love and care for their children.”

That way, he said, “They can cope better with parental separation or divorce, incarceration of a parent, or the parent who has a substance abuse problem or a mental health problem.”

ACE studies have shown prolonged exposure to stress hormones can physically alter a child's development leading to learning disorders early on to life-long chronic illnesses, and mental health disorders that – left unmanaged – can perpetuate abuse, drug addiction and homelessness well into adulthood.



Prestigious Hawaii school pays $80M to victims of 'monstrous sexual abuse'

by Kathleen Joyce

A prestigious Hawaii school has agreed to pay $80 million to former students sexually abused by a psychiatrist spanning for decades.

Kamehameha School in Honolulu, Hawaii, a well-regarded school on the islands that receives billions of dollars a year in endowments, was accused of covering up sexual abuse reported by students for 27 years from 1958 to 1985 by psychiatrist Robert Browne, The Washington Post reported.

According to reports, school officials threated students showing signs of behavioral issues that they must see a psychiatrist or risk expulsion.

Students were then driven to Browne's office at St. Francis Hospital by teachers where they say they were drugged and sexually assaulted. In court documents, students said he would psychologically “torment” them during “weekend sleepovers” in his home.”

The lawsuit stated a handful of students came forward to school officials regarding the abuse, but were told to remain quiet and nothing was done.

The psychiatrist killed himself in 1991, one day after one of his many victims, Emmett Lee Loy, addressed him about the abuse, Hawaii News Now reported.

The $80 million settlement will go to the 34 plaintiffs named in the suit who accused the school of “failing to protect them and covering up years of abuse.”

On Thursday, Jack Wong, the school's CEO, apologized to the victims.

“No one was prepared for the horrific revelation that our precious haumana (students) were secretly abused and physically and emotionally traumatized from 1962-1984 by Dr. Robert Browne, Chief of Psychiatry at St. Francis Hospital. And, after abuses were reported, not nearly enough was done. … Kamehameha Schools is deeply and truly sorry,” he said.

In the lawsuit, the victims stated they were “required” to masturbate in front of Browne, “engage in oral sex and be penetrated with objects.”

One of the victims was “raped and sodomized” by Browne when he was 11 years old, the lawsuit stated. The doctor told the boys it was “all normal.”

A few of the victims came forward stating they suffered from depression, substance abuse issues and some committed suicide following the abuse from Browne.

Loy revealed to the Hawaii News Now what he told the doctor in 1991, the day before he shot himself in the head.

“He starts … breaking down and crying on the phone,” Loy told Hawaii News Now. “‘I'm sorry. I'm sorry' He's doing this crybaby thing on the phone. I said, ‘You're not sorry for what you did, you're sorry for getting caught.'”

The school was expected to file a lawsuit against St. Francis Healthcare System, where Browne was employed, and where the victims went for “therapy.”

Gerald Carrell, one of Browne's victims, told Hawaii News Now he was proud of the men who came forward.

"People mistake the fact that we're asking for money for some kind of vendetta we have against the school, but I think a lot of people just don't understand ... I can't get those 50 years back. We can't change our past," he said.

"I'm excited that the men stood with me to do this ... that we stood together and we were strong."



Dept of Justice, Southern California

U.S. Attorney's Office Hosts Roundtable Discussion on Sexual Harassment in Housing

LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California hosted a roundtable discussion yesterday on Sexual Harassment in Housing for community organizations, U.S. Attorney Nicola T. Hanna announced.

The event included local legal services offices, fair housing organizations, shelters and transitional housing providers. Each organization was invited because they often work with the Central District of California's most vulnerable populations, who could also become victims of sexual harassment in housing.

The Department of Justice, through the U.S. Attorney's Offices and the Civil Rights Division, enforces the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, and disability. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by the Act. Sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, and others with power over housing often affects the most vulnerable populations – single parents, individuals who have financial difficulties, and people who have suffered sexual violence in their past. These individuals often do not know where to turn for help.

“Sexual harassment in housing is often underreported, but it is an egregious violation of a person's right to fair housing,” U.S. Attorney Hanna said. “Landlords and property managers using the power they have over tenants to extort sexual favors, or even commit assaults, is intolerable. My Office is dedicated to uncovering such violations where they exist and vigorously enforcing the law.”

In October 2017, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division announced the Sexual Harassment Initiative, an effort to combat sexual harassment in housing. The Justice Department's initiative seeks to identify barriers to reporting sexual harassment in housing, increase awareness of its enforcement efforts – both among survivors and those they may report to – and collaborate with federal, state, and local partners to increase reporting and help survivors quickly and easily connect with federal resources.

The Justice Department is hosting a series of roundtable discussions on this topic around the country and this was the first one on the West Coast. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California is collaborating with the Civil Rights Division to spread the word about options to help individuals experiencing sexual harassment within the seven districts that comprise the Central District of California: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Santa Barbara, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura counties. Community organizations, such as legal services offices, fair housing organizations, shelters and transitional housing providers, can identify the misconduct and recommend that individuals report sexual harassment to the Justice Department.

The Justice Department brings cases each year involving egregious conduct, including allegations that defendants have exposed themselves sexually to current or prospective tenants, requested sexual favors in exchange for reduced rents or making necessary repairs, made unrelenting and unwanted sexual advances to tenants, and evicted tenants who resisted their sexual overtures.

In 2017, the Justice Department recovered for harassment victims more than $1 million in damages. Many instances of sexual harassment in housing continue to go unreported. The Justice Department's investigations frequently uncover sexual harassment that has been ongoing for years or decades and identify numerous victims who never reported the conduct to federal authorities.

The Justice Department encourages anyone who has experienced sexual harassment in housing, or knows someone who has, to contact the Civil Rights Division by calling (844) 380-6178 or emailing:

Individuals who believe they may have been victims of discrimination may also file a complaint with the U.S. Attorney's Office Civil Division's Civil Rights Section.


from: Tracy Webb, DOJ Director of External Affairs
(213) 894-7419