'We must act before another child is killed': Warning over abuse linked to witchcraft and possession beliefs in UK
Experts call for Government funding to tackly abuse being 'hidden in plain sight'
by Lizzie Dearden
Thousands of children could be abused because relatives believe they are witches or possessed by evil spirits in Britain, it has been warned.
Experts fear another child will be murdered if efforts to prevent abuse linked to faith and belief are not urgently stepped up, following the horrific deaths of young victims including Kristy Bamu and Ayesha Ali .
The first ever Government statistics on the issue showed that witchcraft and possession were linked to almost 1,500 potential abuse cases across the UK in a single year but the figure is thought to be an underestimate.
“These beliefs are very real and on occasion people are going to take this to extremes where a child can be murdered,” said Inspector Allen Davis, who leads the Metropolitan Police's response to the issue.
“There are a number of ways that an adult will try to rid the child of the evil they believe is within them.
“They might try to burn it out, cut it out, strangle it out, drowning can be involved, or starving and beating.”
Several children have been killed in the UK as a result of horrific abuse meted out by guardians who believed they were possessed or witches, including an eight-year-old girl who was tortured and 15-year-old boy who drowned during an exorcism .
Each harrowing case has sparked calls for action, but attention has quickly faded and activists are battling to raise awareness among social services, teachers, police and other authorities.
Dr Lisa Oakley, chair of the National Working Group for Child Abuse Linked to Faith or Belief, said: “We know these practices are occurring so we want to be acting now so we don't have another high-profile case.
“You've then got a child who is severely damaged or not here anymore, and that's a high price to pay.
“We're saying we don't want to get to a point where there is another high profile case.”
Dr Oakley, who is a senior psychology lecturer at the University of Chester, said the abuse stems from “genuine belief systems” where people believe they are doing the right thing for a child.
Cases have been found in all regions of the UK and across a range of different communities and religions, but a survey of more than 1,300 teachers, social workers, police officers, medics, community workers and religious figures showed that only a third could spot signs of abuse.
Research by the working group indicated that only half of respondents knew how to respond properly and a quarter had training on the issue.
Insp Davis warned that abuse related to witchcraft and demons was being “hidden in plain sight” because it is not properly understood.
“We're not recognising the signs, we're not sharing the information, we're not identifying people who are vulnerable,” he said.
“The beliefs in witchcraft and spirit possession are very broad and go across a far larger swathe of the world than you would expect.
“These beliefs are common within both Christianity and Islam and we get victims from both.
“Evidence suggests that areas of Africa are affected by it but this is not a black African problem. This is far broader, these beliefs are widespread across many parts of the world and were widespread in this country not so long ago.”
A cursory internet search demonstrates the demand for “exorcisms” and other religious services in Britain.
One self-declared Deliverance Ministry offers services in person or over Skype that claim to “cleanse demons and evil spirits” – for a price.
Its website blames the supernatural for everything from depression to sexual abuse, marriage breakdown, financial issues and health problems, proscribing “exorcism with inner healing”.
One Muslim practitioner claims to exorcise Jinn spirits in his East London home for £60 a time and similar Ruqyah services can be found in several British cities.
Mainstream Christian denominations also offer exorcisms, although the Church of England urges believers to contact advisers confidentially on psychic phenomena “because of the danger of adverse and sensational publicity”.
Leethen Bartholomew, who oversees work to tackle faith-linked abuse as head of the National FGM Centre, said the beliefs do not always result in physical action against a child.
He explained that parents who believes their children is a witch or possessed might first employ “safety behaviours” like protective talismans or amulets, and ask for deliverance through fasting and prayer before starting physical measures.
“All of these things are done for a purpose, they're not random,” Mr Bartholomew said. “The idea is that the child is no longer there, the child's body is possessed by something that's evil.”
He believes the 1,460 potential cases found in the 2016/2017 Children in Need Census is a “massive underestimate to be honest”, having worked at a local authority seeing at least 10 cases a year even before faith and belief had to be recorded as a factor.
“The information from my research is that it's much more prevalent,” said Mr Bartholomew, who is working towards a PhD adults accused of being possessed or called a witch.
“The prevalence of it internationally has also been increasing.”
He said there was “still a lot of learning to be done” as prevention work by Barnardo's and other charities continues alongside projects by the Metropolitan Police and London Mayor's office.
Research shows children are singled out for the accusations because of “difference”, which can include being a twin, albino, having mental health problems, epilepsy, bed-wetting, sleep walking, being rebellious or gifted.
“A child normalises that abusive behaviour and blames themselves, because they're very young, they're vulnerable, they will think of themselves as witches,” Insp Davis said.
“This is why there is the opportunity for professionals and communities to recognise that harm because if a child is talking about someone accusing them of being witch, they need to take that really seriously.”
He said police cannot “arrest our way out of” the issue, which can be linked to other concerns including honour-based violence and female genital mutilation (FGM) .
“The beliefs that underpin the abuse are far, far wider than most people would think…we're not here to criticise those beliefs but when they turn into the abuse of children, we all have to step in,” the officer added.
“Our primary concern is safeguarding children as a preventative measure where we can intervene before a crime has taken place and ultimately before a child is murdered.”
He said raising awareness had been a “challenge” and urged agencies including police, social workers, teachers and health professionals to take up training so they can spot the warnings signs.
Dr Oakley said child abuse linked to faith and belief had not had the “same Government buy-in or support” as FGM, but public awareness and intervention was desperately needed.
“We are calling on Government ministers to consider this issue and start to give us backing to tackle it,” she added.
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “Children must be kept safe, and no belief system can justify the abuse of a child.
“Those responsible for child abuse linked to faith or belief would be subject to prosecution. Our statutory guidance is clear that anyone who has concerns about a child's welfare should report this to children's social care or the police.”
‘Wicked': Children murdered over spiritual beliefs in the UK
Victoria Climbie, 11
Died: 25 February 2000, London
Victoria was born in Ivory Coast and brought to the UK by her great-aunt Marie-Therese Kouao, who moved in with her boyfriend Carl Manning in 1999.
Numerous people who came to contact with the family reported concerns to social services but no action was taken and Victoria's abuse worsened, with her aunt initially blaming her incontinence.
A childminder heard Kouao calling the child a “wicked girl” before she told pastors that she believed Victoria was possessed by an evil spirit .
Two pastors supported her claim, with one saying he would fast on Victoria's behalf and pray for deliverance from “witchcraft, bad luck and everything bad or evil”.
Days later, Victoria died after being starved for days while tied up in a black plastic bag with her hands and feet bound, lying in her own excrement without heating between being beaten and burned.
She was rushed to hospital suffering from a combination of malnutrition and hypothermia and was declared dead the next day, with a pathologist finding 128 separate injuries and scars in “the worst case of child abuse I've encountered”.
Kouao and Manning were jailed for life for murder, and the Government commissioned an inquiry into the “deeply disturbing” failures by social services, police, housing authorities and hospitals.
Two social workers from Haringey Council were dismissed for gross misconduct.
Nusayba Bharuchi, four
Died: 16 December 2010
Nusayba was disembowelled by her mother after she accused her of being possessed, with her father finding her body.
Reports said the child's heart and other organs had been removed and placed in different rooms.
Her mother was detained under the Mental Health Act after allegedly being found by the corpse, rocking back and forth, chanting and listening to Quranic verses on an mp3 player.
Neighbours said they had been hearing “terrible screaming” in the night.
Kristy Bamu, 15
Died: 25 December 2010
Kristy and four of his siblings had come to London from Paris to stay with his sister Magalie Bamu and her partner Eric Bikubi for the festive season.
The couple, who were said to be obsessed with kindoki, the word for witchcraft in their native Democratic Republic of the Congo, accused him of putting spells on a younger child and started days of sadistic abuse.
Kristy was singled out after wetting his pants and his siblings were starved of food and water for three days and nights while praying for “deliverance”.
His sisters, aged 20 and 11, were also beaten but escaped further attacks after “confessing” to being witches, while they and their brothers aged 13 and 22 were then forced to take part in the torture.
Prosecutors said Kristy “pleaded to be allowed to die” while being beaten with a metal bar, hammer, floor tiles and bottles.
The siblings were placed in a bath for ritual cleansing on Christmas Day but Kristy was too weak and slipped under the water.
He died of a combination of drowning and the beatings , with a post-mortem finding 130 separate injuries.
Ayesha Ali, eight
Died: 29 August 2013
Ayesha's mother, Polly Chowdhury, was brainwashed by her girlfriend into believing her daughter was possessed, “evil” and had “bad blood” after her father left their home in East London.
Kiki Muddar manipulated the mother using a bizarre cyber fantasy world, bombarding her with more than 40,000 texts, including one reading: “You have no right to ever love or like your evil daughter”.
During the court case that saw both women jailed was played a recording of a telephone call to a friend where Muddar vowed to kill Ayesha, calling her a “witch”, adding: “I'll f***ing drown her in the bath.”
Chowdhury eventually believed a Muslim spirit guide called “Skyman” instructed them to abuse her daughter via text messages.
Neighbours heard Ayesha screaming and pleading “I don't want to be bad”, while a handwritten note by the child described how she “hated getting punishments” but was trying to be good.
Ayesha was found dead in her bedroom at their flat in Chadwell Heath, east London, in August 2013.
A blow to the head was ruled to be the cause of death but more than 50 injuries, including bruises, carpet burns and a bite mark, told of the extent of the abuse.
When paramedics found the child dead, the court heard that Muddar told them: “Ayesha is always naughty. She was a naughty child and her mum thought she was possessed by the devil.
Bill would criminalize knowing failure to report child abuse
by Zach Shapiro
ANNAPOLIS — Legislation that would make knowingly failing to report child abuse a crime in Maryland was passed by the Senate, but faces some skepticism in the House.
Under current law, if a mandatory reporter — defined as health care practitioners, police officers, educators and human-service workers — believes that a child has been abused or neglected, they must notify the local department of Child Protective Services or a law-enforcement agency.
Failure to do so could result in a loss of license, due to a 2016 law in Maryland, but it is not a crime.
“This closes that loophole,” said Adam Rosenberg, executive director of the Baltimore Child Abuse Center, who testified in both chambers on behalf of the new proposal. “This is about being able to hold that very last group of people, who have been enabling abuse to go on, accountable.”
The House bill (HB0500), sponsored by Dels. Carlo Sanchez and Erek Barron, Democrats representing Prince George's, proposes that a violator would be guilty of a misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The Senate version (SB0132), sponsored by Sen. Bobby Zirkin, D-Baltimore County, includes the same punishment.
The Senate bill has been approved by that chamber; the identical House bill had a hearing, but hasn't advanced out of committee, where a number of House Judiciary members have raised concerns about the new child-abuse proposal.
Del. Kathleen Dumais, D-Montgomery, sponsored the 2016 law, in which a complaint about a failure to report is brought to the worker's licensing board for review and possible termination. She told the Capital News Service that she'd like to see effects from that law, which began in October 2016, further develop before creating “new crimes.”
“Creating a crime (could) mean that we're going to have a lot of reports that shouldn't have been reported,” said Dumais. “I think we just need to tread carefully. We have some pretty strict laws on the books already.”
Dumais said she is concerned that mandatory reporters would plead the fifth in court if they face possible indictment.
She sponsored a bill this session denying parental rights to rapists. Gov. Larry Hogan signed it into law Tuesday.
Sanchez said he doesn't see over reporting as an issue. He said reports can fall through the cracks in transition from the mandatory reporter to Child Protective Services — which is the current system — so the ability to take a claim straight to a prosecutor could take pressure off social services and make abuse easier to catch early.
Last year, a similar bill passed in the Senate, but died in the House. The latest proposal has less opposition. The Maryland State Education Association, for example, was against it last year, but said in an email to Capital News Service that this bill “takes a step in the right direction by clarifying reporting requirements.” Which, they added, “will help prevent misreporting that drains resources and distracts from real cases of abuse.”
Variations of these efforts have been around for close to a decade, but they have gained more attention after the case of Deonte Carraway, a 24-year-old school worker in Prince George's County who was arrested in February 2016.
Carraway was sentenced in August 2017 to 75 years in federal prison for 15 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor to produce child pornography, involving 12 children from 9 to 13 years old. He was sentenced to 100 years on 23 counts of sex abuse in Prince George's County a month later.
Despite complaints to the principal of Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary School, Michelle Williams, from parents and administrators about Carraway's behavior, Williams could not be prosecuted, Prince George's County State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks told state lawmakers.
Williams was placed on administrative leave shortly after Carraway's arrest, Alsobrooks said. An attorney for Williams said late last year that she denied wrongdoing in the case and was unaware of abuse.
This new bill would enable the state to prosecute a knowing failure by an adult to report abuse.
“We learned that the principal knew something wasn't right, as did other school officials, but did nothing about it,” said Alsobrooks, who was one of the prosecutors in that case. “We were able to hold Mr. Caraway accountable for his crimes. But what we have not done is further close the loophole — to (be) able to assure parents that this will never happen again.”
Help prevent child abuse by checking a box
by Rick Charmoli
LANSING — The Children's Trust Fund is reminding people filing their state income taxes to remember to check a box that will help prevent child abuse.
A checkoff box on a state income tax return form allows residents to donate $5, $10 or more to fund programs in local communities that prevent child abuse. Through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Children's Trust Fund serves as a voice for Michigan's children and families and promotes their health, safety and welfare by funding local programs and services statewide that prevent child abuse and neglect.
The check-off box can be found on both the online and paper versions of the Voluntary Contribution Schedule Form 4642.
The Children's Trust Fund relies on the contributions donated through the state income tax campaign to fund direct service and local prevention programs across the state of Michigan that help build strong, healthy families and keep children safe. Since its creation in 1982, the fund has raised more than $70 million and provided support to over 7 million children and families.
For more information about the Children's Trust Fund, how to contribute and the tax campaign, visit www.michigan.gov/ctf .
Child Sexual Abuse: When Trust Gets Shattered
Recognize the signs and know what to do for kids who have endured this trauma
by Raychelle Cassandra Lohmann
Trust. It's one of the strongest, yet most fragile bonds we form. Most of us develop our sense of trust and security during childhood. But what happens when that trust gets shattered? As I watched the Larry Nassar sentencing, I found myself asking that very question. I thought of the victims who trusted this professional to care for them, only to be hurtfully violated. I thought of the trust parents instilled in this physician to “treat” their daughters, only to find out that trust had been shattered.
Far too often children are sexually abused by adults who were supposed to take care of them. RAINN, or the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, reports that every eight minutes, child protective services substantiates a claim of child sexual abuse. In the U.S., it's reported that about 63,000 youth are sexually abused, with 2 of every 3 cases occurring when kids are ages of 12 and 17 years. Reports indicate that over 90 percent of youth know their abuser, where 34 percent were family members, 59 percent were acquaintances and 7 percent were strangers. It's frightening to think the abuse may be perpetrated by the very people we know and trust.
So, as a parent, how do you begin to make sense of such a senseless act? Many of us seek to place our children in what we consider to be secure environments with trusting people, but what if we discover that one of those people had been sexually abusing our child? What then? Where do we begin?
5 Things You Should Do if Your Child Is Sexually Abused
First – though it may be exceedingly difficult – stay calm. It's OK to feel like a frantic mess on the inside, but play it cool on the outside. Your child may already feel guilty, and the last thing he needs is to think that by telling you it has made the situation worse. So, by looking like you have everything under control, your child may feel a little more calm.
Believe your child. Children rarely make up fake stories about being sexually abused or assaulted . It takes a lot of strength and courage for a child to come forward and share such sensitive and potentially embarrassing information.
Reassure your child that the abuse is not her fault. Your child needs to reestablish a sense of safety and security .
Wrap your child with extra love. Breaking the silence can be a very scary experience and lead to your child feeling extremely vulnerable. Your child may be experiencing fear that the perpetrator will cause more harm, fear that you won't believe her, fear that telling will cause a lot of trouble, or fear that she will be taken away from you. Your child needs to know that you love her right now more than ever before.
Get help. If you suspect a child is being sexually abused, report it. Here are some resources to assist you with the process:
Call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453. Trained staff are there to help with crisis intervention, information and referrals to emergency, social service and support resources. Calls are confidential.
Call RAINN's National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE(4673) to speak with a trained professional in your area.
Visit RAINN's State Law Database to learn more about the applicable laws in your state.
Unfortunately, only about a third of sexual assaults are reported to the police, according to RAINN. One of the primary reasons youth don't tell anyone is fear. It's important to remember that perpetrators are skilled at using fear tactics to manipulate victims and keep them from reporting the abuse.
Not only parents but all adults should be aware of the warning signs that a child is being sexually abused, since we all have a role in protecting youth. These warning signs include:
When a child avoids certain situations with certain people. Pay close attention to what's happening if your child is withdrawn, anxious, afraid or nervous around a particular person. If your child begs and pleads with you to not spend time with a particular family member, look into what's causing that strong reaction.
Fear of leaving comfortable settings, like home. If your child starts to become anxious about leaving her comfort zone, that's a strong indication that something troublesome is happening.
Drastic changes in a child's behavior. Pay attention to things like depressed mood, poor hygiene, changes in eating habits or withdrawal from friends and family. Behavioral signs are among the first signs that something isn't right, and they may point to sexual abuse. Don't ignore obvious or sudden changes or chalk them up to kids being kids. Look for the cause.
Withholding information and being more secretive. If you notice that your child has gotten quieter and appears more emotionally withdrawn, dig deeper to determine what's going on.
Body image insecurity. Being modest is one thing, but being mortified and embarrassed is another. If you notice that your child is having a lot of body image concerns and is overly embarrassed about her body and showing signs of insecurity, talk with your child. Perpetrators are often harsh and critical of their victims, and as a result, youth often feel as though they aren't attractive or good enough.
In addition to paying attention to what's going on with your child, watch for these warning signs that may indicate a person who interacts with your child is a perpetrator of child sexual abuse:
Acts more like a peer than an adult role model . This person may cross boundaries by entering into the child's personal or social space, such as sharing social media information, playing online games, or calling or texting a child.
Offers to watch your child for long periods or spends lots of time with the child. Be wary if the adult is constantly volunteering to babysit for free, even when there's not a need, or if the individual invites your child over for unwarranted sleepovers.
Showers your child with excessive gifts. Perpetrators will buy their victims gifts as a means of grooming them or to compensate for their silence. Your child may or may not show you these gifts. If she does show them to you, odds are you'll begin to get suspicious. But if she doesn't and you start to notice items you didn't purchase, ask where they came from.
Ignores personal boundaries. Perpetrators often don't pay attention to physical and personal cues. They may try to hold, hug, kiss, touch or wrestle with a child, and ignore the child's resistance when he tries to squirm away.
Talks openly about sexually inappropriate material. Perpetrators often cross the line in conversations about sex or the sexual development of the child. These conversations may even happen in front of the child.
As a society, protecting our children should be a top priority. It's troublesome to think that there are people who want nothing more than to take advantage of and harm kids. One of the best ways that we can ensure our children's safety is to establish an open line of communication with them. From an early age our children need to know that they can share anything with us, and that if anyone ever threatens them, that they should tell, and we can protect them. We should teach them how to respond if someone does something, like touches them inappropriately. It's sad that we have to have these conversations, but in today's world, they are necessary.
I think back to all of the strong women who reported Larry Nassar's sexually abusive behaviors, and despite of all of the numerous reports, no one acted until years later. Sadly, in that span of time, so many other young women were sexually traumatized by this so-called “trusted” adult. There is no way to rationalize or justify the heinous act of child sexual abuse, but the devastating effects don't have to be indefinite. With professional help, love and support, you can help your child move from being a victim toward becoming survivor.
NYPD Special Victims hunting for rapist of 12-year-old
The Special Victims Division detective on the case is pleading for anyone with information to send a tip through the CrimeStoppers website or call the hotline
by Colleen Long
NEW YORK — The 12-year-old girl was in her school uniform, wearing pigtails. She clutched her princess lunch box as she got off the Bronx bus after tutoring, and that's when the rapist grabbed her by the arm.
"If you scream, I'm gonna kill you," he said, according to police. The stranger dragged her roughly, turning down an alley where he brutally attacked her.
The crime took place on Feb. 24, 2015. And, despite DNA evidence and surveillance footage of the attack, no arrests have been made. As the anniversary nears, the Special Victims Division detective on the case is pleading for anyone with information to send a tip through the CrimeStoppers website or call the hotline.
"She was just a baby," said Det. Diane Crowley. "This is the worst of the worst."
Surveillance footage shows a young man in tan cargo pants, wearing a blue jacket with a hood and a hat. His face is blurry, but it's not impossible to recognize. Part of the problem, Crowley thinks, is the suspect was also young, probably 14 to 16 years old. She thinks people are afraid of being wrong and turning in an innocent kid.
"Obviously with the forensic evidence, there's no way the wrong kid will go to jail for this," she said. "I just think after three years, you told somebody, you told part of it to somebody. A mom saw it. Someone knows something."
There's a reward of more than $22,000 for any tips leading to an arrest.
Crowley is haunted by the case. She said when she arrived to the hospital, the little girl in a bed, still in her uniform, but it was ripped and dirty. Her glasses were askew.
She had a hard time explaining the attack to police.
"She had to describe things that happened to her that she didn't even have the vocabulary for," Crowley said. "She'd never seen a male body before."
She was on the BX 19 bus to East Tremont, where she transfers to another bus to go home. She said he grabbed her when she got off, then walked her into an alley at 2064 Daley Avenue, the first building off 179th Street.
The alley is sunken — not something easily seen from the street, but there's turf covering one of the walls.
After the attack, she ran and called her mother and they went to the hospital, which collected forensic evidence. Crowley set to work. It took police days to find the crime location because the little girl didn't know where she was.
They followed up on hundreds of leads, talked to any gang members in the possibility it was some sort of initiation. They combed through bus footage. The victim didn't remember seeing him at school, but it looked like he might have also have been wearing a uniform.
"I think most sex crimes are about opportunity. She happened to be an easy target," Crowley said. "But when you find a 12 year old and you saw I'm going to kill you ... it's a real cowardly attack," she said.
Crowley said the girl has had ups and downs. She's anxious and can't sleep, struggles in school, but she's growing into a smart young woman and is doing her best.
"But, her innocence was taken. The twinkle in her eye dimmed out," she said. "I would love nothing more than to bring her and her family justice."
Trump Signs Sexual Assault Bill to Protect Young Athletes
The new law will require adults who interact with young athletes to report suspected child abuse within 24 hours to local law enforcement
by Amy Rock
Last week, President Donald Trump signed into law legislation to prevent amateur athletes from being sexually abused, a response to the sexual abuse of hundreds of young athletes by Larry Nassar.
Nassar, the former team doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, has been given two concurrent sentences of 40 to 175 years and 40 to 125 years in prison for sexually abusing hundreds of young athletes.
The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act , created by several Nassar victims and sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), aims to improve state reporting rules by requiring adults who interact with young athletes to report suspected child abuse within 24 hours to local law enforcement, reports The Indy Star .
Many women who spoke out regarding their abuse by Nassar said it took them years to realize they were being abused. Under the new act, the 10-year statute of limitations will not start until the victim realizes he or she has been abused and athletes under the age of 18 cannot be alone with an adult who isn't their parent.
The new law also directs the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a group who is responsible for making sure abuse reports are investigated, to create policies that require U.S. Olympic Committee organizations to report suspected child abuse .
The center opened last year and was created so individual sports groups don't have to handle sexual abuse and other misconduct allegations on their own.
A bipartisan group of 18 senators is pushing for a congressional committee to investigate how the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics may have enabled Nassar's abuse. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) says there is ample evidence that many members of both groups were told of the abuse but looked the other way.
Trump's signing of the bill also comes as his administration deals with its own abuse scandals. White House staff secretary Rob Porter and speechwriter David Sorensen both resigned last week following allegations of domestic abuse.
Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of women's empowerment group UltraViolet, says although she is happy to see the bill become a law, it is “deeply disturbing” that Trump was the one to sign it, according to The Huffington Post .
“Protecting children from sexual abuse must be a top priority for everyone in this country, and this bill is an important first step,” Chaudhary wrote in a statement. “But watching Donald Trump ? a man who has been accused of sexual harassment or assault by more than 20 women ? be the one to sign this legislation into law is deeply disturbing. … In the last week alone, Trump repeatedly supported and sympathized with abusers over the survivors of abuse, and all amid reports that he feels the #MeToo movement is bad for businesses. The idea that he can sit in the White House and pretend to be a champion for the abused is absurd.”
President Trump defended Porter and has not addressed his two ex-wives who made the domestic abuse allegations.
“He says he's innocent, and I think you have to remember that,” Trump said speaking to reporters at the White House. “He said very strongly yesterday that he's innocent.”
Explosive Report Says USA Swimming Covered Up Hundreds Of Sexual Abuse Cases
The report paints a picture reminiscent of the USA Gymnastics sexual abuse scandal
by Alanna Vagianos
USA Gymnastics may not be the only Olympic organization that has a systemic problem with sexual abuse.
A lengthy investigative report from the Southern California News Group ? published Friday at one of the group's newspapers, the Orange County Register ? says that USA Swimming ignored or covered up hundreds of sexual abuse cases over the course of decades. The report is reminiscent of the recent USA Gymnastics scandal involving former team doctor and convicted pedophile Larry Nassar ? where the people in power cared only about winning and safeguarding the sport's image, subsequently protecting and enabling an abuser to prey on young athletes.
Citing court documents and internal communications, the SCNG report says USA Swimming enabled hundreds of predators, most of whom were coaches, and allowed a culture of abuse where it was accepted for older coaches to have sexual relationships with underage athletes. The article centers on Chuck Wielgus, the former USA Swimming executive director who died in April of complications from colon cancer.
“USA Swimming repeatedly missed opportunities to overhaul a culture within American swimming where the sexual abuse of underage swimmers by their coaches and others in positions of power within the sport was commonplace and even accepted by top officials and coaches, according to the documents and interviews with sexual abuse survivors, former Olympians, USA Swimming officials, safe sport advocates and some of USA Swimming's leading financial benefactors,” the SCNG report states.
USA Swimming did not respond to SCNG's requests for comment, the Register article notes. USA Swimming did not respond to HuffPost's request for comment for this story.
SCNG sifted through hundreds of USA Swimming memos, emails, court records, law enforcement interviews and congressional reports, and concluded that the organization has been “unwilling to take on its coach-centric power base and obsessed with protecting its image and brand.”
The investigation made five principal claims:
Top USA Swimming executives, officials and coaches knew of multiple sexual predators in coaching positions for years and did nothing to stop it.
Since 1997, at least 590 alleged victims of sexual abuse have been identified in the USA Swimming world. At least 252 coaches and officials have been arrested, charged or disciplined by USA Swimming for sexual assault or sexual misconduct against athletes under the age of 18. In four of the past six years, “at least 20 swim coaches have been arrested, charged or convicted for sex crimes ranging from rape, sexually assaulting a 3-year-old and 8-year-old, statutory rape, child pornography to secretly videotaping underage swimmers in locker-rooms,” the report notes.
At least 30 USA swim coaches or officials have been “flagged” by USA Swimming after being accused of or arrested for sexual abuse or child pornography by law enforcement. Most of the coaches and officials on the flagged list were able to continue working in the swim world. Some officials were not banned from the sport even after they had been convicted of felonies.
Over the years, USA Swimming has been quick to spend money to settle sexual abuse cases before they can hit the public radar. Between 2006 and 2016, USA Swimming spent $7,450,000 on legal fees. It's not clear how much of that money was spent to settle sexual abuse cases, but SCNG notes that USA Swimming “arranged settlement agreements in at least three states with victims of alleged sexual abuse by swim coaches before the cases were even filed with a court.”
USA Swimming shelled out over $75,000 to lobbying firms to mobilize against California legislation that would have made it easer for sexual abuse survivors to sue their attackers and the organizations they worked for in civil suits.
Mike Saltzstein, a former member of USA Swimming's board of directors, told SCNG that the organization's goal is to ensure its brand stays clean at all costs.
“I'm not sure there's the institutional incentive, intestinal fortitude, guts, if you will, to do what needs to be done,” he said. “Their attitude is let's smooth things over. Let's hide things.”
Former Olympic swimmer Ariana Kukors recently said that her longtime coach Sean Hutchison sexually abused her for nearly a decade. Kukors, now 28, said Hutchison began “grooming” her when she was 13, after he became her coach at King Aquatic, a swimming club in Seattle.
“I never thought I would share my story because, in so many ways, just surviving was enough,” Kukors said. “I was able to leave a horrible monster and build a life I could have never imagined for myself. But in time, I've realized that stories like my own are too important to go unwritten.”
Kukors said Hutchison waited to have sex with her until she was 18, and the two later moved in together. The swimmer described Hutchison as manipulative, jealous and verbally abusive. Hutchison has reportedly denied the allegations.
Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a former Olympic swimmer and founder of the advocacy group Champion Women, told SCNG it's somewhat common for top coaches to marry swimmers they once coached. That culture, she says, is wildly problematic.
“When the organization allows for marriages, allows for the 11-year-old to see her 18-year-old teammate who she thinks is a peer, she thinks they are the same, they go to the same meets, they're staying in the same hotel, they are working out together, then she sees that [older swimmer] marrying their coach so she thinks this is true love and doesn't recognize what an inappropriate situation this is,” Hogshead-Makar said.
President Donald Trump signed a bill into law last week that aims to protect amateur athletes from sexual abuse by regulating the governing bodies of amateur athletics, like USA Swimming. The legislation requires coaches and other sport officials to report any abuse allegations to police within a 24-hour period, and extends the statute of limitations to up to 10 years after a person realizes they were abused. The bill also limits athletes under the age of 18 from being alone with an adult who isn't their parent.
“[This bill] goes across all amateur sports, not just gymnastics, not just swimming ? it's all amateur sports to protect all kids,” Jeanette Antolin, a former gymnast who was abused by Nassar, told HuffPost in January. “Because all kids should be able to go and do sports without having to worry about adult predators.”
Head over to the Orange County Register to read the report in full.
Call for register for victims of child abuse in Wales
by the BBC
A record of children under four who have suffered physical trauma should be kept on a national register, according to a leading paediatrician.
Dr Dewi Evans is urging Health Secretary Vaughan Gething to keep a central statutory register of victims.
New figures have shown local authorities across Wales conducted more than 3,000 investigations into physical trauma over three years.
The Welsh Government said it will consider the suggestion.
A freedom of information request from BBC Wales' Newyddion 9 found 10 councils had investigated a combined 3,026 reports of physical trauma in children under four between 2014 and 2017.
Physical trauma is widely defined as physical injuries, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect.
Torfaen council investigated the most cases, with 599 over three years.
But a spokesman said the figures were taken from the point of initial contact and other local authorities could have recorded the figures in a different way.
Physical trauma cases in children under four investigated by councils (2014-17)
Torfaen - 599
Rhondda Cynon Taff - 483
Swansea - 441
Flintshire - 411
Newport - 312
Pembrokeshire - 265
Conwy - 149
Bridgend - 138
Wrexham - 122
Monmouthshire - 106
Vale of Glamorgan council provided figures for all children so have not been included. and the remaining councils did not respond.
Dr Evans, a specialist witness across the UK and Ireland in cases of babies who are abused, believes the figures are very high - and could be much higher.
"From only 10 councils - a thousand children under four [each year] - I would have thought most of these are babies," he said.
"The figures don't shock me but they will shock the public in general as you don't hear about most of the cases - as the media aren't allowed to report on them. You only hear of serious cases like murder.
"But if you look at these figures there are over 40 children a week in Wales who need some kind of review because of allegations of abuse."
An NSPCC Wales spokesman said: "The true number of offences committed against children is unknown because many victims do not come forward and others may not even realise they have been abused.
"The NSPCC has called for a UK government-commissioned prevalence study on child abuse and neglect - sooner rather than later - to shed further light on the true scale of the problem."
Number of child sexual abuse victims in Rotherham raised to 1,510
National Crime Agency analysis suggests number is higher than 1,400 identified in 2014 Jay report
by Josh Halliday
The number of children believed to have been sexually exploited in Rotherham has been raised to 1,510, in the first official increase in the figure since the scandal erupted four years ago.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) detectives revealed the updated figure on Tuesday in a briefing on Operation Stovewood, the investigation into child sexual exploitation over a 16-year period in the South Yorkshire town. Prof Alexis Jay's report in 2014 identified 1,400 victims .
The NCA inquiry, the biggest of its kind in the UK, has identified 110 suspects, of whom 80% are of Pakistani heritage, officers said.
Of the 110, 38 have been arrested, 18 have been charged, two cautioned and four have been convicted and handed prison sentences totalling over 30 years.
Thirty-four investigations are continuing under the Operation Stovewood umbrella, officers said, with six trials to take place later this year.
Of the 1,510 potential victims, detectives said 260 – 17% – were speaking to officers but that police aimed to talk to every victim. The vast majority of victims were white British girls aged 11 to 18, police said.
Paul Williamson, the senior investigating officer on Operation Stovewood, described the inquiry as “a unique and unprecedented investigation, challenging in its scale and complexity”.
He said: “The momentum and pace of the inquiry is increasing and that will continue to increase. Justice is being rendered and I've got a very, very committed team that's working on a very worthy mission.”
Williamson said a “toxic mix” of factors let abusers go almost unchecked in Rotherham from about 1997 to 2013, when the scandal first broke.
He said a failure by police to listen, safeguard and investigate the reports had led to a corrosive lack of trust among victims that the NCA was still trying to break down.
He added: “Rotherham is very much moving on as a town from the factors that led to these issues. It's a toxic mix of a number of factors that undoubtedly have occurred and that are related in the scale of what we've found.”
Detectives said the £10m investigation, which began in 2015, had disrupted the town's street grooming gangs but there were still “a handful” of high-risk abusers at large.
The majority of the offending took place in Rotherham, officers said, but detectives had heard one case of a victim being taken to Pakistan to be abused and there was evidence of trafficking across other northern towns and as far south as Bristol.
The complex nature of the investigation meant that more suspects were being identified all the time, Williamson said. In one case, a survivor led police to identify 17 other victims, 30 suspects and 27 possible crime scenes.
Operation Stovewood involves 144 officers working on 34 distinct investigations, but Williamson said he hoped to increase his team to between 200 and 250 people.
He said the operation was at a “very, very early stage” and that it was committing to supporting victims “no matter how long or challenging investigations are”.
Williamson added: “We will not falter in our commitment as an agency to this task. The identification and bringing to justice of offenders is what what we'll be judged on.”
The NCA's inquiry is into allegations of non-familial child sexual exploitation in Rotherham from 1997 to 2013. South Yorkshire police is investigating allegations dating from 2014.
More than a dozen new victims of child sex abuse every day
by Dandra Dick
MORE than a dozen child sex offences are being recorded in Scotland ever day on average, it has emerged.
Fresh calls have been made for improved support to help young victims cope with their ordeal, but child welfare watchdogs warn the care system may not be up to the job.
Children's charity NSPCC Scotland warn that care for child sex abuse victims is “patchy and inconsistent”, with recovery services under strain and vital support left to the third sector.
It said existing services designed to guide children through the psychological and emotional stress of harrowing sex crimes are “fragile” and unable to meeting rising demand.
The charity is now renewing its call for a shift towards the creation of a dedicated “Children's House” model that would draw a range of provision, including medical, forensic and therapeutic services, under one roof.
Figures obtained by the charity from the Scottish Government after being collated by Police Scotland show a rise in child sex offences last year with 4,762 offences recorded by Police Scotland in 2016/17 - an average of 13 a day. The figure is up 9 per cent from 4,368 in the previous year.
The most common form of offence related to indecent images of children, while a number of cases are believed to relate to non-recent child sexual offences.
The rise is being put down in part to police improving recording methods and victims feeling more confident in disclosing abuse following high-profile cases.
The figures follow a similar trend UK-wide where the number of offences has increased from 56,324 to 64,667 over the same period.
Matt Forde, national head of service for NSPCC Scotland, said: “Sexual abuse can destroy a child's life, leaving them feeling ashamed and depressed or even suicidal, so it takes incredible courage to come forward and report this to the authorities.
“That improved confidence is welcomed but our greatest concern is that, against this backdrop of increasing offending and reporting, our recent research of data and integrated children's plans across the country found very little provision to help victims recover following sexual abuse.
“Many services that do exist are fragile, insecure and unable to meet demand and this picture has not changed in the past 10 years.
“This has to change so children and young people who have been sexually abused can get the vital help they need to rebuild their lives.”
Research from NSPCC Scotland in November last year revealed that despite a rise in child sex abuse cases, there is no uniform response to tackling the consequences of abuse suffered by many survivors.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Children's safety and care is a key priority for us, and we are identifying where the system can be strengthened to ensure children receive the right help at the right time.
“This includes exploring how the principles of Barnahus – a multi-agency, holistic response for child victims of sexual abuse under the one roof – may fit within a Scottish context.
“The Chief Medical Officer for Scotland provides national leadership to the Rape and Sexual Assault Taskforce, which also has a focus on the standards for the clinical pathway for children who have experienced sexual abuse.
“Last year we published a new national action plan to help protect children and young people online. This includes actions to help children and young people develop the necessary skills to stay safe while using the internet, and to support parents and carers to be more aware of the potential risks. It also sets out our commitment to continue to work with digital and social media providers to ensure children are not exposed to harm.”
American hero saves teens from sex trafficking
by Natalie O'Neill
A quick-thinking American Airlines ticket agent saved two California teens from a human trafficking scheme — in which they were lured to New York with a promise of performing in a “music video,” authorities said.
The ticket taker, Denice Miracle, spotted the girls, ages 15 and 17, looking nervous at Sacramento International Airport on Aug. 31, Miracle said in a statement released by American Airlines.
“Between the two of them, they had a bunch of small bags,” Miracle said. “It seemed to me as if they were running away from home. They kept looking at each other in a way that seemed fearful and anxious. I had a gut feeling that something just wasn't right.”
The teens had one-way first-class tickets bought under a different name — but no guardian or proper IDs, so she called the police.
“I told a supervisor, ‘I'm going to call the sheriff. It just doesn't feel right to me,'” she said, according to the local station KOVR.
Officers learned a man named “Drey” — who had met the teens on Instagram — bought them the plane tickets to the Big Apple. He had promised to pay them $2,000 to model and act in a music video, law enforcement sources told the station.
But when Sacramento County sheriff deputies sent “Drey” a message on Instagram, he quickly deleted his account, according to KOVR.
“Just a few minutes after our contact with him, he erased all of his profiles on social media,” Deputy Todd Sanderson told the station.
The teens had no clue their plane tickets were only one-way, Sanderson said.
“They were somewhat flippant about [it],” Sanderson said. [“They said] ‘No, that can't be true' — and I said, ‘No, the airline says you have a one-way ticket, and in my belief, you're going back there not to do the things that you think you were going to be doing.' And they said, ‘I wouldn't let anything happen that I didn't want.' And I said, ‘Well, you probably wouldn't have a choice in the matter.'”
Miracle's attention to detail may have saved the girls' lives, American Airlines said.
“I'm proud of Denice and how she put her training into action to save these children,” said AA General Manager Aleka Turner. “She is a testament to the critical role our frontline team members play each and every day in the operation and the lives of each person they come in contact with.”
Illegal immigrant accused of molesting, raping 7-year-old girl and her mother
by Bob Price
Officials in Louisiana charged an illegal immigrant from Mexico with raping a 7-year-old girl over a period of six months. Less than three weeks later, prosecutors charged the man with molesting the child's mother in 2003 when she was only 11-years-old.
The 43-year-old Mexican national, Daniel Hernandez Del Angel, has been illegally living in the country for the last 22 years, reported WGNO in Metairie, Louisiana.
Officers with the Bossier Parish Sheriff's Office started to investigate Del Angel in early 2017 when the allegations about raping the 7-year-old girl surfaced.
According to the ABC affiliate in Louisiana, police arrested the illegal immigrant on January 25 and charged him with first-degree rape and molestation of a juvenile.
Less than three weeks later, prosecutors charged Del Angel with sexually assaulting the girl's mother in 2003 when she was only 11-years-old. The alleged sexual molestation occurred at least two times.
Bossier Parish law enforcement authorities told the ABC affiliate that the illegal immigrant has known the victims' family for at least 20 years.
Del Angel is in custody in the Bossier Maximum Security Facility with a $550,000 bond. Louisiana officials are cooperating U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Breitbart continues to report about criminal illegal immigrants who unlawfully re-enter the country after deportation. Many are sex offenders.
A week ago, Breitbart Texas reported that two previously deported criminal aliens, one convicted of aggravated sexual assault, and the other for drug trafficking, were again convicted of unlawful re-entry after removal. A federal judge sentenced them to 30 and 27 months of federal prison time, respectively. Border Patrol agents arrested them last summer after they illegally re-entered.
In November 2017, Border Patrol agents assigned to the Tucson Sector arrested two previously deported child sex offenders and a member of the Sureño 13 street gang. During a background investigation, the agents learned that 34-year-old Abigael Calvo-Calvo, a Mexican national, has a criminal history that includes a conviction in San Mateo County, California, for “Lewd and Lascivious Acts with a Child Under 14.” The conviction occurred in 2012.
Earlier in November, Border Patrol Agents in Texas and Arizona stopped more previously deported sex offenders from illegally re-entering the U.S. The arrests included two criminal aliens with histories of sex crimes against children – including sexual assault of a child, and Lewd and Lascivious Acts with a Child Under 14.
Calvo-Calvo now faces new criminal charges for felony re-entry after being deported as a registered sex offender.
Recently, Breitbart Texas reported that agents in the same sector in Arizona arrested a previously deported child sex offender after he illegally crossed from Mexico. In a separate incident, agents arrested a previously deported man with a felony conviction for child abuse. Border Patrol agents conducted a biometric background investigation and records revealed that a Las Vegas, Nevada, court previously convicted the Mexican national, 41-year-old Angel Bautista-Sanchez, for “lewd or lascivious acts with a minor.” Following his 2013 conviction, immigration officers deported the criminal alien.
Bautista now faces federal felony charges of aggravated re-entry after being removed as a sex offender.
Child sex trafficking victim witnesses must be protected
by Yasmin Vafa and Cherice Hopkins
Last month we observed National Human Trafficking Awareness month, and a growing number of people became aware of the pervasive problem of children being bought and sold for sex across our country. The month also served as an opportunity to learn how much farther we have to go in fully securing the rights and needs of survivors.
Across the country, our message is spreading that there is No Such Thing as a ‘child prostitute' and that child sex trafficking victims are in fact victims of gender-based violence and child abuse who should be met with protections and services. But there are still far too many instances of child sex trafficking survivors receiving fewer protections and support than survivors of other forms of violence and abuse. One glaring example is the availability of protections for trafficking survivors who testify in criminal proceedings.
Rights4Girls, in partnership with Thomson Reuters Foundation's Trustlaw, recently released a new report on innovative protections for child sex trafficking victim witnesses. The report, Survivor Protection: Reducing the Risk of Trauma to Child Sex Trafficking Victims , describes ways to extend existing courtroom protections afforded to other victims of gender violence and child abuse, to survivors of child sex trafficking who testify at trial.
Child sex trafficking involves psychological, sexual, and often physical abuse of victims by both traffickers and sex buyers. When called to testify against their exploiters, these children can experience much of the same re-traumatization as survivors of other forms of abuse. Research has shown that child abuse victims can experience significant stress and trauma when testifying in court, even when they wish to testify as part of their healing journey. This is particularly true in adult criminal proceedings because the defendant is often someone the child knows, the defendant's freedom often hinges on the child's testimony, and the child is made to publicly recount personal and violent details of their abuse. While some jurisdictions have developed methods that reduce the risk of emotional and psychological distress to victims of child abuse who testify in court, these protections are often unavailable to child sex trafficking survivors.
One method of protection is the use of closed circuit television (CCTV) which allows children to testify in a room other than the courtroom, away from the defendant and the public. However, in nearly half of the country this protection is unavailable to child sex trafficking survivors. This gap in protections is all the more startling considering that eighteen states allow victims of other forms of child abuse to testify via CCTV but simply don't extend this protection to victims of child sex trafficking.
Even in the states where CCTV is available to child trafficking victims, limitations often apply. In over half of these states, CCTV is only an option for children who are thirteen years old or younger, even though most child sex trafficking victims are identified between the ages of thirteen and seventeen. Sadly, only three states extend this protection to minors of all ages. What's more, in several states, it is insufficient to prove that the survivor will experience significant trauma by testifying before the defendant or in open court. Rather, in order to use CCTV, the court must find that the child's trauma will impact their ability to communicate, demonstrating that the true priority is not on protecting the child's well-being but on protecting the child's testimony.
Holding traffickers and exploiters accountable for their crimes against children is an important component of eradicating domestic child sex trafficking. However, we cannot let the pursuit of justice overshadow the vital need to protect survivors, the very people who were harmed. It is urgent that we prioritize the physical and psychological needs of child victims first, and extend to child sex trafficking survivors the full scope of protections granted to other victims of child abuse and violence.
Yasmin Vafa, Executive Director, Rights4Girls and Cherice Hopkins, Staff Attorney, Rights4Girls.
The impacts of child abuse, through the eyes of an officer
by Caroline Rourke
SPOKANE, Wash. - As the first ones to arrive on the scene of a crime, law enforcement officers see the impacts of child abuse firsthand.
“It's something that you don't get over quickly- it may never leave you,” said Spokane Police Officer John O'Brien. “It doesn't get easier to deal with. It's really hard to understand what's going on in the minds of a parent or guardian that would do that to a child,” he said.
He says child abuse can affect anyone, in any situation. It's not limited to a certain neighborhood or demographic. That's part of what makes it difficult to address.
“A crime against an adult is horrible as it is, but when you have an innocent, defenseless child who doesn't know they're going to be victimized it's devastating. There's no way for that child to fight back or protect themselves,” O'Brien said.
Especially when a child's life ends because of abuse.
“Officers, you know we have this uniform and we have a tough exterior at times but we are human and we have those same emotions it's hard to see a child killed at the hands of another person,” O'Brien said.
When law enforcement responds to a child abuse call, they have a chance to break the cycle of abuse. That's something that sticks with them.
“You often wonder did that make a difference? Did that turn the tide for them, that they've got clean, done any of the programs that have learned how to be a parent? Because parenting is not easy at times,” O'Brien said.
That's why -- police say--- the community's help- is so critical.
“We can do our part, but we also want the community to help us do that part to say something to partner with us so that we can stop or do our best to at least reduce or eliminate child abuse,” O'Brien said.
How to recognise and respond to potential child abuse and neglect
by Lisa Cooper
In October 2017, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence published guidance to support health and social care professionals in recognising and responding to abuse and neglect in children and young people aged under 18 years. Pharmacists and pharmacy teams should be aware of their roles and responsibilities as outlined in this guidance.
Abuse and neglect are key safeguarding issues that can affect any child or young person, irrespective of their age, ethnicity, religious beliefs or social background. The abuse and neglect of children and young people (defined as all those who have not yet reached their 18th birthday) can take place in a family, institution, community or internet-based environment, and the abuse could be perpetrated by those known to them or by a stranger, including abuse by an adult, multiple adults, a child or children.
Official statistics on how many children and young people have been identified by the authorities as being at risk of, or experiencing, abuse or neglect are limited, as many children and young people do not recognise that they are being abused or neglected; therefore, they are unlikely to report it. However, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, a UK charity, estimates that more than 500,000 children are abused in the UK each year, while the Children's Commissioner's inquiry estimated that in March 2016 there were at least 199,720 children in need as a result of neglect or abuse.
In October 2017, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the health technology assessment body, published guidance to support health and social care professionals in recognising and responding to abuse and neglect in people under the age of 18 years. The full guideline covers physical, sexual and emotional abuse, and neglect, and aims to help all healthcare professionals, including pharmacists and pharmacy teams, to spot signs of abuse and neglect, and inform them of what should be done in response.
All pharmacists and pharmacy teams are likely to encounter children during the course of their normal working activities. This puts them in a unique position to observe signs of abuse or neglect, and changes in behaviour that may indicate a child could be being abused or neglected.
This article will provide definitions for child abuse and neglect; outline the potential signs and indicators, including how pharmacy professionals may be able to spot signs of abuse; the role of pharmacists and pharmacy teams; and helpful techniques to support effective communication and information gathering.
Definitions of child abuse and neglect
The term ‘child abuse and neglect' includes all forms of physical and emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect and exploitation that results in actual or potential harm to a child or young person's health, development or dignity.
Abuse and neglect are forms of maltreatment, and individuals may abuse or neglect a child by either inflicting harm or by failing to act to prevent it. As such, abuse can also be a lack of love, care and attention, which can be just as damaging as physical abuse. Child abuse and neglect can have major long-term impacts on all aspects of the person's health, development and wellbeing, and can last into adulthood.
Types of child abuse can also include domestic abuse, bullying, cyber-bullying (online abuse), child sexual exploitation and female genital mutilation. An extensive list of what constitutes child abuse can be found in the NICE guidance. It is important to recognise that an abused child or young person will often experience more than one type of abuse over a period of time, rather than the abuse being a one-off event. It is unlikely that an affected person will tell you that they are being abused or neglected.
Recognising and responding to the signs and possible symptoms of child abuse and neglect can be difficult. Many healthcare professionals, including pharmacists and pharmacy teams, will face multiple challenges when working with children, young people and their families when child abuse is a concern. These include:
Knowing ‘when to be worried';
Being able to assess levels of risk and need;
Being aware of which interventions are effective when there are early signs of abuse and neglect;
Knowing which interventions are effective in helping children and young people to recover following child abuse and neglect, and how to support families in which there has been child abuse and neglect.
Signs and indicators of possible child abuse and neglect
Identifying child abuse and neglect can be challenging and, as such, it can be difficult to take early action to protect a child or young person from abuse. The signs and symptoms outlined in Box 1 are possible indicators that a child or young person is at risk of, or suffering from, abuse and/or neglect.
Box 1: Possible indicators and warning signs that a child or young person is at risk of suffering from abuse and/or neglect
Changes in behaviour or emotional state (e.g. recurrent nightmares, extreme distress, appearing withdrawn or displaying aggression) that are a departure from what would be expected for their age and developmental stage, and is not fully explained by a known stressful situation (e.g. bereavement, parental separation or medical cause);
Dissociation (transient episodes of detachment that are outside the child's control and that are distinguished from daydreaming, seizures or deliberate avoidance of interaction) that is not fully explained by a known traumatic event unrelated to maltreatment;
Poor appearance and hygiene (e.g. smelly, dirty, unwashed clothes, inadequate clothing, seeming hungry or turning up to school without having breakfast or any lunch money, frequent and untreated nappy rash in infants);
Health and development concerns (e.g. untreated injuries, dental problems, repeated accidental injuries caused by lack of supervision, recurring illnesses or infections, missed vaccinations, poor muscle tone or prominent joints, skin sores, rashes, flea bites, scabies or ringworm, thin or swollen abdomen, anaemia, tiredness, faltering weight or growth or not reaching developmental milestones [known as failure to thrive], poor language, communication or social skills);
Housing and family concerns (e.g. living in an unsuitable home environment including having no heating, sanitation or clean water, and being left alone for periods of time without a carer or other family members);
Substance or alcohol misuse;
Eating disorders/disordered eating;
Bullying or being bullied;
Missing/running away from home or care;
Sexual behaviour that is inappropriate for age, indiscriminate, precocious or coercive.
Further detailed information on the clinical features of abuse and neglect (including physical injury) are covered in the NICE guideline (CG89) on child maltreatment.
Role of pharmacists and pharmacy professionals
Pharmacists and pharmacy professionals should be aware of child abuse and neglect, and its impact on health, in order to be able to identify its signs and indicators in the children and young people they work or come into contact with. Pharmacists and pharmacy professionals in all sectors should be aware of their responsibilities and will need to work with colleagues from other disciplines and agencies to provide appropriate care for these individuals. A number of publications have highlighted the responsibilities of all healthcare professionals in these situations.
Children and young people affected by abuse and neglect can present to a wide range of health settings with a range of physical and/or emotional problems. In particular, pharmacists and pharmacy professionals should:
Understand their role in identifying children and young people at risk of, or experiencing, abuse and neglect;
Be able to identify the risks, warning signs and indicators of abuse and neglect;
Recognise that children and young people who are being abused or neglected may find it very difficult to tell someone; therefore, they must communicate and engage with them in a way that develops trust — this may enable them to discuss their issues;
Know and understand their organisational and multi-agency safeguarding arrangements and processes, including who to contact when concerned about a child or young person;
Know how to contact their lead safeguarding professional for advice and support;
Share information with and make referrals as appropriate to other agencies (e.g. police and children's social care).
Some healthcare professionals may feel uncomfortable raising concerns relating to the abuse and neglect of children and young people for a number of reasons, including: the discomfort of disbelieving, suspecting or wrongly blaming a parent or carer; fear of complaints; and fear for personal safety. However, these should not prevent healthcare professionals from following the appropriate course of action to prevent further harm to the child or young person.
Safeguarding is of paramount importance, and must be the first priority, because all children and young people have the right to be safe and protected from harm. For all healthcare professionals, irrespective of their role, safeguarding children and young people is everyone's responsibility.
To fulfil these responsibilities, all pharmacists and pharmacy staff should have access to the appropriate single-agency safeguarding training, and multi-agency training, which is offered by local safeguarding children's boards. The intercollegiate safeguarding training competencies provides a clear framework for this.
Identifying and responding to abuse and/or neglect
There are four key steps to follow to help healthcare staff identify and respond appropriately to possible abuse and/or neglect:
Step 1: Being alert to the signs
Be alert to the signs of abuse and neglect, and understand the procedures set out in your local multi-agency safeguarding arrangements. Consider what training would support you in your role and what is available in your area.
Step 2: Questioning behaviours
The signs of child abuse and neglect may not always be obvious, and a child or young person might not tell anyone what is happening to them. Question behaviours if something seems unusual and try to speak to the child or young person alone, if appropriate, to seek further information.
If a child or young person reports that they are being abused and neglected, you should listen to them; take their allegation seriously, and reassure them that you will take action to keep them safe. You might refer directly to children's social care and/or the police, or discuss your concerns with others and ask for help. At all times, you should explain to the child or young person the action that you are taking. It is important to maintain confidentiality, but you should not promise that you will not tell anyone, as you may need to do so in order to protect the child or young person.
Step 3: Asking for help
Concerns about a child's welfare can vary greatly in terms of nature and seriousness, how they have been identified and over what duration they have arisen. If you have concerns about a child, you should ask for help. Discuss your concerns with your manager or named/designated professional.
It should be remembered that if you have concerns about the safety or welfare of a child or young person and believe they are not being acted upon by your manager or named/designated safeguarding lead, it is your responsibility to take action.
Step 4: Referring
If a pharmacist (or other healthcare professional) has concerns about a child's or young person's welfare (or believes they are at risk of harm), they should share the information with the local authority children's social care, and/or the police, in line with local procedures. Security of information sharing must always be considered and should be proportionate to the sensitivity of the information and the circumstances. If it is thought that a crime has been committed and/or a child or young person is at immediate risk, the police should be notified without delay. More information can be found in Box 2: ‘Information sharing'.
Box 2: Information sharing
When there is a suspicion that a child or young person is being abused or neglected, this suspicion must be shared with other appropriate agencies, even where there may be issues with consent.
Sharing information can mean the difference between life and death for a child or young person. The effective identification, disruption, intervention, protection and prosecution of perpetrators of child abuse and neglect depend on effective multi-agency working.
Further support regarding the sharing of information can be obtained by contacting local named and designated safeguarding professionals or by accessing the information-sharing guide.
Communicating with children and young people
Good communication between healthcare professionals and the child or young person, as well as with their families and carers, is essential. Take a child-centred approach to all work with children and young people, and ensure they are involved in decision-making depending on their age and developmental stage.
Use a range of methods, such as drawing, books or activities (as appropriate), for communicating with children and young people. Communication should be tailored to their age and developmental stage, and take into account any disabilities (e.g. learning disabilities, neurodevelopmental disorders, and hearing and visual impairments). Also consider their communication needs by using communication aids or providing an interpreter (ensuring that the interpreter is not a family member).
When having conversations with children and young people, remember the following:
Explain confidentiality and when you might need to share specific information, and with whom;
Be sensitive and empathetic;
Listen actively and use open questions;
Find out their views and wishes;
Check your understanding of what the child has told you;
Be sensitive to any religious or cultural beliefs;
Use plain language and explain any technical terms;
Work at the child or young person's pace;
Give them opportunities to stop the conversation or leave the room, and follow up if this does happen;
Explain what will happen next and when;
Make sure that conversations take place somewhere private where the child or young person feels comfortable.
Pharmacists and pharmacy staff should remember that children and young people, for a variety of reasons, often do not directly disclose abuse and neglect. As key healthcare professionals who come into regular contact with children and young people, they should ensure they know how to engage and talk with younger people in a way that builds a trusting relationship.
There are six key messages young people affected by abuse have said they want from healthcare professionals:
They want to be listened to, heard and believed;
They do not want to have to keep explaining what happened to them over and over again;
They want to be involved in decisions about their lives, and be updated on the matters that affect them;
They want healthcare professionals to be realistic and honest, but to do this gently and recognise that it may be difficult for them to hear what they have to say;
They want consistent support from the same person — and, where possible, to have some say in who this person is;
They want to be seen as an individual, not just a service user — someone with potential, just like the professional was at their age.
It should be remembered that the measure of success is not that the young person discloses what has happened — it's that they have been noticed; something has been said; and the young person left feeling that someone cared. All conversations count, and even small signs will encourage people to feel able to talk. ‘Me First' is an education and training resource that provides information, tools and resources to support health staff working with children and young people, that may be useful for pharmacists and pharmacy professionals.
Key points to remember
The health, safety and wellbeing of every child and young person is of paramount importance;
Child abuse and neglect can affect any child or young person;
Children and young people cannot consent to their own abuse;
Safeguarding children and young people is everyone's responsibility;
Share information — no matter how trivial you think it may be;
Use a range of methods for communicating with children and young people that are appropriate to their age, developmental stage, disabilities and communication needs;
Recognise that children and young people who are being abused or neglected may find it difficult to tell someone;
Children and young people who are being abused and neglected may refuse help, but they still need to be safeguarded;
Know your local safeguarding proceedures and who to contact for advice and support;
If you are concerned about a child or young person always seek advice and support from your local named and designated safeguarding professionals.
National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
Telephone: 0808 800 5000
The Children's Society
Telephone: 0800 11 11
Child Exploitation and Online Protection command
NWG Network (formerly The National Working Group for Sexually Exploited Children and Young People)
Missing Children helpline
Telephone: 116 000
Me First Children and Young People Centred Communication
Pennsylvania bill would expand child abuse reporting requirements
by Jo Ciavaglia
The proposed legislation addresses a loophole in the current child protective service law that doesn't require some people to report suspected child abuse or neglect they witness to the state. But some child advocates worry expanding the legal mandate could lead to more erroneous reports.
If someone tells Keith Bidlingmaier a child is being abused or neglected, the volunteer chief of the Fairless Hills Fire Co. is required to report it to child welfare authorities or face potential consequences including arrest.
But if Bidlingmaier personally witnesses suspected abuse outside his volunteer duties, he isn't under the same legal obligation to report it.
It's a loophole in the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law that one Montgomery County lawmaker — a former county prosecutor — wants closed.
Rep. Todd Stephens, R-151, of Horsham, said his legislation would explicitly require mandated child abuse reporters to make a report whenever they witness an abusive act. The bill unanimously passed out of the House Children and Youth Committee in January, the first step toward a full House vote.
“My legislation makes it clear to both mandated reporters and those who train them that reporting child abuse one has personally witnessed is paramount among the responsibilities that come with being a mandated reporter,” Stephens wrote in a co-sponsorship memo.
But the bill has received push-back from some child advocates concerned that it could lead to more erroneous abuse reports creating a backlog that delays child welfare response for children facing imminent danger.
Mandatory reporters include licensed health care workers, school employees, child care service providers, religious leaders, social workers, and other employees and volunteers who have regular, direct interaction with children including youth sports coaches and Sunday school teachers. Last year seven Pennsylvanians were charge with failure to report child abuse, according to state court data.
Stephens said he learned about the reporting gap in the current law from a state organization that provides training in child abuse reporting.
Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance President and CEO Angela Liddle said the gap is something that comes up in virtually every child abuse training the organization does for mandatory reporters.
“People kept saying, ‘This doesn't make sense,'” Liddle said.
“Shouldn't they be required to report what they personally see?” he said. “I think it's pretty simple.”
But it's not simple, according to some child welfare advocates and others.
Some mandated reporters have little, if any, child abuse training and only limited direct contact with children in the course of their job or volunteer service, child welfare advocates said. Pennsylvania doesn't require volunteers be trained in child abuse recognition and reporting, though professionals must update the training every five years.
“If everyone is making calls because we want to avoid legal liability, it may mean we have a bucket of reports that is much bigger than what comes close to constituting child abuse,” said Cathleen Palm, founder and executive director of the Center for Children's Justice , in Berks County. “That has implications in that, what is the magic recipe? Which reports do we respond to? Are we reporting because of liability purpose or because we really believe a child is a victim of abuse?”
State statistics show the vast majority of abuse reports are unfounded and the number is rising.
The number of confirmed abuse reports has declined from 12 percent in 2012 to 10 percent in 2016, the most recent year data was available. Meanwhile, the abuse referrals climbed 68 percent, from 26,352 to 44,359, over that same time period.
The data also shows that it's taking longer to investigate abuse reports, creating a potential backlog that could take longer to work through.
According to ChildLine, the state's child abuse hotline, the number of referrals reviewed within 30 days dropped from 49 percent to 44 percent between 2013 and 2016.
Bidlingmaier, the volunteer fire chief, also expressed concerns that legally mandating people to make judgement calls about things they see outside their volunteer service oversteps boundaries.
“What you don't want to happen is a chilling effect on people who'd want to volunteer,” he said. “That is certainly a concern.”
Liddle acknowledged that the bill could lead to more unfounded child abuse reports, but protecting children has to take priority.
“What is the alternative?” she said.
Child abuse prevention: One in five children sexually assaulted in Shelby County
by Jessica Gertler
SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. -- There have been three child rape cases reported within days in Shelby County, and thousands within the past few months.
"90 percent of the time the abuser is someone that the child knows. 60 percent, it's someone within the family's circle," said Kris Crim with the Memphis Child Advocacy Center .
Crim said many kids will keep the abuse a secret, because they feel confused or scared.
It's why he's been teaching adults about abuse through Stewards of Children program.
The course talks about what to look for.
"Often physical signs are not present. Sometimes they are. Often times they are not. We have to be in tune with emotional behavior. Things that may be happening like too perfect behavior or children acting out in certain ways," he said.
Also, the program addresses conversations to have with children.
"Teaching children that no can be an appropriate response to adults if there's an uncomfortable touch or something that makes them feel uncomfortable," said Crim.
He said studies show one in five children in Shelby County are sexually abused by their 18th birthday. That's double the national average.
"We know that over 80 percent of sexual abuse occurs in isolated one-on-one situations," he said.
Child advocates said predators may not have a prior record or be listed on a sex offender registry.
They can come off as warm and loving to the outside world. It's why they get away with the horrific acts.
It's important to listen to your gut and talk to your child if something just doesn't feel right.
If you suspect abuse, call the Tennessee Child Abuse hotline at 1-877-237-0004. You can remain anonymous, and you don't have to know all the facts.
If you don't report abuse, you can face criminal charges in Mississippi and Tennessee.
For more information about the Stewards for Children program, check out the Child Advocacy Center's open enrollment sessions:
March 7, 1-3:30 p.m., Community Foundation office, 1900 Union Ave.
March 17, 9-11:30 a.m., Memphis Child Advocacy Center, 1085 Poplar Ave,
April 4, 1-3:30 p.m., Community Foundation
April 21, 9-11:30 a.m., Memphis Child Advocacy Center
April 30, 1-3:30 p.m., Community Foundation
Pre-registration is required. Contact Keita Cooley at 888-4362 or email@example.com.
Childhood's emotional wounds call for adult attention
by Philip Chard
“Were you bullied as a child?” I asked Adam.
“Some, but I doubt that has anything to do with my problem,” he replied.
The problem in question was this 35-year-old's social withdrawal, emotional agitation and hostility. Talk therapy and anger management afforded little relief.
Adam's bullying involved several episodes from elementary school when several older boys roughed him up. No serious injuries were involved. As he put it, “They just shoved me to the ground, held me down and made fun of me.”
Embarrassed, he never related the incident to anyone, not even his best friend. Once in middle school, the bullying ceased, and with the passage of time, it seemed less and less significant.
“It was long ago and we were just stupid kids. Looking back, it doesn't seem like a big deal. Lots of kids go through it,” he explained.
“Sounds reasonable, but there's one potential problem with your conclusion,” I chimed in. “You can't think like a kid anymore.”
While adulthood often conveys greater wisdom, allowing us to put seemingly “big deals” in a less dramatic perspective (“Don't sweat the small stuff”), it makes it tougher to remember what it felt like to look out at the world through the eyes of a child. Reconnecting with who we were and how we experienced life as a youngster proves increasingly difficult.
“If we could bring him back, I doubt your 8-year-old self would share your ‘no big deal' attitude toward the bullying,” I offered.
Children have highly malleable brains. When bad things happen to them, what we call “emotional imprinting” often occurs. Depending on the severity of the event in question, the effects of this wounding can be considerable and prolonged.
The interplay between a child's psychological defenses and the intensity of the emotional injury determines the extent and depth of the wound. Trouble is, most kids come poorly defended psychologically, so their capacity
to ameliorate the impact of events like bullying, tragedy, abuse, sexual exploitation, violence (think school shootings) and the like is minimal.
I've heard many adults minimize the emotional damage they sustained due to childhood trauma. This is understandable. After all, as one's age and life experiences increase, it becomes increasingly difficult to regain what it felt like to be a child beset by emotional wounding.
In Adam's case, once he acknowledged his failure to engage in perceptual time travel, we connected the dots between the bullying he endured in grade school and the maladies besetting his adult existence. It left him wary of others, emotionally reactive, insecure and defensive.
Fortunately, newer treatment approaches show considerable promise in blunting the impact of childhood trauma on adult well-being. Chief among these are Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Brainspotting, which focus on “rewiring” emotional reactivity in the brain.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, time does not heal the wounds of childhood trauma, even when one's adult self believes otherwise.
Better to look back through the eyes of a child.
After Perris torture arrests, calls to Riverside County child abuse hotline soar
by Brian Rokos
Calls to the Riverside County Child Protective Services child abuse hotline surged by more than 50 percent in the month since Perris residents David and Louise Turpin were arrested Jan. 14 on suspicion of torturing their children, CPS officials said.
The office logged 3,752 calls reporting suspected abuse from Dec. 14, 2017, to Jan. 13, 2018; followed by 5,761 calls from Jan. 14 to Feb. 13 — an increase of 53.5 percent.
The motivation was unclear.
“A very small amount of callers” mentioned the Turpin case, CPS spokeswoman Mary Parks said.
There are a number of possible explanations for the increase.
For one, Parks said, a rise in calls in January over December is not unusual. Children are out of school for Christmas break in December, which means they are out of sight of teachers and administrators who are required by law to notify authorities if they see a student who appears to have been abused or neglected. So the number of reports in December typically decreases.
For instance, there were 5,041 calls in November 2016. The number fell to 4,400 in December 2016 and rose to 4,685 in January 2017.
Using statistics from the 2016-17 fiscal year as a guide, about 80 percent of those reports would result in an investigation; about 17 percent of those investigations would be substantiated; and 5 percent of the investigations would result in a child being removed from a home.
No one had reported the Turpins to CPS or the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, those agencies said. The parents largely kept their children out of sight by schooling them at home and having them rise at dusk and go to bed at dawn .
“While we do not comment on specific cases, there is obvious public interest and releasing this data helps to highlight abuse and neglect and the importance of calling the hotline,” Parks said.
The Riverside County hotline number is 800-442-4918. Persons outside Riverside County should call the Child Help National Child Abuse Hotline at 800-422-4453.
Notoriety prompts reporting
Calls to myriad hotlines and tip services — terrorism, child abuse and suicide among them — typically increase after a highly publicized event, experts say.
“We have a name for it: reporting effect,” said Professor Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino.
“As agencies become more efficient in identifying particular types of crime and the public becomes more aware, there's often increased reporting,” Levin said.
Levin suspected that guilt may have played a role in the increase in calls to Child Protective Services after the Turpin arrests.
“It certainly wouldn't surprise me, because a significant part of that story included people who identified warning signs and didn't act on them,” he said. “That's why I think this particular case is having a profound effect, the fact that they successfully circumvented authorities.”
The number of calls to a mental health hotline in New York City doubled in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, according to a study posted on the American Journal of Public Health website.
Tips phoned in to a terrorism hotline jumped more than 600 percent over a span of six months after a wave of attacks in the United Kingdom in 2017, according to the Independent. There were 748 calls in January of that year and 5,703 in June.
And in a 1-hour span in November 2017, as the result of the U.S. presidential election hung in the balance overnight, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline received 660 calls — 21/2 times the normal total, the Washington Post reported .
“We didn't see numbers like this in 2008 or 2012,” Lifeline director John Draper told The Post. “This was an extraordinary year by any stretch of the imagination.”
The Turpins are due in Superior Court in Riverside on Friday, Feb. 23, for what is expected to be a routine hearing.
Authorities say the Turpins malnourished 12 of their 13 children , all but the youngest who is 2 years old. The eldest is 29.
The couple is charged with 12 counts each of torture and false imprisonment, as well as six counts of child abuse and seven counts of cruelty to a dependent adult. David Turpin is additionally charged with one count of lewd acts on a child under 14 years old. They have pleaded not guilty.
Local child abuse cases reach five-year high
by Emily Baucum
SAN ANTONIO – New numbers show child abuse cases in Bexar County jumped 35% last year.
The state reports 6,175 local children were abused in 2017. That's a five-year high.
"It replicates what we saw at our emergency shelter,” says Anais Miracle from The Children's Shelter.
So does another number. The state reports 2,367 kids were removed from their homes in Bexar County last year. That's a 25% jump from the year before.
"We saw our emergency shelter at capacity throughout the entire year,” Miracle says.
It's harder to measure why child abuse is on the rise. If there's at all a silver lining, it's that more cases are being reported. Miracle also points to our population growth and substance use among parents.
"Obviously, there's a greater need for services,” she says.
Case in point: the tragedy February 16 at an east side hotel. A four-year-old boy was found beaten to death on a bed. Lying next to him, police say: his mom's intoxicated boyfriend.
"The majority of the children who die of abuse and neglect are under the age of four,” Miracle says.
The case mirrors more state data - that physical abuse in most fatalities involved blunt force trauma, and 60% of the time it's inflicted by a father or boyfriend.
That's why The Children's Shelter offers programs to help young parents stop the cycle of abuse. ( Click here to learn more .)
"What does discipline look like without violence? What does a nurturing parent look like?” Miracle says. “Our examples of parents are our own parents. And so if you've ever experienced abuse or neglect, there's a higher likelihood for that to continue to be repeated."
You can always report suspected child abuse to the state 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by calling 1-800-252-5400.
10-year-old sexual abuse victim opens up as more child rape arrests are made
by Nina Harrelson
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Another accused child predator is off the streets.
Memphis police arrested Antoine Wilson, 27, Thursday morning on charges of child rape and especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor.
He's the fourth person to go to jail on similar charges in just the past week, and the fifth this month.
On the same day his accused sexual abuser faced a judge for the first time, one 10-year-old victim is encouraging other kids to speak up.
His mom's now-ex-boyfriend, 31-year-old James “Trey” Bradshaw, was arrested Wednesday, accused of molesting him repeatedly.
The child kept it a secret for years.
"He said if I told anyone at all that he would hurt me greatly to where I would fear him," he said.
The allegations were finally uncovered earlier this month when the boy told his school counselor.
"I had the chance to do it alone, so I did it. I had to speak out for once," he said.
The news was devastating for his family, who's known Bradshaw for 15 years.
"It was unbelievable," the boy's grandmother said. "I thought, I mean I know the man, there's no way. Something's got to be wrong. But I had to believe my grandson first of all. That was where my heart had to go."
According to an arrest affidavit, Wilson, the latest man arrested on child rape charges, sexually abused a 3- to 5-year-old girl while he recorded it.
In the past couple of weeks, John Grobery, 59, Isiah Hayes, 19, and Daireus Ice, 21, were also arrested on child rape and additional charges.
"This is hard. I don't want to see anybody suffer, it's terrible," the grandmother of Bradshaw's alleged victim said.
But his family is proud of his courage to come forward.
"He's like a new child," she said. "It's like he's got a voice."
And even though he's only 10, he has some wise words of advice for other children in his shoes.
"I highly recommend to try to speak out to someone like an authority, like I did. And that will help you - it will help you feel a lot better," he said. "When you're holding something on like that for a long time, it makes you physically feel emotional. It makes you feel sick inside."
All five accused child rapists have upcoming court dates.
Hidden Torture: Peoria Girls Showed Homeschool Laws Shield Abuse
The 11-and 13-year-old girls were made by their adoptive parents to sleep outside in a tent, often naked, sometimes wearing only a diaper
by Beth Dalby and Colin Miner
GILBERT, AZ – They were 11-years-old and 13-years-old. Two girls living in a home in Gilbert after being adopted by Johann and Kimery Jorg. It should have been the beginning of a new life.
Instead, when workers from Child Protective Services visited the home four-years-ago, they were not prepared for what they found.
The two girls, who were being homeschooled, were also being made to live in terrible conditions. They were forced to sleep outside in a tent. Often they were not allowed to wear clothes though sometimes they were diapered.
Over a period of a few years, they had been beaten, deprived of food, and denied medical care.
Their parents were arrested, and eventually sentenced.
These children in Gilbert were not alone.
Sixteen-year-old Natalie Finn died from starvation on Oct. 24, 2016, after her mother locked her, a 15-year-old brother and a 14-year-old sister in their bedroom for months, food and water all but cut off. One of the kids who survived, barely, later said their bedroom slowly filled with their own waste because their mother often would not let them out even to use the bathroom. When they did get permission, they were so desperately thirsty they sometimes scooped water into their mouths from the toilet bowl.
These damaged children in West Des Moines, Iowa, were not alone. There are scores of cases like this one involving starving kids to death. Other cases document children who have been beaten by parents most of their young lives or have otherwise been treated so severely for so long they can rightly be classified as torture victims.
There are scores of cases like these. There are many cases where case workers don't make it in time and children die, sometimes having been starved. Other cases document children who have been beaten by parents most of their young lives or have otherwise been treated so severely for so long they can rightly be classified as torture victims.
In one sense, the savage abuse inflicted on the Finn kids and in hundreds of other cases, including some in Arizona is easily explained by the one thing they had in common: They were homeschooled.
That may not explain how parents like Natalie Finn's mother could reach such depths of depravity to starve her own daughter to death. Lax oversight of homeschooling provides a simple answer for why nobody noticed or reported the girl as she became little more than skin and bones. Her homeschooling ensured no teacher or other responsible adult would see the girl and detect the abuse.
Natalie's starving siblings and her mother were the only people who saw her during the last months of her life, when her body gradually thinned until she became so skeletal that any responsible person who got even a glance of her would have sounded the alarm. A kid her age and height should have weighed at least 125 pounds. When she died, she weighed 81.
"It's really hard to starve a child to death when that kid's in school," said Rachel Coleman, co-founder and research director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, which is pushing for regulations to protect homeschooled kids. The group does not oppose parents teaching their children at home but it wants to prevent abusive parents from so easily making their kids invisible.
From 2000 to last year, at least 320 homeschooled children were severely neglected and abused, often for years without detection, according to the Homeschooling's Invisible Children database kept by Coleman's organization. Of those kids, 116 died. A disproportionate number of the children were adopted from foster care and the database indicates homeschooled kids die from abuse at a great rate than other children.
Nobody sees these kids.
"Without any oversight, there is nothing to ensure a child is receiving an education or is seen by mandatory reporters," Coleman said. "Homeschooling parents could lock a child up and no one would ever know."
Think about it: Lax oversight provides a shield far more effective than anything some parents could ever devise on their own to to lock up their children and hide their torture and abuse. Along with starvation, physical torture and medical neglect, totally isolating kids from any contact with the outside world is a common form of parental abuse.
Oversight of homeschooling in some states is non-existent. In most states, oversight is weak, at best. Nowhere in the United States do homeschool laws require welfare checks on the children involved to ensure they aren't being abused or tortured. The most they require are academic assessments, either by parents or a certified teacher. Only a few states require those assessments be done by someone outside the home.
All but two states allow convicted child abusers and other criminals to homeschool their kids.
Calls to strengthen homeschooling regulations have come and gone over the years, with the net result actually being a weakening of oversight. Advocates for reform, though, have become as optimistic as they have been for years in large part because of the emergence of a group that had long been muted: former homeschooled students themselves.
Coleman from the home education coalition was homeschooled. Ryan Stollar the co-founder of Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out , was a homeschooler, too. "When homeschooling is done responsibly, it can be amazing," the group says on its website . "What we oppose is irresponsible homeschooling, where the educational method is used to create or hide abuse, isolation, and neglect."
Coleman and Stollar have attracted other former students who want reform and have quickly surged in status not only as leaders of reform efforts but also as credible voices that can gain the support of all but the most hard-core oversight opponents. The most extreme anti-oversight groups oppose any form of government involvement in homeschooling and they always will.
Coleman and Stollar have changed the tone from previous reformers to appeal to less ideological homeschoolers, positioning themselves not as hostile outsiders but as pragmatic insiders pusing for reasonable child protections that would never face opposition in any context outside of homeschooling.
The Responsible Education coalition's creation of a database details in graphic language hundreds of gruesome abuse cases involving homeschooled kids.
"Homeschooling can serve as a powerful tool in the hand of an abusive parent," according to the sister group that maintains the database, Homeschooling's Invisible Children. "Numerous young adults who were homeschooled for part of their upbringing and attended public school for part of their upbringing have reported that their parents' abuse was worse when they were homeschooled, as there was nothing to act as a check on their parents' abuse."
Among other measures the coalition has called for:
Background checks: Bar parents from homeschooling if they have committed a crime that would prevent them from teaching in a public school.
A flagging system: Bar parents from homeschooling if they or anyone in the household have previously had a founded abuse or neglect report.
Risk assessments: Conduct risk assessments when parents begin to homeschool after a recent child abuse report or concerning history of reports.
Mandatory reporter contact: Ensure that homeschooled children are seen by mandatory reporters via academic assessments, medical visits, or other means.
Medical care: Require homeschooled children to have the same medical visits required of children who attend public school.
Only Pennsylvania and Arkansas currently forbid homeschooling of kids whose parents have been convicted of child abuse and certain other crimes. Some states require none of the coalition's proposals. No state requires all of the measures.
According to RresponsibleHomeschooling.org, Arizona is far less restrictive.
"Parents must submit one-time notification to the local school district and must provide instruction in reading, grammar, math, social studies, and science," according to the group . "There are no parent qualification, hours of instruction, bookkeeping, or assessment requirements."
About 1.7 million children in the United States — or about 3.3 percent of kids — are homeschooled, including about 27,230 in Arizona, according to estimates from the National Center for Education Statistics.
'DROP-KICKED' DOWN BASEMENT STAIRS
While most homeschooling parents provide warm, nurturing environments for their children, University of Wisconsin pediatrician Barbara Knox found in a 2014 study on child torture that in 38 cases of severe child abuse, 47 percent of parents had either never enrolled or pulled their kids out of public schools when abuse was suspected.
Her findings were based on reviews of only a small number of cases and while not statistically relevant, she identified the same pattern of abused homeschooled kids as the responsible home education coalition. Knox's review also found the abused homeschool children received no true educational efforts, and the "isolation was accompanied by an escalation of physically abusive events."
Sabrina Ray's brief, tortured life is another glaring example.
At 16 years old, Sabrina weighed only 56 pounds when paramedics were called to her home last May in Perry, Iowa. She had often been so hungry that she ate what she could find rummaging through garbage cans. Police said that sometime after April 15, Sabrina's adult brother "drop-kicked" her down a basement staircase. She lay for days on the basement floor in excruciating pain, police said, unable to move until her emaciated body finally gave up.
Like Natalie Finn's mother, Sabrina's adoptive parents had previous involvement with child protection workers. Under reforms pushed by advocates for tighter homeschooling regulations, once the parents removed Sabrina from school, they would have faced close monitoring.
Instead, the law allowed Sabrina's parents to make their daughter, and signs of her abuse, invisible.
So was Liam Roberts, a 6-year-old boy in Jerseyville, Illinois. He dropped off the radar of adults who might have saved him two years ago after his father and stepmother, Michael and Georgena Roberts, were investigated by child protective services caseworkers for "inadequate food in the home." Soon after, they began homeschooling Liam and his siblings.
Liam died last week of extreme malnutrition . He weighed only 17 pounds, about a third the weight of a typical 6-year-old.
Except in Pennsylvania, homeschool laws allow even parents who have been convicted of crimes like sexual assault or child abuse to hide their children from public view.
A lack of oversight in California is what helped make the 13 children of David Allen Turpin and Louise Anna Turpin invisible to their Riverside County neighbors .
The children, ages 2 to 29, were rescued in January after a 17-year-old escaped their house and called authorities. When police arrived at the home, they found ropes, chains and padlocks used to restrain and shackle the Turpin siblings to their beds. They were dirty and a putrid odor permeated the house. Investigators said parents had imprisoned their children for years. The adult children were so malnourished they looked like children.
What happened to these poor souls has been a sadly familiar story to Coleman since the founding of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education.
"This was not new to us," said Coleman, whose organization keeps a database called Homeschooling's Invisible Children listing the names of hundreds of home-educated children who have been tortured and abused by their parents. "The isolation and food deprivation, none of that was surprising. It's not even the first case of 13 children, but a photo with all the girls dressed the same created a moment of virality."
The case drew increased scrutiny of homeschooling oversight, but Coleman believes the enormity of the problem has been understated. Her organization's Invisible Children database surely does not include every severely abused homeschooled kid or every child who died at the hands of their parents because no one knows where — or if — many kids are supposedly being schooled.
HOMESCHOOLING 'NEITHER GOOD NOR BAD'
Of course, kids who attend public schools are often abused, too. Homeschooling has both advocates and critics, and many good parents whose children don't thrive in traditional classroom see it as a valuable option.
Coleman is one of them. Her mother required standardized testing every three years, provided outlines of the curriculum to school officials and maintained a portfolio of Coleman's academic achievements — "part of keeping a good record," she said.
At-home educations are "neither good nor bad," said Coleman, whose doctoral candidacy in history at the University of Indiana represents a level of academic achievement not uncommon among homeschoolers.
But "in the hands of abusive parents," she said, homeschooling can lead to "horrific abuse situations."
Iowa opened the door for abuse five years ago when it sliced homeschooling regulations to almost nothing.
Before the changes, Iowa's homeschooling laws were among the most thorough in the country.
State Sen. Matt said McCoy, who conducted an inquiry into Natalie's and Sabrina's deaths, said that in some cases in which children are adopted from foster care, as the two girls were, home education is a complete ruse. Sabrina, for example, was not educated at home but rather worked at her parents' Rays of Sunshine Daycare in Perry. McCoy called it "slavery."
HOMESCHOOL LAW REFORM EFFORTS
McCoy is working on legislation to prevent parents from using homeschooling simply to hide their abuse. He wants mandatory annual physicals and dental checkups for the kids and a requirement that they be checked on by public school monitors every three months.
"Once we lose them in the system, no one knows what happens to them," he said.
In California, Assemblyman Jose Medina, a Democrat whose district includes the area where the 13 Turpin children lived, said he's "extremely concerned" about the lack of oversight and is considering legislation to "prevent a situation like this from occurring in the future."
Lawmakers in several other states are rethinking the lack of oversight in homeschooling situations, too, but even modest reporting proposals have been killed over the years by the powerful homeschooling lobby.
In fact, when homeschooling began to catch on in the 1980s, it faced significant government resistance. The practice was banned outright in some states and heavily regulated in others. Since then, homeschooling's lobby, led by the Home School Legal Defense Association, has led the charge for full parental control over their childrens' education, in the process managing to weaken oversight considerably.
The defense association, a creation of the religious right, has opposed states merely requiring that school districts be notified that kids being homeschooled aren't attending public school not because their truant but because they are being taught at home.
Beyond that, the defense association has been increasingly involved in defending homeschool parents accused of abuse and has worked to make investigations by Child Protective Services more difficult. To its homeschooling members who are approached by social workers, the association has advised:
"Never let the social worker in your house without a warrant or court order. All the cases that you have heard about where children are snatched from the home usually involve families waiving their Fourth Amendment right to be free from such searches and seizures by agreeing to allow the social worker to come inside the home. A warrant requires 'probable cause' which does not include an anonymous tip or a mere suspicion."
Criminal cases against the parents and other family members in the four cases cited in this story are wending through court systems.
Nicole Finn, Natalie Finn's adoptive mother, recently received three life sentences for first-degree murder and kidnapping in Natalie's death, and two counts of kidnapping for confining two of the teen's siblings. Joseph Finn, Natalie's father, is scheduled to go to trial on kidnapping, child endangerment and other felony charges in April.
Marc and Misty Ray, Sabrina's adoptive parents, are yet to go to trial on first-degree murder charges. Three other family members are also charged in her death.
Sabrina's adoptive brother Justin Dale Ray pleaded guilty Friday, Feb. 16, to two counts of willful injury and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Sabrina's grandmother, Carla Ray Bousman, has yet to stand trial on charges of kidnapping, obstruction prosecution and child endangerment.
Sabrina's cousin, Josie Bousman, is charged with kidnapping and child endangerment and has agreed to testify against her family members.
David and Louise Turpin, the parents of the 13 California children imprisoned from 2010 to 2018, could spend the rest of their lives in jail. Together, they are charged with 37 counts of torture, child abuse and false imprisonment. David Turpin also is charged with a lewd act on a child under the age of 14.
Michael and Georgena Roberts each face a count of first-degree murder in the death of Liam Roberts. Each also is charged with a felony count of child endangerment in his death, and a misdemeanor count of child endangerment for their treatment of another child, age 7, who was also hospitalized.
Turpin parents facing more charges in case of abused children
by Ray Sanchez and Paul Vercammen
Riverside, California (CNN)David Turpin and Louise Turpin, the California couple accused of holding their 13 children captive and torturing all but one, are facing additional charges, a prosecution spokesman said Friday.
Riverside County District Attorney spokesman John Hall told reporters after a brief court hearing that each Turpin is facing three additional counts of child abuse. An additional felony assault charge has been lodged against Louise Turpin.
"Further investigation led us to this," Hall said.
Both defendants appeared before the judge in suits, the husband in gray, the wife in navy blue. David Turpin's hair appeared to be trimmed and neater around the collar.
The next court date in the case is March 23, to go over the status of proceedings. May 14 has been set aside tentatively for the preliminary hearing.
Lawyers for the Turpins walked away briskly, with David Macher, David Turpin's attorney, answering a string of questions with "I can't comment on that." He reiterated that both clients pleaded not guilty to the new charges and that "a lot of evidence" exists, likely postponing the preliminary hearing.
The Turpins allegedly shackled some of their children to beds in a nondescript Riverside County home that doubled as the private Sandcastle Day School .
But the home school with the inviting name concealed a life of horror and abuse, where the children were beaten and starved, chained to their beds for weeks at a time and allowed to shower once a year, according to Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin.
The parents, who lived in Perris, have pleaded not guilty to more than 40 charges, including torture, false imprisonment, abuse of a dependent adult and child abuse. David Turpin also pleaded not guilty to one count of lewd conduct with a minor.
The Turpins are accused of beating and choking some of their children, who are between 2 and 29 years old. Prosecutors have not alleged the 2-year-old was tortured. The couple allegedly deprived the children of water and fed them small portions of food on a strict schedule.
The 29-year-old weighed just 82 pounds and the other children are so thin they look younger than their ages, authorities said.
Before Friday's developments, officials said the Turpins could face a maximum sentence of between 94 years and life in prison, so the new charges do not.
The disturbing case has moved people around the world to donate about $570,000 to support the children's medical expenses and education, according to Erin Phillips, a spokeswoman for the Riverside University Health System.
"In cases like this there are long-term needs like behavioral health, housing, scholarships, educational support, tutors and medical needs," she said.
A fund launched by the hospital, where the younger siblings were treated, has collected $370,000, including $38,000 from the city of Perris, Phillips said. A fundraiser started by the Corona Chamber of Commerce has received about $200,000 in monetary donations after collecting enough clothing, hygiene items and toys to meet the immediate needs of the siblings.
"It's been amazing the outpouring of love and sentiments," Phillips said. "It reminds us there is so much light in this world in contrast to such a dark case."
A state court judge last month barred the Turpins from directly contacting their children and other potential witnesses in the case for the next three years.
The Turpins are still in custody. A judge set bail at $12 million for each defendant.
The charges against the couple cover the time the Turpins lived in Riverside County, from 2010 to the present.
The process to terminate parental rights will be determined in dependency court, and birth parents have the right to contest the termination, officials have said.
The horrid living conditions the children were subjected to led one sibling, a 17-year-old girl, to escape through a window of the family home last month. She called 911 from a deactivated cellphone she found in the house. She had planned her escape for more than two years.
The only thing the homeschooled children were allowed to do while in their rooms was write in journals, Hestrin said. Hundreds of the notebooks are being examined for evidence against the parents.
Caleb Mason, an attorney for the older Turpin siblings, said Friday that "our clients are doing very well in their recovery."
"We are grateful for the extraordinary generosity and goodwill of the many people who have gone above and beyond to help them," Mason said in a statement.
Long overdue laws will empower child sexual abuse survivors
The pain of being raped or sexually abused as a child by a member of the clergy is forever wrought on the souls of survivors.
For many it is a daily struggle just to get by, their nights claimed by torment dating back decades.
Some are broken entirely, many have died early, their deaths often stemming from that abuse.
No single piece of legislation can rectify the crimes committed against children in Australia's religious institutions.
But the new draft laws proposed by Victorian Attorney-General Martin Pakula are important in giving more power to survivors.
They seek to put an end to the so-called Ellis defence, the legal precedent established in NSW in 2007 which ruled that, legally, the Catholic church did not exist, as its vast assets were held inside a special trust.
It is named after John Ellis, the former altar boy who launched legal action against the Archdiocese of Sydney for compensation after being abused by a priest in the 1970s.
The Ellis defence has frustrated claims for compensation and undoubtedly saved the Catholic church vast amounts of money over the years.
It has been a cruel legal tactic.
The courage it takes an abuse survivor to come forward is wrenching enough. That they have then been told by lawyers for the church in which they were abused that it did not exist, has been shameful.
Often the only alternative left to them has been to petition the church's in-house compensation schemes.
In the two decades to 2015, compensation to survivors under the Melbourne Response, the scheme established by then archbishop George Pell, averaged just $35,000.
A national church redress scheme paid out on average $49,000. Once a survivor had received a payout under those schemes, they renounced all rights to further legal action.
The proposed Victorian laws will help survivors and give them greater bargaining power.
They can still look to the in-house schemes, or, if it is eventually constituted, the national redress scheme that may flow from the recent royal commission.
But if they choose instead to seek compensation through the courts in Victoria, they will be comforted that there is no legal defence denying the church exists.
That should make it easier to make claims.
Still, the system is weighted against survivors.
The cap on a still-to-be agreed to national redress scheme is set to be a modest $150,000. Most would get much less. Survivors that go through the legal system would still face an arduous and uncertain process.
The scale of child abuse by members of the clergy revealed by the Baillieu government's Victorian parliamentary inquiry and the Gillard government's royal commission has been barely believable.
The royal commission noted that 4444 people alleged they were sexually abused in Catholic institutions as children over several decades.
In the Anglican Church, nearly 1100 people said they were abused as children, while in the Uniting Church there was 430 allegations.
This disgrace has been widely known for several decades in Australia. It has been a scandal across all major religions in Australia but disproportionately in the Catholic church.
These new laws are long overdue.
Faced With Sex Trafficking Surge, A city Wonders If 'John School' Can Reduce Demand
by Esther Honig
On a Saturday afternoon at the downtown Columbus, Ohio courthouse, close to 20 men sat in a conference room; arms crossed, eyes staring blankly ahead, listening to a lecture. One white-haired man with glasses and hearing aids yelled for the presenter to speak up.
The presenter, Chris Stollar, an advocate from an anti-human trafficking organization, stood before his Powerpoint, grasping for engagement.
“Coercion..." he asked. "Does anyone know what coercion might mean?"
There was a long pause. A middle-aged bald man in a dress shirt gave a loose definition.
“It means they don't have a choice,” he said.
Another hand goes up. The participant said he's never heard of the word.
This is John School. Everyone here was caught purchasing sex from a prostitute. Consequently, some were ordered here by a judge, while others struck a deal to come in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Many have fallen for the misconception that women enjoy sex work. Today, they're learning the reality: 90 percent of women in sex work are forced into it as victims of human trafficking.
In Columbus, law enforcement has seen an increase in prostitution arrests. Many believe the rise is due to the opioid epidemic. While helping women get into treatment is one way to address the problem of prostitution, Columbus, like many cities, is also trying to curb the demand for sex work.
There are generally two schools of thought about what works. Educational programs such as John School, put on by the Columbus City Attorneys Office, are in use around the country. But some advocates and law enforcement think it's not enough to deter men from purchasing sex. They support harsher penalties for offenders instead.
At John School, the attendees hear directly from survivors of human trafficking. After a long lunch break, Jenn Glaser stood before the room. She's in recovery from a heroin addiction and has been off the street for two years. It's her first time speaking at John School and it's an intimidating crowd.
Glaser was trafficked by a man she thought was her boyfriend. He set up the ads on online classifieds site Backpage while Glaser met buyers at a hotel. In exchange, he supplied her with heroin. If she refused to work, he beat her. She nearly died before she managed to escape.
What she wants these men to know is that the women they went to for pleasure were living in a nightmare.
“If you're out there looking for love, it's not going to happen,” she said. “I told you anything you wanted to hear, just so I could get that money. That's all it was about.”
The day-long class also features a session with a relationship counselor and some gruesome slides on sexually transmitted diseases. Organizers hope what the men learn at John School will discourage them from ever purchasing sex again. But while studies done on particular programs suggest John School can reduce recidivism, researcher Alex Trouteaud with advocacy group Demand Abolition said programs around the country vary, and the jury's still out on how effective they are.
The Costs Of An Arrest
What is proven to work, he said, is the shame and embarrassment of getting arrested. Research shows that alone can reduce recidivism by 70 percent.
“In my mind anything else you get on top of [arrests] is gravy,” he said. “The key is: are you actually making the arrests?”
But making the arrests takes time and resources.
To catch a sex buyer takes seven to 10 officers, according to Ron Kemmerling, commander of the vice unit with the Columbus police. In his efforts to keep up with the rising demand for sex work, Kemmerling arranges "reverse stings" in hotels on the streets on a near daily basis. In these stings, a female officer poses as a prostitute, while several more officers stand by as backup to ensure her safety.
It's a labor-intensive undertaking, but Kemmerling said a buyer will inevitably come circling “like a shark.”
“Before our decoy gets approached, we'll see the same car come by three times,” he said “It's patently obvious what they're doing. The people in the neighborhood know what they're doing.”
In contrast, it only takes one or two officers to arrest a prostitute, which is one reason the number of prostitution arrests still dwarfs the number of sex buyer arrests in Columbus.
"A Traffic Fine Costs More."
Kemmerling said the cost of reverse sting operations may be greater than the penalty. Columbus laws allow a fine of up to $1,000 and 30 days in jail, but few men do any time. An analysis of 2016 and 2017 court records shows the average for fines given to men caught soliciting was $72.
Kemmerling thinks this needs to change.
“Personally, I wonder about priorities when a traffic fine costs more than picking up women for sex in Columbus,” he said.
Ohio Representative Adam Miller has introduced a bill that would impose a fine of up to $2,000, with half of all proceeds going to a fund to help victims of human trafficking. Opponents to this bill point out that prostitutes, and johns both receive the same charge under Ohio law: soliciting. Any fine could apply to both parties, and that could be detrimental for victims of human trafficking, many of whom live in poverty. Policy expert Alex Trouteaud says rewriting the law so that it distinguishes between sex buyers and sellers, should be the first priority. However, he says how the fines get used is more important than the fine amount itself.
“We find that one of the best ways to ensure that judges impose those fines is through the kind of transparency you get with a dedicated fund,” he said.
Trouteaud said fines are important for holding sex buyers accountable. They not only do harm to the individuals they purchase, but to the communities they frequent and arresting them takes away resources from police. The money can be used to pay for educational programs like John School, and, more importantly, resources for victims of human trafficking.
“That's just part of what the buyer needs to do to make right some of his wrongs,” said Trouteaud.
More Than One Solution
When it comes to deterring men from purchasing sex in the first place, Trouteaud says that requires a multipronged approach, similar to how communities approached the problem of drunk driving years ago. If sex buyers knew they could face a financial penalty coupled with legal and personal repercussion (like being denied a job or admission to a university), they would be less likely to offend.
Of course, those with the most at stake here are sex trafficking victims. Valerie is also survivor of human trafficking and speaks regularly at John School. She asked that we not use her full name. She doesn't want information about her past to harm her chances of getting a job. She said she thinks John School alone is more effective than any jail time or fine.
“I think it's a sickness,” said Valerie of the men in John School. “I think that they're spiritually bankrupt. They got a hole and they‘re looking to fill it somehow. There's underlying issues with this.”
If John School is their chance to reflect and learn from their mistakes, Valerie hopes they'll take it.
House to consider bill next week to combat online sex trafficking
by Cristine Marcos
The House is expected to consider legislation when it returns from holiday recess next week that would ensure classified advertising websites such as Backpage.com can no longer enable sex trafficking.
The bipartisan bill would allow the prosecution of websites that facilitate sex trafficking sales and clarify a provision of the Communications Decency Act that would let victims take action against such websites.
“Online trafficking is flourishing because there are no serious, legal consequences for the websites that profit from the exploitation of our most vulnerable,” said Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), the chief author of the legislation, adding that it would “finally give prosecutors the tools they need to protect their communities and give victims a pathway to justice."
Backpage has come under fire in recent years for allegations that people were using its adult services section for prostitution and sex trafficking. The site closed down its adult section last year.
Craigslist, a similar classified advertising platform, eliminated its adult services section in 2010.
Current law as established by what's known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act effectively provides websites with immunity from liability for what their users post. The legislation to be considered next week would clarify that victims of sex trafficking could bring lawsuits against websites that knowingly promoted the illegal activity.
The bill is also sponsored by Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Calif.), who noted in a statement that an international sex trafficking ring in her district used many ads through Backpage.com, as well as Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.).
“Congress must act to clarify that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act was never meant to shield sex traffickers and give victims a pathway to justice,” Maloney said.