Child sex abuse survivor's hell: Convicted criminal fighting for equal rights
by Megan Palin
When Russell Clark shoved a needle in his arm and injected heroin into his veins it worked "like medicine".
The 62-year-old child sex abuse survivor told news.com.au that the drug was the only thing that helped him cope after he was raped and beaten by four priests during his boarding school years at Salesians College in Brooklyn Park, South Australia. He was just 12 years old the first time he was sodomised by one of the men who he described as "a demon".
"It hurt a lot, I bled," he said of the attacks through tears.
"I was treated like an animal and discarded like a piece of shit."
He's been clean since the mid-1980s. But his troubles are far from over.
Mr Clark is ineligible for the government's planned $3.8 billion national redress scheme to compensate institutional child sex abuse victims because he is a convicted criminal, reports News.com.au .
The father of four, who lives with his partner Sandra in Loxton, South Australia, spent the earlier part of his adult life in and out of jail for nonviolent, drug-related crimes.
But Mr Clark said that shouldn't make him unworthy of compensation as "eligible survivors" are paid up to $150,000 (NZD $160,837) and provided access to counselling and psychological services as part of the scheme.
The Commonwealth consulted with the states and decided to exclude sex offenders and anyone jailed for five years or more for crimes including murder or serious drug and fraud offences. Survivors convicted of lesser crimes would also be blocked "in exceptional cases".
Under the plan, Scheme operators would be given authority to determine whether survivors who had served time in jail were still eligible for redress, on a case-by-case basis.
"To exclude myself and others from redress because I took drugs and committed crimes to support a habit is just stupid," Mr Clark told news.com.au.
"I hurt myself, self destruct mode is what usually happens when a child is raped and tortured.
"Those a**ewipes who abused me got away with it and they were protected for crimes against humanity."
Knowmore legal service executive officer Warren Strange said the discretion was very broad and described it as "exercisable really on grounds of ... some survivors (being) worthy of redress and others are not".
Mr Clark agreed with the sentiment: "What makes us worth less? How can a life be repaired? My life is coming to an end (but) what about those left behind who have to keep suffering?" he said. They were question he also put in his submissions to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse .
Mr Clark suffers from end stage liver disease, endured multiple transplant, and one doctor recently advised he had less than a year to live, according to him.
But he wants to ensure his loved ones left behind don't "lose everything when (he) goes".
Mr Clark has started a change.org petition to rally the government to drop the exclusion that makes child sex abuse survivors who later become convicted criminals ineligible for compensation. More than 24,000 supporters have signed it.
A Senate inquiry last month heard that Australia is the only country to have created a second class of child sexual abuse victims deemed unworthy of compensation because they have committed a serious crime. It also heard the exclusion ignored the fact victims were children at the time of the abuse and created two classes of "deserving" and "undeserving".
Australia's major churches joined victims' supporters in demanding the federal government drop the exclusion.
No other government scheme blocks survivors based on their criminal history, an international expert on institutional child abuse redress said.
"This exclusion has not been part of any government redress scheme or any redress scheme that I am aware of for institutional abuse or for that matter any Australian scheme that's been out there," Griffith University Professor Kathleen Daly told the inquiry in February.
All child sexual abuse survivors should be eligible for redress, the Anglican and Uniting churches and Salvation Army told the inquiry.
"It is well known and recognised by the royal commission that some survivors as a result of their abuse have engaged in abusive conduct themselves, including criminal conduct," their joint submission said.
"We believe the scheme needs to provide equal access and equal treatment to all survivors and not just particular classes of people," the Uniting Church's Rev John Cox told the public hearing.
The Catholic Church did not support the exclusion.
On Friday, Social Services Minister Dan Tehan Tehan said the scheme would only be able to deliver its full potential if every state and territory signed up along with non-government institutions. "I urge the premiers in all of the jurisdictions to prioritise this work and join the redress scheme without further delay," Mr Tehan said.
Earlier this week, South Australia suggested it would join the national redress scheme. The state had previously sat on the fence because it was already establishing its own compensation arrangements.
Most churches and charities back a truly national scheme, but want outstanding issues resolved before making a final decision to opt-in.
Unless they do so by the July 1 start date it could be a Commonwealth-only scheme covering just 1000 of the estimated 60,000 institutional child sexual abuse survivors.
Mr Clark said he and his partner had received a total of about $160k (NZD$171,560) in compensation from the church over the years but that it had barely covered medical expenses.
"You get raped and bashed and have your life turned upside then get trickled through money that covers your accommodation while travelling interstate for surgeries and other things just to keep you alive," he said.
"In the US the average law suit was one million dollars paid to victims.
"I am just one of many people whose lives have been trashed by churches and other organisations who hid paedophiles and protected them."
Is it child abuse? California schools should report to cops, experts say, even if they're not sure
by John Woolfolk and Robert Salonga
It might have seemed harmless enough. Some San Jose middle school parents didn't like the way a physical education teacher and coach was photographing their girls at events.
The principal had told the coach to stop after a similar complaint a year earlier. But after a second complaint, the principal seized the coach's school-issued computer, confronted him and alerted police, who investigated and last month arrested the former coach on child molestation and pornography charges.
For school officials who, under California law, are required to report suspicions of child abuse to authorities, experts say the lesson is clear: Don't hesitate to call in the pros at the slightest hint of impropriety and let them investigate it.
“The spirit of the statute is, when in doubt, report,” said William Grimm, directing attorney for child welfare at the National Center for Youth Law in Oakland. “The standard is ‘reasonable suspicion.' School districts, teachers, principals often think, ‘I've got to be certain it happened,' and that's just not the law.”
Too many times, however, that message doesn't seem to take with school officials. Police investigate hundreds of child abuse complaints a year, few of which lead to charges. But when school officials, perhaps out of concern for their teachers' or school's reputation, try to handle complaints themselves, the results can be tragic and the price for both victims and school officials staggering.
In one of the Bay Area's most notorious cases, the Moraga School District ended up paying close to $20 million in 2013 and 2014 to settle claims by Kristen Cunnane and three other women that middle school officials in the 1990s ignored their allegations of sexual abuse by two teachers. One teacher killed himself amid mounting complaints, another was convicted. While the district assured parents that administrators had acted appropriately, documents showed more officials knew about the allegations than had been disclosed and three were secretly reprimanded for mishandling them.
In San Jose, a prominent parochial girls school is now grappling with similar accusations from a host of former students that administrators failed to report their claims of sexual harassment or abuse by teachers and staff dating back decades.
Police have not charged any Presentation High School staff with sex abuse — one accused teacher died years ago. And the school has insisted it handled abuse claims according to the law. But police are investigating whether school officials violated their requirement to report suspected abuse.
Former Presentation student Shelby Rusconi wrote in an online statement that she complained to her mother in 2007 about her math teacher's sexually suggestive behavior — attempts to hug her, remarks on her appearance, gifts of chocolate “kisses” with “with a distinctly sexual undertone.” She said her parents spoke to school administrators but the teacher's behavior continued and they never heard from police.
Educators, doctors and other “mandated reporters” can face misdemeanor charges for failure to forward suspected abuse claims to police or a county child protective services agency, though it happens rarely.
A jury in 2012 convicted former O.B. Whaley Elementary School principal Lyn Vijayendran of failing to report a girl's description of a weird activity while alone with her male teacher. That teacher, Craig Chandler, later was convicted of molesting five students at the San Jose grade school. It was just the second time in two decades that Santa Clara County prosecutors had charged a school official with failing to report abuse, and the only conviction.
Vijayendran's mistake: Looking into the complaint herself instead of calling authorities. Told the teacher had blindfolded an 8-year-old girl alone in his classroom and put something salty, warm and hard in her mouth, Vijayendran confronted the teacher. In tearful testimony, she recalled how he “looked me right in the eye” and explained it was part of a lesson plan about Helen Keller, the blind advocate for the disabled.
“He was very convincing,” Vijayendran testified, explaining why she let it go.
San Jose attorney Christopher Schumb, who specializes in school sex abuse cases, said child abuse often involves subtly creepy behavior that school administrators often feel is insufficient to warrant a call to police.
“Very rarely does some pedophile just overtly inappropriately touch a kid,” Schumb said. “They groom the kids, they find a victim and prepare that child to accept what they are going to do as normal. That's why the standard for reporting is so low.”
Sgt. Brian Spears, supervisor in the SJPD Internet Crimes Against Children task force and child-exploitation detail, said school officials untrained in investigating crimes against children often do more harm than good when they look into complaints themselves.
In one example from Antioch in 2009, Carmen Dragon Elementary School put music teacher James Carlile on leave three weeks before calling police about concerns he was looking at child pornography on the job. That, prosecutors later said, gave Carlile time to destroy computer files before his arrest, and prevented them from filing charges because the images of naked children they were able to seize weren't provocative enough to nail a conviction.
A school spokeswoman said that they didn't call police immediately because they had no evidence Carlile had done anything criminal. Police and attorneys who specialize in these cases said that's a common misunderstanding.
“Don't try to investigate it by yourself,” Spears said. “It convolutes it. Let us vet it. Law enforcement responds to so many calls for possible crimes. It's part of our job.”
It took a second complaint and a confrontation with the San Jose middle school gym teacher and coach about photographing girls before the principal called police. Though, in hindsight, the principal perhaps should have gone to police after the first complaint, school officials and police have withheld judgment.
District spokesman Peter Allen said administrators haven't had a chance to discuss the matter with the principal, and Spears said “all of these have to be examined case-by-case on their individual facts.”
After the principal confronted coach Clifford Pappadakis a second time about the photographs, he broke down and acknowledged there were photos on his computer that he would not put on the school website.
Police searched his computer files, found images of partially clad girls in sexually suggestive poses and arrested him. A week later, police arrested his twin brother, Clinton Pappadakis, a coach at Oak Grove High School, on unrelated child pornography charges.
“Schools want to do their own investigations,” Spears said. “But please, as soon as you hear something, let law enforcement know.”
Schumb noted that school officials and other mandated reporters have absolute immunity from liability for reporting claims that turn out to be unfounded, which is often the case.
For example, a school district in the Santa Cruz mountains last month disclosed to student families that the sheriff had investigated a parent complaint that a bus driver had inappropriately touched her daughter. The San Lorenzo Valley School District told parents that the sheriff recommended no charges and an outside investigator for the school district later found no basis to the accusation.
Schumb said bringing police in early is also a blessing for the falsely accused, erasing lingering suspicions.
“When you're absolved by the police,” Schumb said, “you're absolved.”
LAPD Officer Revives Unresponsive Baby; Father Booked on Child Abuse Charge: Police
by Marissa Wenzke and John Fenoglio
A newborn baby just three weeks old was unresponsive when police arrived to a home in the Westlake district of Los Angeles Saturday night, but one of the responding officers managed to revive the infant with chest compressions and the father has since been booked on a child abuse charge, police said.
The officer who got the newborn boy breathing again, through giving modified chest compressions, is Officer Alex Frazier of the Los Angeles Police Department's Rampart Division, police said. He found the baby unresponsive when LAPD arrived to a home in the 200 block of Columbia Avenue at about 11 p.m.
Police had received multiple calls from neighbors about possible domestic abuse, and later child abuse, occurring at the home. Once officers arrived, they said they discovered the mother outside the home crying as she sat in an Uber car.
She told the officers the baby's father had been holding him loosely, like a football, while hitting her, police said. When pleaded for him to give her the baby back, he threw the infant to the ground.
"The mom kept stating that the baby was not breathing, was not moving," said Officer Ivan Ibarra, who responded to the scene with Frazier. "Baby was cold, unresponsive. I tried waking the baby up."
When the baby still wouldn't respond, Ibarra handed him to Frazier. From there, the officer started doing modified chest compressions to try waking the infant.
"I've seen a lot on this job, but to see a baby that wasn't moving, lifeless — it was pretty scary," Frazier said.
After about a minute, the baby appeared to awaken.
"Eventually, he just kinda rolled his head a little bit, and let us know he was in there a little bit more," Frazier said. "So I just continued until the paramedics got there."
The father was arrested at the scene and booked on a charge of child abuse, LAPD officials said. The mother and baby were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.
While the baby is slightly bruised, he did not suffer major injuries, police said, and his mother has a few minor scratches and bruises.
"It hits home, especially when you have small children," Ibarra said. "My son's only 10 months old."
Frazier said the experience made him think of his own children, too.
"I went home immediately and kissed my kids," Frazier said. "I'm a parent. My kids are my everything."
No further information has been released by LAPD.
Keeping children and young people safe from abuse
by Professor Corinne May-Chahal
Professor May-Chahal explains how NICE guidance will help protect children and young people from abuse.
Though there has been growing awareness of child abuse and neglect over the last 3 decades, we must do more to prevent it and to ensure support for the children, young people and the families who are affected. To date, research has focused on why people abuse or neglect and the number of cases which have occurred. Very little research has looked at ways of preventing abuse or at what helps the victims after the abuse has taken place. The NICE guidance , which I helped develop, aims to bridge this gap.
For people whose work brings them into contact with children and young people, the guideline offers warning signs for spotting the signs of abuse and neglect, and advises how to respond. It gives effective advice on what assessments should be carried out, aiming to ensure children, young people and their families get the best quality care available.
To help raise awareness of the guideline and support people experiencing abuse and neglect we have also put together a quick guide for young people. The guide has been developed with the help of young people who have experienced abuse or neglect.
Along with the guideline and the new quick guide, NICE has also produced a short quality standard that supports the steps commissioners should take to improve care. These resources can be found in one place on the NICE website.
Referral rates for children in need reached more than 640,000 last year. More than 50,000 children in England were placed on a child protection plan. More than 80% needed protection from neglect or emotional abuse, according to a report by the Department for Education. Also, the NSPCC found 18% of cases were re-referred in 2017, an indicator that some children are not getting the help they need.
Though I've enjoyed working with my fellow committee members to develop the guideline it was challenging at times to find evidence that met the high standards NICE sets. By working together with a range of organisations and agencies, we were able to develop recommendations , which if implemented sufficiently, will help protect vulnerable children across the country. Every child and young person has a right to have a childhood where they are cared for, nurtured and safe.
Foster prevention main: Sparing children the heartache of foster care is simple, but not easy
by Patty Machelor
Christine Haley was not yet 21 years old, and about to have a child she wasn't ready for.
Her own childhood, barely behind her, had been difficult. She'd been bullied, and she'd been in fights. But her worst memories are of being sexually assaulted.
As the years passed, she married and had more kids, but things didn't get easier. Her life was chaotic, and she made decisions she regrets. Right before that marriage ended, the family was homeless.
Through the benefit of therapy and supportive friends, she's come to realize that her struggles were compounded by something that burdens many families involved with Arizona's Department of Child Safety: constant, debilitating stress, now commonly referred to as complex trauma.
The trauma Haley carried into adulthood made raising children — difficult under the best of circumstances — extra challenging. There was mental and emotional abuse, she said, as they struggled to find stability. Her family moved frequently. They were isolated, and poor.
Haley, now 34, is trying to make better choices. Arizona also faces choices about thousands of parents who are struggling, as Haley did.
Since the Great Recession started more than a decade ago, many Arizona families have languished as the state, facing budget shortfalls, cut services again and again. Lawmakers have slashed nearly $276 million since 2008 from programs and services that help families, data from the Children's Action Alliance and the Joint Legislative Budget Committee show.
The cuts have made child care unattainable for thousands of families, and left the working poor with few supports. As families struggled, foster care placements swelled and child neglect cases climbed from 9,845 in 2008 to nearly 20,000 by 2016.
The surge in child removals was intended to protect vulnerable children, but kids living in foster care are not necessarily safer and are more likely to face learning disabilities, developmental delays, depression, behavioral issues and obesity than kids who stay with their families — even troubled ones — recent studies show.
Thanks to changes in the Department of Child Safety, fewer than 16,000 Arizona kids now are in foster care. But to bring about lasting change, the state must help families long before a child safety caseworker knocks on the door, said Becky Ruffner, director of Prevent Child Abuse Arizona.
“Unless and until Arizona invests upstream in preventive services before they reach the crisis point, we'll continue as we are," Ruffner said.
In his January speech to kick off the new legislative session, Gov. Doug Ducey praised the Department of Child Safety, saying Arizona has become a national leader in reducing foster care numbers.
He's right that there has been a significant drop, down from eight or nine out of every 1,000 Arizona children to about five per 1,000. And with those declines come some other positives: DCS caseworkers now have far more reasonable workloads, down from an impossible 145 cases each to about 16.
In the last year, there's also been a substantial dip in the number of foster kids living in emergency shelters or group homes, down from 2,360 in fiscal year 2016 to 1,880 in fiscal year 2017.
But kids in out-of-home care are still there too long. As of September, 24 percent of kids in state care had been there more than two years, and about 30 percent had been there for 13 months to two years. The state's standard is to have children moving toward reunification with their family, adoption into another family or a home with a permanent guardian within six months.
Advocates also agree that parents need more support while their children are in foster care so the same problems don't continue to plague families. During fiscal year 2017, 20 percent of Arizona's foster children who returned home were re-reported to the state for possible abuse or neglect within 12 months. Nearly 10 percent went back into foster care within six months.
The best way to turn that around is to address the most damaging effects of poverty — a lack of access to stable housing and affordable child care. Both can lead to neglect allegations that get children removed from their homes, said Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. Child care subsidies can keep parents from losing their children on "lack of supervision" charges, he said; rent subsidies can keep them from being taken because parents can't afford decent housing.
Beyond the societal value of helping families stay together, numbers show that the state's attempt to keep kids safe by pulling them out of their homes simply hasn't worked. Even with the surge in Arizona children put into foster care in recent years, the number dying of maltreatment has jumped 16 percent since 2011. That includes both kids under DCS watch and those the state didn't know about until tragedy struck.
Addiction and mental health challenges, neglect and abuse tear families apart. But trauma and inter-generational poverty are often the underlying reasons.
Trauma, a word usually associated with car crashes and head injuries, is also what children and families endure from repeated exposure to excessively bad experiences.
Children are resilient and bad things don't necessarily cause long-term problems. But when those bad things happen a lot, or in high doses, or when there's two or three of them happening, the brain goes into high alert, all the time.
Abuse, neglect, a parent's incarceration, hunger or seeing Dad or Mom's boyfriend hit Mom all change the way a child's brain develops. Without help, that child will likely struggle with mental health issues, addiction and health problems.
Parents who have untreated trauma themselves can lack the ability to attach emotionally to their children, or may not feel and express empathy toward their children.
Living in poverty makes it worse. Children from families earning less than $15,000 are more than 22 times more likely to be mistreated than those from families making more than $30,000, the National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect reports. That's not because poor people are more inclined to abuse their children, but because poverty brings stress and family dysfunction that can cycle from one generation to the next.
State and county data collected by the Arizona Daily Star shows that the zip codes with the highest service needs for housing, utility and food assistance are also the areas that receive the most calls to DCS and the most removals of children from their homes.
Fallout from the failing family structure isn't limited to an overburdened child safety system. The Tucson Fire Department has seen calls for help grow from just below 80,000 in fiscal year 2008 to 92,000 in fiscal 2017 — even as Tucson's population dipped a bit.
The calls are often repeat requests for help with mental health challenges, addiction, a lack of utilities in the heat or cold and even loneliness, especially among the elderly.
The volume has strained Tucson Fire's system so much that in 2016 it launched the Tucson Collaborative Community Care (TC3) unit. The team includes a paramedic and a social worker who try to connect callers with the resources they need, freeing up emergency workers to handle medical issues and fires. On any given day, the TC3 unit has a waiting list of about 800.
The department has become, as Assistant Chief Sharon McDonough puts it, "this big safety net."
The first time DCS got involved in Christine Haley's life was when hospital nurses overheard her husband say he would not change their newborn's diaper.
Haley said the services that were brought in were helpful, but the marriage still ended. The second time DCS came to her door, she was a single mother. The concern was, again, neglect.
Haley, exhausted and raising her kids alone, had just finished a night shift driving a cab. A social worker from another agency, visiting to help one of Haley's children, glanced in her window and saw her asleep on her couch with four children strapped into highchairs and toddler seats, watching television.
That visit launched services that have helped Haley with her children. What's helped most, she said, is Healthy Families, one of Arizona's best prevention programs. Haley and her fiance, Nathan Wilson, have learned about child development and school preparedness for their two youngest, twins, while also getting service referrals for her four other children.
"DCS recommended us to get parenting classes for Nathan, since he was a first time dad, which led us to enroll with Healthy Families," she said.
Healthy Families lasts for the first five years of a child's life, with the aim of not only reducing the risk of child neglect or abuse, but also helping parents learn about brain development and the best ways to prepare children for school.
Families start out with home visits for one hour per week, then graduate to one hour every other week, and finally once a month.
Haley and Wilson are in their third year with the program, and both have found it extremely helpful.
Their first caseworker was "a sounding board to relieve stress," said Wilson, who works at a call center and is finishing online classes in medical billing and coding. "They find out what each family needs, and they are non-judgmental about what you are going through."
Haley was briefly involved with Healthy Families once before, when a son from her first marriage was born. She participated about six months, she said, but was no longer eligible after he was found to be developmentally delayed and needing other services.
"They have listened and taken into consideration what our preference is in our home for parenting and social skills, combining it with their program teachings," she said of Healthy Families. "It's been a very supportive program for us."
Through the program, the family has also been referred for other services, such as respite time for one of Haley's older children and help with parenting overall.
"We help them in any areas where they are struggling," said their former caseworker, Angela Helseth, who worked with them for a couple of years. She said Healthy Families is "exactly what this family needs."
It's also exactly what many other local families need — its success rate in Pima County is 96 percent, based on the number of participants that avoid foster care and stick with the program.
But only 15 percent of eligible families are able to participate, said Eric Schindler, president of Tucson's Child and Family Resources, which administers the program here. About 75 percent of state funds for the program have been cut since 2009.
The only problem with Healthy Families, Schindler says, is there's not more of it to go around.
If helping families and children find better ways to live is not reason enough to invest in prevention, here's another consideration: It saves money.
That's been a key factor in Washington state, where there's been a sharp shift toward early intervention in recent years.
When Washington lawmakers want to measure a program's success, they turn to the Institute for Public Policy in Olympia. Researchers there use what's called meta-analysis to see how well programs work, and what the state can expect to save over time.
One reason the institute is so successful is that it's non-partisan, said researcher Marna Miller, with as many Republicans as Democrats citing their findings during the state's legislative sessions.
Programs are analyzed using a cost-benefit ratio. Successful programs show a cost-benefit ratio such as 1:4, which means it's reasonable to expect that for every dollar put in, the return over time will be $4.
For example, an in-home prevention program called Homebuilders has been proven to save taxpayers $6.61 for every dollar spent. The program differs from Healthy Families in that it focuses on helping families at high risk for having their children removed, while Healthy Families focuses on school preparedness and good parenting.
Programs that test well over time get an "evidence-based" stamp. As of a few years ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognized 14 home-visiting programs as being evidence-based. Arizona uses a few of those, including Healthy Families, which is estimated to save about $14 for each dollar invested.
But these programs reach only a small fraction of the families that need them.
Arizona's First Things First — a 2006 voter-approved initiative created to help children during their first five years — uses mostly evidence-based programming for its services. It relies on tobacco-tax funding and is not part of DCS, while playing a critical role in helping families with issues like poverty and trauma as part of its focus on school readiness.
One of its best programs is Nurse-Family Partnership , which helps about 220 first-time mothers each year with support for a healthy pregnancy along with ensuring a newborn child's needs are met as they grow to age 2. The program was expanded here under the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program , reaching about 150 more mothers on Tucson's south side through the Affordable Care Act.
Mothers are eligible if it's their first pregnancy, if they are at less than 28 weeks gestation and if they are living under 200 percent of the federal poverty level. The evidence-based program has been around for about 40 years, said Joanne Karolzak, director of Child & Family Services with Casa de los Niños. For every dollar invested, the program returns about $5.70, with a net savings of more than $34,000 per family served.
Another key program is Parents As Teachers , which — as the name suggests — focuses on helping parents be their child's first teacher.
Joan Katz, coordinator of Parents as Teachers with Sunnyside Unified School District, had been working with preschool students who had language delays and noticed she was often helping two or three kids from the same family. Since language delays can be hereditary, she said she started looking into ways to help the family as a whole.
Parents as Teachers fit perfectly, she said. Its four components include home visitation, group connections, parent-child time and referrals to other resources needed.
Here's why these programs matter: The first five years of life are when the human brain is most open to absorbing new skills, including learning to read and communicate. It's also a time when children, with the help of their parents and caregivers, learn self-regulation, which means learning about their emotions and how to calm down when they are upset.
Helping parents understand how a child's brain develops — and how to have reasonable expectations about their young children — is critical to preventing abuse and neglect. This is especially true when parents and caregivers have survived abuse or neglect themselves, and are at risk of repeating the cycle with their own kids.
The Department of Child Safety has been involved with Haley and her children several times over the years, but the agency has never done what she fears most: taken her children away.
Helping Haley at home averages about $4,600 for three months — a fraction of what it would cost to put her six children in foster care, which runs about $22 to $28 per day for each child, with the highest rate — for a medically fragile teen — at about $46 per day. Life in a group home averages about $3,500 per child per month.
DCS spending reflects how Arizona has prioritized foster care over prevention: In fiscal year 2017, $59 million of the agency's budget went to licensed family foster care, which is just one type of out-of-home placement, while $28.9 million went toward in-home services.
Prevention programs like Healthy Families and Building Resilient Families — which is not evidence-based, is not yet being used in Pima County and is being reviewed by Northern Arizona University researchers — cost the agency $15 million that same year.
Beyond the cost to Arizona, there's also the lifetime breakdown of day-to-day expenses, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines this way: If someone is dealing with the aftermath of significant trauma and has not received any help, that person can incur $144,360 in lost productivity, $43,000 in childhood and adult health care, $14,000 in criminal justice and child safety costs, and $8,000 in special education costs.
Arizona scores high in this realm, the National Survey of Children's Health finds, with about 31 percent of our children having experienced two or more adverse childhood experiences. The national average is 21.7 percent.
"When we look at the roots of social problems, we're talking about origins in early life," said Katie McLaughlin, director of the Stress and Development Lab at the University of Washington. "It's not surprising that the cycles perpetuate."
And when these children become adults who are "hard-wired for stress," there should be little surprise when communities struggle with big issues.
The focus, therefore, needs to be on programs that help prevent or undo these cycles and help diminish poverty, decrease violence and address the "root causes" of trauma, McLaughlin said.
Everything else? She sums it up like this:
Des Plaines day care workers gave melatonin gummies to 2-year-olds before naptime, cops say
by John Keilman
Three employees of a Des Plaines day care center were charged with endangering the life or health of a child after allegedly giving 2-year-olds melatonin gummies to calm them before nap time, police said.
Management of the center, Kiddie Junction on East Oakton Street, alerted police after learning that a teacher had been giving the children gummies that contained the sleep-inducing chemical, Des Plaines police Cmdr. Christopher Mierzwa said
The children's parents had not given permission for their kids to receive melatonin, he said.
As police investigated, they learned that two other teachers were also involved, Mierzwa said. After the employees were taken into custody, they said they didn't think there was anything wrong with giving the kids melatonin because it's an over-the-counter supplement, he said.
“You can't distribute that without the parents being told,” Mierzwa said. “(The teachers) didn't know if the child was allergic to melatonin.”
Police contacted the parents of every child in the day care center, he said. None said their children had been sickened by the supplement, he said, though a few reported that their kids recently seemed groggy at pickup.
After police consulted with the Cook County state's attorney's office, the teachers — Kristen Lauletta, 32, of Niles ; Jessica Heyse, 19, of Des Plaines; and Ashley Helfenbein, 25, of Chicago — were each charged with two counts of endangering the life or health of a child and two counts of battery, Mierzwa said.
They are due to appear in court April 4.
Smita Patel, a neurologist with NorthShore University HealthSystem Neurological Institute, said melatonin is a hormone produced by the body. Supplements are meant to help people fall asleep at a desired time.
She said while it's a bad idea to provide it to children without a parent's consent, melatonin generally isn't considered to be a harmful substance. The worst side effect, for some people, is nightmares.
But Dr. Anna Ivanenko, a neurologist and pediatric sleep specialist at AMITA Health, said many other countries treat melatonin as a prescription drug.
Some studies have shown that over-the-counter supplements contain unreliable amounts of the chemical, she said, as well as inactive ingredients that can cause their own side effects.
Doctors in her specialty are adamant that melatonin should not be consumed outside of a physician's care, she said. Giving it to children without informing their parents, she said, is “a very inappropriate and potentially dangerous act.”
Managers of Kiddie Junction did not return calls for comment. Mierzwa said the day care's operators have cooperated with the investigation.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is also investigating. A spokeswoman said the day care has no prior violations.
Statute of Limitations Bill Dies in the Senate
by Sydney Brownstone
A bill that originally intended to lift the limit on the period of time survivors of rape and sexual assault have to press charges against their abusers has died in the state Senate.
HB 1155 was, in some ways, a complicated bill. In addition to lifting the statute of limitations for crimes perpetrated by adults, it also included crimes against children —defined in such a way that included juvenile perpetrators, too. While HB 1155 gained overwhelming support in the House of Representatives, a few key voices on sexual assault, including Rep. Noel Frame (D-Seattle), voted against it because of the way the legislation would have treated juveniles.
Nevertheless, by the time the bill reached the state Senate, it had abandoned the goal of lifting the statute of limitations for adult rape survivors altogether. Instead, the amended bill only lifted the statute of limitations for survivors reporting child rape or child molestation. It was voted out of the committee, but died before it reached the Senate floor.
Senator Jamie Pedersen, chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, said that he was concerned by the breadth of the original bill. "We in Washington State have never had no statute of limitations for crime in which a person has not died," he said. "That's a big change for us."
Asked why his committee abandoned the bill's intent to lift the statute of limitations for adult rape survivors, Pedersen said, "That's a conversation that the committee wanted to have in more depth."
Currently, a rape survivor in Washington State has just one year to report to the crime to police if he or she wants to be able to press charges within the next 10 years. If that survivor fails to make a police report within a year, he or she has three years to press criminal charges.
Pedersen said he believed the current criminal statute of limitations for adult rape survivors "isn't what our policy should be—but to go from that to you have forever, I'm not sure that's good policy either."
Still, Pedersen said he would be dedicating time in the interim between legislative sessions to work on a piece of legislation that would possibly extend the statute of limitations on both criminal charges and civil cases. To bring a civil claim of sexual abuse, a survivor has just three years since the discovery of the harm resulting from that abuse in order to file a claim.
Mary Ellen Stone, executive director of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, said in a statement that she was disappointed by the failure of the bill. “We are, however, looking forward to moving this issue forward next year as Senator [Jamie] Pedersen has pledged to do,” Stone said.
Child Abuse 101: Indicators of abuse and neglect
For every 1,000 Hoosier children, there are more than 18 substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect. In Rush County, the rate is higher, at 22 cases per 1,000 children. Children who are abused or neglected often suffer from both temporary and long-term physical and emotional harm. Adults who come into contact with children – either through jobs as teachers, police officers, lawyers or social service staff—or friends, relatives and neighbors, are the most likely to report alleged child abuse or neglect.
The Indiana Youth Institute and its community partners Purdue Extension/Parenting Council, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Boys and Girls Club are teaming up to help caring adults understand the protective factors that are key to building strong family foundations. This free workshop will last from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 8 in the gymnasium of the Boys and Girls Club at 1590 Sexton Street in Rushville. This event is funded in part by Meridian Health Services.
Carol Pool, a trainer with Prevent Child Abuse Indiana (PCAIN), will speak to attendees about the factors that contribute to abuse and the signs of abuse and neglect, as well as how adults should – and are required – to intervene. Attendees also will learn how to interact with families in a strength-based way.
The workshop and lunch are part of IYI's Youth Worker Café program, and reservations are required. RSVP at www.iyi.org/calendar . If you have trouble with the link, please contact IYI Statewide Outreach Manager Debbie Jones via email at email@example.com . For more information about the café, contact IYI's East Central Outreach Manager Alison Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Youth Worker Cafés are designed to bring together local youth workers to build relationships and inspire collaborations that will benefit children.
The Indiana Youth Institute promotes the healthy development of Indiana children and youth by serving the people, institutions and communities that impact their well-being.
Child deaths related to neglect and abuse are down 23 percent
by Becky Fogel
The number of Texas children whose deaths are blamed on neglect and abuse dropped in the 2017 fiscal year, down nearly 23 percent from the year before. That's according to an annual report released by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
In the 2016 fiscal year, child abuse deaths in Texas increased by 30 percent.
Patrick Crimmins, a spokesperson for DFPS, points out that over the last five fiscal years, children ages three and younger accounted for nearly 80 percent of all confirmed child abuse and neglect fatalities in Texas.
“In some part it's because these young children are at home,” Crimmins says, “and so they don't go to school and they don't go to daycare, many of them, and so there's not the other sets of eyes and the other responsible adults taking care of them.”
Crimmins adds that it is often school officials and daycare workers who call in possible cases of abuse and neglect to the state agency. The report also points out that in about half of the fatality cases, the families had no prior involvement or contact with DFPS.
Dimple Patel, the associate director of public policy for TexProtects , says there is a big opportunity to improve outcomes for children in families that have had contact with DFPS. She says in 104 of the 172 confirmed child fatality cases in the 2017 fiscal year, there had been a prior history of involvement with Child Protective Services.
“We took a deeper dive into that number and looked at the number of cases where we actually actively offered services to the family in a program called Family Based Family Services,” says Patel. “38 of our fatalities either had a prior based Family Based Family Services case or an open case at the time of the child's death, so for us that really speaks to the need to have higher quality services for those families that are at highest risk of abuse and neglect.”
The report says 52 percent of fatalities caused by abuse or neglect involved a parent or caregiver actively using a controlled substance. 23 percent involved a parent or caregiver with reported or confirmed mental health concerns. There were active domestic violence concerns in 17 percent of the fatality cases.
Officials say a former Harris County prosecutor withheld key evidence in a death row case. According to a statement from the Harris County District Attorney's office, a previously undisclosed e-mail should have been made available to lawyers representing Alfred Dewayne Brown, who spent nearly a decade on death row.
Allison Lee with Houston Public Media has more .
Brown was a defendant in a high-profile murder case involving a Houston police officer and a store clerk. But his case was dismissed in 2015, shortly after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals determined he should get a new trial because of the prosecutor's failure to disclose a phone record that could have been used to corroborate his alibi.
Brown is now involved in a civil rights lawsuit against Harris County.
Late last week, the Harris County district attorney's office released newly discovered evidence to Brown's lawyers – an e-mail between former Harris County prosecutor Dan Rizzo and a former Houston police officer suggesting that Rizzo was aware of the phone records prior to trial and failed to disclose them.
Fighting to support child sexual abuse survivors
by Josh Bazan
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) - "I never want a child to go through what I went through," Tom Travers said. "To have to unravel years of depression of confusion of anger of shame."
Travers is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and an advocate for people who have gone through similar trauma. He says he was raped by a priest in the Buffalo Diocese decades ago when he was an altar boy.
"As children, we have no idea that we were traumatized," Travers said. "We don't have words to ask for help when we're suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts. We end up just burying that inside of us and building defense mechanisms around ourselves to protect ourselves."
In Travers case, it took decades to come to terms with what happened. That's one of the reasons he is fighting for New York State lawmakers to pass the Child Victims Act.
The legislation has been discussed in Albany for the past decade, but has never made it into law.
It would extend the statute of limitations to age 28 for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to come forward and pursue criminal charges and to age 50 to initiate civil lawsuits. Under current state law, survivors only have until age 23 to initiate legal action.
The Child Victims Act would also allow a one year look back period for survivors to initiate legal action whose instances of sexual abuse date back decades.
Another piece of the legislation would remove current language in state law that requires survivors to initiate a lawsuit within 90 days of the alleged abuse if the suit is against public employers.
The bill has passed the State Assembly and is included in Governor Cuomo's proposed 2018 budget, but it has never been brought to a vote in the Republican-controlled State Senate.
NYS Senator Patrick Gallivan, (R) Elma, released the following statement to 7 Eyewitness News:
“I certainly support doing everything necessary to prevent the sexual victimization of children and to ensure accountability for those that commit these despicable acts. In addition to the work the Senate has already advanced toward that end, I have introduced legislation (S7372) to close a loophole that does not require private school teachers and administrators - unlike their public school counterparts - to report allegations of abuse and co-sponsor legislation (S4809) extending the criminal and civil statutes of limitation in these matters. I will continue to work with my Senate colleagues in an effort to pursue comprehensive and meaningful reform.”
NYS Senator Chris Jacobs, (R) Buffalo, released the following statement to 7 Eyewitness News:
"It is my strong belief that we will successfully pass legislation this session in Albany to significantly extend or completely eliminate the statute of limitations, both criminally and civilly, for children who were victims of sexual assault. We know that due to the trauma of this child abuse, it may take many years before these victims are able to confront their perpetrators and the institutions that enabled them and we owe them as much time as they need."
Both Senators were asked to comment on the Child Victims Act specifically, but the legislation was not addressed in either statement.
"The simple truth is that sexual abuse is a systemic problem in our society," Travers said. "It exists in schools. It exists in institutions. It exists in clubs."
Travers and NYS Senator Tim Kennedy, (D) South Buffalo, will speak together at a public event discussing the Child Victims Act. The event is scheduled for Saturday, March 10 at 1:00 p.m. in Harriman Hall at University at Buffalo's South Campus.
Close relaitonships in midlife tied to lower mortality for child abuse survivors
by Lisa Rapaport
Child abuse survivors may be less likely to die prematurely when they develop supportive relationships by middle age, a U.S. study suggests.
Child abuse is common in the U.S., with up to about one-third of kids experiencing emotional mistreatment and up to around 18 percent suffering from physical abuse, researchers note in Nature Human Behavior. Survivors of child abuse can suffer from both short-term and longer range mental health problems and may be more likely than kids who weren't abused to die prematurely from a range of medical issues including heart disease and certain cancers.
For the current study, researchers examined survey data from 6,078 adults who were 47 years old on average, including 2,188 who reported experiencing emotional abuse as kids, 1,594 who said they experienced moderate physical abuse and 695 who suffered severe physical abuse.
Over the next 20 years, 1,038 participants, or 17 percent, died.
Adult survivors of severe physical abuse were 19 percent less likely to die during the study period if they had strong social support in middle age. Survivors of moderate physical abuse were 12 percent less likely to die when they had supportive relationships, while survivors of emotional abuse had an 11 percent lower risk of premature death.
“Supportive relationships in adulthood may effectively combat or reverse the negative health consequences of childhood abuse,” said lead study author Jessica Chiang of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
“Our findings suggest that victims of childhood abuse are not necessarily set on a path towards poor health in adulthood,” Chiang said by email. “That path seems to be malleable, and social support in adulthood, even decades after exposure to childhood abuse, can alter that path for the better.”
The study wasn't a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how close, supportive friendships or family or romantic relationships might directly help improve health or prevent health problems for survivors of childhood abuse.
It's also possible that factors not measured in the study might make some people more resilient than others and better able to overcome abuse during childhood, the authors note.
A growing body of evidence suggests that “toxic stress” during childhood, which might be caused by abuse or other traumatic events like a severe illness or the loss of a parent, can influence brain development and alter immune function and metabolism, noted Ann Masten, author of an accompanying editorial and a child development researcher at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.
Toxic stress might lead to chronic inflammation, premature cellular aging, heart problems, obesity, depression and other medical issues, Masten said by email. On top of this, child abuse can also increase the risk that people will engage in risky behaviors that jeopardize their health.
Even when abuse survivors don't start out life with strong, supportive relationships, they can learn to create them, Masten said.
“Adult survivors of child abuse can cultivate and invest in supportive relationships through enduring ties to friends and family, cultural and religious practices, community engagement and many other social activities,” Masten added. “They can also keep an eye on their own mental health, getting early treatment for signs of trauma, depression, substance use problems or suicidal thinking.”
Human trafficking is an often-invisible community problem
by Devastasha Beaver
JEFFERSON — “It happens here, and it happens in plain sight,” Teresa Stafford, senior director of victim services and outreach at Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, said Thursday during the “Human Trafficking: Under the Radar in Our Community” training at Jefferson Area High School.
The seminar for counselors, social workers, law enforcement personnel and medical professionals focused on awareness and recognizing the risk factors for, and signs of, human trafficking in northeast Ohio.
Stafford was one of three presenters for the event, which was a collaboration between Homesafe, Cleveland Rape Crisis Center and the Harriet Tubman Movement. Also presenting were Laura Bartchak, director of the Harriet Tubman Movement, and Keyna Smith, Project STAR (Sex Trafficking Advocacy and Recovery) coordinator for CRCC.
Each presenter echoed the same message: human trafficking isn't always obvious.
“It is happening in our communities and it looks different than we might think. It may not look like the movie, ‘Taken,' where girls are snatched into vans and chained in basements. It may, but not usually,” Bartchak said.
Stafford said many child sex trafficking victims might not attend school regularly; seem disconnected from their peers, but try to fit in; run away from home; have been involved in the juvenile justice system; might have a noticeably older “boyfriend”; or demonstrate a sudden change in clothing.
Sex trafficking victims might have tattoos that show which trafficker they “belong” to, and might have their names changed to disconnect them from their former life, Stafford said. Such tattoos can include the trafficker's name or nickname, or the word “daddy,” which refers to the trafficker.
This “new slavery” is similar to the “old” enslavement of black people, except it is much more profitable because traffickers can sell the same person multiple times, Stafford said.
The Harriet Tubman Movement, Bartchak said, is like an underground railroad to help trafficking survivors achieve their definition of safety and freedom by connecting them with resources that meet their individual needs. For some, this could include moving out of state.
Stafford said Ohio ranks fourth in the country for sex trafficking, with Toledo being the fourth highest ranking city in the U.S.
“We are ranked high because we're doing the work and holding perpetrators accountable,” she said, explaining that lower-ranking states don't have programs or laws in place because they're unaware of the problem.
“When the blinders are on, we're not helping survivors.”
Northeast Ohio Coalition Against Human Trafficking executive director Susan Laird said there is no way to know exactly how many people are trafficked in and through Ashtabula County.
“That kind of data is almost impossible to get. Survivors from New York will tell you they know about Routes 90, 11, and the truck stops along the way. But that information is often after the fact, if at all,” she said. The coalition is volunteer-run and funded by donations.
Homesafe Executive Director Sherri Price said they have helped some trafficking victims.
‘We have seen some at the shelter. Not a lot, but that's why I wanted to bring this training to Ashtabula County,” she said.
Seminar attendee Lalescia Hicks, peer support specialist at Signature Health in Cleveland, said the prejudices people have toward at-risk communities contributes to the prevalence of sex trafficking.
“People see (trafficking victims) as criminals,” she said. “We have to stop seeing them as criminals and perpetrators, and see them as victims. Police need to believe them. When I was 13, police didn't believe me. They didn't believe a nice man, going into the service, would have raped me.”
Hicks said in her work with mental illness and drug abuse counseling, she has worked with victims of sex trafficking.
Stafford said 95 percent of sex trafficking victims have had a previous history of sex abuse, and the average age of victims when they are first trafficked is 12-14 years old. Traffickers may supply drugs to their victims to keep them dependent, and victims, in turn, depend on drugs to numb the pain of the lifestyle, she said.
Many victims of sex trafficking, regardless of previous drug activity, end up addicted to hard drugs, Stafford said.
“Survivors of trafficking didn't choose this lifestyle, and oftentimes, life before being trafficked was (difficult), and they deserve the support of the community and the systems,” she said. “Having awareness programs like this is a great first step.”
“The most powerful words you can say to a survivor are ‘I believe you,'” Stafford said.
Warning signsSome people are at a higher risk of becoming a trafficking victim. Risk factors for children include: insufficient affection at home; lack of supervision at home; unstable home life; placement in foster care; drug or alcohol abuse in the home; homelessness; poverty; and identifying as LGBTQ, Stafford said. Within 24-48 hours of running away from home, children are often contacted by a trafficker, she said.
Girls may not think they are being trafficked and believe their trafficker is their boyfriend, which is what Stafford called the “boyfriend pimp.” She said the trafficker might make the girl feel special or buy her gifts, and then begin isolating her from her family before selling her to other people.
She said that boys who are trafficking victims are harder to identify because they are not under the control of a pimp. They are often forced from their homes because of their sexual orientation, Stafford said, with the average age of trafficking entry at 11-13 years old.
“Parents should talk (to their kids) about online social media safety — only accept friend requests from people you truly know — about healthy relationships and boundaries, and creating a safe space where they can talk to someone they trust,” Stafford said. “And if they're being abused, to tell someone, and keep telling people until someone believes them and the abuse stops.”
Risk factors for adults include: a history of exploitation; being a runaway youth; drug addiction; poverty; homelessness; lack of education; domestic violence; discrimination (race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation); being an immigrant, refugee or being undocumented, Stafford said.
Labor trafficking people who are immigrants, documented or not, are at risk for labor trafficking, as well as sex trafficking, she said. It might appear to be an intimate relationship (including marriage), but the victim is forced to work without having control of their finances or personal documents, and may not be allowed to leave the home or business. Trafficking and domestic violence often look similar, Stafford said.
Labor trafficking victims may be paid small amounts of money, but remain indebted to their trafficker for providing transportation, shelter and food, Stafford said.
Human trafficking victims cope in many different ways.
Smith said people might be skeptical of survivors because they act in a way that is unexpected.
“Everyone responds to trauma differently.
It doesn't always look the way we think it should,” she said,
adding that survivors don't always cry when telling their stories, and, instead, may be sarcastic or even laugh about it.
“Give her an opportunity to have a voice,” Smith said. “Allow (survivors) to tell their story in a way that's comfortable for them.”
For more information, to report suspected trafficking, or to request training for your organization, call 855-431-7827.
Salt Lake City man accused of sexually abusing 'multiple children'
by CNN Wire
Salt Lake City, UT (KSL) -- A Salt Lake City man once charged with sexually abusing a 6-year-old girl he was babysitting has been arrested and accused of sexually abusing multiple children.
James Gerald Crawford, 43, was arrested Wednesday for investigation of five counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, sex abuse of a child, lewdness involving a child, and sodomy on a child.
An officer conducting an investigation ended up talking to Crawford who "confessed to multiple counts of sexual abuse on multiple children" who were under 13 years old, police wrote in a Salt Lake County Jail report.
At least one of the victims is a child he was babysitting, the report states.
Crawford "initially admitted that he had been doing this since his 20s, then later stated that the abuse had been occurring from 2007 to 2017," the report states.
Salt Lake police say the alleged victims are not related to Crawford, but it was unclear Friday how he came in contact with them.
In 2014, Crawford was charged with forcible sodomy, a first-degree felony, for allegedly abusing a 6-year-old girl he was babysitting. But during a preliminary hearing, a judge determined that not enough evidence had been presented to send the case to trial and the case was dismissed.
Think before you comment on child abuse: Your words matter and so do theirs
by Cara Gerdiman
Research shows kids often tell as many as four adults before someone actually reports the abuse to an investigative agency. So why doesn't the abuse stop after the first adult is told? The answer is complex.
Nearly every day I see, hear, and read headlines about another adult who has harmed a child. My heart goes out to these kids. These are the children who've found the courage to use their voice. They've told an adult who ensured the child's voice was heard and reported so the child's report can be investigated. I see the articles on social media and find myself reading not only the article, but also the accompanying comments. I often find myself wondering when we as a community and a society will be so outraged that we put a stop to the abuse. I also worry about those victims who've not felt safe enough to come forward. Will some of our comments discourage them from talking?
I want to take a moment to recognize the courage children exhibit, sometimes against overwhelming obstacles, to report their abuse. Research shows kids often tell as many as four adults before someone actually reports the abuse to an investigative agency. So why doesn't the abuse stop after the first adult is told? The answer to this question is complex. Sometimes children share small details to gauge the reaction of the adult they are telling. If that adult reacts in a way the child doesn't feel protected or safe, the child may not disclose everything. Disclosure of abuse is a process. It is not an event. If you are raised in a home where love is shown through hitting, touching you places you don't want to be touched, and/or not providing nourishment, you simply want those things to stop happening. Your love for the person causing this hurt doesn't diminish. You simply want the bad stuff to go away.
I often read the question: “this happened six months ago (1 year ago, 3 years ago) why did the child allow it to continue?” Again, this is complex. Children who've experienced sexual abuse often wait six months or more before telling someone what happened. Sexual abuse often happens in secrecy. Perpetrators have often “groomed” the child, their caretakers, and the public to help the perpetrator gain access to victims and help prevent the relationship from being discovered. “Grooming” allows the offender to identify victims, gain their trust, and break down defenses. Often times when you read about scandals involving sexual abuse, you see comments like “what a nice person this is”, “how helpful this person is”, “they are an upstanding citizen in their community”. No one can believe this person could do that. Offenders work hard to build this persona which gives them access to children. Offenders are very good at getting adults to believe they would never do something like this. The grooming process for a child may start with what seem to be innocent behaviors which gradually grow over time until the child is so far into the situation, they don't know how to get out and they feel as though they are to blame for the behaviors or that they are going to be in trouble.
Many times I read and see comments that blame the victim for bringing the abuse upon themselves. Often this is implied when commentors say the child was: “wearing the wrong clothing”, “flirted with the offender”, “they didn't tell immediately, they must have wanted it”, “should have known better than to text or meet that person”. Many readers misunderstand the power differential between the adult (teacher, doctor, pastor, fire fighter, police officer, friend) who knows better and the child who may feel pressured, have a lack of understanding, and the power held by the adult. As a society, we often teach children that these are the people that deserve our trust and respect-and most of them do, but there are exceptions. So often these kids are discouraged from reporting abuse because “if we report this, this person's life will be destroyed”, “if we report, everyone will know it was you who told”, “if you tell they might lose their job”, or “what if you misunderstood the situation”. I question, what if the child is right? What if they aren't the only one? What if their disclosure stops the offender? Victims are often scared and vulnerable. News stories can cause victims to be re-traumatized believing now everyone knows what happened, reading comments of those who don't understand the dynamics of sexual abuse and trauma, or simply by having the many intimate details of their abuse being shared with strangers.
I've read comments stating if the child is lying, they should be prosecuted. Do kids lie? Yes. Do we all lie? Yes. However, false reports of sexual abuse are very rare. When a child discloses abuse, we should believe them. Children lie about a lot of different things. Typically they lie to get themselves or someone they love out of trouble. Why would they lie about this? The offender is likely a trusted adult in a power position, someone they like, love, and trust. The abuse has taken place in secrecy. The child may have been threatened that if they tell, the family will lose their house, the offender will go to jail, there will be no one to support the family, the offender will hurt someone the child loves. Take a moment to consider what a child gives up when they talk about their abuse. They may be removed from their home to live in foster care, they may be separated from a sibling, they might have to change schools, they lose their privacy, no one believes them, they are separated from a beloved pet. In my experience, and common knowledge in the field, children are more likely to lie to cover up what has happened rather than lie about something that is happening. It is easier and more comfortable for adults to believe the child is lying because the alternative is horrible.
When will we as a society become so outraged by our children being hurt that we put a stop to it? When will we put safety factors in place to eliminate or severely limit isolated one on one situations between children and adults? If adults can't recognize abusers and potential grooming behaviors, how can we expect children to? It is TIME to realize the safety of children is our responsibility as adults. We must educate ourselves and those in our communities to put into place policies and procedures to protect children. Over the years, I've met many survivors of child sexual abuse. Almost every time I give a community presentation, at least one adult in the audience shares their story of being abused as a child. They often tell me this was the first time they've told anyone. Each survivor has their own unique story and each one gives me hope that other victims will find the courage to come forward. These are my heroes. For more information about Kids' Harbor, please visit www.kidsharbormo.org , like us on Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/KidsHarborInc/ ) or call 573.348.6886 (Osage Beach) 573.336.8634 (St. Robert)
Cara Gerdiman is the executive director of Kids' Harbor in Osage Beach and St. Robert, Missouri. Kids' Harbor, Inc. is a coordinating agency in the multidisciplinary approach to child abuse response that involves prosecutors, Children's Division, law enforcement, juvenile office, mental health and medical professionals. The goal of the Multidisciplinary approach is to prevent re-victimization of the child by providing a comfortable, child friendly environment for the investigation, providing agencies an opportunity to participate in a videotaped interview to reduce the number of people who interview the child and referring families to medical, mental health and victim advocacy services. Children are referred to Kids' Harbor by Children's Division, Law Enforcement and the Juvenile Office. Views do not necessarily reflect those of the Lake Sun.
Spotting the signs of child abuse in children
by Deanne Roberts
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – St. George Police have arrested Mark Carlisle Childers for three counts of criminal sexual misconduct, and although there are many unanswered questions, experts say talking to a child about abuse is one of the hardest conversations to have.
Dr. Carole Swiecicki, Executive Director for Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center, says it starts with developing a relationship where you can talk to your son or daughter about anything. She says parents typically get a feeling of discomfort when they sense something is wrong with their child or children.
“The main sign that's out there is when a child says that something's happened.” Swiecicki said. “That's that main thing that adults stay calm and believe their child to get them to somebody who's job it is to actually investigate that and not feel like they have to do that right in the moment.”
According to Swiecicki, 90% of the time with physical and sexual abuse the offender is someone the family knows. St. George Police Department says that's the case with Childers.
Swiecicki says it's could be a relative, a close friend, or a close family friend. She says the emotional and behavioral symptoms in a child that's been abused tends to be similar whether it was by someone in the family or outside of the family.
Although, she says when it's someone the family knows, it typically takes the child longer to say something about the traumatic experience. In fact, she says one in four children tell within the first month of their experience.
“It's very unusual that a child will tell about physical or sexual abuse right away,” she said. “We consider it immediate if a child tells within a month, anything after that first month is considered delayed disclosure.”
Swiecicki says the signs and symptoms are different in children dependent on their age.
” Younger children, you're more likely to see kind of dis regulation in their behavior, maybe more temper tantrums, they're suddenly crying,and they may be having a more difficult time managing those emotions,” she said. “With older children, you'll often see more things that include withdrawing and not talking as much, staying in their room a lot, seeming really sad and nervous or depressed. ”
Swiecicki says other common symptoms are fear, acting differently, or disconnecting to others.
She says the healing process is a long journey, but it starts with talking to your child about what happened and then seeking help.
Below are some resources if you are seeking child advocacy help:
Despite over 20,000 child sexual abuse reports, only 107 in official database
by Yiswaree Palansamy
KUALA LUMPUR, March 7 — Despite over 20,000 reports of child sexual abuse cases, the Child Registry database has only recorded 107 official cases, the Women, Family and Community Development ministry revealed today.
“The data in the Child Registry can only be revealed to those allowed by the education director-general.
“107 offenders in the Registry, and (this is) always updated from time to time,” its deputy minister deputy minister Datuk Azizah Mohd Dun told the Dewan Rakyat.
She was responding to a question by Kelana Jaya MP Wong Chen, who had asked when the ministry would be implementing the Child Registry, the criteria, and if the offenders would be categorised according to specific sexual offences.
He also asked whether the said list would be made public.
In her reply, Azizah said that the ministry would also observe the effectiveness of the Child Registry, as it is still new, with only 107 names recorded currently.
“On whether effective or not, as everyone know this Registry is something new, we only have 107 names, and we will see for a certain time. In the other western countries, the registry has been there for many years.
“Give us time to see how effective this is,” she added.
In his press conference later, Wong expressed alarm over the number of names recorded in the Registry, adding that there were 22,135 reported child sexual abuse cases between 2010 and May 2017.
Of this number, he said 13,272 cases were child rape and the balance 8,863 are for other offences, including, but not limited to molestation, incest and unnatural sex.
“This means there are approximately 2,500 cases of child sexual abuse cases a year. Note that this does not include unreported cases, which is higher,” he said, adding that a number of academic studies on the matter, showed that the number of unreported cases are almost three times higher than reported cases.
Wong also called on the ministry to “buck up” and triple their efforts in tackling child sexual crimes, and demanded that it also prepare an annual report on such cases.
The Child Act (Amendment) 2016 was amended in July 2016, and included the registry of child offenders to help employers run a background check on their potential employees.
In November last year, the ministry said that not much can be done by the government to ensure the full use of the Child Registry, which has since January included the database of child offenders, due to limited power in enforcing its usage.
Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim said the ministry was only able to encourage potential employers to utilise the registry but could not make it a mandatory requirement.
The ministry had said the registry was not being fully utilised as there was limited advocacy and awareness, and that some employers do not see the importance behind conducting checks against their potential employees.
Lobbying has already started on child sex-abuse legislation
by Ty Tagami
Child sex abuse legislation that unanimously passed the Georgia House of Representatives last week has already encountered quiet opposition in the Senate, with advocates fearing it might never come to a vote and become law.
House Bill 605 , dubbed the Hidden Predator Act, proposes to give adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse more time to sue by extending the statute of limitations for civil complaints. It affects claims against both the alleged perpetrators and, most controversially, organizations that let them act with impunity.
Sen. Bill Cowsert , a leader of the committee that controls the bill's fate, said he's already been approached by about a half dozen “interested parties” on both sides.
Cowsert, R-Athens, vice chairman of the Senate's Judiciary Committee, said it's a normal part of the process for lobbyists “to educate us, basically, and advocate for their viewpoint.”
But the bill's main author said opponents are quietly trying to “euthanize” it. Rep. Jason Spencer , R-Woodbine, has already publicly said the Georgia Catholic Conference, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the insurance industry lobbied against it in the House, adding that no entity worked harder to derail it than the Boy Scouts of America.
Opponents forced amendments that make it harder to sue organizations, he said, and they did it quietly. “What that tells me is they have something to hide.”
None of the organizations Spencer identified returned calls for comment Wednesday, but the Boy Scouts did issue a statement last month, saying they “strongly” supported parts of the bill while opposing it overall. The group said the bill “does not strengthen efforts that experts agree can help keep children safe” and that it “would hinder the ability of youth-serving organizations to protect the children they serve.”
It also could expose organizations to financial liability. The Boy Scouts are defending themselves against a lawsuit in Georgia that alleges a decades-long conspiracy to shield volunteers they knew to be child predators. In 2012, a Portland judge ordered the release of so-called perversion files — collected nationwide from 1965 to 1985 — that detailed the expulsion of 1,247 Scout volunteers. The lawsuit in Georgia claims there are more that haven't been released.
“The Boy Scouts literally have files on thousands of predators without disclosing it to the public,” said Darren Penn, a lawyer who is a proponent of the Hidden Predator Act. He has represented numerous clients who sued over sex abuse and said Georgia's law is one of the toughest in the country for plaintiffs. He said the average age when victims come forward is 42, nearly two decades past the age when suits are allowed by Georgia's statute of limitations.
The limit is currently age 23 but the bill would extend that to 38. It would also double to four years the amount of time that victims of any age have to sue after getting a diagnosis that the misery in their lives — such as substance abuse, or inability to keep a job or maintain a marriage — was caused by abuse they suffered as children.
It would also open a one-year window during which victims of any age could sue. Spencer said lobbyists tried to get that element deleted in the House and that senators on the Judiciary Committee tell him lobbyists are already trying again the Senate. If they succeed, he said, it would be harder to sue organizations like USA Gymnastics, accused of a coverup involving convicted pedophile Larry Nassar . Spencer said lobbyists already compelled him to change his bill in the House: It now says plaintiffs must be able to point to evidence of a coverup to sue organizations during the one-year window. He said it wouldn't have gotten out of the House without that concession.
It passed the House at the last possible moment last week, by a stunning 170-0.
Several Judiciary Committee senators contacted by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said they had not been lobbied on the bill. “We're fairly early in the process,” said Sen. Josh McKoon , R-Columbus, adding, “I'm sure I'll be hearing from folks about it.” McKoon, who is running for Georgia Secretary of State, said he supports the “overall goal here of making sure victims have a remedy.”
Cowsert, the committee vice chairman, said he hasn't studied the bill or formulated an opinion about it. He said he was first approached about it before it even left the House, and of all the interested parties, he only named one — Penn, who is a former president of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association. Cowsert said Penn “is trying to alter the law to assist his cases.”
Spencer, who authored the bill after his hometown struggled with sex-abuse claims involving a local karate instructor, said he just wants to open an avenue for justice. There is no statute of limitations for criminal charges involving child sex abuse, but that wasn't always the case. The limit used to be seven years from the crime, until the law was changed in 2012, which means countless older victims can't pursue prosecution. Spencer said he hopes an extension of the civil statute of limitations will surface older victims whose lawsuits then get the attention of younger people molested after 2012 by the same predators. He hopes it will embolden younger victims to go to the police instead of waiting until age 42, before more kids are abused.
Jacksonville council looking into child abuse task force
by Amanda Thames
“Some people are just mean.”
District Attorney Ernie Lee addressed the Jacksonville City Council and showcased the circumstances that contribute to child abuse and mistreatment. Although it wasn't listed in the slideshow reasons, Lee told the council, “Some people are mean. Some people are bad.”
Other contributing factors include a lack of intelligence and education as well as a cycle of abuse, marriage problems, unemployment and illness, among other reasons.
Some people just aren't equipped to raise children, Lee continued, adding that it was amazing what someone has to go through to get a driver's license, and yet anyone can have a child.
Lee said he currently has 32 people awaiting trial for more than 100 charges that include child abuse and exploitation of a child.
“We need to get in front of this. We need to do something to prevent it from happening,” Jacksonville Director of Public Safety Mike Yaniero said.
Yaniero and Lee, along with several others with them at the council workshop, were there to promote the idea of a task force that focuses on preventing child abuse.
Malea Rose-Waters with Prevent Child Abuse N.C. said she's worked with New Hanover, Cumberland, and Halifax counties to create child abuse prevention plans using community leaders with a passion for helping kids.
The focus of those task forces is finding ways to give adults the tools they need to overcome the stresses of life and become better parents in order to give their children happy and healthy homes, like learning how to create a nurturing relationship with your child, classes for parenting skills, how to build resilience, and learning to only allow positive relationships, instead of toxic ones, around your children.
“If you do want to change the lives of children, you have to change the lives of the people who are taking care of them, Rose-Waters explained.
These communities hope to offer ways for parents to ensure basic needs are met, and help them learn it's okay to ask for help while also ensuring they know where to go to get the help they need.
“I think all of us would agree that a child being hurt is not okay, and it's 100 percent preventable,” said Dawn Rochelle with Onslow County Partnership for Children. “I believe that the resources are here.”
Jacksonville Mayor Sammy Phillips noted that the child abuse issue in Onslow County has just as much, if not more, of a devastating impact on the community as the opioid epidemic.
Council members agreed that it's an issue that needs to be tackled and unanimously approved having the city staff look into a task force and partnerships between the city, the county, and the organizations and people represented at the meeting before reporting back with their findings within 90 days.
Free tatoo removal liberates sex trafficked women from tymbols of servitude
by Emily Gatt
Days before International Women's Day, an alternative arts-based aid and advocacy group offered former sex trafficking victims free tattoo removal, liberating women on the road to recovery from the markings signifying their past servitude.
Six women bearing tattoos that once branded them as the property of pimps, gangs, or abusive partners participated in Artists 4 Israel 's ‘Healing Ink - Women's Liberation' project, held earlier this week in Los Angeles -- where homelessness, gang violence, and human trafficking are endemic issues.
"I was sold into slavery by my parents as payment for smuggling them into the US when I was 12,” says “A”, one of the participants in the project whose identities are being withheld to ensure their safety.
“By 14, I was the property of one pimp who called himself my ‘daddy' and he tattooed his name across my arm from bicep to wrist and around the entire arm. When he was killed, I became the property of his killer...He tattooed his name across my face in bright red letters and impregnated me. My baby is the only good thing to come from this,” she tells i24NEWS .
“A” escaped captivity and was taken in by a rescue organization after her abuser was arrested. Today, she helps the organization try to rescue other girls being sex trafficked. Removing the physical markings of her past trauma, she says, will offer her a “chance at a normal life.”
“B”, another woman taking part in the project, is having a tattoo reading “STAY DOWN” removed from her foot. She says the tattoo was given to her by a former pimp after she left her post "working the strip" one night during a rainstorm.
“It meant keep my feet on the ground until he was satisfied that I had made enough money. I had sex for hours and days without going home, in the worst pain and conditions,” she says.
Two other girls had the insignias of street gangs, including California's notorious “Vice Lords” and “Bloods”, removed from their hands. Those symbols once marked the girls as property of the gangs, making them available to the whims of gang members.
“My hope is that by removing these brands and painful reminders that they will be able to move forward with their lives and take back control of their bodies,” says Natalie Quintana, who led the team of tattoo removal specialists offering their services to the project.
"It breaks my heart to think about what these women went through,” she tells i24NEWS .
The National Human Trafficking Research Center , which maintains one of the most extensive data sets on the issue of human trafficking in the United States, has identified nearly 40,000 victims of human trafficking in America since 2007.
According to their figures, over 22,000 cases of sex trafficking have been reported across the United States since 2007.
The state of California consistently reports the highest number of cases of human trafficking.
Many sex trafficking victims are manipulated into prostitution by romantic partners, others are forced by their parents or other family members to sell their bodies. Some are lured with false promises of glamorous-sounding modeling jobs.
While the circumstances may vary, all cases of human trafficking involve coercion or manipulation by use of violence, threats, debt repayment, and other means.
“I was shocked by the level of depravity possible in our midst,” Craig Dershowitz, CEO of Artists 4 Israel (A4I), tells i24NEWS . “Never had I imagined the suffering of these women.”
The ‘Women's Liberation' project was inspired by Artists 4 Israel's other ‘Healing Ink' projects, which have offered free tattoos by some of the industry's foremost artists to victims of terror and war in Israel and the United States.
The idea to remove tattoos given forcefully to girls recovering after being sex trafficked came from A4I's partner in the ‘Healing Ink' initiative, Nichole East of Bishop Tattoo Supply.
“As women we need to always support each other. This is just one way to help women discover their true power again,” East tells i24NEWS . “We want them to look at their skin and feel beautiful and be the strong women that we know they are.”
“Artists 4 Israel had seen the glorious redemption possible by tattoos which covered scars in our Healing Ink program. This was an extension of that idea, eliminating scars that had been tattooed,” Dershowitz says.
He adds that during this project in particular it was important for him, as a man, to be sensitive to the women's unique trauma.
“It was an exercise in love, patience and understanding,” he says. “Artists 4 Israel is committed to using the arts to heal and strengthen those affected by conflict and trauma. That is the goal of 'Healing Ink' and, I believe, our effect today.”
Globally, the International Labor Organization estimates that there are 4.5 million people trapped in forced sexual exploitation.
The vast majority of human trafficking victims are women, and vulnerable populations -- including runaway or homeless youth, minorities, and migrants -- are frequently targeted by traffickers.
If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 (USA).
NSW and Victoria to join national child sexual abuse redress scheme
Malcolm Turnbull urges other states to join scheme recommended by child abuse royal commission
by Christopher Knaus
Victoria and New South Wales have become the first states to join the commonwealth's redress scheme for child sexual abuse survivors.
The announcement is a significant win for the prospect of a truly national redress scheme for abuse survivors, which has been met with reluctance from other states, including South Australia.
The announcement means at least 15,000 people abused in government institutions will be able to access compensation, counselling and other supports through the scheme.
Another 21,000 would be covered if churches, charities and other institutions operating in NSW and Victoria opt-in, according to government figures.
The chairwoman of the independent council advising government on redress, Cheryl Edwardes, said the decision of NSW and Victoria would be welcomed by abuse survivors.
“Having New South Wales and Victoria, the two largest states in terms of people covered, on board will encourage the other states and non-government institutions to commit to the national scheme,” Edwardes said. “We need a national scheme that covers as many survivors of institutional abuse as possible while acknowledging that each individual's impact was different.”
The redress scheme was a key recommendation of the child abuse royal commission, designed as a simple, accessible way for survivors to access compensation. It is designed to further their process of healing, including by providing access to counselling, and requiring institutions to provide a direct response to survivors if they request it.
But the federal government's model, which is still before parliament, differs in several key respects from the royal commission's detailed recommendations .
The proposed legislation will cap payments at $150,000 , rather than the $200,000 cap, $65,000 average and $10,000 minimum recommended by the royal commission.
It could exclude survivors of offshore detention and would block those convicted of serious criminal offences, which could exclude a significant proportion of survivors .
The Coalition has argued the restriction is required to protect the integrity of the scheme, although has indicated it may rethink it .
The inclusion of NSW and Victoria prompted Malcolm Turnbull to urge other states to follow their lead.
“We owe it to the survivors for their courage in telling stories they have been too afraid to speak of, often for decades,” Turnbull said. “Now that those stories have been told, now that they are on the record, we must do everything within our power to honour those stories and to act and to make sure that this national tragedy is never repeated.”
The government says the announcement makes it possible for churches, charities and other institutions in the two states to join the scheme.
The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian , said the announcement was “vital to acknowledging the suffering of survivors of abuse and supporting them on their journey to recovery”.
“It's unacceptable so many children were sexually abused in an environment where they were entitled to feel safe,” Berejiklian said. “Redress is an important part of recognising the lifelong impact of child abuse on survivors, many of whom carry the scars decades after the abuse occurred.”
The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews , said redress would not erase the harm done to survivors. But it could finally give survivors the acknowledgement and dignity they “have long fought for and deserve”, he said.
“Victoria wants to ensure that survivors are respected, that their pain and suffering is recognised, and that they get the support they need,” Andrews said.
On Wednesday, Labor urged the government to quickly get the states and territories into the scheme. The shadow social services minister, Jenny Macklin, said the royal commission first recommended a redress scheme in 2015.
It had taken until March 2018 and states and institutions were yet to sign on, she said.
Labor also called for the compensation cap to be lifted to $200,000.
“We don't want to see survivors of child sexual abuse short-changed,” she said, in a joint statement with Mark Dreyfus, the shadow attorney-general. “For too long survivors of institutional child sexual abuse weren't believed. For too long they've waited for justice.
“They shouldn't be made to wait any longer for redress.”
Experts: child abuse intersects with domestic violence situations
by Tony Russell
TULSA, Okla. -- There are several services in Tulsa to make sure children and their parents can get help in a time of crisis.
The Child Abuse Network and Domestic Violence Intervention Services (DVIS) work to make sure abuse victims and children get the help they need.
Child Abuse Network handles more than 2,000 new abuse cases each year.
Experts from those groups are horrified about what happened with the 7-month-old baby boy being found dead after an Amber Alert.
Professionals say the younger the child, the more at risk they are for abuse.
“When we consider people coming--bringing their children into our shelter or coming here for counseling we consider that and I believe DHS does too as a protective mechanism, protective behavior to show that they're trying to do their best thing and the right thing for their child," said Donna Mathews with DVIS.
“The biggest thing I want folks to realize is we have to be aware of the other individuals in our community if they're exposed to any type of violence. A lot of people don't want to become involved and we all need to be involved," said Rose Turner with the Child Abuse Network.
DVIS 24-hour information and crisis line:
To report child abuse:
Oklahoma Hotline (800) 522-3511
National Hotline (800) 4ACHILD [(800) 422-4453]
Suspected child abuse victims top 65,000 in 2017
by Jiji Press
TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The number of children suspected to have been abused in Japan in 2017 topped 65,000 in 2017, hitting another record high, police data showed Thursday.
Police referred 65,431 suspected abuse victims under 18 to child consultation centers, up about 20 percent from the previous year. The total rose for the 13th straight year since the statistics began in 2004, according to the National Policy Agency data.
“The growing public awareness of child abuse apparently led to an increase in reports from local communities,” an NPA official said.
The number of children believed to have suffered psychological abuse, including verbal assaults, stood at 46,439, about 70 percent of the total. More than 60 percent of them were exposed to violence, mainly between their parents.
Physical abuse was suspected for 12,343 children, while 6,398 appeared to have incurred negligence or neglect, and 251 seemed to have been sexually abused.
The number of children taken into protective custody temporarily by police in emergency cases, including life-threatening situations, rose to a record 3,838.
Police took action on 1,138 child abuse cases, up by 57. Physical abuse cases, such as injuries and murders, accounted for about 80 percent.
Child Sexual Abuse: Children in Lagos to be taught safe, unsafe touches
by Josephine Agbonkhese
Lagos—AS part of efforts to curb the increasing cases of sexual and other child abuses, the Lagos State government has approved teaching of safe and unsafe touches to children in the state. The teaching is to be carried out by the Cece Yara Foundation, a child-centered non-profit organisation.
Announcing this at the unveiling of its Safe Kids Awareness Program, SKAP, in Lagos, Thursday, Executive Director, Cece Yara Foundation, Mrs Bola Tinubu, explained that the program was aimed among other things, to teach children across Lagos how to identify unsafe touches, prevent them and to report to a trusted adult.
SKAP, whose pilot scheme had reached over 2000 children in the state, according to Tinubu, “ is child-friendly, developmentally appropriate, provides clear and positive messages about setting boundaries assertively, and generally teaches children without giving explicit information or scary stories, or even using the term “sexual abuse”.
“Child sexual abuse is everywhere – in schools, homes and communities. It occurs across all socio-economic levels, with 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 10 boys falling victim before the age of 18. However, only 3% – 5% of those cases are reported in Nigeria. Worse, is that children do not generally know who to turn to when they are at risk or when they experienced abuse.
The programme she explained, “ is based on the PANTS Rule licensed to the Cece Yara Foundation by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children,NCPCC based in the UK, as well as a reformatted cartoon with Nigerian characters and references licensed to the Cece Yara Foundation by ChildLine, India.
“Children who are taught about preventing sexual abuse are more likely than others to tell a trusted adult if they have or are currently experiencing sexual abuse. In fact, the children we have reached, have recorded 79% increase in their knowledge of staying away from sexual abuse.”
Child abuse: How to tell if something is wrong and what to do
by Toby Awodipe
According to the Coordinator of the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT), Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi, there has been an increase in the reporting of sexual abuse, child rape and abuse especially in Lagos State. Though the figures are a still a little sketchy, Adeniyi says data collection would improve in the next four years, which will determine if there is still an increase in child rape and abuse. As for the increase in reportage, she credits it to increased intolerance to such issues, increased awareness about support services available to survivors and sheer political will to fight the menace.
Adeniyi adds that signs to look out for include
age-inappropriate knowledge of sexual behaviour, sexually explicit drawings and behaviour, unexplained fear of a person or place, unexplained itching, pain, bruising or bleeding in the genital area, age-inappropriate seductive behaviour, pregnancy in young girls, venereal disease, frequent urinary or yeast infections.
“As parents, there are various steps that can be taken to reduce the possibility of your child being abused. First, bond and fellowship with your child(ren) (a secret shared with you, is still a secret), teach your children their rights, especially relating to safety; teach them about their body parts, good and bad touch, the need to set boundaries, basically, use age appropriate messages for them.
“You can be creative, it can be whilst giving them a bath, you can begin to introduce the names of their private parts to them, and that they are private and should be covered, kept for them and them alone, an if anybody touches them, the should threaten to tell their parents.
“Also monitor your child's television, video, and internet viewing/usage. Watching violent films, TV programs, and videos can harm young children. Be a nurturing parent, children need to know that they are special, loved and capable of following their dreams. Provide quality care and education early in life. Ensure your children's school has Safeguarding and Child Protection Policies in place. Teaching children, parents and teachers prevention strategies that can help to keep children safe. Report suspected abuse or neglect in any child because keeping children safe is the responsibility of every adult in the community, she added.”
For a concerned outsider, Adeniyi points out signs to show a child is being abused, either physically, sexually, emotionally or sheer neglect. “Indicators of physical abuse include questionable, recurring bruises, bite marks, bald spots, cigarette/general burns and questionable, multiple, or recurring fractures. Indicators of neglect include persistent hunger, stealing or hoarding food, abrupt/dramatic weight change, poor hygiene, recurring untreated medical issues, inappropriate dressing and excessive school absences.”
Adeniyi reveals that they are ensuring survivors of sexual abuse have access to medical attention, working with the police to ensure cases are promptly investigated and suspects are remanded but, more importantly, have embarked on various projects aimed at reducing the chances of children falling prey to pedophiles, including: STRAC- Safeguarding the Rights of a Child Workshop for Primary School students and STAI- Smart Teens Advocacy Initiative for teenagers.
“We have also embarked on various trainings, Multi Agency Trainings for all Designated Safeguarding and Child Protection Officers, including doctors, social welfare officers, administrators of schools and police officers. If everybody plays its part, including the society, ending violence against children by 2020 can become a reality. Whilst the VAAP Act is an enactment that is binding only on the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, other states can, however, be persuaded to adopt it or enact similar law.
“In Lagos State, we have the Protection Against Domestic Violence Law, 2007. There are, however, some innovative provisions in the VAPP Act, it is an offence to forcefully eject a spouse from the home, forced financial dependence, female circumcision, harmful traditional practices have also been criminalised under the VAPP Act. Perhaps the Protection Against Domestic Violence Law, 2007 may be amended to incorporate these innovative sections.”
“Teachers, parents, relatives, guardians are all mandated reporters and under the Executive Order, 2014, every mandated reporter is legally required to report actual or suspected child abuse to the relevant authority. Lagos State requires that anybody that has dealings with children must file a report where there is reasonable cause
to suspect abuse or neglect. This is an extremely low legal threshold. You do not have to wait until you become very sure or you have conclusive evidence. In fact, if you are not a professional, you should not embark on an investigation. Your duty is if you suspect or see something, report to the relevant agency.
“All that is required is for there to be a reasonable suspicion, if it's in the school setting, the Safeguarding Child protection Officer or the Guidance Counselor or the Social Welfare Officer would be notified and then the school would have interface with the relevant government agency- Child Protection Unit. In other instances, the suspicion can be communicated anonymously, by dialing *6820# or by calling DSVRT on 0813-796-0048 or reaching Child Protection Unit on 0907-733-3426 and the necessary steps will be taken to ensure that the rights of the child are adequately protected,” she said.
Why child abuse investigations don't always result in criminal charges
by Sarah Thomsen
BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - Concerned community members have been asking why it took so long to charge two De Pere parents with the mental and physical abuse of their adopted children when the abuse had been reported several times over a period of 12 years.
This week, Brown County prosecutors filed child abuse and neglect charges against Sharon Windey and Donald Windey. Their adult son, Steven Windey, was arrested and released on bond. He hasn't been formally charged.
A 42-page criminal complaint states investigators found "overwhelming" confirmation that since 2006, there have been Child Protective Services referrals, police contacts and reports from school officials about the children being victims of physical abuse, mental abuse, child neglect and inappropriate sexual contact in the Windey home on Sullivan Street.
The children reported being punched and choked and being forced to eat their own vomit.
Since Action 2 News reported the details of the complaint, viewers have asked if these children "fell through the cracks." We found that there is no easy answer.
There are many levels to an investigation, and it's not always easy to prove abuse or neglect, especially when there is no physical evidence.
No local or state officials could comment on the Windey case, but they gave us insight on the process of investigating child abuse cases.
Thousands of possible abuse cases are reported in Brown County every year, but only a small fraction reach the point of criminal charges.
The Department of Children and Families oversees the safety of children in Wisconsin. The agency received more than 78,000 reports of possible abuse in 2016. Only one-third of those cases reached the point where Child Protective Services (CPS) investigated.
In Brown County, 154 of the 477 abuse reports filed in January 2018 were investigated.
Brown County Human Services Executive Director Erik Pritzl says CPS will interview parents, children and others around them while trying to spot abuse.
"Sometimes you're going to get information that might not fit, it might contradict. And many times you have to work through that the best you can, validate through second sources," Pritzl says. "Sometimes you just have to decide which piece of information seems to have more merit to it."
Pritzl says if CPS can't find physical evidence or if what they find doesn't meet the legal definition of abuse they can refer families to services. After that, they say their hands are tied.
"Ultimately, families, if they decide they don't want to engage with us, they have the right to say 'no', because we haven't met the statutory definitions of requiring it," Pritzl says.
State Rep. Andre Jacque (R-De Pere) says there are currently no efforts to change the law. He tells us cases like the Windey investigation cause people to take a second look.
"In all areas of our statutes, we have to really take a look at updating them and make sure that we are protecting the victims that we're intending to," Jacque says. "And really hoping to stop some of those bigger problems down the road."
The criminal complaints filed against the Windeys note an incident of one of their children being choked. One of the kids said, "CPS might take us seriously now that this happened," according to the complaints.
Child advocates tell us they don't want anyone to be discouraged to report abuse.
"We don't need to make the determination that it is abuse or neglect, but if we are concerned, as a parent or community member, we need to call the right people," says Paula Breese, executive director, Family and Childcare Resources of N.E.W.
Pritzl says it is important to report abuse because it could be the information they need to take action and keep a child safe.
He released this statement on child abuse investigations:
"Child Protective Services reviews every report that is made to the department, and has to make a decision about whether each report rises to the level of response or not. When there is a response, the information is assessed through interviews of family members and others close to the family by caseworkers. This process can occur with law enforcement in many situations. The purpose of Child Protective Services is to determine if there are threats to a child's safety that rise to the level of intervention, and if the court system needs to be engaged to support intervention. When thresholds are not met, caseworkers can offer to work with families on a voluntary basis, but it is within the family's rights to decide if they want to work with Child Protection and, in the absence of an identifiable condition endangering the child, the decision has to be respected.
In general, the burden of proof needed to bring an abuse or neglect case forward is more readily met in cases that involve clear signs of physical abuse, such as frequent bruising or other serious physical injury and in cases where there are clear signs of neglect, such as malnourishment. In those types of cases medical personnel are often utilized to support the allegations. Cases that rely primarily on oral allegations, which are often refuted by others, are much more difficult to bring forward, but are taken just as seriously by the department and are thoroughly investigated to the best of our abilities.
Our supervisors and caseworkers work tirelessly to determine if children are safe, and make difficult decisions every day regarding further intervention. They devote time to training and developing skills to make them more effective at providing services to the community. They also work diligently on partnerships to promote effective responses to allegations of child abuse and neglect, and will continue to do so for the benefit and protection of children and families.
Brown County is fortunate to have an array of options to work with families including early intervention services, community response, and supportive prevention services through non-profit agencies. Even with these interventions alongside Child Protection, we see outcomes that are not what is intended.
Brown County Health and Human Services works with the Department of Children and Families in reviewing practice and a system level review when it is called for, and to make changes and improvements at the conclusion of reviews."
For migrants, cultural barriers, life's shocks complicate welfare
by Perla Trevizo
The woman fled danger in Eastern Africa and spent years in a refugee camp in Ethiopia, and the horrors she experienced left her unable to safely parent her children.
So one day in 2009, four years after their arrival in the United States, Ochor and Obang Odol, then 16 and 12, were asked to pick up their belongings as state workers waited and their mother watched. The brothers were not sure whether she understood what was happening.
The Department of Child Safety doesn't track how many children removed from their homes arrived here as refugees. A 2010 report found that children of immigrants in general represent 8.6 percent of those who come to the attention of the child welfare system nationwide. But as overall numbers of immigrant children or those with a foreign-born parent grow, child welfare workers serve a wider spectrum of families — some they can't directly communicate with and some reeling from severe trauma.
While arriving as a refugee or being an immigrant doesn't mean parents are more likely to abuse or neglect their children, their circumstances sometimes put them in a precarious position. Trauma, often the result of violence or sexual assault in their home country or on their journey to the U.S., along with language barriers, cultural differences, higher levels of poverty and, for some, lack of legal immigration status, can all be high-risk factors.
And once family members get involved in the child welfare system, they may face challenges that add a layer of complexity — exacerbated in places with high caseloads and caseworker turnover rates, as was until recently the case in Arizona. This can extend the time a child is in foster care or even contribute to the parents' rights being severed, experts said.
"It's really scary to be involved with DCS," said Meheria Habibi, resettlement supervisor with the International Rescue Committee in Tucson. "In the first place, they already have a fear that DCS will take their children away and on top of that you add the language barrier and not understanding the system."
Trouble with English
Language is generally the top barrier for families with foreign-born parents.
Ochor, now 25 years old, remembers arriving in Tucson in 2005 and feeling lost.
“I didn't know how to use electronics or the PIN number for the (debit) card,” he said. “If you don't know how to read well, it's hard, you can miss payments.”
He and his brother eventually learned but say their mother didn't.
Refugees get a "welcome guide" with information about life in the United States, which includes a section about physical abuse and neglect and how the government can take their children away.
During the first few months, refugee resettlement agencies help families by arranging for housing, filling out government forms, informing them about job opportunities and trying to guide them. But the goal of the program is for families to be self-sufficient as soon as possible.
Many adapt well to their new surroundings and with time learn English, get jobs and open businesses. But others struggle.
Children or other family members are often left to interpret.
No one in Arizona spoke the Odols' native language. When Child Protective Services, now DCS, got involved, they called a man in Minnesota to assist, Obang said. For everything else, interpreting was up to Obang, now 21 and a university student.
The Odols are members of the Anuak tribe of Ethiopia and South Sudan. A 2010 Arizona Daily Star story said their father was shot and killed in an altercation and their mother stricken with an infection that hampered her thinking.
“Mom didn't talk about it much,” Ochor said. “She would just keep things to herself.”
PTSD is common among refugees, but behavioral health services here are limited, service providers say.
As their mother's health declined, she hid cereal boxes, threw things at her children and took their books, said Deanna Campos, the Odols' foster mother and Ochor's former teacher. "She needed a community of people to help her." But she was alone.
Akello never regained custody of her sons. She died in 2013.
"A lot of times because of lack of access to language appropriate services, families fail to follow up with what's required of them to do and that leads to worse and worse scenarios," Habibi said.
In fiscal 2017, DCS got 3,600 requests for interpreters, often in Spanish, Arabic, Farsi and Swahili. Almost 200 of 2,700 DCS employees have passed a test and agreed to perform translation services in exchange for a stipend, with Spanish being the top language.
In 2014, DCS also implemented a policy to address clients' limited English proficiency that includes an assessment of services provided, languages needed and evaluation of compliance. It is also supposed to translate vital documents, among other requirements.
DCS did not respond to repeated requests to discuss how the policy was being implemented or to provide copies of the reports.
Some families are illiterate in their native language, but oral translation isn't always possible. Even taking parenting classes can be a challenge if families need an interpreter at every session.
"Native-born English-speaking parents have a difficult time navigating the child welfare system where there are multiple attorneys, caseworkers from a variety of service providers, meetings, court hearings, therapy sessions, parent-child visitations, parenting education classes and a new vocabulary of legal terms that even experienced lawyers are not familiar with," said Rebecca Curtiss, staff attorney at the Arizona-based Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project. "Imagine learning a whole legal process which your culture might not contemplate in the same manner. Imagine that your language does not contain words that accurately describe the concepts found in the U.S. child welfare system."
Looking back, Obang said, “I think if we had somebody who had spoken our language, that would have made the whole process a lot better.”
In recent years, government agencies and nonprofits have developed tools to help those working with refugee and immigrant families. Newly hired DCS specialists receive cultural awareness training designed so they "understand their clients — including foster and adoptive parents and the children in their care — in the context of their culture, and develop a sensitivity to cultural differences."
Fear of detention
Fear can also hinder the path toward reunification — fear of officials, of a new system, and for those in the country without status, fear of deportation.
One caseworker said families often associated them with immigration enforcement, which made their jobs more difficult, according to the 2011 University of Arizona study " Disappearing Parents : A Report on Immigration Enforcement and the Child Welfare System."
That fear can mean children in immigrant families are less likely to come into contact with social services whose workers serve as mandated reporters, said Alan Detlaff, dean at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. People in immigrant communities may also be hesitant to report child abuse because of potential repercussions to families if members are undocumented, Detlaff said.
The Pima County Juvenile Court doesn't explicitly ask about immigration status, but judges have said it often comes up in child welfare department reports because it impacts the undocumented parents' access to services and employment prospects. A judge cited in the 2011 UA report noted an increase in cases in which immigration issues arise, with more than 25 percent of his cases then involving immigration issues.
Sometimes this fear can translate to a child not being able to reunite with the parent. In the UA report, a judge described a case where the child was left with the mother's sister after she was deported.
DCS approved visitations with the father in Texas but the man, who was in the country illegally, was afraid to take the bus to Tucson.
“It's really heartbreaking. It's a real dilemma," the judge said. "I wanted to make sure it wasn't a financial barrier and he said, ‘No, I'm afraid that if I get on a bus I'll be stopped and I'll be detained.'”