Siblings allededly held captive said to experience freedom for 1st time
by Matt Gutman
After what is described as a lifetime of imprisonment in a cramped, squalid home near Riverside, California, seven of the 13 siblings who were allegedly held captive by their parents got their first taste of freedom last week, ABC News has exclusively learned.
The newly freed siblings -- who are now adults -- were discretely whisked away Thursday from the Corona Regional Medical Center, where they had been nursed back to health after police rescued them in January. After being described as on the brink of starvation, the survivors were taught the basics about a world police say they never quite experienced.
But now, the young adults, ages 18 to 29, were taken by their attorney and public guardian from the carefully controlled ward of the hospital to an undisclosed rural house they now call home.
ABC News has interviewed several people who've spent time with the siblings -- whose lives until recently had been lived in near-complete isolation. Their native intelligence, coupled with their naiveté and complete lack of guile, makes them utterly charming, say those who've interacted with them.
Their lawyer, Jack Osborn, who specializes in clients with special needs , described it as their birth into the real world.
“The adult siblings want to be known as survivors, not victims,” said Osborn.
It's the reason he said they don't dwell on their anger, but on the long process of recovery ahead.
“They're joyful, warm, considerate. It's not all about them. They want to hear what's going on with you and me and my family," he said. "It's just really fun. It's fun to be around them. Of course, they're really full of joy about their life and the things they get to experience right now."
David and Louise Turpin, the parents of the children, are accused of abusing them, including shackling and starving them routinely, authorities said. The victims weren't released from their chains even to go to the bathroom, prosecutors have charged.
All the children except for the youngest, a toddler, were severely malnourished, prosecutors said. The eldest victim -- a 29-year-old woman -- weighed only 82 pounds when rescued, according to authorities.
ABC News has learned through several sources with access to the siblings and interviews with police and social services that what little food the siblings ate was predominately frozen food at home.
The parents were arrested in January after the couple's 17-year-old daughter scrambled out of their home's front window, called 911, and showed police pictures of her siblings in shackles, said the District Attorney Mike Hestrin. That 17-year-old had somehow accessed the internet in the weeks before her harrowing escape. ABC News has discovered that she had accounts on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube -- where she performed what she called original songs with titles like “Where is the Key?”
David and Louise Turpin each face dozens of counts of torture, false imprisonment and child endangerment. Prosecutors say they would punish infractions like washing above the wrist with punishments like being hogtied or being shackled to a bed, sometimes for months at a time.
Now, the seven siblings who are free have enjoyed getting relative privacy for the first time in their lives -– including receiving their own bedding and having their own closet space, Osborn said.
In their first 24 hours since their release from the hospital, the older siblings picked citrus for the first time. They also made their first ice cream sundaes and prepared Mexican food, apparently all firsts, Osborn added.
“They pretty much love any food that is fresh. They love fruit, pasta and soup,” said Osborn.
Mark Uffer, the chief executive officer of the Corona Regional Medical Center, where some of the siblings were being treated, confirmed to ABC News in a statement that the Turpin siblings had been discharged from their facilities.
Uffer added that they "wish these brave siblings continued strength as they take the next steps in their journey."
Beyond tasting new food, the siblings spend their time doing various kinds of occupational, physical and psychological therapy. They also watch movies. A lot of them.
Osborn believes they didn't have much access to movies despite their parents' trove of thousands of DVDs. The siblings' favorite movies so far have been anything associated with the " Star Wars " series.
While several of them have been of driving age for about a decade, their lawyer says none has ever driven a car. Trips in a vehicle at all seemed to be a rarity, Osborn said.
The prospect of driving a car one day was, in fact, so novel that the boys joked that they'd need to wear football helmets for safety.
Meanwhile, the siblings are aware of their parents' legal jeopardy, but have no idea how much interest their story has drawn, Osborn said.
He added that they all hope to lead normal lives, with spouses and careers, including being nurses and doctors.
“Some asked whether they could be nurses without having to give injections or seeing much blood,” he said, smiling.
His clients, he said, “want to be independent."
"They want to do things for themselves and they want to start having independent lives where they're responsible for themselves," he added. "That's the goal and that's what everyone is working toward.”
Child Abuse Cases Increase in Southeast Alaska
The director of a regional service provider says social workers' caseloads for child neglect and abuse have dramatically increases in Southeast Alaska
by the Associated Press
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Social workers' caseloads for child neglect and abuse have dramatically increased in southeast Alaska .
Erin Walker-Tolles, executive director of Catholic Community Service in Juneau, testified before the House Finance Committee earlier this month, KTOO Public Media of Juneau reported on Sunday.
Walker-Tolles asked for more funding to deal with a 59 percent increase in referrals to her nonprofit's child advocacy center, which deals with cases of children who might be victims of abuse and neglect across the southeast. The number of children referred to the center went up from 97 in 2016 to 154 last year.
"It's dramatic, it's pervasive and, from what we've heard from the other CACs, it is statewide," Walker-Tolles said.
Program Manager Susan Loseby said she's not sure what caused the increase.
"I would hope that more kids aren't being abused," she said. "It's just that more people are reporting what they suspect as abuse."
Either way, the center needs more workers, Loseby said.
The center has three full-time employees and three on-call nurses who perform medical examinations. Walker-Tolles and Loseby are asking for $77,000 to hire and train an additional staff member.
"Ethically it's the right thing to do," Walker-Tolles said. "And if you want to talk about money, honestly it's a cost-savings to the entire community and the state. If these kids are able to heal, be safe, grow up, go to college or school or find a vocation that inspires them and contribute to the economy, instead of falling into despair, failing school, not having job opportunities. The outcomes can be pretty grim."
Loseby said working with children who have been abused and even raped takes a significant toll on staff, especially when they're constantly on call.
"It's a lot to digest, hearing all of the disclosures that children are making and then working with the families who are also in trauma," she said. "It has, of course, increased the hours that we work, it has decreased the time that we can take off to heal and get the respite that we all need."
Senate bill would crack down on online sex trafficking as cases grow across the country
by Deirdre Shesgreen
WASHINGTON — On Christmas Eve in 2016, police found the body of a 16-year-old girl, Desiree Robinson, brutally raped and murdered in a Chicago suburb.
Desiree's mother, Yvonne Ambrose, later learned that her teenage daughter had been coerced into prostitution, pimped out on an advertising website called Backpage.com, where men found her picture under a posting that read: “New girl in town looking to have fun.”
Next week, Ambrose will be watching as the Senate debates legislation designed to curb online sex trafficking — a problem that has increased exponentially in recent years as traffickers and their customers use the anonymity of the Internet to sell adults and children for sex across the U.S.
Supporters say the bill will give trafficking victims and law enforcement officials new tools to go after websites that have knowingly facilitated sex trafficking and prostitution.
“Any child that has access to the Internet via phone, via computer, is susceptible to being prostituted or exploited through these online channels,” Ambrose said in a phone interview last week.
Critics say the bill will do little to stop that horrific problem — and will instead stifle innovation and free speech online.
“Online censorship isn't the solution to fighting sex trafficking,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for free speech and privacy rights on the Internet, said in a recent statement opposing the bill.
Neither side disputes the problem.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children , there's been an 846% increase in reports of suspected child sex trafficking from 2010 to 2015 — a spike the organization said was “directly correlated to the increased use of the Internet to sell children for sex.”
“Technology has fundamentally changed how children are victimized through sex trafficking in ways that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago,” Yiota G. Souras, senior vice president at the center, told a House committee last year . “An adult can now shop from the privacy of his home, office or hotel room, often on a cell phone, to buy a child for rape,” Souras said.
The center responded to more than 10,000 reports of possible child sex trafficking in 2017, according to a spokeswoman. From 2013 to 2017, 75% of its reports related to child sex trafficking involved suspected online cases.
In Congress, Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., led a multi-year investigation into Backpage.com , which found the website used a filter that automatically stripped out words that would have revealed a child was being sold for sex — terms such as “Lolita,” “fresh,” and “school girl,” according to a report issued in January 2017 by the two senators. Employees would then post the edited ad in its adult section.
Parents and victims of sex trafficking have tried to sue Backpage.com, but courts have dismissed those suits , citing a provision in the 1996 Communications Decency Act.
Under that law, Internet companies and websites are not legally responsible for content posted by a third party. So, for example, Twitter and other social media sites cannot be sued if a user posts something offensive or illegal.
In response, Portman and others crafted the measure now pending in the Senate. It would allow online platforms — everything from Facebook to Craigslist — to be held criminally and civilly liable if they knowingly facilitate sex trafficking.
It would allow state prosecutors to go after websites that violate federal sex trafficking laws and increase criminal penalties for websites that facilitate illegal prostitution or sex trafficking.
A version of the Portman-Blumenthal bill has already passed the House and the White House supports the measure. It has 68 co-sponsors in the Senate, virtually ensuring the legislation will become law if the Senate passes it next week.
But opponents have promised a fight.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., crafted the protections for third-party online platforms in the 1996 law, which was designed to protect children from Internet pornography.
Wyden said that provision has “kept politicians and special interests from sinking the Internet.”
“The failure to understand the technological side effects of this bill — specifically that it will become harder to expose sex-traffickers, while hamstringing innovation — will be something that this Congress will regret,” the Oregon Democrat said in a statement after the House passed the anti-sex trafficking bill.
Wyden and others, including the American Civil Liberties Union, said the bill will have a chilling effect on the Internet and will force websites to censor free speech. “Facing huge new liabilities, the law will undoubtedly lead to (online) platforms policing more user speech,” EFF said in its statement.
Critics have also expressed concern that the measure will push sex trafficking further underground.
But Portman said the 1996 law has shielded websites like Backpage.com from prosecution despite evidence that the website's executives “knowingly facilitated criminal sex trafficking.” He said his bill is narrowly crafted to target only those who “knowingly” facilitate or support sex trafficking.
“All kinds of experts have told us trafficking is not just increasing, but increasing because of the ruthless efficiency of the Internet,” Portman said on the Senate floor last week, after lawmakers voted to take up the bill.
In the case of Desiree Robinson, her alleged pimp and murderer have been charged in the case. But her mother says that's not enough.
“If it wasn't for Backpage.com, this never would have happened,” Ambrose said.
If the bill becomes law, “it will give me just a little bit of peace, knowing that the people who had taken part in her death are actually being held accountable,” she said. “I pray that it actually does go through and that all of our babies get justice, so that this won't grow into a bigger problem than it already is.”
Cryptic note about girl missing since 1999 found on dollar bill
by Joshua Rhett Miller
A dollar bill found more than 1,400 miles away from where an Arizona girl disappeared in 1999 is giving some investigators hope that a break in the decades-old case is possible.
Mikelle Diane Biggs, 11, was playing outside her home in Mesa while waiting for an ice cream truck on Jan. 2, 1999, when she vanished after being separated from her younger sister, Kimber, for about 90 seconds. The girl's bike had been thrown on the street and two quarters she previously clutched for her favorite ice cream treat were found nearby, but Mikelle had simply vanished.
Her disappearance set off a dramatic response, with a helicopter searching above Mesa within an hour and eventually leading to the police department's most intense investigation ever, with more than 800 pieces of evidence collected and more than 10,000 tips received, according to the Arizona Republic .
The latest of those tips came in the form of a dollar bill from 2009 reported to police last week in Neenah, Wisconsin, where someone spotted a potentially useful clue in the search for Biggs, some 1,453 miles away from where she disappeared 19 years earlier.
“My name is Mikel [sic] Biggs kidnapped From Mesa AZ I'm Alive,” a message written along its edges reads.
The girl's name is misspelled, but appears to be written by a child, the Arizona Republic reports.
Neenah police investigator Adam Streubel questioned if the bill was genuine and noted that the girl's first name is misspelled. The message could simply be a sick joke in a case that many investigators in the department, if not all, don't remember vividly, he said.
“None of us were really aware of the kidnapping,” Streubel told the newspaper. “We had to do some research.”
But even if the message on the bill is authentic, there's no way to track down who wrote it, Struebel said.
“There was a little spring of hope for a second, and then reality set in,” he told the newspaper. “There is nothing you can do with it, which is rather frustrating.”
Still, police in Mesa plan to investigate the bill further after being alerted to it Monday, according to a police spokesman.
“We don't get a lot of tips anymore, but we occasionally do,” Mesa Detective Steve Berry told the newspaper. “We always follow up on it. We always hope that might be the one that breaks the case.”
Biggs, according to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System , would be 30 years old today.
From the Department of Justice
Acting Associate Attorney General Jessee Panuccio Delivers Remarks at the National Children's Advocacy Center's 34th National Symposium on Child Abuse
Thank you, Alan, for that introduction. I am so pleased to be here in Huntsville with you, and with Chris Newlin, and with First Lady Hutchison of Arkansas—each of you dedicated community servants.
I am also delighted to join this distinguished group of children's advocates and professionals. Flying down here from Washington, I was thinking about your jobs—about what your day-to-day responsibilities must be like. The kind of work that you do, the things that you see and hear, the horrors you confront on a daily basis—I am sure there are times it leaves you feeling fairly pessimistic about the world, and perhaps thinking that evil that lurks in every corner.
But to that I would say: look around you. Here this morning is an army of good—of men and women who have dedicated their careers and lives to helping the most vulnerable among us. Men and women who get up every morning just so they can stand eye-to-eye with evil and say: “today, I will fight for the life and future of this child.” It is remarkable to see so many people from across the country and from around the world—from big cities, and suburbs, and rural hamlets—who work so tirelessly to protect our children. Thank you for the incredible work you do.
I want to specifically recognize Chris, his executive team, and all of the staff of the National Children's Advocacy Center for their hospitality and for their work, each and every day, on behalf of our nation's children. Alan Hanson and I had the pleasure of touring the center yesterday, and we were both so impressed by the wealth of resources available on the NCAC campus. With its combination of child-friendly surroundings, state-of-the-art forensic and treatment services, and expert staff members this is an extraordinary place, making a real difference for children and families in northern Alabama and throughout the United States.
Perhaps the best way to appreciate the value of this center, and the need for it and for the more than 950 children's advocacy centers across the country, is to put yourself in the shoes of a child who uses the services offered here. Everyone can think back to some difficulty in childhood—some personal or family struggle, something that made you feel alone or frightened or worried about the future. But for the average person, I would wager that you could take his or her worst day as a child, multiply it by some significant factor, and it still would not approximate what some of the children who come here have faced. They have been physically, or sexually, or emotionally abused—often repeatedly. Their thoughts may be dominated by how to make it through the day without suffering some new trauma. Some of them wonder whether they will be fed. Some of them, when they go to sleep each night, wonder what new horror the morning will bring. No one, no matter how old or how experienced, is fully equipped to absorb the physical, emotional, and psychological blows of such victimization.
While we are always learning more about the damage caused by child maltreatment, we already know that, beyond the immediate harms, it sets up a lifetime of adverse consequences. It can impair mental and emotional development. It can negatively affect school performance. It can influence future relationships, often in very destructive ways. It can cause both short- and long-term medical problems, and possibly a lifetime of poor health. When we think of child maltreatment, we think of immediate cuts and bruises and tears. We don't always think of the life and the potential that is slowly, tragically slipping away.
And that is why your work is so vitally important, and why we should be especially grateful for the network of children's advocacy centers across our country and across the globe—centers in communities large and small, serving kids from every background and facing every conceivable, sometimes unspeakable hardship.
In 2016, advocacy centers served more than 320,000 children, providing them services that run the gamut of needs in the criminal-justice and human-services systems. Advocacy center staff make their encounters as painless as possible. They give comfort and refuge in a time of great need and terrible crisis. And while they cannot erase the damage completely, they can and do help heal wounds—physical and psychological, seen and unseen. They help create a new future for these children, restoring hope and the potential for a full life.
I wish that I could report that the steady march of human progress means the need for these services has peaked and is now on the decline. Sadly, as we know all too well, the opposite is true. The threats faced by our children seem graver and more pervasive than ever, with cyberspace and its underbelly seemingly exacerbating every problem and creeping into every facet of their lives.
In recent years, one particular menace has been devastating American communities, with an outsized impact on our kids. Drug abuse, and in particular opioid abuse, is destroying families across the nation. Opioid abuse has become one of country's most pressing public health and safety crises.
In 2016, an estimated 64,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses, with about 750 deaths here in Alabama alone. That follows a record increase in fatal overdoses from 2015, and preliminary data suggest that 2017 was even worse. For Americans under 50, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death. And the vast majority of overdose deaths, some 42,000 in 2016, were the result of opioids—prescription painkillers, heroin, and deadly synthetic drugs like fentanyl.
These toxic substances threaten everyone in their path—users, their families, first responders. And especially children.
About half of opioid overdose deaths occur in people between the ages of 22 and 44; in other words, opioid abuse is significant among the cohort most likely to be parents of minor children. Opioid addiction thwarts even the most basic parental instincts, as the unquenchable thirst for the drug displaces all other desires and responsibilities. Children are left to fend for themselves—and, worse still, to care for their parents or to watch in horror as their parents' lives slip away to a ruthless master.
Imagine coming home from school one day to find your mother or father unconscious from an overdose, making the tearful 911 call, waiting in terror and helplessness for aid to arrive, watching as your parent is whisked away in an ambulance, and being left behind in the care of police and social services. Sometimes, these parents never return.
Here is how a December 2016 Washington Post story by Eli Saslow, reporting on the plight of so-called “opiate orphans,” described one West Virginia teenager's experience on Easter morning 2015:
It had been so quiet in his parents' room that morning, even though his father always snored. He had knocked on the door and gotten no answer. He had sent his sisters to wait in the car and then walked around the back of the house to look through a window into his parents' room. They were both lying on the floor. He thought they were passed out. He opened the window and leaned into the room to push over a fan, but his parents still didn't startle. He ran back into the house, called 911 and slammed into the locked door. He knew CPR. Maybe he could save them. He busted through the lock and fell into the room, landing on his father, whose body felt cold.
Because of a drug, two people were dead and three children were left without parents. It's a chilling and heart-wrenching tale. And it's playing out over and over again across this country.
The result of the opioid crisis is that the children of addicts are being removed from parental custody at alarming rates, and with the skyrocketing deaths comes skyrocketing and permanent additions to the foster-care system. According to a recent story in The New York Times, the number of children in foster care since 2010 has doubled in Montana, and has increased by eighty percent in Georgia and forty-five percent in West Virginia.
These numbers highlight some of the devastating derivative effects visited upon the children of opioid addicts. But opioids, tragically, are also directly affecting children. According to a study released earlier this month in the journal Pediatrics, the number of children admitted to hospitals for opioid overdoses nearly doubled between 2004 and 2015. A substantial percentage of these patients are ending up in the pediatric ICU—that is, they are admitted as severe, life-threatening cases.
And hospital emergency rooms are now regularly seeing opioid-addicted newborns. The number of babies with a condition called neonatal abstinence syndrome—which describes newborns born as opiate addicts—increased a whopping 383 percent from 2000 to 2012. For an infant affected by NAS, the average length of a hospital stay is almost three-and-a-half times as long, and the costs are more than three times greater, than for a non-affected infant.
And, of course, even if children of addicts aren't born addicted, if they enter the foster care system they face the stark reality that children in that system are five times more likely to abuse drugs—creating a vicious cycle of drug abuse, child neglect, drug abuse by the child, and on and on.
The line between drug abuse and child maltreatment is short and direct. It has always been the case that in homes where there are drugs, children suffer. But with opioids, the problem seems particularly pervasive and menacing—and like an aggressive malignancy it is metastasizing across the nation.
Some of you, perhaps many of you, know exactly what I'm talking about, because you have seen it first-hand. Children's advocacy centers are seeing this crisis up close and with far too much regularity. Let me tell you about one. Lily's Place is a children's advocacy center in Marion, North Carolina—a community that has seen a surge in the number of children devastated by the opioid crisis. The center offers social services and a therapy dog, and their staff is doing heroic work to help the kids who come to their attention. But with many of these children already testing positive for drugs themselves, sometimes for multiple substances, the challenges are daunting.
Closer to home, Chris tells me that not a week goes by without at least one child being brought to the NCAC because a parent or caregiver has overdosed on opioids in the Huntsville area. Think about that. Every week, right here in this city, one new child has to watch a parent lose all control to a merciless, deadly drug. A monster destroying children's lives is supposed to be the stuff of horror fiction—of Pennywise in Stephen King's IT—but for so many children in America today, the monster is very real, and it is the opioid.
We cannot overstate the urgency of this deadly and growing crisis. That is why President Trump and Attorney General Sessions have made fighting the opioid crisis a foremost priority for the federal government. Yesterday, they were both in New Hampshire, where the President outlined the pillars of this Administration's initiative to combat the opioid crisis.
One of these pillars is to cut off the supply of illicit drugs, and the Department of Justice is committed to being a leader in that fight. Across the country, our U.S. Attorneys have been tasked with aggressively prosecuting traffickers of fentanyl and other opioids. In 2017, our prosecutors charged more than 3,000 defendants with opioid-related crimes.
The Department's new Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement team, or J-CODE team, has been scaling up efforts to prosecute illicit online sales of opioids. Last summer, the Department announced the largest ever takedown of a dark net marketplace—the notorious AlphaBay, which hosted some 220,000 drug listings and led to countless overdoses from synthetic drugs.
In still another major effort, the Department's new Prescription Interdiction and Litigation, or PIL, Task Force will focus on targeting opioid manufacturers and distributors who have illegally contributed to this epidemic. It doesn't matter where someone is on the supply chain; if they broke the law, then we will hold them accountable. We will use every criminal and civil tool available to the Department. Whether someone is a drug trafficker, a corrupt doctor or pharmacist, or a manufacturer using illegal marketing, the Department is determined to bring them to justice. We want them to hear this message: if you break the law and contribute to the opioid crisis, we are coming for you.
In addition, from those who have broken the law, the Department will seek to recover the high costs that federal healthcare programs have borne as a result of the opioid crisis. To that end, for example, we recently filed a statement of interest in the ongoing, multi-district litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors, alerting the court that the federal government may have a substantial recovery interest in those actions.
I mentioned that the President's initiative has several pillars, and supply-side interdiction is just one. The Administration is also committed to reducing demand and over-prescription. And we are determined to help those struggling with addiction.
At the Department of Justice, our grant programs help with these other pillars. The Office of Justice Programs, led by Alan Hanson, awarded almost $59 million last fiscal year to support a range of programs, including drug courts and programs designed to prevent the misuse of prescription opioids. A substantial portion of that funding went to state, local, and tribal jurisdictions under our new Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Program. We're also funding training and technical assistance and an online resource center.
Some jurisdictions are making real progress. One of our grantees in Oregon set up a tri-county opioid safety coalition that monitors and tracks overdoses and other related problems. The goal is to use this to determine how to reach high-risk populations. We're also supporting special opiate courts, including one in Buffalo, New York, which has shown promising results.
The Administration is focused on multiple fronts because the opioid crisis is more than a criminal-justice problem. It is more than a substance-abuse problem. It is more than an economic problem, or a healthcare problem. It is more than a child-welfare problem. It is all of these things at once, and it must be tackled through a multidisciplinary approach—the kind that children's advocacy centers use every day—by bringing together our law-enforcement professionals, our medical and mental-health experts, and our child-welfare specialists.
And that is why everyone here today, and everyone in the children's services community, should know that you are an important part of this fight. We are looking to you, as we have so many times before, to bring your expertise, your conviction, and your courage to address the specific problems faced by youth caught up in this latest crisis.
And the Department of Justice will support and embrace you in this work. Last year, through our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, DOJ awarded nearly $2.1 million to the National Children's Advocacy Center to support nationwide operations and to provide training and technical assistance that strengthens the multidisciplinary response to child maltreatment. Part of that assistance is tailored to children who experience multiple forms of trauma, or polyvictimization, which is so often the case with young people caught up in the opioid epidemic.
We're also exploring a program through our Office for Victims of Crime designed specifically to help children who become crime victims as result of parents' drug use.
We're committed, administration-wide, to fighting this epidemic from all sides. We know it won't be easy. Opioids have taken a firm hold in far too many communities, tearing apart families and leaving children hurt, traumatized, and alone. The need for comprehensive services, spanning all systems, is urgent.
Children's advocacy centers have proven time and again that there is a way to handle violence, victimization, and abuse so that these traumas don't leave an incurable mark on the children subjected to them. With collaboration and compassion, by seeing the pain and experience through a child's eyes, we can work to help make it right for our kids.
You are doing heroes' work, and we are grateful. Keep up the fight.
Thank you for your service to our children, to your communities, and to our country.
'Empowering': Milwaukee high school students create art inspired by sexual abuse survivors in Untold Stories
by Ashley Luthern
The painting looked like stained glass, shapes of rich colors surrounding a solid black heart.
Next to it was a poem titled "Better WE," which read in part:
Better we / Better us / From mud we came / Ashed and shamed / Beaten and blamed / To bring about the change.
The two pieces are linked as part of Untold Stories, a workshop that pairs creative writing by sexual violence survivors with artwork by Milwaukee high school students.
The project seeks to give voice to those who have survived or witnessed violence from rape, domestic violence, sexual abuse or human trafficking. It has surged in popularity in its six years, with more than 125 people attending the premier exhibition last week at the Northwest Masonic Center in Milwaukee.
This year, the event comes amid the nationwide #MeToo movement in which women are speaking up about sexual harassment and assault in hopes of greater accountability — and as Milwaukee absorbs the realities of sexual abuse and sex trafficking laid out in a recent report.
“I don't know whether it's Milwaukee's moment, whether we've finally arrived at a place where people care about the tremendously disturbing news about sexual violence, but this event has allowed people to raise their voices," said Rachel Monaco-Wilcox, founder of LOTUS Legal Clinic.
How #MeToo is leaving child victims behind
by Dani Bostick
For years as a child, I was abused by an adult. I kept this secret for decades.
I'm sure I knew other victims. But I heard none of their stories. Like me, they chose silence.
We survivors of child sexual abuse don't just know how to keep a secret — we were groomed to believe secrecy was essential to our survival.
#MeToo has changed that, as more and more survivors of sexual violence and sexual harassment are coming forward to share their stories. But while some of these stories have included child victims, for the most part, the focus of #MeToo has been on adult victims of workplace sexual misconduct. The subsidiary #MeTooK12 movement emerged recently as a way to address sexual misconduct that occurs in schools, but even still, the scores of young girls and boys who experience child sexual abuse are largely cut out of the conversation.
This has to change. Roughly 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys experience sexual abuse. It is a sad fact that children are the most vulnerable among us and also the least equipped to advocate for themselves.
Children are victimized at higher rates than adults, per Darkness to Light, a nonprofit organization focused on educating adults to prevent child sexual abuse. Their youth renders them "uniquely vulnerable," Heidi Fuchs, a criminal justice clinician at TESSA, a domestic violence support center in Colorado, told The Week , as they may not be able to properly understand and process the abuse they've endured. Children are "most in need of effective advocacy," Fuchs said, because "they lack the information, resources, experience, and ability to advocate for themselves."
Moreover, unlike adults, children are often completely powerless in their environments. Abusers are frequently the people who also meet a kid's most basic needs, like food and shelter. Even when abuse takes place outside of the home, it is often perpetrated by a trusted individual, and often in the context of activities that are presented as mandatory — like USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar's rampant abuse of young female athletes during medical treatments.
When children are trapped in these abusive situations, the consequences can be devastating. In fact, child sexual abuse can cause literal changes to the structure of the brain, researchers discovered in a 2015 study.
That's why it is time for the women and men of #MeToo to advocate for children as ardently as they do for adults. Removing stigma is key, and encouraging survivors to disclose their own experiences will help others feel safe enough to come forward. We must disrupt the silence, because silence benefits only perpetrators, never victims.
Next, we must believe and support young victims. Just like adults, when children are supported in the aftermath of sexual violence, they not only experience higher rates of recovery, but they are less likely to minimize or ignore future incidents of assault. The more victims who receive safe, nurturing support after trauma, the more individuals there will be who can recognize abuse when it occurs — on and on, making communities safer overall.
But as much as individuals can make an impact, we must also strive to change the entire system that endangers children. It starts with supporting legislation that protects children from sexual abuse. Until the recent passage of the Safe Sport Act — which "makes members of amateur sports organizations (including Olympic sports) mandatory reporters of sexual abuse," per ThinkProgress — it was not a federal crime for representatives of youth sports organizations to ignore reports of child sexual abuse. Because of this glaring loophole, for decades the United States Olympic Committee, national governing bodies for youth sports, and individual teams have enabled predators at the expense of victims.
It is imperative we identify and remedy similarly dangerous gaps in the state and federal code. Earlier this month, a troubling Kansas City Star report revealed that 300 15-year-old girls married men older than 21 between 1999 and 2015. Yet attempts to change child marriage laws are often met with resistance. For example, last year New Hampshire failed to pass legislation that would raise their state's minimum age, which is currently 13 for girls and 14 for boys. Recently, lawmakers in Kentucky stalled a bill that would have changed permissive child marriage laws — until sustained outrage on social media prompted them to reverse their decision and move the bill forward. Our activism makes a difference.
For example, in Kentucky, legislation to raise the minimum marriage age to 17 and require a sex offender registry check of adults attempting to marry minors has stalled in committee . Last year, New Hampshire failed to pass legislation that would raise their state's minimum age, which is currently 13 for girls and 14 for boys.
We can also promote and support legislation that expands health education in middle schools and high schools to include information about consent, personal boundaries, and sexual violence. While much of this legislation is aimed at the prevention of sexual assault and sexual harassment, it can also benefit victims of child sexual abuse who are groomed to think they are in a special relationship with an adult to have a more informed view of healthy relationships and power dynamics.
The #MeToo movement is in a position to empower victims of child sexual abuse. The more people who feel comfortable sharing their stories, the wider the door opens for victims of all demographics to speak out. All children should enter adulthood knowing that silence is not a requirement — and if they do, they'll be perfectly poised to continue #MeToo's legacy.
Protecting children from sexual predators
by Melissa Martin, Ph.D.
Finding out one's child is a victim of sexual child abuse is a parent's horrific nightmare. And finding out the sexual perpetrator is someone known by the family is devastating.
“Research shows that the greatest risk to children doesn't come from strangers, but from friends and family. People who abuse children look and act just like everyone else. In fact, they often go out of their way to appear trustworthy, seeking out settings where they can gain easy access to children, such as sports leagues, faith centers, clubs, and schools” according to the Darkness to Light organization and 90 percent of abused children know their abuser.
In one study, the 326 adolescent sexual assault victims experienced 462 separate cases of sexual assault. “In these cases, nearly three in four (74 percent) reported that the assault was committed by someone they knew well. Almost one-third of sexual assault cases (32.5 per-cent) involved perpetrators who were friends, and more than one-fifth (23.2 percent) were strangers. Another one-fifth (21.1 percent) were committed by a member of the youth's family, including fathers or stepfathers, brothers or stepbrothers, sisters or stepsisters, grandparents, other adult relatives, and other child relatives.” Visit www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/194972.pdf .
Sexual Predators in the Family
Incest is a subject that makes people shiver and recoil. Around 30 percent of children are abused by family members. Incest victims grow up and “Incest is the single biggest commonality between drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness, teenage and adult prostitution, criminal activity, and eating disorders,” according to a 2013 article in The Atlantic. Research shows that long-term psychological trauma is a result of incest.
Judith Herman, author of the book, Father-Daughter Incest (published in 2000 by Harvard University Press) describes the long term effects of incest on an adult woman's life.
Sexual Predators outside the Family
Around 60 percent of children are abused by people the family trusts. Perpetrators of child sexual abuse may be family acquaintances, neighbors, babysitters, trusted friends, school and sports coaches, school teachers, camp personnel, staff at any outside of school activity, church activities, or anywhere an adult has access to children.
“Grooming” is the word used to describe how sexual abuse perpetrators gain trust of potential victims and their parents/caregivers. Grooming steps include:
1. Identifying and targeting the victim.
2. Gaining trust and access.
3. Playing a role in the child's life.
4. Isolating the child.
5. Creating secrecy around the relationship.
6. Initiating sexual contact.
7. Controlling the abusive relationship with secrecy.
Visit www.victimsofcrime.org/media/reporting-on-child-sexual-abuse/grooming-dynamic-of-csa .
What Can Parents/Caregivers Do?
Parents are not powerless when they learn and utilize prevention tools. Adult education is crucial in preventing child sexual abuse. The 5 Steps to Protecting Our Children, an introductory guide to help adults protect children from sexual abuse, can be found in detail at www.d2l.org/education/5-steps/ .
Step 1: Learn the facts.
Step 2: Minimize the opportunity.
Step 3: Talk about it.
Step 4: Recognize the signs.
Step 5: React responsibility.
I encourage parents to go the above website and read about the steps.
Bob Ney asserts, “In my view, there is nothing more vicious and outrageous than the abuse, exploitation and harm of the most vulnerable members of our society, and I firmly believe that our nation's laws and resources need to reflect the seriousness of these terrible crimes.” I agree.
Adults Owe Child Sex Abuse Victims More Than Awareness
by Dani Bostick
When I was eight years old, a parent from the YMCA reported concerns about my swim coach to law enforcement. This parent's suspicions were correct ? I was being sexually abused by a predatory coach. My perpetrator had rendered my family dependent on him after he moved into my childhood home under the guise of helping my newly divorced mother. He found numerous ways to isolate me, taking me to travel meets alone, providing nearly all of my transportation to swim practice and babysitting when my mom was at work. Acquaintances described him as “touchy-feely” and many remarked on how quickly he could gain the trust of children.
Unfortunately, my encounter at that time with law enforcement did not result in his arrest.
Decades later, I came to terms with this abuse and reported my perpetrator to the police . The charges, guilty plea and sentencing were all covered by news media. When I ran into people who knew me as a child, they invariably said, “We knew this guy wasn't right.” Others even said, “I hate to say it, but I'm not surprised.”
Since my main coping mechanism was perfectionism , I did not fit the stereotype of an abuse victim. While my perpetrator's behavior was suspicious to some, my own behavior provided an inadvertent cover for him.
I am not alone in my experience. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 683,000 children experienced some form of child maltreatment in 2015. Child sexual abuse is just one kind of maltreatment, and it happens with alarming frequency. Because of the stigma associated with child sexual abuse and children's dependence on their perpetrators, this type of crime often goes unreported. It is estimated , though, that one in five girls and one in 20 boys are sexually abused. This kind of early childhood trauma has been documented to cause life-long mental and physical health problems for victims well into adulthood.
Adult intervention is key to saving children from this kind of abuse and giving them a chance at a healthier, happier outcome. Mandated reporting laws support this type of intervention by requiring certain adults to tell the authorities about suspected child abuse. Some states also allow mandated reporters to be held civilly liable for damages resulting from failure to report. All states require teachers to be mandated reporters, but states vary in requirements for other professions .
On the federal level, the recent passage of the Safe Sport Act makes it a crime for representatives of youth sports organizations to ignore suspected abuse. Unfortunately, there are factors limiting the effectiveness of these laws.
First, mandated reporter training is often inadequate. Teachers, for example, are only required to complete mandated reporter training when they first earn their license and when they renew it ( generally every five years ). Many trainings are web-based and can be completed without much focus.
USA Swimming recently launched a mobile platform for their Safe Sport training. Maggie Vail, a Safe Sport education specialist, said via SwimSwam , “The mobile-friendly platform allows us to cater to on-the-go members by taking Safe Sport courses and other valuable classes whenever their busy schedules allow.” Considering what is at stake, children deserve that the adults who are supposed to protect them receive training that is meaningful and not merely a check-the-box task.
Perfunctory training might be convenient for adults, but it can undermine the goal of mandated reporter laws. Researchers have found that teachers feel ill-equipped to identify abuse and are unaware of both the signs of it and the threshold for reporting. Research also shows that teachers tend not to report abuse when there are no bruises or other physical signs and avoid contacting authorities based on suspicions alone even though mandated reporting laws require them to do so.
Adults also often believe common, unhelpful myths about abuse that organizations should work more consistently to dispel. For example, adults I encountered as a child assumed that high achievement is incompatible with an abuse history. A consequence of this false belief is that children of color living in poverty are overrepresented in reports of suspected abuse .
Improved mandated reporter training, however, is useless if there are systemic, institutional flaws incompatible with the protection of children and prevention of abuse. Too often, organizations that serve children are focused on limiting perceived liability and protecting their image.
Revelations that USA Swimming and USA Gymnastics ignored hundreds of reports of child abuse in their ranks have sparked outrage. The twisted, self-serving culture that put so many swimmers and gymnasts at risk is not anomaly. It is pervasive, common even in our schools. A Government Accountability Office report from 2010 revealed that school officials often opt to retain abusive teachers or provide them positive references to work elsewhere in order to limit the expense of potential lawsuits. This practice is so common that it has a name ? “pass the trash.”
These types of egregious failures happen despite the laws in place to deter mandated reporters from shirking their responsibility. But few convictions result from these laws, allowing mandated reporters ? and the organizations they represent ? to ignore abuse without consequence.
From 2004 to 2014 in Colorado, there were only 65 charges stemming from a mandated reporter failing to report. This is a nationwide problem. Representatives from schools and other organizations that serve children often get away with their failure to protect children, continuing their careers even though they have failed in their most basic responsibility.
Organizations will protect themselves above children until it is more inconvenient for them to ignore abuse than it is for them to address it. It is a move in the right direction to enforce and expand penalties for adults who enable predators by ignoring reports or suspicions of abuse. Likewise, organizations that avoid hiring personnel with a history of child abuse should also avoid hiring, retaining and promoting the allies of child abusers ? the adults who have covered up or ignored abuse.
Child victims of abuse are rarely in a position to advocate for themselves. Since their safety depends on adult intervention, it is absolutely critical that mandated reporters receive frequent training and accurate information to identify abuse. It is even more important that schools, youth sports organizations and other entities that serve children prioritize safety above self-interest.
Judges Call for Community Support to Keep Sex Trafficked Children Safe
by Bianca Bruno
SAN DIEGO (CN) – Judges from across the country Tuesday discussed best practices for helping child sex trafficking victims caught up in the juvenile justice system, which they said should not include detention as a means to keep children safe.
Judges Angela Ellis of Houston, Catherine Pratt of Los Angeles and John Romero of Albuquerque addressed a group of their peers gathered at the National Conference on Juvenile Justice hosted by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges to discuss how their respective jurisdictions' treatment of sex trafficking survivors has evolved.
The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges first adopted a resolution on domestic child sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children in 2013. It calls for judges to use their “unique position” to prevent sexual exploitation of children by working for a coordinated response by justice and child-serving systems in identifying victims and providing necessary services to “heal from trauma.”
The judicial organization also runs an institute on domestic child sex trafficking, where Pratt and Romero serve as faculty members involved in training programs for judges on child sex trafficking.
Judge Ellis said Tuesday she began to challenge detaining sex trafficked children when she realized the same kids were showing up on two different court dockets: one as a victim, and another as an offender.
Ellis said there is a culture in juvenile court of “adjudicating for services or incarcerating for services” and that many judges and officials involved in the cases of sex trafficking victims believe detention is “safe” for victims because “I know where you are.”
“I knew from working in the field that wasn't always true. You can never assume they're safe,” Ellis said.
She said she would never detain a child rape victim in order to keep them safe and that child sex trafficking victims need to be treated the same way.
Judge Pratt, who works in Compton, said she has used custody time for many child sex trafficking victims who are arrested on other charges and when a “public safety analysis is performed.” But she said there needs to be changes to how probation and other officials treat kids who run away, because it's “very common” behavior for child sex trafficking victims to flee.
“Once we know her, we try not to use incarceration unless it's necessary,” Pratt said. “We don't use custody time as punishment, if I'm concerned about a girl's safety I'm going to find a therapeutic placement.”
Judge Romero told his fellow judges to “get out of your courtroom, get out of your chambers” and get involved in the community to find resources to help “kiddos.”
“Let the community develop resources we don't have so we can't say ‘My hands are tied and I only have detention,” Romero said.
“If the only tool you rely on is detention, you're going to lock people up without thinking about the trauma you impose on a kid.”
Romero said while kids in detention might get “three hots and a cot” referring to three square meals a day and a place to sleep, detention is not an appropriate placement.
In an interview with Courthouse News, Romero said sealing and expunging records of child sex trafficking survivors is “critical” because their records follow them into adulthood and many children involved in the juvenile justice system end up in the adult justice system.
“These are all the same kids, they're just a little older and you're seeing them now with prostitution charges or drug charges or whatever it is when the underlying malady may actually be that they're still being trafficked,” Romero said.
“Just because they're another year or two older doesn't mean they're still not victims and exploited kids.”
He said in his 15 years serving on the bench in New Mexico he has never seen a child charged with prostitution and that kids normally face charges for battery, trespassing and other crimes. But he said those criminal behaviors are typically symptomatic of child sex trafficking, and when courts only deal with those charges, it's not “telling the whole story.”
“In our system, because of the amount of work that we have and a penchant for moving things through quickly, we don't always ask that next and important question: What's the rest of the story? Not just what did you do, but what has happened to you,” Romero said.
Romero said he believes changes still need. to take place in the juvenile justice system, that local laws need to evolve with the federal mandate outlined in the 2015 Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act which identifies child sex trafficking as child abuse, giving states the green light to amend their laws so “a non-care giver, non-parent, third party can be criminally charged with child abuse.”
The conference was scheduled to finish-up Wednesday. The National Judicial Institute on Domestic Child Sex Trafficking is holding a conference in Portland, Oregon in August.
Under pressure, Buffalo bishop names 42 priests accused of abuse
by Jay Tokasz
For more than 30 years, Timothy J. Clark lived with the emotional scars of being sexually abused by a parish priest.
The name of the man who allegedly assaulted Clark remained a closely guarded secret. Clark didn't want to talk much about it. Bishops for the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo refused to acknowledge anything about priests who were accused of molesting minors.
Bishop Richard J. Malone altered course Tuesday morning by disclosing the names of 42 priests facing allegations of sex abuse, including 27 priests whose names had not previously been linked in public to molestation complaints. The diocese joined about 30 other dioceses in the country that have disclosed the names of clergy accused of sexual misconduct.
Among the 27 new names was the Rev. Louis J. Hendricks, the priest that Clark said repeatedly abused him when he was a teenager growing up in South Buffalo in the 1980s.
The stunning list stirred a mix of emotions in Clark, a former altar boy who is now 49 and lives in Alaska.
"It was very surreal seeing Hendricks' name finally put out there. And it makes me wonder how much did the church know before he got to me," he said.
Hendricks died in 1990 at the age of 53. Two dozen priests on the list released Tuesday were deceased, including Monsignor Joseph E. Schieder, a powerful cleric who had advised two presidents on youth issues in the 1950s and 1960s. A handful of other monsignors – a Vatican designation reserved for certain priests who were recommended to the pope because of their good work – made the list.
Most of the priests on the list were never prosecuted on criminal charges or sued in civil courts. Some of the priests were quietly removed from ministry under the guise of early retirements or medical leaves. The diocese on Tuesday did not provide any information about the specific allegations against each priest, or disclose where the living priests are residing.
The News uncovered the names of 15 priests on the list in previous reporting on clergy sex abuse .
The diocese has been working on a plan to release the priest names for months, said Malone.
"I have become more and more convinced that it's time to put those names out," he said in an interview in Albany.
Malone was in the state Capitol lobbying with other Catholic bishops from across the state against a provision in the proposed Child Victims Act that would allow victims of child sexual abuse to sue dioceses decades after the alleged abuse occurred.
Malone said releasing the names would bring more transparency to the diocese's handling of priests accused of abuse and help victims heal.
"We know that if a sexual abuse victim sees the name in print of the abuser, sometimes that person might have been ashamed and hidden away and seeing the name there in print, acknowledged by the church, can liberate and empower that person to come forward and we want them to come forward for help," he said.
But victims and their advocates said Malone's disclosures on Tuesday fell far short of a full accounting of the extent of clergy sex abuse in the Buffalo Diocese.
"That's not enough. The bishop should be releasing the files of the diocese, including the secret files, which reveal the names of all the supervisors complicit in the cover-ups," said Mitchell Garabedian, the Boston lawyer who helped uncover how the transfers of molesting priests in the Archdiocese of Boston were authorized by Cardinal Bernard Law. "It's been shown time and again in documents produced around the country that bishops knew and turned their backs on children."
Garabedian also disputed any notion that Malone was being proactive, saying the names should have been disclosed decades ago.
"They're only releasing them now because of public pressure," he said. "The pressure mounts on the diocese to perform some form of spin control as good business."
Other victims and advocates questioned how complete the list was.
"It's just what they're giving us," said Michael F. Whalen Jr. of South Buffalo. "There could be dozens, dozens more that we just don't know about."
Less than a month ago, Whalen stood across from the Buffalo Diocese headquarters on Main Street and publicly accused the Rev. Norbert F. Orsolits of sexually abusing him nearly 40 years ago when he was a teenager.
Orsolits admitted later that day to The News he sexually abused "probably dozens" of teenage boys, and since then, numerous new accounts have come to light from across Western New York of alleged abuse by other priests.
Whalen also pointed to the recent revelation that the diocese in 2016 paid $1.5 million to a man who alleged he was sexually abused by a priest, Rev. James A. Spielman, more than 30 years ago. The diocese left out that settlement figure earlier this month when it said it had paid about $1.2 million in compensation to sex abuse victims over the last 20 years. A diocesan spokesman said the $1.2 million figure reflects only actual diocesan funds and not payments to victims by the diocese's insurance plans.
Malone said on Tuesday that he did not know the total amount of settlements paid to victims and referred the question to diocesan financial administrators. But diocesan spokesman George Richert said later that the number would not be provided to The News.
"They're telling you half-truths," Whalen said of the omission.
Tom Travers, a Buffalo resident who said a Catholic priest abused him in the 1970s when he was an altar boy, agreed. He called the diocese's list "semi-transparent."
"My abuser is not on the list," Travers said.
Travers said he's received communication from the diocese inviting him to participate in its recently created "Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program," a fund to settle claims of alleged sexual abuse . To Travers, that means the diocese "absolutely acknowledges my abuser."
Travers said the diocese was "hiding behind legalese and not having the moral fiber to be fully transparent." He said he wants the diocese to release the names and locations of all priests it knows were abusers.
Buffalo News named 53 priests
The News has developed a list with the names of 53 priests accused of sexual misconduct, including order priests and priests who served at some point in the Buffalo Diocese and were accused of abuse in other dioceses.
Diocesan officials said in 2003 that they had received 93 allegations of sex abuse against 53 clergy since 1950, numbers that were reported to the John Jay College of Criminal Justice as part of a national study of the Catholic clergy abuse crisis.
When asked why the diocese's list on Tuesday didn't add up to at least 53 priests, Malone responded that he dug up only the names of diocesan priests who had been accused. He did not include priests from orders, such as the Jesuits and Franciscans that are headquartered elsewhere and stationed some of its priests in the Buffalo Diocese.
The 2003 accounting "included priests who were members of religious orders and they do not come under my authority," said Malone. "So when we get an allegation about a religious order priest, whoever that is, we immediately offer that victim who called, that alleged victim, pastoral counseling and outreach, but then all of the information goes from us to the religious order authorities and it's their responsibility to take it from there."
The abuse scandal snowballed following Whalen's public announcement about Orsolits, which prompted other victims to come forward with numerous accounts of clergy sex abuse.
"Michael Whalen is a hero in this matter," said Garabedian.
The News reported the accounts of other Orsolits victims. And last week three men in interviews with The News accused the Rev. Donald W. Becker of molesting them. Becker denied the abuse, but the diocese confirmed that he was removed due to complaints of sex abuse.
Several more alleged victims of Becker have contacted The News in the past few days, including a 56-year-old Amherst man who said the priest twice molested him in a cabin in North Java in 1975. The man spoke to The News on the condition that he not be identified by name.
"I was completely knocked off my chair that he had the unmitigated gall to deny it. That just enraged me," the man said. "For him to categorically deny just speaks to his evil."
The man said he had never told anyone about the abuse until Whalen spoke up in February.
"I looked at the man and I looked at the courage it took to do this and I listened to him speak. I was moved, so much so that I told my wife that night," he said.
The man retained Garabedian in an effort to get some compensation for his mental health needs. He said the diocese was being disingenuous by offering a compensation fund and limiting it to people who reported their abuse to the diocese prior to March 1.
Clark, who accused Hendricks, said he reported his abuse to the diocese in 2010 and is hopeful he can receive some amount of compensation, if only to have something he can gift to his granddaughter.
"Nothing's going to erase what's been done," he said.
The molestations, he said, led to destructive behavior, including drug and alcohol abuse. He has frequent terrifying nightmares, thoughts of suicide and trouble trusting people – "all the textbook stuff from being abused," he said.
"I think the diocese knew about Hendricks, knew the whole time he was there," he said.
'You are not alone': SOAR marks 25 years of helping adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the Annapolis Valley
by Ashley Thompson
KENTVILLE, NS - Jedidja Dziedziejko has a message for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse: “Know that you're not alone and there's somebody out there who cares.”
Dziedziejko is the co-ordinator of Survivors of Abuse Recovering (SOAR), a non-profit organization founded in 1993 as a result of an observation that many survivors were in need of support.
“There was a community mental health nurse… who noticed that a lot of the people she was dealing with on a regular basis came out as saying that they had experienced childhood sexual abuse. It was an eye-opener that there was this huge need,” said Dziedziejko.
SOAR offers opportunities for adult survivors of child sexual abuse to meet with fellow survivors in an accepting and positive environment, and participate in one-on-one peer counselling and support services.
“It is a very delicate topic to talk about and it takes a lot to make somebody feel safe,” said Dziedziejko.
“It's comforting to have somebody who's willing to listen to you and who says, ‘I've been there too.'”
SOAR provides training for peer counsellors and works to raise awareness of the issue of childhood sexual abuse and its effects. The organization is always looking for new volunteers, be it survivors or community allies.
“We have wonderful, wonderful volunteers and some of them have been around for the 25 years,” said Dziedziejko.
SOAR can also point survivors in the direction of professional mental health service options that could assist with persisting symptoms associated with abuse-related trauma.
“The bigger support system, the better. We do actually encourage people to also find professional help,” she said.
“We are not professionals. We are not replacing anybody who has university training in actual counselling but, having said that, a peer is a unique social space.”
Dziedziejko sees the potential for SOAR to be a larger, province-wide organization based on the demand for services. The Kentville-based organization was originally formed to serve West Hants, Kings County and Annapolis County.
“A lot of people do actually travel to come and see us,” she said, adding that recent social movements that aim to reduce stigma seem to be having a positive impact.
“We are having more people who are coming forward, and especially men.”
Survivors, Dziedziejko stressed, do not have to suffer in silence.
“You are not alone,” she reiterated.
“SOAR is the best-kept secret in the Valley, and we're hoping to change that.”
12 Signs You Were Emotionally Abused As A Child (And It's Affecting You Now)
by Kassi Klower
Have you ever wondered why you act a certain way?
You may find it hard to make new friends or trust in relationships. Maybe you're prone to outbursts of anger in response to the tiniest things, or, perhaps you tend to completely avoid confrontation and fights at all costs, holding all of your feelings inside until you feel like you're going to burst?
Chances are it's learned behavior in response to the way you were raised. The experiences we have as children can directly influence almost every aspect of their adult lives, from interpersonal relationships to their own sense of self, and nowhere is that more obvious than in people who have been victims of childhood emotional abuse.
“Emotional and verbal abuse can take a variety of forms. It can include name calling and saying hateful things. It can include constant comparisons between siblings, or calling a child “stupid,” or “fat” or “ugly” or “a loser.” It can be mocking or holding a child up to shame, embarrassing her in front of her friends or even strangers. It can also include abandonment or threat of abandonment,” explains Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, from the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire .
“Past abuse can influence your ability to trust others, make friends, and have relationships that are not exploitive. Adult survivors are often isolated and are less satisfied with their relationships than adults who were never abused.”
While there are numerous different ways childhood emotional abuse can manifest in someone as they age, there are a few behaviors that research has repeatedly identified which tend to indicate you may have experienced some form of emotional abuse as a child. The good news? Identifying your issues is the first step to healing from them. If you find yourself nodding along with the following 12 things, it's worth booking in to see a therapist, who can help you work through past trauma and develop healthier coping mechanisms.
1. You apologize all the time
If you were emotionally abused as a child, you might have been made to feel like you could never do anything right, and so as an adult, you'll often find yourself apologizing for things, even in situations in which you haven't actually done anything wrong.
2. You have attachment issues
You might have abandonment issues, always fearing people will leave you, or get sick of you. This usually occurs in people who were neglected as children or had an absent or emotionally unavailable parent.
3. Or you find it extremely hard to get close to people
If you have been emotionally abused, especially by a family member or someone you trusted. you might be scared of getting close to people, or letting someone into your life, in an attempt to protect yourself from being hurt again.
4. You don't know how to accept compliments
If you were constantly told negative things about yourself while you were growing up, it may be hard to believe someone when they compliment you. You may not believe them or dismiss the positive comment completely.
5. You're constantly second-guessing everything
When you have lived in a chaotic world filled with emotional abuse, you may find it hard to trust in anything. If something good happens to you, you'll question how long it will last, or find yourself always second-guessing your decisions and relationships.
6. You're always trying to people-please
People who were told they weren't good enough as children or had to placate the adults in their life to avoid outbursts of abuse or anger often grow up to be chronic people-pleasers.
7. You're terrified of conflict and confrontations
Victims of verbal forms of abuse will often be terrified of confrontation, and so as they grow up, will attempt to avoid conflict at all costs. If this sounds like you, the idea of a confrontation generally induces immense anxiety and will activate the fight-or-flight response — and you'll almost always choose flight.
8. You're incredibly indecisive
If part of your childhood abuse was being made to feel like you always did the wrong thing, or could never live up to expectations, you might find it difficult to make concrete decisions as an adult, because you're still terrified of getting it wrong and the consequences of choosing the incorrect option.
9. You ask obvious questions
Victims of abuse will often doubt themselves — and their relationships. This can result in an insatiable need for validation, sought through the asking of obvious questions such as, “Do you still love me?” and “You're not going to leave me, are you?” in an attempt to maintain a sense of security.
10. You have extremely low self-esteem
One of the most common effects of childhood abuse is an extremely low self-esteem. Children who are repeatedly told they're worthless or not good enough can end up believing these messages and internalize them, resulting in low self-worth in adulthood.
11. You're self-deprecating
Because you were raised to believe you always did everything wrong, as an adult, you end up constantly putting yourself down, or emotionally bashing yourself for every mistake, long after the spilled milk has been cleaned up.
12. You're a perfectionist
Victims of childhood abuse will often feel the need to prove their worth as adults and obsess about doing a task to perfection to overcompensate for their sense of failure as children.
Senate passes controversial online sex trafficking bill
by Harper Neidig
The Senate on Wednesday passed a controversial online sex trafficking bill, sending it to President Trump desk over concerns from the tech industry, capping off a months-long legislative fight.
The bill was approved overwhelmingly in a 97-2 vote. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) were the only votes against the bill.
The legislation, called the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), but also referred to as SESTA after the original Senate bill, would cut into the broad protections websites have from legal liability for content posted by their users.
"We now have the ability to go after these websites who are exploiting women and children online," Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), one of the original authors of the bill, said at a press conference after the vote.
The House overwhelmingly passed the bill last month, and President Trump is expected to sign it.
The legal liability protections are codified in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act from 1996, a law that many internet companies see as vital to protecting their platforms. SESTA would amend that law to create an exception for sex trafficking, making it easier to target websites with legal action for enabling such crimes.
Wyden, the most outspoken critic of SESTA and one of the authors of the Communications Decency Act, said that making exceptions to Section 230 will lead to small internet companies having to face an onslaught of frivolous lawsuits.
"In the absence of Section 230, the internet as we know it would shrivel," Wyden said on the Senate floor ahead of the vote Wednesday. "Only the platforms run by those with deep pockets, and an even deeper bench of lawyers, would be able to make it."
The Oregon Democrat also noted opposition from groups as varied as the Cato Institute, the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union.
But some lawmakers and anti-sex trafficking advocates think the law has gotten in the way of efforts to go after online trafficking suspects like Backpage.com.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a co-author of SESTA and a former prosecutor, called Section 230 "outdated and obsolete" during Wednesday's press conference.
Most internet giants have gone quiet in the fight over the controversial bill. Facebook endorsed SESTA as the company faces scrutiny on other fronts, in particular alleged Russian efforts to use their platform to conduct a disinformation campaign targeting U.S. voters during the 2016 election season.
But the bill was also championed by technology companies, such as IBM, Oracle and Hewlett Packard, that have been at odds with Silicon Valley. They argued that online companies enjoy overly broad legal protections while being subject to very little regulation, leading to pervasive problems like online sex trafficking.
The passage of the bill is widely seen as a major legislative loss for Silicon Valley, and perhaps the first in an era where the industry is being viewed much more critically by lawmakers.
During Wednesday's press conference, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said he believes the bill sends a message to tech giants.
"I think that in the future tech companies have to understand that it's not the Wild West and they have to exercise responsibility," Thune said.
How complex is the healing process of an adult survivor of incest and child sex abuse?
by Priyanka Dasguptal
KOLKATA: Two Kolkata women , who have survived incest and child abuse , made the city witness to a new kind of #MeToo sharing. They didn't need to use the hashtag. But what they did had a very powerful impact. No hiding faces. No talking under conditions of anonymity. Business entrepreneur Koel Chatterjee and social worker Ayesha Sinha showed what it takes to be women of substance. They came in front of the camera to be a part of a documentary titled “The little girls we were... And the women we are!” and spoke about their years of abuse and subsequent healing. After the first Kolkata screening of this documentary, the duo drew a huge round of applause for their “phenomenal bravery” about articulating a secret that many have been forced to bury for far too long.
If Koel shared her tales of healing after her multiple instances of child abuse, Ayesha had stories of how when she was just a toddler a man had tried to make her believe that they were in a “special relationship”! Today, both have healed from their traumatic experience. They carry no guilt or shame for being through what they have. Their poignantly honest testimonials have inspired at least two others in the audience to share their past trauma. “I have never been able to share this before,” said one as she tried to speak about her secret. But her voice choked.
That a documentary could result in such a confession moved many who were present at Wednesday's screening. Actor Nandana Sen, who is in the city for the adoption of a girl child called Meghla, was touched by the reactions of the audience after the screening. “I too have been a victim of child abuse. I had shared it with her mother who had immediately protested,” said the actor who is the cause ambassador of RAHI.
But not every victim or survivor has a supportive parent. The problem gets complicated for an adult survivor . According to psychologist Shubhika Singh, who was also present at the screening, left unattended these wounds of abuse and incest can have serious repercussions in adult life. “A survivor can have self-esteem and body image issues that can impact their marriage and relationships. There can be problems in sexual life. Developing trust becomes difficult,” Singh said.
But the awareness about an adult survivor's need is yet to develop. In case of a helpless child victim, society is more willing to empathise. But it's not the case if an adult shares old memories of abuse. Even family members themselves don't want past issues to be raked up. In most cases, there are evidences, no spy cams in the rooms to prove that authenticity of the complaints. 'Forgive the perpetrator and forget the incident' is the motto that a survivor has to often live by while licking her wounds in privacy.
The need of the hour is to break this status quo. According to Anuja Gupta, the founder and director of RAHI Foundation that had made this documentary, awareness of needs of survivors has to increase. “While victims might not want to confront the perpetrator, the survivor is more demanding. The latter might want an apology from the perpetrator. Few understand that they too are equally in need of empathy and healing,” said Gupta, whose foundation has done two workshops with 15 survivors in Kolkata.
For those survivors who are keen on healing, the first step is to get rid of the sense of guilt. “They need to believe the abuse was not their fault. The abuser/perpetrator is the only one to blame. Being kind on oneself is important,” Singh said.
Often, survivors feel more guilt because they get caught up in ‘should have and ‘could have' mode. In order to get rid of the self-blame, one can look at an old photo from the age when the abuse had happened. Watching that photograph will make the person aware that the little one was not aware of the options to stop the abuse. A survivor needs to make a decision to heal and move on. “It's important to find a professional who can help. Sharing experiences in a safe support group for survivors and find solidarity can be helping. Talking about it will help in ending the isolation and burden of this hidden secret,” Singh added.
Three Billboards Call Out Sexual Abuse
by Elizabeth A. Harris
Kat Sullivan was on a plane to Orlando, Fla., in February when she watched “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” for the first time, a movie about a woman who puts pressure on the local police to find her daughter's killer by renting out a series of giant advertising signs.
That, Ms. Sullivan thought, was a good idea.
“I was like, ‘I'm getting a goddamn billboard,' ” she said. “That woman totally epitomizes the feeling of just having to do something .”
Ms. Sullivan said that she was sexually abused and then raped by a former teacher when she was a student at the Emma Willard School in Troy, N.Y., in the 1990s. A report commissioned by Emma Willard concluded that a teacher there named Scott Sargent had been fired for sexually abusing a student but was still given letters of recommendations to teach elsewhere; Ms. Sullivan was that student.
Because the abuse took place 20 years ago, the statute of limitations has long since run out, leaving Ms. Sullivan with no legal recourse. So, using money from a settlement she received from the school, she bought a month's worth of ad space on three digital billboards, each about 50-feet wide to call attention to the case.
One billboard is in Albany, not far from Emma Willard. Another is on I-95 in Fairfield, Conn., near a school where Mr. Sargent later taught. The third is alongside I-90 in Springfield, Mass., near the town where Mr. Sargent lives today.
Three images will rotate through each billboard. One points people to Ms. Sullivan's website , and says, across a picture of a man with a question mark over his chest, “the truth will be revealed.” Another is a picture of Ms. Sullivan and says: “My rapist is protected by New York state law. I am not. Neither are you. Neither are your children.”
Ms. Sullivan said the original design included Mr. Sargent's name and face, but that the company that owns the billboards would not allow her to use them, for fear of getting sued. Two billboard companies said they would not work with her at all.
The three billboards will be up for 28 days, Ms. Sullivan said, which will cost her $14,000. (She spent about another $2,000 on the website.) Once the billboards come down, Mr. Sargent's name and photograph will appear on her website.
Mr. Sargent did not respond to requests for comment.
In a statement, Emma Willard said, “We commend and support the survivors of sexual abuse who are committed to affecting change on this important issue.”
A third graphic that will rotate through the billboards says “NY Pass The Child Victims Act,” a piece of proposed legislation in Albany that would give victims until age 28 to file criminal charges and allow them to sue until age 50. It would also create a one-year “lookback” window, during which cases from any time could proceed in court. Today, the statutes of limitations in New York that govern the sexual abuse of children are among the most restrictive in the country. Most adult survivors had until they were 23 years old, at the latest, to bring a case.
Activist groups have been pushing the Child Victims Act in Albany for more than 10 years, and have made an especially aggressive effort this year , targeting specific state senators. Ms. Sullivan moved to New York City last month from her home in Florida to help lobby for the measure.
Supporters are trying to make the act part of the state budget, which is due April 1 — a tactic that would give Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who supports the bill, more leverage to negotiate with legislators. The Child Victims Act has support from the State Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, but there is resistance to it in the Republican-controlled State Senate, which has blocked the bill for years. John J. Flanagan, the Senate majority leader, did not respond to questions about the legislation.
A central sticking point is the lookback window. Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said on Tuesday that any legislation that included it should be rejected and called the window “ toxic ” for the Catholic Church. Representatives of the church have said it supports changing the statute of limitations, but fears a flurry of lawsuits and the financial hit a lookback window might deliver.
But proponents of the legislation have said that hasn't happened in states that have enacted similar legislation, and they call the window crucial. In addition to providing victims their day in court, they said the window serves a public-safety function by flushing out suspected abusers who are still in the community.
“The lookback window will help identify abusers, many of whom still have contact with kids,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman, Democrat of Manhattan, who sponsored the bill in the Senate. “New York has among the worst laws in the country on child sexual abuse. We are an outlier, so this fix is a long time coming.”
The billboards strategy was used by activists in London pushing for arrests in the Grenfell Tower fire , which killed 71 people last year, who last month deployed three roving billboards to ask why there had been no arrests in the tragedy.
Ms. Sullivan said she was motivated by the frustration that Mr. Sargent has faced no major consequences.
“He is free to teach, free to coach, free to be elected onto boards,” she said. “There are no blemishes on his record.”
Should We Try to Predict Child Abuse--and Proactively Prevent It?
by Arthur L. Caplan, PhD
Hi. I'm Art Caplan. I run the Division of Medical Ethics at the NYU School of Medicine.
A really interesting study appeared in the journal Pediatrics recently. [ 1 ] It was a study in New Zealand of risk factors determinative of child abuse. Researchers put together a profile of a variety of measures, none of them surprising: how many kids were in the household, criminal record of the parents, drug abuse by the parents. They basically tried to forecast the chance that a particular child would suffer neglect or abuse at the hands of their parents.
What was interesting about this is that the researchers were able to put together a pretty predictive formula—that may have been as accurate as 65%—in deciding who, with a certain profile and a certain set of factors, was likely to harm, abuse, or neglect their child.
In one sense, that's great. It would help us a good deal to be able to intervene and start to predict who might be a high-risk candidate for child neglect or abuse, maybe have social services step in, do programs with people. Remember about New Zealand that it's a small country with a robust public health and hospital system. The researchers were able to keep tabs on these families in the way that, in a big country like the United States—with people moving all the time, moving from doctor to doctor and from health system to health system over time—it might be hard to track them down.
With all of that said, it raises a different set of ethical issues. If we had the algorithm, we could forecast anything about parental behavior—maybe whose kid is more likely to use drugs, or whose child is more likely to be abusive or violent, in addition to whose child is likely to be abused or neglected. What do we feel about that in terms of privacy and in terms of parents, if you will, being stereotyped? Remember, not everybody who scored high on the risk-factor list wound up doing anything to their child. It was predictive but not 100% accurate.
Should we look forward, in this day of information, to more and more tests and predictions of the sort that the New Zealanders have started to explore? Should we start to say, I think that family is at high risk of going on welfare, or getting food stamps, or needing Medicaid support, or any other set of problems? Is there any limit to what we would say is reasonable to try to predict?
I would say this: Unless we're ready to mount an intervention to stop the problem, I have a lot of ethical heartburn about doing the forecast. That is to say, if I don't have a program to help somebody learn how not to be abusive, if I don't have an intervention to teach a child how to get along better with their peers, then just forecasting trouble seems to me to bring stigma and penalty to a child and their family. It doesn't do them any good to have this knowledge, or anyone else any good to be in possession of knowledge, that something bad is going to happen to this child or this family.
The commitment to doing accurate forecasting has to be interventions—attempts to minimize the risk and do something about what you can foresee. Just knowing that something bad is coming is not enough. Knowing that something bad is coming and trying to do something to prevent it, I think, is the moral requirement for doing forecasts in the future, built on the growing amounts of data that we're collecting in our healthcare system.
Why are Iowa lawmakers dragging their feet over strengthening child sex-abuse laws?
by Rekha Basu
I recently asked why Iowa's justice system goes easy on child sexual predators . Now Iowa's state representatives and governor have a chance to do something about that this very session. But having failed to act to change the criminal law before the funnel deadline, it looks like a House committee may drop the ball on a civil one, too.
At stake is an amendment to a bill ( HF 2284 ) that unanimously passed the Senate this month. It would extend the statute of limitations for civil claims of child sexual abuse from the current four-year cutoff after discovery to 25 years after, if the discovery happened after age 18. Regardless of when the injury was discovered, the chance to sue would be extended to 25 years after the victim turns 18.
It also extends the time to file an action for damages suffered from sexual abuse or exploitation by a counselor, therapist or school employee. Currently that ends five years after the victim was last treated or five years after the victim was last in school. That would be doubled to 10 years.
Janet Petersen, the Senate Democratic minority leader, introduced the provision as an amendment to a bill extending the statute of limitations for landlords to go after tenants for payment.
In an emotional appeal to her Senate colleagues March 13, Petersen observed that bill “doubles and sometimes quadruples the statute of limitations for landlords to go after renters up to 20 years... ." She noted the many national cases involving abusers who preyed on multiple children while their employers or institutions knew but did nothing. "Under Iowa law many of these victims would not be allowed to sue. They'd be cut off from seeking justice on their 19th birthday," Petersen said.
"I want to know why it's OK to quadruple the statute of limitations on landlords, yet we have this horrific law on our books," she said. "Not only does it hurt the child, it helps a sexual predator continue to prey on more innocent children in our state."
She said her amendment could prevent other children from being abused by serial predators "by helping to identify previously unknown predators to the public." And it "gives survivors of child sexual abuse a chance at justice."
Petersen's appeal was echoed by Sen. Kevin Kinney, a Democrat from Johnson County, who spoke of being approached by a parent he had previously worked with, whose child had been sexually abused and had many problems coping. The perpetrator was criminally convicted but the civil statute of limitations had expired, so they were unable to sue the perpetrator or the school where it had occurred.
Jeff Edler, the Marshall County Republican senator managing the bill on the Senate floor, said he believed the parties shared common ground on it. He urged his colleagues to vote yes on the amendment.
But the bill, HF 2284, remains in committee on the House side. House majority spokesman Colin Tadlock responded to questions with an email saying he was uncertain what would happen with it. But I was unable to get any comment from him, or Republican House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, on the substance of the amendment or what opposition there might be to it. Nor would Gov. Kim Reynolds' spokeswoman Brenna Smith comment on where the governor stands.
Petersen's efforts to get the criminal statute of limitations extended in SF 2375 passed the Senate but didn't make it out of the House Judiciary committee before the funnel date.
In an interview, Petersen said this one could be "a very significant piece of legislation for victims of child sexual abuse and for getting perpetrators off the street."
"If the House accepts (and passes) it, it could go straight to the governor's desk," she said.
Child sex abuse is not a Democratic or Republican issue. It's about "family values." It's an issue of justice on which both parties should be able to find agreement.
The case of former Harlan doctor shows how important this extension could be for victims. Some were too young to fully understand what was happening at the time of his invasive "examinations." It wasn't until after they reached adulthood and had a better understanding of sex that the doctor's penetrations and fondling made sense. But for some, by then it was too late to bring criminal or civil charges.
It also requires a degree of emotional readiness for survivors to face up to what happened. It's not uncommon to internalize childhood abuses by turning to drugs, alcohol, unhealthy relationships or other self-punishing behaviors before dealing with the basis.
Petersen said constituents have shared stories about boys who were abused by a youth group leader and went on to commit suicide as adults; about a woman who had been abused by a man who was about to be hired as a school bus driver; and about a known pedophile who is living with a vulnerable child.
"How are we allowing these things to continue to happen in our society?" she asked.
And will we allow lawmakers to miss this fleeting remaining opportunity to tackle this part of it?
Law Didn't Cover Child Sex Crime Victims; DA Undeterred
The document she was about to present to the press was historic: More than 400 pages that described sex crimes against children in horrendous, relentless detail.
by Joel Shannon
YORK, Pa. (AP) — The document she was about to present to the press was historic: More than 400 pages that described sex crimes against children in horrendous, relentless detail.
More than a decade later, activists credit the report for setting a precedent in Pennsylvania : This state — more than anywhere else in the nation — exposes the truth of child sexual abuse, even if convictions aren't possible.
The 2005 report received national attention in a recent Newsweek article. It is the subject of a forthcoming documentary entitled Dark Secret. And it is credited as a major influence in an ongoing statewide investigation into sexual abuse of children in the Catholic church.
But as she unveiled the report, Lynne Abraham also likely disappointed many victims.
"I'm sorry, but we couldn't indict anybody."
That's what John Salveson remembers the Philadelphia District Attorney telling him in 2005 before she presented her grand jury report on child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
A Catholic priest had sexually abused Salveson when he was a teenager in Long Island. Salveson helped Abraham's team work with victims of childhood sexual abuse in their investigation — which spanned years.
Although more than 10 years have passed since Abraham issued her report, the anger still is evident in his voice. That anger is directed at abusive priests and the people who protected them: "they're getting off scot-free," he said.
According to Abraham, there was a good reason for that.
Crimes, but no convictions
In November 2017, Newsweek published an expose entitled "Catholic church priests raped children in Philadelphia, but the wrong people went to jail."
The piece was not about Abraham or her report. It was about what happened after she left office: Bungled attempts to get convictions for the abuse that had occurred in Philadelphia.
Abraham felt that pressure when leading her investigation too. But, with the exception of a single priest who was subject to a technicality, she knew the law wasn't on her side.
The report said that Pennsylvania law at the time didn't account for the "powerful psychological forces" that often keep childhood sexual assault victims from coming forward. So it found most cases against priests had passed their statute of limitations.
And the report found that Pennsylvania had no laws addressing the actions of church officials who had allegedly covered the crimes up.
So, instead of chasing convictions she didn't feel she could get, she wrote about what she found.
The report made recommendations for changes in the law, and Abraham has seen progress on all the reports' criminal law recommendations since the report was published. But mostly its documented alleged crimes: rape after rape; cover-up after cover-up.
Most prosecutors in Abraham's position have taken different, easier paths: Some quietly negotiated settlements. Some indicted who they could and moved on. A few have issued short reports (including one from New York that Abraham mockingly called "pathetic").
The church for its part has criticized her report, saying in a 2005 response that it was a "sensationalized, lurid, and tabloid-like presentation of events that transpired years ago."
Today, the church says that it has taken strong action to prevent child abuse.
"Sexual abuse of minors is a societal evil that can rear its head anywhere. It's an issue in nearly every profession, in millions of private homes, and in public institutions. It is not solely a Catholic issue, but the Catholic Church has done more than any other institution in recent years to combat the problem," said Kenneth A. Gavin, chief communications officer for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in a February 2018 emailed statement.
That has included training, a victim assistance program and rigorous background checks.
But Salveson is still angry that full justice hasn't been obtained. His anger is directed at institutions (including the church) and laws — not Abraham or her efforts. For her, he has "more admiration ... than I can even express."
Although she didn't secure convictions, she did something else. She gave survivors of childhood sexual abuse like him hope and optimism.
Advocates say victims often find great comfort in having their experience acknowledged by officials; it helps them cope with shame and self-doubt common among survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
The report represented a "highly credible entity exposing the truth," Salveson said.
The truth as told in the report: Catholic priests brutally raped children and the church systematically covered it up.
No detail was spared.
"When we say abuse, we don't just mean 'inappropriate touching' (as the Archdiocese often chose to refer to it). We mean rape. Boys who were raped orally, boys who were raped anally, girls who were raped vaginally," the report states.
It immediately went on to list 10 such examples.
The document is one of the only American reports on child sexual abuse that had a clear vision: "You have to name names," Abraham said.
It wasn't an easy task. But it had a lasting impact.
A snowball effect
In the early 2000s, the Catholic sexual abuse scandal was rocking the nation.
The Boston Globe published Pulitzer Prize winning coverage in 2002 that reported on rampant sexual abuse of children in the Boston Archdiocese — and the church's cover-up of that abuse.
That's when prosecutors across America and the world began to face the same dilemma as Abraham: How to investigate a set of crimes that were exceedingly difficult to prosecute.
Since then, justice for American victims of childhood sexual abuse in the Catholic church has become a patchwork quilt that varies from state-to-state, district-to-district, diocese-to-diocese.
Charles Gallagher III, who led the Philadelphia investigation as its senior prosecutor, said the approach Abraham took is possible anywhere in the nation — if you have the determination to do it.
But it's an unusual road to justice: Grand juries usually are a step toward an arrest, a conviction. They don't determine guilt or innocence; they determine whether there is sufficient probable cause to bring a case to trial.
They have the authority to issue a report. But when they do, it's typically to recommend changes in the law.
Since 2005, Pennsylvania has repeatedly used Abraham's special tactic of using a grand jury to issue findings of an institutional cover-up and naming defendants who aren't prosecuted. That's unusual in America.
"Pennsylvania is at the forefront of investigating ... sexual abuse allegations," said ? Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston lawyer who runs a sexual abuse law firm. Garabedian was portrayed by Stanley Tucci in the 2015 film "Spotlight" about the Globe's reporting.
Pennsylvania grand juries have issued half of the nation's reports on Catholic sexual abuse, according to bishop-accountability.org, a watchdog website.
That's not counting similar reports on alleged sexual abuse at Penn State in the Jerry Sandusky scandal, a report on sexual abuse that occurred at Buck County's Solebury School and an ongoing statewide grand jury into alleged sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
It's a snowball effect started by Abraham's investigation, said Marci Hamilton, a constitutional law expert who advocates for statute of limitation reform for child sex crimes. Hamilton served as an outside consultant on Abraham's report, is the CEO of CHILD USA and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
Abraham's work set a precedent in the state: Whether or not we can get conviction, we need to know what's happening in our district, Hamilton said.
It's an approach not unique to Pennsylvania: New Hampshire issued an extensive, statewide report in 2003, for example. And it's worth noting that the number of reports in Pennsylvania still is limited: only five specifically on Catholic sexual abuse.
The state Attorney General's office is currently investigating six of the state's eight dioceses. That's in the wake of another report which investigated abuse in the Altoona-Johnstown archdioceses and also named accused priests.
The statewide grand jury has already recommended charges against the Rev. John T. Sweeney of Greensburg in July 2017, accusing him of using his position to force a 10-year-old-boy to perform oral sex in the early 1990s.
But even though Pennsylvania leads the nation in such reports, the majority of Pennsylvania dioceses have not been cited in a report.
Abraham and Gallagher suspect that's because such reports require a tremendous amount of determination and effort. They say they found that out the hard way.
'This story had to be told'
Years before Abraham presented her reports, her pile of newspaper clippings was growing.
They were mostly short stories from around the country: An accused priest here; a lawsuit against the church there. It was weighing on Abraham's mind.
"Gee, are we the luckiest ... archdiocese in the whole world? . I mean, how did it skip us?" she wondered.
When the Philadelphia Archdiocese publicly acknowledged 35 credibly accused priests, Abraham acted.
She gathered her deputies and tasked them with securing a list of those 35 priests from the church.
"And of course, uh, (the church) turned us down," she said.
Political advisers told her to drop it. Taking on the Catholic Church was political suicide in a city where Catholics make up about a third of the population. And hers was a valuable political position: Recent Philly D.A.s had gone on to become governors and U.S. senators.
If you know anything about Lynne Abraham, who was at one point labeled by The New York Times as "The deadliest D.A." for her aggressive pursuit of the death penalty, it shouldn't be surprising what followed.
She did not drop it.
"Well, if I'm not elected again, I'll do something else," she said. "I don't care."
She did not shy away from conflict with the church — she said they got no special treatment from her office. "You're either going to give me what I want and cooperate, or we're going to bring you into court," she remembers telling church officials.
That kicked off an investigation that spanned over three years. Abraham said she went into it with an open mind, hoping that she could confirm the church's report and say they cooperated with her investigation.
She picked a team of Catholic investigators and expert witnesses, both for their knowledge of the church and for integrity concerns: "I wanted them to investigate, essentially, their own church. Not my church. Not your church."
She said her team was blocked at every turn. (The church in its response to her report said it "cooperated fully").
Abraham said "it took an unbelievable amount of pressure" to get the documents needed for the investigation — personnel files and "secret archives" that cataloged clergy sexual abuse allegations.
Instead of 35 credibly accused priests, she said her investigation uncovered about 160. She believes a longer investigation would have revealed even more.
In the final report, the number of credibly accused priests was listed as "at least 63." It includes detailed case studies of 28 priests and church officials.
She said the files revealed "rank corruption inside what appears to be a great church." Church leaders knew about the abuse and had complex systems in place to shield themselves and the church from legal responsibility.
It was always her intent to write about what she found — good or bad — Abraham said. So that's what she told her team to do, knowing her name was going on the report, months before voters went to the polls.
At the end, she proved the naysayers wrong and won re-election in a landslide.
She remembers visiting Catholic churches after the report's release, expecting hostility. She was greeted with standing ovations, she said.
"This story had to be told, and somebody had to tell it. And I didn't care who else was going to tell it — I was going to tell it. And I'm grateful to all the men and women in the office who did all of the work."
'Neither fair nor accurate'
When Abraham's report was released, the response from the Catholic church was immediate: A 73-page rebuttal.
That document presented the 2005 report as anti-Catholic and misleading: "... the District Attorney's Office has abused its power, and squandered the resources of the grand jury. The report can have no positive impact because it is neither fair nor accurate."
The rebuttal said Abraham misused the grand jury process, pointing out that, unlike a trial jury, grand juries see only the evidence the prosecutor wants them to see and do so in secret. Grand juries can issue findings, but have no legal authority to prove an allegation.
The report also failed to acknowledge changes the church had made in response to the clergy sexual abuse problem, the response said.
Abraham was trying to convict in the court of public opinion what she could not prove in a court of law, amounting to "reckless rhetoric, dispensed from any burden of proof."
Mention the church's response to Abraham, and her voice will rise in anger: "How does child molestation become fair? What's fair about that? How dare they?"
She said the evidence largely came from the church itself: "It's from their own records! I mean, we didn't make this stuff up. . Where do you think we got this information from?"
Despite the church's 2005 criticism, Salveson, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, thinks the report was a positive step.
Participating in grand jury investigations brought about a sense of justice — or at least affirmation. Someone in power cared — they were doing something.
But ultimately, it's not enough for Salveson: "It never gets proven in a court of law."
Craigslist Drops Personal Ads After Passage of Sex Trafficking Bill
by Niraj Chokshi
Looking for love or a “casual encounter”? You'll have to find it someplace other than Craigslist.
The venerable online classifieds site removed its “personals” section this week, after Congress sent a bill to President Trump aimed at curtailing sex trafficking.
Craigslist, little changed since it unveiled its spare text design in 1995 and began to crush the paid print classifieds business, will no longer offer a way for anonymous people to connect for romance or sex.
While many people used the site to find relationships — one of the discontinued categories is “strictly platonic” — it was no secret that some postings were thinly veiled solicitations for prostitution, despite the site's efforts to fight overt solicitations for money.
Visitors to the personals section of Craigslist are now redirected to a short statement about the bill, the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, which gives law enforcement officials greater authority to go after websites used for sex trafficking, while removing protections from legal liability for hosting such content.
“Any tool or service can be misused,” Craigslist said in the statement . “We can't take such risk without jeopardizing all our other services, so we are regretfully taking Craigslist personals offline. Hopefully we can bring them back some day. To the millions of spouses, partners, and couples who met through Craigslist, we wish you every happiness!”
The website's personals section has attracted listings of all kinds, reflecting a range of interests, sexual orientations and combinations of partners. Some users have found lasting relationships and marriage.
On Friday, inventive users were already turning to other parts of Craigslist, like the famous “missed connections” section , to post their personals instead.
Craigslist has faced criticism over its role in facilitating prostitution and trafficking before. About a decade ago, after reaching an agreement with 40 state attorneys general, it undertook a series of changes in order to curb the practices.
The online forums site Reddit also removed a handful of escort-related communities in recent days, though the ban was part of a broader crackdown on the exchange of weapons, drugs, sexual services, stolen goods and falsified documents.
Many survivors of sex trafficking and the illegal prostitution trade have praised the legislation as a significant advance in their fight against the practice.
“It really provides both survivors and folks in law enforcement with the tools to hold websites that are knowingly facilitating trafficking accountable,” said Lauren Hersh, the national director for World Without Exploitation, a coalition of groups that worked with the legislators who sponsored the bill.
Ms. Hersh said that some websites known to have been used for trafficking have already disappeared.
Some tech companies, civil liberties groups and organizations of voluntary sex workers have argued that the bill overreaches.
Though its goal is “worthy,” the bill may have unintended consequences, Ian Thompson, of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a post this month.
“The bill is worded so broadly that it could even be used against platform owners that don't know that their sites are being used for trafficking,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation said in a statement after the Senate passed the bill.
Even anti-trafficking organizations are not united in their support. Freedom Network USA, a coalition of groups, said in a statement that the bill would only drive voluntary sex workers further underground.
“Consensual commercial sex workers use harm reduction tools such as online forums to screen clients, avoid high risk activities, share resources, and protect each other,” it said.
While Ms. Hersh acknowledged that there may be some in the sex trade who use the websites willingly, the bill, she said, will save many others from exploitation.
“We work with survivors, many of whom have been exploited on these websites, and so we are seeing firsthand the extraordinary harm that's happening to many women and children,” she said.
Police: Mom arrested after video of smoking baby goes viral
by Jonathan Drew
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A video of an infant smoking a small cigar set off outrage on social media that helped North Carolina authorities identify and arrest the mother.
A version of the video that's received 1.5 million views was posted by a user who urged the mother's arrest. The 10-second clip shows the hand of an adult off-screen holding what appears to be a cigarillo to the child's lips. The child then makes a cooing sound and appears to inhale before letting out a puff of smoke.
The Raleigh Police Department said Wednesday that the child was safe and the mother was in custody.
"Big thanks to everyone who posted information about the smoking mother and baby," department officials told their Facebook followers in a post. "Thanks to your willingness to get involved, the child is now safe and the mother is in police custody."
Police spokeswoman Laura Hourigan confirmed in an email that officials were referring to the child seen in the video.
It wasn't immediately clear what substance the child was smoking, but the mother was charged with marijuana possession. Brianna Ashanti Lofton, 20, was also charged with two counts of felony child abuse, according to a police news release.
The baby was placed with the county's child protective services department. A phone listing for Lofton couldn't be found through a public records search.
While police said multiple Facebook users alerted them to the video Wednesday morning, the account holder whose posting was seen by more than a million people said he's glad the child is now safe.
The user, who identified himself as Rasheed Martin of Rochester, New York, said he hasn't spoken directly with police, but he's satisfied that he helped raise awareness. His post prompted numerous comments by people worried about the child or upset with the mother.
Martin said he doesn't know the mother and first found out about the video when a friend shared it online. He said he wanted the woman to be held responsible, so he reposted the video while urging his followers to help identify the woman.
"Once more and more people found out about this situation, they showed me a screenshot of her actual Facebook page," Martin said in in an online interview. "Then I later added it to the post so everyone could know exactly who ... did that to the poor little girl."
Former Mormon mission president accused of sexual assault
by Brady McCombs
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The Mormon church is investigating a former missionary training center president who is accused of sexually assaulting a woman in the 1980s, following the release this week of a secret audio recording where he is heard apologizing to her and citing a sex addiction.
The allegations are "deeply disturbing" and would lead to formal discipline if true, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a statement posted to its website Tuesday.
The 85-year-old Joseph L. Bishop denied the allegations when asked by church officials but is apologetic in the recording even though he doesn't discuss exactly what happened. The recording - from a meeting the woman set up under the guise of being a reporter - was made public this week by the website MormonLeaks , which is a church watchdog.
The 55-year-old woman, whose name is being withheld because she's an alleged victim of sexual assault, said Bishop tried to rape her in an office in Provo in 1984 when she was a missionary. Bishop was president to the Missionary Training Center in Provo from 1983-1986.
"You want an apology. I want to give you an apology. I don't know what I can do about it, because here we are, after all these years, but it just... it just hurts my heart to see you suffering," he said in the taped conversation .
Bishop was also president of Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, from 1972-1978.
The woman lodged a complaint last November with Brigham Young University police, who investigated and forwarded their findings to the Utah County Attorney's office, Lt. Steven Messick said. Prosecutors at that office declined to pursue charges due to the statute of limitations, he said.
The woman's attorney sent the recording to church officials in January. The church statement said officials had outside attorneys interview Bishop and the woman.
"Not surprisingly, the stories, timelines and recollections of those involved are dramatically different," the church said.
The church says it first became aware of the allegations against Bishop in 2010 and passed on information to police in Pleasant Grove, where the woman was living. The church said it never heard back from police and opted against disciplining Bishop because he denied it and they were unable to verify the allegations.
The police department didn't investigate the alleged sexual assault, but it did look into a threat the woman made against Bishop, Lt. Britt Smith said. No arrests were made.
The allegations resurfaced in 2016 when the woman told a regional Mormon leader in Pueblo, Colorado, the church said. It was reported to local police, but it's unclear what if anything was done.
The Mormon church reopened its investigation in January when her attorney sent the taped conversations.
While acknowledging that it doesn't have the same tools available to police, the church said it will continue to investigate as part of its push to hold members accountable.
The Associated Press could not reach the woman for comment. She told the Deseret News that she first reported the sexual assault to church officials around 1988. Church officials say they have no record of that.
Greg Bishop, the adult son of Joseph Bishop, said his father vehemently denies the allegations and is a victim of a woman who has falsely accused men of sexual assault. He said his father was confused during the taped December conversation that took place in Arizona shortly after Bishop had a second heart attack. He was on medications and taken aback by the woman's aggressiveness, Greg Bishop said.
The woman set up the interview under the guise of being reporter working on a story about men who served as mission presidents, he said.
Greg Bishop said there was no sexual assault and that the woman exposed her breasts to his father, unsolicited, during the encounter in the office in 1984. He said his father was apologizing in the recorded conversation for anything he did to make her feel like she could do that.
Greg Bishop said his father's claim of a sexual addiction doesn't refer to a clinical addiction, but rather his father's lifelong battle with "controlling" his "sexual thoughts."
"Those people who know dad don't put much credence in these allegations," Greg Bishop said.
At one point in the 2-hour taped conservation, the woman confronts Joseph Bishop point blank about molesting another woman. He confirms he did give the woman a back rub that got "too frisky" while the woman lived with him.
Greg Bishop said his father gave the woman, who was living with the family during a difficult period of her life, a back rub at her request but quickly realized it wasn't a good idea.
It's unclear if that woman ever filed any complaint with police.
Mother's boyfriend arrested after Phoenix boy suffers broken bones, internal injuries
by Nathan J. Fish
A Phoenix boy was hospitalized with severe injuries and his mother's boyfriend has been arrested on suspicion of abusing the child, according to Maricopa County court documents.
Steven Darrell Nelson, 25, was arrested by Phoenix police at his home near Union Hills Drive and Seventh Street in Phoenix on Tuesday, court documents say.
Nelson was booked on charges of child abuse involving the 4-year-old, officials said.
According to court records, the abuse occurred between Feb. 1 and 3.
The child was hospitalized for three weeks at Phoenix Children's Hospital with multiple injuries, including a broken leg, hair pulled out at the roots, multiple bruises in various stages of healing, a lacerated liver and a bowel perforation, among other injuries, according to court documents.
The boy's injuries were reported by a third party who was not identified in court records.
The boy's mother denied that she or Nelson hurt the child; however, the boy told police Nelson was responsible for his injuries, according to court records.
"Steven hurt me," the child told police, the court records say.
Nelson admitted to police that he had hurt the boy but "in a playful manner," and that he hoped he and the child could one day be friends, according to the court records.
Nelson was being held on a $50,000 bond and is due back in court March 28.
Every 25 minutes a baby is born who is addicted to opioids
by Hubble Ray Smith
Two babies are born every day in Arizona craving something with a little more punch than mother's milk.
These babies have a valid reason to cry, beyond being pushed from the comfort of their womb into this cold, cruel world.
They're the tiniest victims of the opioid crisis that's sweeping the nation and particularly Mohave County, which has been identified as one of Arizona's top five counties for opioid overdoses.
Babies born to mothers hooked on heroin, methamphetamine and opioids suffer from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS, and have difficulty withdrawing from drug dependency, said Tara Sundem, registered nurse and co-founder of Hushabye Nursery in Phoenix.
She's leading a free presentation on NAS from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday at Mohave County Administration Building, 700 W. Beale St.
It's a collaboration between Mohave County Superior Court's team for maltreatment of infants and toddlers and First Things First, an organization dedicated to the development and learning of Arizona children from birth to age 5.
Sundem will talk about NAS signs and symptoms, treatment, pathophysiology, identifying developmental risk factors, prognosis and teaching caregivers how to cope with affected babies.
“I think the biggest thing right now is destigmatizing opioid disorders,” Sundem said in an interview from Phoenix.
“Everyone needs to realize that they probably know somebody using opioids and they don't talk about it. It's a brain disease. Nobody chooses opioids. Until we improve access to care and destigmatize addiction, it's truly where we need to go.”
To register for the training, go to www.eventbrite.com/e/the-tiniest-victims-of-the-opioid-crisis-tickets-43177496053 .
There were a total of 1,472 cases of NAS in Arizona from 2008 to 2013, and the rate has increased 235 percent, Sundem said.
Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) paid for 79 percent of those births at an average cost of $31,000 for infants with NAS, compared with $2,500 for babies without NAS.
Nationally, the number of babies suffering from opiate withdrawal at birth is staggering.
A new study found a five-fold increase in newborn dependency from 2000 to 2012, when an estimated 21,732 infants were born with NAS, or one every 25 minutes, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The rate jumped from 1.2 babies born with NAS for every 1,000 births in 2000 to 5.8 babies in 2012. Similarly the rate of pregnant mothers using opiates rose from 1.19 per 1,000 births in 2000 to 5.63 in 2009.
Newborns with NAS stayed in the hospital for an average of 16.9 days, compared with 2.1 days for babies without the syndrome, the national institute reported. Hospital costs for those babies average $66,700, compared with $3,500 for normal babies.
They're also more likely to have low birth weights and respiratory complications.
The majority (81 percent) of hospital costs for opioid babies were paid by state Medicaid programs, reflecting the greater tendency of opiate-abusing mothers coming from lower-income brackets, the National Institutes of Health reported.
“NAS incidence and hospital charges grew substantially during our study period,” authors of the NIH report wrote in their conclusion.
“This costly public health problem merits a public health approach to alleviate harm to women and children. States, particularly, in areas of the country most affected by the syndrome, must continue to pursue primary prevention strategies to limit the effects of opioid pain reliever misuse.”
Babies that are withdrawing from opioids are fragile and have difficulty sleeping for more than a few minutes at a time, Sundem said.
They suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, sweating and are at risk for seizures. They may have excessive crying, skin breakdown and poor feeding.
“Initially, we try to do developmental care and keep them with their moms,” Sundem said. “Believe it or not, the babies do better with mom, even if mom is addicted. If we can keep mom safe with the baby, that's the ideal treatment at the very beginning.”
Sundem, from Hartford, South Dakota, received her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing at Mankato State University in Minnesota, and moved to Mesa following her graduation to work in neonatal intensive care at Banner Desert Medical Center.
She earned a Master's degree from Arizona State University, then obtained her certification as a neonatal nurse practitioner, focusing on Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.
“Two years ago, just like everybody else, I thought, ‘Why don't these pregnant moms just stop?' That's not recommended. The recommended treatment is to start them on medical assistance treatment, methadone or Subutex,” Sundem said.
“Everybody thought mom could go cold turkey. She'll probably lose the baby. She'll go through withdrawals and so will the baby, and that's traumatic. These moms didn't plan on being addicted, and they didn't plan on getting pregnant.”
Some drugs are more likely to cause NAS than others, but nearly all have some effect on the baby. Opiates such as heroin and methadone cause withdrawal in over half the babies exposed prenatally, according to a study from Stanford Children's Health.
Cocaine may cause some withdrawal, but the main symptoms in the baby are due to the toxic effects of the drug itself.
Patricia Hockingberry, director of perinatal services at Kingman Regional Medical Center, said the hospital delivers 50 to 60 babies a month, and reports eight to 10 babies to the Department of Child Safety.
KRMC reported nine babies diagnosed with NAS to the state since the reporting started in June 2017.
“It's definitely getting worse,” Hockingberry said. “We've had the problem in Kingman for some time, not just opioids, but alcohol and nicotine and marijuana and methamphetamines. Meth is a huge problem in Kingman because it's so cheap.”
It's not so much withdrawal symptoms of NAS babies, but how many of them will have developmental problems, the KRMC nurse added.
“All of those babies will have some experience that's challenging to overcome,” she said. “Feeding, growth, developmental milestones may be delayed. Things you expect like rolling over, sitting up and eating.”
Mohave County now offers the SENSE program (Substance Exposed Newborn Safe Environment) for families referred by the Department of Child Safety after the birth of a substance exposed infant.