The Disturbing Secret Behind An Iconic Cartoon
Robyn Byrd and Katie Rice were teenage Ren & Stimpy fans who wanted to make cartoons. They say they were preyed upon by the creator of the show, John Kricfalusi, who admitted to having had a 16-year-old girlfriend when approached by BuzzFeed News.
by Ariane Lange, BuzzFeed News
Robyn Byrd thought her plan was working when the letter from her hero arrived in the mail. It was 1994, and the 13-year-old had sent the creator of The Ren & Stimpy Show a video of herself talking about her drawings and the animation career she envisioned; she thought if she got the attention of the studio behind the hit Nickelodeon show, she might get a job there someday. John Kricfalusi's effusive letter, Byrd said, seemed like the first step toward her dream.
She could hardly believe he'd responded. “I had built up these characters and this mythos of Ren & Stimpy in my head,” Byrd, now 37, told BuzzFeed News. “It was exciting.”
Soon, she said, she began receiving boxes of toys and art supplies from 39-year-old Kricfalusi, better known as John K. He helped her get her first AOL account, through which he convinced her he could help her become a great artist. He visited her at the trailer park where she lived in Tucson, Arizona. “I thought I was still his little cute friend,” she said. And then, when she was still in 11th grade, he flew her to Los Angeles to show her his studio and talk about her future. She said that on the same trip, in a room with a sliding glass door that led to his pool, he touched her genitals through her pajamas as she lay frozen on a blanket he'd placed on the floor. She was 16.
In the summer of 1997, before her senior year of high school, he flew her to Los Angeles again, where Byrd had an internship at Spumco, Kricfalusi's studio, and lived with him as his 16-year-old girlfriend and intern. After finishing her senior year in Tucson, the tiny, dark-haired girl moved in with Kricfalusi permanently at age 17. She told herself that Kricfalusi was helping to launch her career; in the end, she fled animation to get away from him.
Since October, a national reckoning with sexual assault and harassment has not only felled dozens of prominent men , but also caused allegations made in the past to resurface. In some ways, the old transgressions are the most uncomfortable: They implicate not just the alleged abusers, but everyone who knew about the stories and chose to overlook them.
Although sexual abuse allegations against Kricfalusi have never been made public before, his relationship with Byrd has been an open secret within animation — so open that “a girl he had been dating since she was fifteen years old” was referenced briefly in a book about the history of Ren & Stimpy . Tony Mora, an art director at Warner Bros., and Gabe Swarr, a producer at Warner Bros., worked alongside Byrd at Spumco. The male artists said stories of how Kricfalusi sexually harassed female artists, including teenage girls, were known through the industry. “It's always been there,” Mora said. Moreover, Kricfalusi made his fixation on teenage girls plainly obvious in his art, even as he worked on animated projects for the likes of Cartoon Network, Fox Kids, and Adult Swim. In an interview with Howard Stern in the mid-'90s, the radio host asked him about a character in the comic book anthology the cartoonist was then promoting. Stern called Sody Pop “a hot chick with big cans and nice legs.” Kricfalusi responded with a smile : “She's underage, too.”
And yet Kricfalusi, 62, continues to be widely celebrated as a pioneer in the male-dominated field of animation. Creators of shows including SpongeBob SquarePants , Adventure Time , and Rick and Morty have cited Ren & Stimpy as an influence. After Nickelodeon fired the perpetually behind-schedule artist from Ren & Stimpy in 1992, he became an early proponent of art and shows made just for the internet. His output has slowed down, but he enjoys a living-legend stature that prompted 3,562 people to fund a Kickstarter campaign for his short Cans Without Labels , which he screened at a prestigious animation film festival in 2016. He made art for Miley Cyrus's 2014 Bangerz tour; he animated two credit sequences on The Simpsons , the most recent in 2015. Until the publication of this story, his portrait hung on the wall at Nickelodeon.
On Kricfalusi's behalf, an attorney responded to a detailed list of allegations in this story with the following statement:
“The 1990s were a time of mental and emotional fragility for Mr. Kricfalusi, especially after losing Ren and Stimpy , his most prized creation. For a brief time, 25 years ago, he had a 16-year-old girlfriend. Over the years John struggled with what were eventually diagnosed mental illnesses in 2008. To that point, for nearly three decades he had relied primarily on alcohol to self-medicate. Since that time he has worked feverishly on his mental health issues, and has been successful in stabilizing his life over the last decade. This achievement has allowed John the opportunity to grow and mature in ways he'd never had a chance at before.”
While Byrd felt deeply alone when she left animation, she later realized she hadn't been the only underage girl Kricfalusi groomed for a relationship. In 2008, long after she last saw Kricfalusi, Byrd reconnected with an old internet friend: the artist Katie Rice. Kricfalusi introduced them through AOL in the mid-'90s, when they were still children, telling them he'd hire them both at Spumco someday. Although Kricfalusi never had a physical sexual relationship with Rice, he began hitting on her when she was a minor, she said, behavior that ranged from writing her flirty letters (“I bet you'll be up to no good. Just like me,” he wrote in 1996) to masturbating while she was on the phone. In 2000, when Rice was 18 and trying to break into animation, Kricfalusi offered her a job. Once she started working for him, Rice said, he persistently sexually harassed her.
Old letters, emails, and transcripts of AOL conversations between the women and Kricfalusi back up many of their claims. They each have witnesses to parts of their stories. Yet both women worried that they sounded “crazy.” For years, they chose to keep their experiences private, because coming forward didn't seem like it was worth the risk. Rice feared retribution from his many supporters. Neither woman thought they'd be taken seriously.
Now they believe the world has changed. Byrd feels the time has come for Kricfalusi to be held accountable, particularly, she said, after the police told her in December that Kricfalusi's alleged crimes against her were too old to investigate. “He shouldn't be able to get away with that,” she said.
And while Byrd teaches philosophy and undergraduate writing classes, Rice still works in animation and regularly encounters people asking her what it was like to work for “a legend.” It made her hesitant to criticize him, as if it would be her fault for tainting his work. But, sitting in a Burbank restaurant, she said, “I know a lot of people struggle with the ‘art vs. artist' thing, and I get it. Like, I love Rosemary's Baby . But would I watch another movie that he made, knowing what I know now?” she said, referring to the multiple rape allegations against filmmaker Roman Polanski .
“I would say no, I don't want to watch it. I don't want any part of that. There's nice people you can hire. There's nice people who can make things, there's nice people who make cartoons. … They're just as fucking good.”
Rice wanted to be an artist from the time she was in the fourth grade. In the summer before fifth grade, when she started watching the original Nicktoons — Doug , Rugrats , and Ren & Stimpy — the tween decided to become a cartoonist. Her parents were skeptical. Her mother told BuzzFeed News that she worried her daughter was being unrealistic.
So when Rice wrote to Kricfalusi when she was around 14, and then they began corresponding over AOL, Rice said it was a source of validation for her and her family: A powerful man who had recently been nominated for an Emmy Award saw that she had potential.
They continued chatting online and on the phone into her sophomore year of high school, and Kricfalusi's messages made her feel special. In an AOL conversation he told her not to copy and send to her friends, he said, “I wnat [ sic ] to squeeze you,” and “I'm crazy about you, Katie”; he asked her, “Do I ever make you tingle?” In an email she printed and saved from a few days after she turned 15, the 41-year-old man wrote, “I'm thinking about you very hard right now. And I have a little tickle in my chest.” Now 36, Rice looks at these old pages with some of the compliments underlined in purple gel pen and cringes.
At the time, she didn't see the harm. “I think this 40 year old man is hitting on me,” she wrote in a diary entry from between December 1995 and March 1996, saying her friend agreed with her. (Speaking to BuzzFeed News, the friend recalled having this conversation, and that she thought Kricfalusi was hitting on Rice.) Rice, then 14, continued in her diary, “But he's never perverted. He is also very nice. He gives me a lot of drawing tips.”
Rice and Kricfalusi met a few times in Los Angeles, and they kept talking after she moved with her parents from California to Lake Tahoe in 1996 when she was entering 10th grade at age 14. They never had physical sexual contact, but when Rice lived in Nevada, she remembers several late-night phone calls during which Kricfalusi said, “Repeat after me: John's dick slides in my puzzy” (his pronunciation of the word) while he masturbated on the other end of the line. She refused. Rice, who was naive about sex, said she didn't realize what he was doing at first — until, all of a sudden, she did. Christine Nockels, a high school friend of Rice who later worked at Spumco, said Rice told her about the masturbation when they were classmates.
The conversations left Rice shaken, but she trusted him. Lonely in her new school in Nevada, she viewed him as her only friend. He attended her 15th birthday party, which he later confirmed on a DVD extra for the 2003 Ren & Stimpy reboot. (“I was at her 15th birthday party. We'll tell you that backstory a little bit later,” he said with a grin.) She was devastated when he abruptly stopped talking to her in early 1997.
That same winter, Kricfalusi flew out to visit Byrd, then a high school junior, at home in Arizona. They had sex for the first time at a nearby hotel, she said, and put into motion a series of decisions that would reshape the rest of her teenage years. She'd move in with Kricfalusi for the summer and intern at Spumco, then complete her senior year at a private school in Arizona, and he would cover the tuition. He told her he could give her an animation career in Los Angeles when she graduated. She and her mother believed him.
So when the young artist and writer moved in with Kricfalusi in the summer of 1997, part of her was happy. As an intern, she was making copies, keeping art organized, and learning how to be an animator. “I made my dream come true,” Byrd said. “That's why I sent the tape when I was 13.” Everything in California was new and exciting, including, to some degree, her boyfriend. “I believed, as a 16-year-old dating him, ‘Oh, the world's against us. It shouldn't be wrong for him to date me. We're cool and rebellious because we're breaking the rules of society,'” Byrd told BuzzFeed News. She said he told her their 25-year age difference was “romantic.”
But she struggled. In a letter she wrote to herself during the internship — her method of working out her feelings at the time — she frets about all the ways she's alienating her 41-year-old boyfriend with her “nagging” and her “guilt-inflicting”; she says Kricfalusi doesn't care about her emotional well-being. “He may like my figure & face. He may adore my mind & ideas. But he does not have regard for my feelings as I do his,” she wrote. The artist she shared an office with, Swarr, who was in his early twenties at the time, remembers her frequently crying.
Despite the volatility, this seemed like a break to her: Kricfalusi was teaching her a trade. And, over the course of more than 600 blog posts reviewed by BuzzFeed News, Kricfalusi portrays himself as a uniquely qualified molder of young minds. It's the same image he presented to Byrd and Rice, and to many of the fans, mostly men in their twenties, who he hired at Spumco in the 1990s and early 2000s. They were inexperienced young people who, Mora and Swarr said, believed deeply in the art Spumco was making. It was a small studio that usually had between 10 and 30 artists at a time, most of them convinced they were doing something defiant by working there. Derrick J. Wyatt, an artist who started working at Spumco in 1999, told BuzzFeed News the studio was a “cult of personality” centered on Kricfalusi.
After Byrd graduated from high school at 17 in 1998, Kricfalusi hired her to work at Spumco and she moved back into his Los Angeles home.
As Byrd grew up in the studio, her coworkers, many of whom were not much older than she was, were aware of the teen's romantic relationship with their boss. Mora got an internship at Spumco in 1997, around the age of 24, and when he first started seeing Byrd around the studio, “I was like, ‘Who's that little girl?'” he said. The relationship was odd to him, but it seemed to be accepted at the studio, where former employees say Kricfalusi fostered a libertine atmosphere in which taking offense was itself offensive. They were making shows with sexual themes; there were raunchy nude drawings on display. Mora said Kricfalusi left out a drawing he made of Byrd, naked, with a dog ejaculating on her.
Sometime between 1998 and 2000, Mora went to a party at Kricfalusi's house that has bothered him for years. He remembered Byrd, who was no older than 20, was drunk and seemed to be drifting in and out of consciousness when Kricfalusi called Mora over to him. “And then he pulled out these Polaroids of Robyn basically — how can you say it? — going down on him. … He's like, ‘What do you think of that?'”
Byrd doesn't remember Kricfalusi taking explicit photos of her; she also wasn't aware, she said, that he showed explicit photos of her to other people. But Wyatt recounted an interaction with his then-boss that was similar to Mora's. He said that at a party at Kricfalusi's house between 1999 and 2002, Kricfalusi showed him “a stack of Polaroids” of Kricfalusi and Byrd having sex. He never mentioned the photographs to Byrd, nor did he confront Kricfalusi about the interaction. During another party at Kricfalusi's house, Swarr said the artist pulled out a binder of photos that showed Byrd naked in his pool. “It was gross,” Swarr said. Affecting a gruff voice when he spoke as Kricfalusi, Swarr recalled, “He was like, ‘Oh, you like that?' I was like, ‘No!'”
At the time Byrd started working at Spumco, the age of consent in California had been 18 for decades. But because no one in the studio told her to leave Kricfalusi, it took longer for Byrd to realize the extent of the problem she had. “My entire life had been suspended in John's since I was fourteen,” she wrote to Rice in 2008. She told BuzzFeed News this year, “I just kind of got swept up in the whole thing.” When it came to sex with an adult man, she remembers thinking as a teen that it was something “I was supposed to do as an adult woman.”
In 2000, Byrd briefly broke up with Kricfalusi and moved out of the house she shared with him in LA. The pair would reunite a few months later, but in the meantime, Kricfalusi contacted Rice, who was then 18 years old and reeling from an art school rejection letter. He asked her to come work at Spumco. Receipts signed by Kricfalusi and saved by Rice show he paid for her stay at the Voyager Motor Inn in June 2000.
Rice worked for Kricfalusi on and off from age 18 to about 25, starting as an inker and moving on to layout and character design. In 2000, Byrd and Rice both worked at the studio, but the childhood internet friends never spoke face-to-face; Swarr remembers the women working at opposite ends of Spumco. Mora and Swarr believed that Kricfalusi hired Rice as a replacement for Byrd. At 19, Byrd thought so too. She said it seemed to her at the time that Kricfalusi was replacing her with a younger woman.
Byrd left Kricfalusi for good in 2002. Once she was gone, he focused more attention on Rice. In emails, Kricfalusi demanded her professional loyalty. He also continued to pressure her for affection. Through a lawyer, Kricfalusi denied harassing Rice, saying, "John's avid pursuit of her romantically was all after the company went out of business and he was no longer her employer." But around the time of the new Ren & Stimpy show, which was produced by Spumco and employed Rice, he wrote her a letter expressing sadness over his breakup, and also told Rice she was pretty and that he wished he could cuddle with her.
On Oct. 19, 2004, when Rice was working at Disney, 49-year-old Kricfalusi contacted Rice via her work email. He wrote that he'd been resentful, as a 41-year-old man, of the classmate Rice liked when she was 15. “You used to make me very jealous … and you would never admit you liked me in a romantic way.” At the end of that email, he begged her to be in a relationship with him, writing, “I would worship you and bve [ sic ] your best partner and friend and everything that would be good to be.”
Rice said the sexual harassment got worse when she worked from Kricfalusi's home office, particularly when they were working on a music video commissioned by “Weird Al” Yankovic. (The musician said he was not aware of any of the behavior described in this story and declined to comment further.) In an email reviewed by BuzzFeed News, Rice told Byrd in 2008 that Kricfalusi “was doing all sorts of bizarre stuff- waiting naked in his living room for when I let myself into his house to work in the morning, walking around with his weiner hanging out of his pants, telling me that his friend's advice to ‘get' me was to just rape me one day.”
Through an attorney, Kricfalusi denied exposing himself to Rice, and said that the rape comment was just a joke.
Rice's voice rose in frustration. “I know what everybody's gonna say: Why didn't you just leave? Well, because this asshole told me when I was 13 that I was special, and I don't have any self-esteem, so I believe it.” And the fact was that he had hired her, when she had no prospects, right after she was rejected from art school. As she had argued in forums online, she really did think he was a great artist. She thought that she owed her mentor and friend, and she felt a certain twisted pride in putting up with his harassment.
Rice said she finally did leave after two incidents that happened in relatively close succession: The first was his half-threat of rape during the Weird Al job, and then, she said, she found child porn on his computer. Rice said she found images of girls she didn't recognize, naked; she remembered one photo in particular, with a naked girl who appeared to be around 10 years old, lying on her back with her legs spread and an expression on her face that Rice described as fearful. An ex-girlfriend of Kricfalusi's, who asked not to be named in this story, said she, too, saw naked images of prepubescent girls who appeared to be between 12 and 14 on his personal computer around 2007.
Through an attorney, Kricfalusi said he has never possessed child porn, and that he had never been contacted by the police regarding an investigation. His attorney added, “I assure you that there are significant differences between your outline and what actually happened and when.” The attorney did not provide specifics prior to publication.
Rice said it took her three attempts to report the child porn she saw on Kricfalusi's computer. On two occasions, she said, she panicked while filling out an online form for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Rice successfully reported seeing child porn to the police at the end of 2017. Byrd said she spoke to a detective on the case as well, thinking that, even though the statute of limitations for her allegations was up, her account might bolster the investigation. The LAPD declined to comment on the case, but Rice said she was told that they wouldn't be able to get a warrant. It was after receiving that phone call from the police that she decided to go on the record. She hopes making her story public will relieve her of the burden she feels to warn young women thinking of working for him.
“It's been easy for us to disconnect the artist from the person, because as an artist, he's unparalleled,” Mora told BuzzFeed News. He said it was hard thinking about things he and Swarr could have done to help Byrd and Rice, and he struggled to reconcile his feelings about Kricfalusi. “If I ever won an award, he would be one of the first people I would thank,” he said. “But there is that other side of John — John the man, not John the artist — and that's the part that is conflicting.”
In a busy restaurant in Burbank, Swarr still expressed some sympathy for Kricfalusi. “I owe John a lot,” he said. “He has a lot of problems, and he can't see them. It's tragic. I don't feel bad enough to not talk about this, though.” Swarr said he began distancing himself from Kricfalusi after Rice told him around 2002 that their mentor had started hitting on her when she was a child. “I wish I could've done more back then. This” — talking to a reporter to corroborate the women's stories — “is the only thing I can do now.”
The Paramount Network — the current iteration of Spike TV, which ran Ren & Stimpy 's 2003 reboot, Adult Party Cartoon — said it had never received reports of sexual harassment against Kricfalusi and has “specific policies and procedures to ensure our employees feel empowered to report inappropriate behavior.” A spokesperson for Cartoon Network and Adult Swim said that the networks were not aware of any sexual harassment claims against Kricfalusi, that “harassment will not be tolerated” by their parent company, and that neither network planned to work with him in the future. Nickelodeon declined to comment on Byrd and Rice's allegations. But the morning after the story was published, Kricfalusi's portrait was removed from the studio.
Allegations of sexual misconduct have long been treated as a proverbial footnote for important men. In an industry that continues to exclude women and that has a widespread problem with sexual harassment, as more than 200 women and gender-nonconforming people working in animation attested in an open letter in October , it's unclear whether Rice and Byrd making Kricfalusi's abuse public will lead people to rethink his legacy. What is clear, however, is that #MeToo can't move forward without reexamining the past.
Byrd is resolute. “He ruined a good bit of my childhood and my early adulthood, gave me PTSD, and forced me to change careers, putting my life 10 years or more behind,” she wrote in an email. In an interview, she said, “He is an abuser in the way that he will pull you into a relationship with him and then tell you who to be and what he wants from you. … Everybody needs to know about it.”
Rice, too, is unequivocal about Kricfalusi: “I became a better artist by working for him,” she said. “I'm not grateful for it. I wish I hadn't. I wish I were a worse artist now and I didn't have all this bullshit to deal with.” https://www.buzzfeed.com/arianelange/john-kricfalusi-ren-stimpy-underage-sexual-abuse?utm_term=.vcAgG9Nyx5#.pild46JzWK
Nevada couple fight to keep kids from going back to alleged abusive home in Arizona
Iowa children in limbo following jurisdiction confusion
by Tommie Clark
NEVADA, Iowa (KCCI) — A Story County man says he is fighting to keep his 6-year-old niece and 5-year-old nephew in Iowa after they were taken from what he calls an abusive home in Arizona.
An Iowa judge ordered the children to go to Arizona on Friday, but Arizona authorities say they don't have jurisdiction over the children; Iowa officials made the same argument.
The children's relatives said the abuse started when they went to live with their mother.
“If two states are saying these kids can't live here, there's got to be something that we can do,” said Joshua Marker, of Nevada.
The long legal battle has left them in limbo.
“We're just anxious and wondering what's going to happen next,” said Ashlie Johnson, the children's aunt. “When we contacted Arizona and even the woman we spoke with down there spoke with the attorney general, and he said, ‘No, you guys have jurisdiction once your DHS got involved.'”
The couple are moving the chess pieces around, trying to keep the children and figure out what they say is a flawed system.
“We're going to keep fighting,” Marker said. “We're not going to give up on them no matter what it takes. We're going to see it through until the end.”
He said they are talking with Child Protection Services in Arizona, but it will be a long road ahead.
Author and Advocate Lisa Zarcone to be Featured on CUTV News Radio
SPRINGFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS -- How amazing is it for a young girl to suffer horrid abuse at the hands of a mentally ill mother, then grow up to tell people “Whatever life gives you, just Embrace the Journey”! This is the kind of strength and positivity that make Lisa Zarcone a respected speaker, state representative for the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (NAASCA), widely-read memoirist, and social media favorite.
Lisa published her book The Unspoken Truth in late 2016, and it hasn't had a no-sale month yet. The book is available through all major online retailers and showcased in bookstores and libraries close to her Massachusetts home (like Amherst, North Hampton, Springfield and Great Barrington) and as far away as Lomita, California. It is Lisa Zarcone's personal and raw story, told uniquely through her young voice, as seen through her disbelieving eyes. It is the burning account she had to write—as part of her own ongoing healing, and so others who suffered through such bizarre events would know they are not alone -- and they can rise above it.
Raising awareness is very important to Lisa. She grew up at a time she refers to as the silent era, when mental illness and child abuse existed, but no one spoke of them. They were rarely identified nor reported by school officials. By telling her story, and hopefully getting the book into the hands of educators, counselors and colleges with psychiatric programs, she hopes to spread the word and extend its influence. Lisa has also raised awareness as a member of NAASCA, and as a speaker and blogger. She connects with others who have suffered similar tragedies, bonds with them, and passes out daily inspirations. Lisa currently has about 2000 followers on Facebook, and nearly double that number on Twitter. Her Amazon Author Central page (link above/below) also draws a lot of visitors.
During her troubled childhood, Lisa used her artistic talents to help her cope with what was going on. She drew pictures, and wrote (and still writes stories and poetry), and also found solace in nature. There's a lovely part of her memoir that tells of a night outside under a pine tree, and how the cracklings around her lulled little Lisa to sleep.
Besides her writing career, Lisa has worked as a caregiver for children and adults with disabilities. In one lockdown facility for teens she taught journal writing an various art therapy programs. Lisa stepped away from the workforce to raise her two young grandchildren, one of whom (Phoebe) has inspired a new children's book series. Part of what they will relate in their adventures, is that not all families are the same (some might be with a Memah) and that being different is okay.
Lisa's mindset and determination ensure she will keep bringing things to light, help others understand and cope, and push ever forward. As one reviewer on her Amazon.com author page says “her ability to survive, as well as thrive from her silent world of treachery, truly is an incredible journey -- filled with such inspiration and never-ending hope.”
CUTV News will feature author and advocate Lisa Zarcone in an interview with Jim Masters on April 3rd and Doug Llewelyn on April 10th at 11:00am EST.
Listen to the show on BlogTalkRadio.
If you have questions for our guest, please call (347)996-3389
To learn more about Lisa and her book visit her author page at https://www.amazon.com/Lisa-Zarcone/e/B01MU268HL/ or follow #truthOWNit on Twitter.
Lobbyist for Archdiocese tries to gut childhood sexual abuse bill
by Ty Tagami
ATLANTA -- A Georgia legislative proposal to give adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse more time to sue pedophiles and organizations has encountered opposition from the Catholic Church.
A lobbyist for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta proposes gutting a bill that would extend the statute of limitations for lawsuits and make it easier to sue entities that harbored pedophiles.
The Archdiocese is led by a clergyman who was in charge of the U.S. Catholic church's response in the early 2000s to the priest pedophilia scandal and who has publicly spoken out for justice for the victims.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory issued a statement Friday after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sought comment about the church's lobbying effort, saying the bill was “extraordinarily unfair” to the church and would hinder its mission by allowing lawsuits for actions that occurred years ago.
The legislation, dubbed the “Hidden Predator Act,” extends the statute of limitations for victims from age 23 to 38, and creates other avenues for adults to sue long after that age. It passed 170-0 on the floor of the House of Representatives, despite what those close to the process say was quiet lobbying by the church, the Boy Scouts and other entities that would face increased exposure to liability.
Proponents of House Bill 605 say many victims don't come forward until after age 40. Opponents say lawsuits involving decades-old incidents would penalize the wrong parties: people involved in organizations today who were not involved when the abuse occurred.
“How can someone reasonably be expected to defend themselves from allegations for something that happened so long ago,” said Charles A. Jones, Jr. “We don't need endless liability.”
Jones, a lawyer who attends a Catholic church, was a rare public voice of opposition — the only person to speak against the legislation at a House subcommittee hearing last month. The hearing mostly featured wrenching testimony from victims, or relatives of victims, about the lingering damage from pedophilia. The only other contrary voice came at a later hearing from a Washington, D.C. lawyer, who said he was speaking for the American Tort Reform Association and questioned the bill's constitutionality.
Lobbyists for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Boy Scouts and other organizations filled the room that day, but none spoke.
The bill's chief author, Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, had accused them of working behind the scenes. He blames them for amendments that reduced the exposure of organizations, but he had no evidence of their efforts beyond word of mouth until Friday morning. He shared an email with the AJC from the office of the senator whose committee will determine the bill's fate.
Sen. Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro, chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. His assistant forwarded Spencer an email from Perry McGuire, a lobbyist for the Catholic Church. McGuire's amendments would strike the extension of the statute of limitations and make it even more difficult than it is now to sue organizations.
“If they adopt that language from Perry McGuire as a substitute bill, then Georgia will continue to be a predator-friendly state,” Spencer said. It shows “that the Catholic Church is continuing to cover up wickedness.”
McGuire and Stone did not respond to requests for comment. Stone's committee can hold onto Spencer's bill until the legislative session ends March 29, effectively killing it.
Sen. Bill Cowsert, the vice chairman of the committee, told the AJC earlier this week that he had no opinion about the bill, though he said he'd been approached by advocates on both sides.
Cowsert didn't name opponents, but identified one supporter, Darren Penn, a former president of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association. Cowsert said Penn has a personal stake because he represents alleged victims of sexual abuse and “is trying to alter the law to assist his cases.”
Cowsert, R-Athens, did not reveal that his law firm, Cowsert Heath in Athens, was defending a church in a sexual abuse suit in which Penn is representing the plaintiff.
Cowsert didn't return a call for comment about the suit Friday, but his chief of staff, Tom Krause, said Cowsert has “no personal involvement” in it.
The Cowsert Heath law firm said neither of the attorneys of record in the suit was available for comment.
While the opponents of HB 605 had been quiet, the advocates were out in the open, sometimes painfully so.
Robert Lawson, who served in the state House more than two decades ago, took a personal interest in the legislation because his son, now in his 40s, told him two years ago that he had been sexually abused by a camp counselor in the 1980s. The former state representative later told the AJC that his son wants to sue, not for the money, but because the criminal statute of limitations had passed and there was no other way to find justice.
(The AJC doesn't ordinarily identify victims of sexual abuse, but Lawson gave permission to use his name.)
Lawson predicted that no senator would openly oppose the bill if it makes it to the floor for a vote.
“But getting it to the floor is proving difficult,” he said.
The Catholic Church has publicly acknowledged its role in the devastation of young lives. Gregory handled the clergy pedophilia scandal when he was president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops 16 years ago.
He told U.S. bishops at a gathering last spring that “we can never say that we are sorry enough for the share that we have had in this tragedy,” according to the Catholic News Service. “We humbly seek forgiveness … especially from those whose lives may have been devastated by our failure to care adequately for the little ones entrusted to us … .”
In his statement Friday he wrote the bill was unfair to the church and does not protect anyone.
“Rather, innocent people and the organizations to which they belong will be radically impacted based on allegations against individuals who may no longer even be alive and cannot speak for themselves,” he wrote.
Ask the Expert: Learn to recognize signs of child abuse or neglect
by Nicole Perkins
In April teal ribbons and blue pinwheels will be displayed across our community as we observe Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and Child Abuse Prevention Month. During the month, many community partners aim to raise awareness on both topics.
According to the Department of Justice, in the United States, a sexual assault occurs every 98 seconds, impacting men and women of all ages. And on average, nationwide, a report of child abuse and/or neglect is reported every 10 seconds, per childhelp.org. Sadly, sexual violence and child abuse and/or neglect are serious health and human rights concerns affecting individuals here in our community.
How can I recognize that a child is being abused and/or neglected?
Child abuse and/or neglect can present in many different forms including but not limited to physical, sexual or emotional. Recognizing abuse and neglect can be difficult, but be aware that it can occur regardless of the child's demographics. A few signs and symptoms to be aware of would include: unexplained bruising, sudden behavior changes and poor nutrition.
What should I do if I suspect a child is being neglected and/or abused?
Be a voice for the child. Under Indiana law everyone is required to report concerns of child abuse and/or neglect; this can be done by contacting local law enforcement (911) or Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS). DCS has a 24-hour hotline at 1-800-800-5556.
What can I do if someone tells me they were sexually assaulted?
Believe them. Start by listening to them and believing what they say. The assault was not their fault. Victim blaming can impact a survivor's healing process.
Be supportive. Respect their thoughts and emotions. Every sexual assault survivor reacts in their own way and has different needs and priorities following an assault.
Ensure their safety. Make sure the survivor is away from the assailant and in a safe place. Call 911 for assistance if there are immediate safety concerns.
What community resources are available for survivors of sexual assault?
Delaware County has a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) which is multi-agency team comprised of personnel from the prosecutor's office, law enforcement, victim advocates, forensic nurse examiners and additional agencies. They collaborate to provide individualized services which are tailored to each survivor.
If an adult survivor wishes to file a police report, law enforcement may be contacted immediately, or the survivor can visit the hospital's emergency department. In the emergency department, immediate medical concerns will be addressed, and a specially trained forensic nurse examiner (FNE) will provide education on several available options. Survivors also have victim advocate agencies available in our community to help them following a sexual assault: A Better Way, Muncie Police Department Victim Advocate Program and Ball State Office of Victim Services.
How can I learn more?
There are many local and national resources available for both topics. Additional resources for child abuse and/or neglect can be found at:
Additional resources for sexual assault can be found at:
Nicole Perkins, BSN, RN, SANE-A is a forensic nurse examiner and a shift coordinator at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital Center of Hope. For more information, contact her via email at email@example.com or visit iuhealth.org/ball-memorial.
NEWSTALK SPECIAL - Criminal Sexual Conduct: What Needs To Change?
Beginning Mon., Apr. 2, WKAR NewsTalk presents Criminal Sexual Conduct: What Needs To Change? in four daily one hour installments from 11am-noon, through Thu., Apr. 5 on NewsTalk AM 870/105.1 FM.
Through conversations with survivors and experts from across the U.S., this four-part radio documentary series explores solutions to the pandemic of criminal sexual conduct. Hosted by Connie Nesbary.
Producer and host Nesbary is a graduate of Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University.
Nesbary says the series seeks to "raise awareness of the issues, promote compassion through understanding, and encourage conversations in communities about what changes need to be made so that all are safer from criminal sexual conduct."
Topics and guests
Mon. Apr. 2
Survivor Healing Journeys features Donna Jenson, activist, and author of Healing My Life from Incest to Joy; Bill Murray, founder of the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse; Sarah Hodges, Owner of Innerform, Inc. and founder of the Beautiful Shame Campaign; and Rachel Thompson, owner of BadRedHead Media and author of Broken Places and Broken Pieces .
Tue. Apr. 3
Changing our Language and Culture features Attorney Rebecca O'Connor, Vice President of Public Policy at RAINN; Sunshine O'Connor, survivor and author of books in the Damsel in Defense line; and Ebony Tucker, JD, Advocacy Director at the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence.
Wed. Apr. 4
Human Trafficking: Raising Awareness and Changing Perspectives features Kaethe Morris Hoffer, Executive Director of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE); Lindsey Ross, a survivor of incest and trafficking; and Caleb Probst, Education Manager for CAASE.
Thu. Apr. 5
Law Enforcement and Legislation featuring Sharyn Lynn Anderson-Campbell, former corrections officer and police officer, and author of The Cry No One Heard ; Bryan Derr, advocate and survivor; Wendy Guidry, national speaker and survivor; and Senator Steven Bieda of Michigan representing District 9.
Criminal Sexual Conduct: What Needs To Change? is a co-production of WUVS-LP and Connie Nesbary International LLC.
More info at connienesbary.com/documentary.
How complex is the healing process of an adult survivor of incest and child sex abuse?
by Priyanka Dasgupta
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.
Survivors react to new anti-trafficking legislation
by Christina Haines
WILMINGTON — On March 21, 2018, the combined Fighting Online Sex Trafficking Act and Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (FOSTA-SESTA package) passed the Senate with a vote of 97-2 and the President is expected to sign the bill into law.
Survivors of sex trafficking are responding to the legislation, which aims to amend a portion of the Communications Decency Act that provides immunity for interactive websites that host content, including that which unlawfully promotes and facilitates prostitution or facilitates traffickers in advertising the sale of unlawful sex acts.
“You can post an ad at any time or moment and a sex buyer can so quickly retrieve, search for, and get whatever they want,” said Jasmine Grace Marino, a local sex trafficking survivor and founder of the Bags of Hope Ministry, which reaches out to women affected by trafficking, prostitution, addiction and homelessness. “They [buyers] make a phone call, text, email so fast and set up an appointment and bad things can happen behind closed doors. No one has any idea what's going on. That's the scary thing about these websites and the Internet.”
Online classified websites, particularly Backpage.com , launched in 2004, have been subject to extensive litigation around the “adult services” section of the site. Litigants alleged that the website knowingly facilitated child sex trafficking and prostitution. A 2014 ruling by the U.S 1st Circuit Court of Appeals held that the website could not be held liable under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, and was not re-considered by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2017. The FOSTA-SESTA packages aims to remove that immunity for websites.
Backpage.com announced a removal of their adult services classified section in 2017. Craigslist.com removed its adult services section in 2010. However, critics have observed that adult listings for illegal sex acts have migrated to other parts of the classified sites, such as the massage services or dating sections.
“Prostitution isn't unsafe because it's illegal. It's illegal because it's unsafe. It's fraught with violence,” said Darlene Pawlik, a survivor of child sexual abuse, writer, and advocate for victims.
Pawlik believes it is likely a small minority of people who engage in prostitution who are not experiencing violence, noting the prevalence of psychological manipulation as an enabling factor.
Critics of the FOSTA-SESTA package have argued that online classifieds can facilitate opportunities for undercover operations to rescue exploited children or enable adults engaged in illegal sex work to screen respondents. Marino acknowledged that it's a complex calculation of tradeoffs, but is concerned about the anonymity and decentralization of the internet enabling more trafficking and violence.
“There's way more exploitation going on than there are arrests. So do we allow the websites to continue because there are more arrests, but also more exploitation?”
Other critics of the legislation, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit digital rights group, cite concerns for free speech online, arguing the law will allow Internet platforms to censor users.
Pawlik, who lobbied for passage of the bill by speaking with Senators and signing a letter in favor of the legislation authored by survivors, said, “The bill is very specific on the type of speech we're talking about: ‘knowingly facilitating sex trafficking.'”
The effect of the legislation on the use of online platforms for sex trafficking solicitation, and repercussions for site owners and content contributors remains to unfold, but survivors note the ongoing need for prevention and awareness.
“The websites are just a tool. The classifieds are just a tool that traffickers use,” said Marino.
Pawlik likewise expressed concerned about the societal demand for purchasing sex acts, which she sees as related to a devaluing of humanity.
Marino advises concerned community members to get involved in the issue by educating themselves or “engaging with nonprofits that serve vulnerable populations, at risk kids, safe homes and organizations that serve survivors.”
R. I. lawmakers mull ending statute of limitations on lawsuits against sexual predators
Abuse victims gave wrenching accounts at a House hearing on the bill introduced by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee, whose legislation was motivated by her own sister's repeated abuse as a child by their family's parish priest.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A Rhode Island lawmaker has ripped the scab off the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal with legislation born out of her older sister's repeated abuse, as a child, by their family's parish priest.
Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee's legislation would remove the seven-year statute of limitations on the pursuit of legal claims against perpetrators of sex abuse. The statute of limitations derailed a lawsuit by two former victims of an infamous pedophile priest in 2016.
A late-night hearing on her bill earlier this week drew pained personal recollections from her sister, now a 65-year-old psychologist; a well-known doctor talking about his abuse publicly for the first time; and Jim Scanlan, a R.I. man whose account of sex-abuse by a Boston College High School priest in the late 1970s figured in the Oscar-winning movie “Spotlight.”
But the tales of abuse by trusted elders were not limited to the Catholic Church. Two women describing themselves as victims of sex-abuse scandals reaching back to the 1970s at St. George's School in Middletown and the Gordon School in East Providence also conveyed their support for the bill, which has no restrictions on how far back the cases might reach.
On Tuesday night, holding a photograph of herself as she looked in kindergarten, the lawmaker's sister, Ann Hagan Webb, told lawmakers how long it took not just to remember, but to even talk about it. “I was too fragile,” she said.
“It was 30 years after the fact before my abuse found its way to my consciousness,” echoed Dr. Herbert J. “Hub” Brennan, 60, of East Greenwich. “Another 15 years before I had the courage to seek help.”
He said the priest at Our Lady of Mercy Church who abused him “would call from his rectory across the street and have the nuns pull me out of my second- or third-grade class.”
Then, “I would wait in the principal's office until he entered and took me across the hall to the nurse's office, where he would close the door and do what such monsters do to innocent children ... sworn to silence with the literal fear of God and eternal damnation held over my head.”
Webb said Msgr. Anthony DeAngelis — now dead — repeatedly molested her in the rectory of Sacred Heart Church in West Warwick from the time she was 5 until she was 12, but, “I totally repressed the memory of my abuse until I was 40 ... when my children were about the age I was when it began.”
“Sexual abuse crimes are the only crimes we know that leave the victims with a profound sense of shame,” Webb told the lawmakers. “That shame keeps children from telling their parents. It keeps people from admitting that it happened ... for years, and more commonly decades.”
“Today, I could handle the rigors of a lawsuit, 25 years past recalling it and 53 years since the sexual abuse stopped,” Webb said. When she first recalled the abuse, she said, “I was in no emotional state to bring a lawsuit forward. ... In fact, most of that decade [the 1990s] I was in therapy two to three times a week.
Webb, now 65 and working as a psychologist with other adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, said the Catholic Church reimbursed $12,500 of the cost of her therapy, but to receive the help — which she had read in The Journal that the Diocese of Providence was offering — she had to sign away her own right to sue.
But she said money is not a reason for repealing the statute of limitations on civil suits. A more compelling reason: “For most abuse victims it is the only chance for obtaining any justice,” for making the perpetrators face ramifications” and publicly naming them so they cannot simply move on to another child in another school.
“Why am I telling you this?” echoed Brennan. ”'Personally, I want nothing. I need nothing. ... It is time for me to ... do what I can to help young children at risk of abuse.”
In his testimony, he named his abuser: the Rev. Brendan Smyth, now deceased, who served as visiting priest, counselor and teacher at Our Lady of Mercy School and Church in East Greenwich for three years, between 1965 to 1968, when Brennan was between 8 and 11 years old. Smyth later returned to Ireland and pleaded guilty there to 141 counts of sexual abuse. He died in prison in Ireland in 1997.
“Mr. Chairman, members of the committee and to all of you in this room, let me tell you all something this evening that I have never said publicly,” Brennan said Tuesday night. “I was raped and sexually assaulted by Brendan Smyth.”
Asking the lawmakers to put their own religious loyalties aside, Brennan said: “Nowhere in the lessons or teachings of Jesus Christ did he ever say that it is OK for men in collars to rape kids.”
No one spoke out publicly in opposition to the bill.
Asked where the church stood, Carolyn Cronin, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Providence, said: “I can check on this for you next week. Today is Good Friday and we are in the final days of Holy Week preparing for Easter Sunday.”
House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said he found his own thinking about the bill affected by the “very compelling” written testimony that McEntee's sister gave the committee.
“It moved me,” he said.
“It will be something that we give attention to,” he said. “The issue will get the consideration that it absolutely deserves [from] the House of Representatives.”
Current law allows civil suits for damages for injuries suffered as a result of childhood sexual abuse within seven years of the alleged act or seven years from “the time the victim discovered or reasonably should have discovered that the injury or condition was caused by the act.”
“It is unfortunate that the bill ... is needed in our society, because it signals that not only are our children being sexually victimized, but even more sadly, many of these victims will never have their day in court to face their abusers and demand accountability for the vicious childhood assaults that have haunted their lives — oftentimes for decades,” McEntee told colleagues.
If lifting the statute of limitations is a step too far for some of her colleagues, the lawmaker noted that Massachusetts allows lawsuits 35 years after the alleged sexual abuse of a minor, and Connecticut 30 years after the alleged victim reaches adulthood.
#MeToo may seem like an adult conversation, but kids are listening — and confronting their own abuse
by Rebecca Ruiz
Gemma Serrano, a 19-year-old college student, took notice last fall as female celebrities accused Harvey Weinstein of being a serial sexual predator. She paid attention when Reese Witherspoon recounted being sexually assaulted by a director at 16 years old. She watched intently as young women recently lined up, one after the other, to give searing personal statements at the sentencing hearing of former U.S.A. Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar .
Serrano noticed, perhaps more than other teens, because she shared something in common with the women in the news: A man she once trusted abused her, too.
Serrano reported that abuse, which occurred when she was a child, to a school psychologist, who then informed authorities. From ages 13 to 17, Serrano attended Camp HOPE America , a program for traumatized children created by Alliance for HOPE International , a San Diego-based nonprofit that aids survivors of domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse, sexual abuse, and human trafficking. Serrano went on to intern with the organization for two years, but she'd never publicly identified herself as a survivor until one day in mid-October when she used social media to declare "#MeToo."
"I feel ... almost a sense of liberation," she says. "It was [once] a topic you shouldn't be speaking about. Seeing [the older generation] come out and talk about their experiences — if they can do it, then I can do it as well."
While the #MeToo movement often feels like an adult conversation about the assault that grown women (and men) endure, particularly in the workplace, it's clear that many children and young people are listening. The stories they hear on social media, through television, in school, and in conversations around their own dinner tables can feel empowering. Those stories can also traumatize, especially when young people feel they have no means to stop abuse or report it.
Historically, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys were victims of child sexual abuse by age 18. While that abuse has declined significantly over the past few decades, thanks in part to improved prevention, detection, and intervention efforts, 10 percent of all American children will still become victims of sexual violence by the time they reach adulthood. The perpetrator is most often someone in their social circle, a biological or nonbiological parent, or someone known to the child's family.
While the taboo of discussing child sexual abuse still persists, Casey Gwinn, president of Alliance for HOPE International, says #MeToo marks a tipping point he's never witnessed in his decades-long career advocating for survivors of sexual violence.
In the last year, Gwinn says campers and kids involved with Alliance for HOPE International have been increasingly interested in discussing their most painful experiences, their candor growing rapidly in the wake of #MeToo.
"I do think there is a cultural shift that is happening," he says. "The more [young people] see high-profile people, or the victims of Nassar, or Olympians and celebrities talking about sexual harassment and assault, I do think it is creating a platform — almost an invitation for kids to be more open about what they've experienced."
Gwinn says his staff has adapted its Camp HOPE America program, which is offered in 15 states to children between the ages of seven and 17. The weeklong retreat is designed to make kids "feel safe, seen, encouraged, and loved," and uses curriculum to help foster their self-confidence.
Counselors are receiving additional training so they're better prepared to respond to campers who want to discuss sexual violence and others types of trauma they've endured. In previous years, campers usually stayed silent about those experiences, focusing instead on activities like rock climbing, creative arts, campfire sing-alongs, and discussions about resilience and empowerment.
Chris Newlin, executive director of the National Children's Advocacy Center , a nonprofit organization that trains law enforcement and child abuse professionals to prevent and respond to maltreatment with a coordinated approach, says that one teenager cited the Nassar case when she recently reported sexual abuse to the center's forensic interview specialist.
"If they can talk about this, then so can I,” she said, referring to the young survivors of Nassar's abuse.
Yet Newlin is skeptical of #MeToo's impact on children. He associates the movement with efforts to stop workplace harassment and assault, as well as the Time's Up campaign , which is focused on securing equal representation for women in American life.
Newlin believes it's impossible to attribute a single cause to trends in the detection or reduction of child sexual abuse. Kids, he says, are constantly flooded with media, including the news, movies, and television shows, that might prompt them to reflect on and disclose their own trauma. What they see could be related to #MeToo, but it might have no relationship to the movement. Either way, Newlin welcomes the public conversation about sexual violence.
His chief concern is making sure that children who do report abuse aren't re-traumatized by their experiences with law enforcement and frontline professionals. He's also passionate about helping young people understand and come to terms with their experiences, rather than feeling defined by them for a lifetime.
"There is hope in moving forward," Newlin says. "I would want [survivors] to know that they're not alone. While they may feel alone, there are lots and lots of people who have gone through that."
Staffers for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) hotline have seen signs of a shift among young people in the past six months. By January, overall usage of the hotline had risen nearly 50 percent compared to the previous January. The number of kids contacting the hotline similarly increased by 45 percent during the same timeframe, and by mid-February, Larry Nassar's name overcame Bill Cosby's to become the most cited name in the hotline's history.
"One of the big evolutions we've seen, particularly in the wake of #MeToo, is a greater belief that if you come forward and talk about what happened, you'll be believed," says Scott Berkowitz, founder and president of RAINN. "That kind of message has trickled down to kids. There's a greater understanding that it's OK to ask for help."
For children, seeking such help may begin with contacting a hotline, or confiding in a friend or trusted adult. Many professionals, such as hotline staff, school counselors, and physicians, are mandated by the government to report suspicion or evidence of child abuse to law enforcement or child protective services.
When the subject comes up on the RAINN hotline, whose staff is mandated by state law to report the abuse of a minor when given detailed information, many young people try to work through their options, weighing the perceived or real risk of involving the authorities against trying to stop the person abusing them. They may fear being removed from their home and placed in foster care, being blamed by others for the arrest of the family's breadwinner, or making an accusation that's not taken seriously and having no means to escape their abuser.
While these unique concerns aren't reflected in the broader conversation about #MeToo, children may silently agonize over them while reading and hearing about the movement — and there are few places for them to share that burden with others.
Serrano is trying to provide such an outlet for a small group of teens that she mentors through the Alliance for HOPE program. She says that prior to #MeToo, their conversations were casual and meant to be fun. Participants rarely discussed what they'd endured. That began to change last fall. Of the 10 teens she mentors, a few of them started talking about their traumatic experiences. Now Serrano listens and comforts as they express feelings of empowerment and grief.
"I think what I hope for young people to get out of [#MeToo] is to be able to talk about their situation in an environment where nobody is judging them, and maybe even become community leaders," she says.
"I would tell them not to be afraid," Serrano adds, addressing young survivors who are grappling with their abuse in the age of #MeToo. "In the end, it was never their fault."
Georgia denies older survivors of child sexual abuse a chance to sue
by Ty Tagami - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Older Georgians who were sexually abused as children will not be able to sue anytime soon, after legislation to extend the civil statute of limitations foundered in this year's General Assembly.
The Hidden Predator Act emerged from months of emotional and legally technical hearings as two very different bills, one version in the House of Representatives and another in the Senate. In the end, the two chambers were unable to resolve their differences before the 2018 legislative session ended at midnight Thursday.
“Disheartening,” is how Alan McArthur, 54, who says he was molested by a Boy Scout troop leader decades ago, described the outcome. “Georgia's a pedophile-friendly state, and the bill was trying to change that.”
House Bill 605 as passed by the House of Representatives would have opened a one-year window during which people McArthur's age wouldn't be prohibited from suing “entities,” such as the Scouts or churches, over sexual abuse they endured as children. The legislation might have exposed such organizations to financial damages for letting abuse happen and then covering it up even if the incidents involved people who were long gone. The Senate, fearing a flood of lawsuits, amended the bill by reining in what one Senator described as an “open season” on organizations.
This means Georgia, by some estimations, will remain among the worst states in the nation in terms of access to the civil courts by adult survivors of child sexual abuse. Proponents want it in part because the criminal courts are not an option for older victims. The state eliminated the criminal statute of limitations in 2012 but the change wasn't retroactive, so the prior 15-year limit still applies to incidents before that.
Many states have extended the time for filing such lawsuits since The Boston Globe exposed widespread abuse in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston in the early 2000s, said Marci Hamilton, the CEO of Child USA. The nonprofit tracks statutes of limitations and rates Georgia's among the five worst in the nation for victims. In two of those five states, New York and Michigan, where former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was convicted of molesting young female athletes, lawmakers are considering longer statutes of limitations.
This would push Georgia farther down Hamilton's list. The lawyer and professor at the University of Pennsylvania said lawsuits, even those involving decades-old cases, can prompt organizations to tighten sexual abuse reporting policies, especially in states that limit legal exposure with short statutes of limitations.
“The policies haven't changed because they haven't had to,” she said.
Opponents of the Hidden Predator Act argued it was unfair to organizations, particularly with cases that happened so long ago that there is no viable evidence.
M. Steven Heath, a lawyer who represented a church in a suit that sprang from a 2015 version of the law — Georgia's first attempt to deal with the issue — had to figure out how to defend against allegations of molestation from the 1950s to the 1980s. Anyone who knew what happened was either dead, gone or with a weakened memory, he testified at one of the Senate's hearings. The “enormous” cost of the defense fell to a congregation that had no responsibility for what occurred, he said, yet they had to pay the legal costs. Were it not for a benefactor, the church wouldn't have survived, he added. He sounded a common theme among critics of such legislation: “Many churches will simply collapse under the sheer weight of defense costs.”
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Boy Scouts of America lobbied hard against the bill, and Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine , the chief sponsor, said they found a sympathetic ear in the Senate.
The House version of HB 605 would have extended the statute of limitations to age 38 for victims, from the current 23. It also would have opened a one-year window when victims of any age could have sued. The Senate dialed the age limit back to 30 and deleted the one-year window. Other changes in their additional three pages of amendments made it harder to sue. Spencer described the Senate amendments as “absolute immunity for predators and entities.”
As the last day of the legislative session was about to begin Thursday morning, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle issued a statement that seemed to support the House version. It called on the senators in his chamber “to strengthen our laws and stand strongly against the worst elements of our society who victimize and exploit children.” A spokesman said Cagle wanted to give survivors more than the Senate's legislative process had produced.
But later that night, just after 11 p.m., with less than an hour until the end of the session, Cagle told the Senate it was too late resolve the differences between the two bills. He blamed the House for moving too slowly to get the bill into a conference committee, where a handful of lawmakers from each chamber might have negotiated a compromise. Under Senate rules, such compromises must be completed by 10 p.m., and a motion to waive the rules failed.
Spencer acknowledges that it took too long to move the legislation through the House clerk's office, where, in the 11th hour, bills pile up into a traffic jam of sorts. But he said House leaders supported him, and he blamed the Senate for holding so many hearings in the prior weeks that the bill's fate had to be decided on the final, chaotic day of the session.
“The process stinks. This is why people hate politics,” he said. “This is why people hate their government.”
Though his outlook was grim on Friday morning, Spencer had achieved something that will someday shift power to victims. Three years ago, he pushed the first version of the Hidden Predator Act through the General Assembly. That law opened a one-year window against perpetrators (not entities) that, according to testimony at this year's hearings, produced 14 lawsuits before it expired. That law also established another scenario by which, theoretically, a victim of any age could sue both perpetrators and entities. The catch: the abuse must have occurred after July 1, 2015. Today, that won't empower anyone over 23, let alone anyone in their 40s, when research suggests people are most likely to begin recognizing how they were psychologically harmed by abuse.
But decades from now, when the child victims of today start coming forward, it could.
“It's going to make a difference,” said Hamilton, “but it's going to take time.”
Texas parents beat, poured hot cooking oil on daughter for refusing arranged marriage
by Elizabeth Elizalde
The parents of a 16-year-old Texas girl were arrested Friday for allegedly pouring hot cooking oil on her body after she refused an arranged marriage, authorities said.
Abdulah Fahmi Al Hishmawi, 34, and Hamdiyah Saha Al Hishmawi, 33, are accused of physically abusing their daughter, Maarib Al Hishmawi, who has been reported missing since Jan. 30.
“The only way that this young lady could bring an end to this abuse was to verbally agree to become a party to this marriage,” Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said Friday.
Maarib's parents beat her with broomsticks, choked her until she was unconscious, and poured hot oil on her because she did not want to get married, he added.
She was found safe in mid-March after being taken in by an organization. The teen was placed in Child Protective Services with her five siblings, the sheriff said. It wasn't clear if her siblings were also abused.
Talks about the arranged marriage started last year. Maarib, who was 15 at the time, was set to marry a man in another city in exchange for $20,000, Salazar said.
The family moved to the United States from Iraq two years ago, according to KSAT-TV.
Maarib's parents face charges of continuous family violence. The man Maarib was supposed to marry could also face charges. The FBI is investigating the case.
Jehovah's Witnesses accused of silencing victims of child abuse
Scores of alleged victims come forward and describe culture of cover-up in religious group in UK
by Sarah Marsh
More than 100 people have contacted the Guardian with allegations of child sexual abuse and other mistreatment in Jehovah's Witness communities across the UK.
Former and current members, including 41 alleged victims of child sexual abuse, described a culture of cover-ups and lies, with senior members of the organisation, known as elders, discouraging victims from coming forward for fear of bringing “reproach on Jehovah” and being exiled from the congregation and their families.
A Guardian investigation also heard from 48 people who experienced other forms of abuse, including physical violence when they were children, and 35 who witnessed or heard about others who were victims of child grooming and abuse.
The stories told to the Guardian ranged from events decades ago to more recent, and many of those who came forward have now contacted the police.
They told the Guardian about:
An organisation that polices itself and teaches members to avoid interaction with outside authorities.
A rule set by the main governing body of the religion that means for child sexual abuse to be taken seriously there must be two witnesses to it.
Alleged child sex abuse victims claiming they were forced to recount allegations in front of their abuser.
Young girls who engage in sexual activity before marriage being forced to describe it in detail in front of male elders.
A solicitor representing some of the alleged victims said she believed there were thousands of complainants in the UK and that the people who have contacted the Guardian were “just the tip of the iceberg”.
One alleged victim, Rachel Evans, who has waived her right to anonymity, claimed there was a paedophile ring active in the 1970s, although details of the case cannot be divulged due to a current investigation.
“Within the Jehovah's Witnesses there is an actual silencing and also a network where if someone went to the elders and said ‘there is a problem with this' and they believe you, the whole thing will be dealt with in-house. But often these people are not dealt with, they are either moved to another congregation or told to keep their head down for a few years,” she said.
Another victim, who did not want to be named, said she was abused by a ministerial servant (someone with congregational responsibilities) in the organisation in the 1970s.
“I was sexually abused many times a week from the age of three until I was 12. Congregation elders knew that when I told them, at 12, what had been happening. No steps were taken to tell the police. I had to tell three male senior figures what had happened. Imagine that? A young girl telling a bunch of men what this man did to me. I wasn't even allowed to have my mother there with me.”
After she went to the police about what had happened, the person who abused her pleaded guilty and was eventually convicted. “The Jehovah's Witnesses should lose their charity status as they are not protecting children,” she added. She said she had mental health issues as a result of what happened and how it was dealt with.
Jason Munro, another alleged victim of sexual abuse who waived his right to anonymity, could not give details of his case due to a current investigation but said: “I am completely horrified by the Jehovah's Witnesses ... I didn't get support and I experienced 10 years of abuse. Elders knew in my teens about the abuse but it was never a case of ‘let's get this person the professional help he needs'.”
When a Jehovah's Witness experiences sexual abuse they are supposed to report it to elders, who are always men, who will take further action if there is a second witness to the offence. The perpetrator will then be called before a judicial committee if they admit abuse or if there is a second witness.
“This causes further trauma to the victim and coupled with the two-witness rule, is undoubtedly the reason that so many victims have never reported it,” said Kathleen Hallisey, senior solicitor in the abuse team at Bolt Burdon Kemp, who is currently acting on behalf of 15 alleged victims.
She also noted that the problem with the two-witness rule in the context of sexual abuse was that there were rarely witnesses to it, “meaning that [these] reports ... are usually dismissed”.
It has been reported that the headquarters of the Jehovah's Witnesses in the UK, the Watch Tower, holds a database of abuse allegations made within the organisation but has yet to hand it over to authorities.
The Charity Commission launched an investigation in 2013 looking into the Manchester New Moston congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, concluding that it did not deal adequately with allegations of child abuse made against one of the trustees.
The commission is still running an inquiry into the main government body of the group , the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Britain. This is examining the child safeguarding policy and procedures further.
Following the investigation into the Manchester New Moston congregation last year, the Watch Tower changed its policy so that victims are no longer required to confront their abuser face to face.
A former elder, who was asked to investigate a child abuse case in 2007, claimed he was urged not to contact the police, although it was decided that the perpetrator should not be assigned to work with children.
However, the then elder – who left in 2012 over how the case was handled – said that this rule was not followed by everyone and when he raised this as a concern he was told to back off.
“I hugely regret the fact that I wasn't able to do anything at the time and I didn't have the strength. And that lives with me,” he said.
Other former Jehovah's Witnesses told how they were forced to share personal sexual experiences at a young age, after breaking rules set by the religion.
One woman, who wished to be anonymous, was called to a meeting with elders after she had sex at 15, which goes against the rule of no sex before marriage. “This meeting was three older men and me, a scared 15-year-old, who had just had sex for the first time. They had to know all the details before they chose my punishment,” she said.
“I had to answer questions like, did it hurt? Where were you? Did you enjoy it? I don't think any child that age should ever be in that situation.”
A former elder described how a congregation responded when a 13-year-old girl had sex. A judicial committee was called, and she was disfellowshipped and eventually asked to leave her parents' house.
The Guardian also heard from those who described strict upbringings and a culture of hierarchy which meant physical and other psychological abuse were rife and often ignored.
Stephanie, a former Jehovah's Witness, said that when she reported her own experience of domestic violence she was told by elders to do nothing.
The accused “remained in the congregation with privileges and authority. Later, when I came out to the congregation elders as gay, they sent two men to my house ... and asked me in detail about sex and masturbation,” she alleged.
Operation Hydrant, a British police investigation into allegations of non-recent child sexual abuse, said that it was dealing with 45 potential victims of child abuse within a Jehovah's Witness setting. It said allegations could be made by a third party which either identifies – or does not identify – a potential victim.
Based on the Guardian's findings, the commission said its inquiry into the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Britain, the Jehovah's Witnesses' governing body in the UK, was continuing and it encouraged anyone affected by safeguarding in congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses in England and Wales to come forward.
Hallisey said: “Given the number of Jehovah's Witnesses in the UK, and what we know about the pervasiveness of abuse in the organisation, there are likely to be hundreds and probably thousands more victims. This is truly just the tip of the iceberg.”
She said the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse should investigate. “It is absolutely critical that IICSA investigates the Jehovah's Witnesses ... This is actually a public safety issue. The person knocking on your door or handing you literature in the street could be an accused or even admitted paedophile,” she said.
An IICSA spokesperson said that while it was currently delivering its existing programme, the panel would “consider calls for a Jehovah's Witnesses-specific investigation carefully” as work progressed.
In a statement, the Jehovah's Witnesses said that safeguarding children was of the utmost importance. They said that a victim and their family had the right to report allegations of child abuse to the police, and that the principle of sufficient evidence was a scriptural rule not related to reporting an allegation of crime to the authorities. “Elders treat victims of child abuse with compassion, understanding, and kindness. Elders will conduct a scriptural investigation of every allegation of child sexual abuse,” they said.
Leaders talk solutions on child abuse, neglect
by Kelly Dame
Community leaders looking at making a difference in Midland County's child abuse and neglect caseload met late last week to talk data and solutions.
The group, including leaders from the courts, law enforcement, schools, public health and community organizations, and more, convened at The H Hotel for the forum, hosted by Midland County Probate Judge Dorene S. Allen. It was facilitated by Midland Kids First, and funded by the Strosacker Foundation.
“I do not believe you can have a solution without understanding what the problem is,” Allen said about the reason for the forum.
She pointed to a lowering of juvenile delinquency rates over the years, with the 2017 numbers showing an 86.6 percent reduction. “It's because we have come together as a community,” she said. “You need the whole community coming together.”
Thursday provided just that for child abuse and neglect, which is an area in the courts where the number of cases really hasn't changed since 2004. That year saw 100 children from 48 families involved in abuse and neglect cases; in 2017, there were 91 children from 46 families.
The morning featured presentations from Fred Wulczyn, senior research fellow at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago; Joseph P. Ryan from the University of Michigan Child and Adolescent Data Lab; and Dick Dolinski of The Legacy Center for Community Success.
“The simple objective here is how to make it better,” in both public and private systems, Wulczyn said to begin his talk on the national perspective of using evidence to do so.
Improvement is a process beginning with a question, and requires careful use of evidence, he said. He also pointed out, while presenting national data on child abuse and neglect, that problems faced in each case are interconnected.
“Overall, Midland County ranks sixth for child well-being,” in the state, Ryan said.
Before presenting statewide data, Ryan pointed out that each agency dealing with children uses its own data set to define the problem, when those agencies should combine their data for a more complete look at the challenges.
“Are we trying to solve these big, complex problems with very narrow data sets?” he asked, giving the example that no one in child welfare knows how children are doing in school.
Another problem is that the timing on issues families may face, such as recovery from drug addiction and placement in child welfare cases, differ. Addiction recovery occurs one day at a time for the rest of a person's life, while child welfare cases run on a one-year permanency plan.
A question posed to Ryan from the room dealt with the idea of child welfare concerns being a multigenerational problem, as well as the challenges posed by Midland County's small sample size — there were 1,200 investigations in Midland County in 2017 which resulted in 64 children being removed from their families. That doesn't mean 64 families, however, since multiple children could be removed from one family, Ryan said.
One of the areas Ryan suggested the county explore was the recurrence of maltreatment, an area in which Midland County trends higher than the national standard. Statistics he presented show 24 out of 211 children experienced a recurrence of maltreatment within 12 months in 2015.
The forum concluded with statistics presented by Dolinski (see related story) and an afternoon work session during which groups of participants used the numbers to devise community-based solutions.
Quarter of Scotland's sex offenders abuse children online
by the BBC
Almost a quarter of child abusers on the sex offenders register committed their crimes online, Police Scotland has revealed.
The force released the statistic at the start of a hard-hitting campaign warning abusers they will be found and arrested.
They are now using social media to take their anti-abuse message to the very place the perpetrators operate.
In the campaign, children say: " You're one click away from losing everything."
The campaign warns abusers of the life-changing consequences of their actions, making it clear they will have a lasting impact on not only their victims but also on their families and themselves.
'We will find you'
Assistant Chief Constable Gillian MacDonald helped develop the campaign
She said: "Our message is an extremely strong and powerful one absolutely aimed at perpetrators.
"They often feel anonymous and invisible operating online because they will often be in their own home, having created a fake profile, and they think police won't be able to identify who they are and where they are.
"That's absolutely wrong. We have skilled investigators who operate in the online environment and are very skilled at indentifying perpetrators who are seeking to target children.
"My message to them is please don't be under any illusion - we will find you and we will arrest you."
The campaign contains a message from children under the hashtag "#NotMyFriend" to illustrate how those who groom or manipulate children into controlling situations present themselves as the child's friend at the outset.
Police Scotland is also working with Stop It Now! - an online child sexual abuse prevention organisation.
It manages a confidential helpline designed to help adults with a range of concerns about child sexual abuse, including those with concerns about their own sexual thoughts and behaviours towards children.
A spokesman from NSPCC Scotland said: "Child sexual abuse is increasingly happening online, with the perpetrators often using fake profiles to try and hide who they really are from the young people they ruthlessly target and all those who are working hard to stop them.
"Police Scotland's #NotMyFriend campaign is a timely reminder of the harm their actions can cause; on the lives of their victim, themselves and all those close to them.
"At the NSPCC we want to see law enforcement, government and tech companies coming together to ensure the internet is a hostile place for anyone who seeks to use it to create a cloak of anonymity and then sexually abuse young people."
The campaign also uses personal experiences to highlight the costs to everyone involved, not just the perpetrator.
Consequences: The victim
"During the incident I stopped, my heart dropped, I was shocked.
He deleted the account he was using. That made me think it was only me he had done this to and that no-one else was involved. I never reported it to the police for that reason. I didn't think much could be done to trace the user.
About two years later I received a card through the post from the police. I was shocked, especially when I was told he was doing it to other people. I had a lot of mixed feelings that day, I felt a little guilty too as I hadn't reported it, so he has continued to ruin girls' lives."
Consequences: The Perpetrator
"A couple of days before my birthday, at around eight in the morning, the result of not reaching out for help came to visit me in the clothes of the Police Scotland cyber crime team. My life changed completely in an instant.
If you think you were feeling low before, wait till you have to tell your family or friends, who may have young children, imagine telling your wife or your own children what you have done, wait till you try and find a job, wait until almost everything you do and hold dear and value disappears.
You can't change what you have done in the past but you can change the future before it's too late."
Consequences: The family
They introduced themselves as plain clothed police and explained that they had a search warrant.
'How many times are mistakes made?' I asked an officer. 'I have never known it to happen' he replied with a sad, significant expression. That was when I realised that this was truly happening.
I was utterly ashamed to be driven into the back entrance of the police station and frog marched to the line of people waiting to be processed.
Two policemen interviewed me and they said that my husband was being interviewed in another room and that my son was on his way to Glasgow.
Late afternoon it was confirmed that the images were on my husband's computer and that he had been formally charged. My son was still in the cell next to the one I had been in awaiting his lawyer and was still to make a statement.
My son emerged looking completely traumatised. I had not seen him cry since he was a child.
Two policemen had gone into his busy firm and escorted him off the premises.
We collected a suit for my husband to appear in court the next day. I returned to the house - it was no longer my home and there I spent a sleepless night before going into work pretending to the outside world that nothing had happened but inside I was broken.
4 Subtle Ways Childhood Trauma Affects You As An Adult (Even If You Think You're Over It)
by Andrea Brandt
When we bury our feelings, we bury who we are.
Whether you witnessed or experienced violence as a child or your caretakers physically neglected you or you were a victim of emotional abuse, when you grow up in a traumatizing environment you are likely to still show signs of that trauma as an adult.
Children make meaning out of the events they witness and the things that happen to them, and they create an internal map of how the world is. This meaning-making helps them cope. But if children don't create a new internal map as they grow up, their old way of interpreting the world can damage their ability to function as adults.
While there are many aftereffects of childhood emotional trauma, here we'll look specifically at four ways childhood emotional trauma impacts us as adults.
1. The False Self
As a childhood emotional trauma therapist, I see many patients who carry childhood emotional wounds with them into adulthood. One way these wounds reveal themselves is through the creation of a false self.
As children, we want our parents to love us and take care of us. When our parents don't do this, we try to become the kind of child we think they'll love. Burying feelings that might get in the way of us getting our needs met, we create a false self—the person we present to the world.
When we bury our emotions, we lose touch with who we really are, because our feelings are an integral part of us. We live our lives terrified that if we let the mask drop, we'll no longer be cared for, loved, or accepted.
The best way to uncover the authentic you underneath the false self is by talking to a therapist who specializes in childhood emotional trauma and can help you reconnect with your feelings and express your emotions in a way that makes you feel both safe and whole.
2. Victimhood Thinking
What we think and believe about ourselves drives our self-talk. The way we talk to ourselves can empower or disempower us. Negative self-talk disempowers us and makes us feel like we have no control over our lives — like victims. We may have been victimized as children, but we don't have to remain victims as adults.
Even in circumstances where we think we don't have a choice, we always have a choice, even if it's just the power to choose how we think about our life. We have little to no control over our environments and our lives when we're children, but we're not children anymore. It's likely we are more capable of changing our situation than we believe.
Instead of thinking of ourselves as victims, we can think of ourselves as survivors. The next time you feel trapped and choice-less, remind yourself that you're more capable and in control than you think.
When children grow up in households where there are only unhealthy expressions of anger, they grow up believing that anger is unacceptable. If you witnessed anger expressed violently, then as an adult you might think that anger is a violent emotion and therefore must be suppressed. Or, if you grew up in a family that suppressed anger and your parents taught you that anger is on a list of emotions you aren't supposed to feel, you suppress it, even as an adult who could benefit from anger.
What happens if you can't express your anger? If you're someone who suppresses your upset feelings, you likely already know the answer: Nothing. You still feel angry—after all, anger is a natural, healthy emotion we all experience—but instead of the resolution that comes with acknowledging your anger and resolving what triggered it, you just stay angry. You don't express your feelings straightforwardly, but since you can't truly suppress anger, you express your feelings through passive-aggressiveness .
If you were neglected as a child or abandoned by your caretakers, you may have buried your anger and fear in the hope that it would mean no one will ever abandon or neglect you again. What happens when children do this, though, is that we end up abandoning ourselves. We hold ourselves back when we don't feel our feelings. We end up passive, and we don't live up to our potential. The passive person says to him or herself, "I know what I need to do but I don't do it."
When we bury our feelings, we bury who we are. Because of childhood emotional trauma, we may have learned to hide parts of ourselves. At the time, that may have helped us. But as adults, we need our feelings to tell us who we are and what we want, and to guide us toward becoming the people we want to be.
Scale of child abuse survey 'needed every 10 years'
by the BBC
Thousands of children should be surveyed to build a true picture of sexual exploitation, experts have said.
The government says it does not know how many girls have been groomed in the wake of questions about sexual exploitation in Telford.
But the Centre of Expertise for Child Sexual Abuse is designing a survey of children to run every 10 years to assess the scale of the problem.
Authorities raised 18,800 concerns of children at risk in 2016-17.
This was equivalent to 51 every day.
And there were 29,600 assessments of children by social services in England about other sexual abuse because of concerns raised by teachers, social workers and health services.
That works out at 16 assessments of whether children were at risk of child sexual exploitation (CSE) and 25 for sexual abuse for every 10,000 under 18s.
The Centre of Expertise for Child Sexual Abuse, which is working with the government to prevent and tackle abuse, said the data was only a "slice" of the true picture.
The centre, funded by the Home Office and led by charity Barnardo's, has recommended a national prevalence survey be carried out every 10 years.
It is now working with the government, academics and survey experts to design it.
"We know that children don't always recognise that they are being abused and this means that surveys that are framed as abuse or crime often hide this abuse," policy adviser Lisa McCrindle told the BBC.
"We want to capture sexual experiences in childhood and young adulthood so we are likely to include young people in secondary school and up to early twenties."
It is not yet known how much the survey would cost.
The centre warns the existing figures are only the assessments made because someone spotted something that concerned them enough to flag up the child to social services.
There is also no indication of how many children were assessed more than once over the course of the year.
Experts say there is nothing they can rely on to answer the question of prevalence because so many children do not come forward to tell the authorities they are being abused.
Ms McCrindle said: "Administrative data does not provide an understanding of the scale of abuse, it only tells us what services are doing. The data tells us how many assessments have been made; an individual child could be assessed multiple times so it doesn't tell us how many individual children have been assessed."
She said differences in the way social services record concerns means it is "impossible" to say which area has the highest rate of CSE.
Some authorities are recording CSE concerns whenever there is an online element to the potential abuse. Others will only class it as exploitation if there is an element of "exchange", such as the child being offered payment or another incentive.
Scale of abuse
A Sunday Mirror investigation suggested up to 1,000 girls in Telford may have been victims of grooming gangs since the 1980s. However West Mercia Police Supt Tom Harding "significantly disputed" the figures.
Lucy Allan, the Conservative MP for Telford, asked ministers to provide an estimate of the number of girls groomed for sexual exploitation and the number of perpetrators.
Minister for women Victoria Atkins responded: "The Government does not currently hold such figures. We are working to build the national picture of the nature and scale of this sort of abuse.
"We have introduced new requirements for the police to record information relating to these offences which, along with the establishment of a new national Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse, will help us to build a more informed picture of the scale of these crimes and the best ways to tackle and prevent them in the future."
The Home Office told the BBC the Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse was working with "relevant experts to develop a more detailed proposal for the form this might take".
A government spokeswoman said: "This government is working to tackle child sexual exploitation, declaring it a national threat and making a significant investment to protect children, support victims, and bring perpetrators to justice.
"Despite challenges in building a national picture of child sexual exploitation, this government is taking action to change our response to this terrible crime, including offering more support to vulnerable people giving evidence.
"The Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse is also currently piloting an approach to improve the quality and consistency of data relating to child sexual abuse and exploitation. The government has also revised the definition of CSE in legal guidance, and introduced a new requirement on police forces to flag CSE offending, to build a clearer national picture of the problem."
How to report abuse
If you are worried that a child or young person is at risk or is being abused you can contact the children's social care team at their local council. You can choose not to give your details.
You can report it online to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection command (CEOP).
Or you can call the NSPCC 24-hour helpline on 0808 800 5000 for expert advice and support.
If a child is at immediate risk call 999, or call the police on 101 if you think a crime has been committed.
Children and young people can call Childline free on 0800 1111 where trained counsellors are available 24 hours a day, every day.
Child abuse report bill vetoed over 'unintended consequence'
by the Associated Press
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has vetoed a bill dealing with people telling authorities about suspected abuse or neglect of children or vulnerable older people.
Senate Bill 2460 would have required a person reporting abuse to provide his or her own name, address and telephone number. It said that information would be redacted at the end of an investigation.
However, Bryant says in his veto message Monday that people might stop reporting abuse or neglect if they have to provide their own information. He says it was "a well-intentioned bill with an unintended consequence."
The bill also said that if a person accused of child abuse or neglect is on active-duty military service, the Department of Child Protection Services would have to notify the military's family advocacy program about the accusation.
Rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment: what's the difference?
by Nicola Henry
The #MeToo movement has supported victim-survivors to speak out about a wide range of acts that constitute sexual violence. Reports have included those of rape, sexual assault , childhood sexual abuse , sexual coercion , sexual harassment , and behaviours that might not fit neatly into any of these categories.
These are all acts of sexual violence, but it's important to define them separately to punish perpetrators appropriately. It's also important these terms and the distinctions between them are clearly understood. Otherwise it makes it difficult for people to know how to label and describe their experiences.
Sexual violence is an an umbrella term that includes a wide range of sexual acts. The term can include rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, unwanted touching, sexual coercion, sex trafficking, female genital cutting, child sexual abuse, child marriage, enforced sterilisation, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution and forced pregnancy.
Sexual violence occurs in every country, during times of peace as well as during and after armed conflict. Sexual violence can also be perpetrated online or via digital technologies. Technology-facilitated sexual violence includes online stalking, gender-based hate speech, image-based sexual abuse, online rape threats and online sexual harassment.
Sexual violence disproportionately affects women and girls and is mostly perpetrated by men and boys. But it can affect anyone regardless of their gender, race, nationality, age, sexuality, disability or socioeconomic status.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2016 Personal Safety Survey , one in five women (18% or 1.7 million) and one in 20 men (4.7% or 428,800) have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.
Rape or sexual assault
In Australia, rape is defined in gender-neutral terms as the penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth without consent . Although in some countries, like Scotland , rape is limited to penile penetration, in all Australian states and territories, it includes penetration with the use of any body part or object .
What makes Australian criminal law confusing is the inconsistent use of terms and definitions in state and territory legislation. In the majority of Australian jurisdictions, a “sexual assault” refers to an indecent assault that does not involve penetration (and is therefore treated differently to “rape”).
However, an exception is New South Wales, which uses “sexual assault” to refer to a sexual offence involving penetration. In contrast, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria use the term “rape” in their criminal legislation. The Australia Capital Territory and Northern Territory refer to “sexual intercourse without consent” and Western Australia to “sexual penetration without consent”.
Although the penalties for rape or penetrative sexual assault vary across jurisdictions, these range from between ten years to life imprisonment.
Many victim-survivors don't label their experiences as “rape”, and nor do the perpetrators . This is in part because of cultural and social misconceptions of rape as something perpetrated by strangers in dark alleyways.
Increasingly, sanitised language, such as “non-consensual sex” , is being used to describe acts that actually amount to rape.
To further complicate matters, different definitions are used in Australian national surveys on sexual violence. These tend to differ from the definitions in Australian criminal law. For instance, the ABS defines “sexual assault” broadly in its Personal Safety Survey to include a number of acts, including rape. Here sexual assault is defined as:
An act of a sexual nature carried out against a person's will through the use of physical force, intimidation or coercion, including any attempts to do this. This includes rape, attempted rape, aggravated sexual assault (assault with a weapon), indecent assault, penetration by objects, forced sexual activity that did not end in penetration, and attempts to force a person into sexual activity.
The ABS definition of sexual assault excludes incidents of violence that occurred before the age of 15, which it defines as “sexual abuse”. Also excluded is “unwanted touching”, which it defines as “sexual harassment”.
In Australia, sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. Sexual harassment is unlawful , but not criminal, under Australian civil (anti-discrimination) law. In Australia, an “unlawful” act may be pursued by the affected party; whereas a “criminal” act is prosecuted by the police.
Sexual harassment is unlawful when it occurs in a specified area of public life, such as the workplace, school or university. In Australia, sexual harassment includes:
an unwelcome sexual advance
an unwelcome request for sexual favours
engaging in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that is offensive, humiliating or intimidating.
Examples of sexual harassment include staring or leering, unwelcome touching, suggestive comments, taunts, insults or jokes, displaying pornographic images, sending sexually explicit emails or text messages, and repeated sexual or romantic requests. It also includes behaviours that may be considered criminal offences, such as sexual assault, stalking or indecent exposure.
Under Australian civil law, the victim is called the “complainant” and the perpetrator the “respondent”. Sometimes workplaces and other organisations may be liable for “vicarious” sexual harassment if they fail to take reasonable steps to prevent the behaviour.
It's up to the complainant to make a complaint to an independent statutory agency – such as the Australian Human Rights Commission or an equivalent state or territory equal opportunity or anti-discrimination commission or board.
The independent agency will investigate to see if the behaviour falls under the scope of the law, including whether or not the behaviour took place in the context of a specified area of public life, such as in the workplace or in educational settings.
Remedies can include compensation, reinstatement, apology, or a change in policy or practice. If conciliation fails, the case may go to a civil court or tribunal to decide the outcome. In the civil court, a sexual harasser cannot be found guilty of a criminal offence and/or sentenced to a term of imprisonment, and instead may forced to pay damages to the complainant.
If you or someone you know is impacted by rape or sexual assault, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au . In an emergency, call 000.
The emotional impact of sex on a child
Sexual abuse affects the child not just physically but emotionally too.
by Janice Beckett
Human trafficking and rape cases have been in the news for a while now, causing many parents to take the extra precaution of the safety of their children.
No matter how many precautions parents take sometimes reports come out of sexual abuse, and the majority of the time it's by the person that they entrusted their child or children with.
Residents at the flats in Newclare were in rage a week ago, after a man was taken into custody by the Sophiatown Police Station after complainant allegedly said that she was bathing the minor when the child told her that her private parts were sore.
According to communications officer, Jerbes de Bruyn, a case of sexual assault was opened and the case is being investigated.
What is considered sexual abuse of a child?
According to Dr Stella Potgieter, who focuses on sexually deviant behaviour to protect children against sexual abuse, “Sexual abuse does not have to involve penetration, force, pain, or even touching. If an adult engages in any sexual behaviour (looking, showing, or touching) with a child to meet the adult's interest or needs, it is sexual abuse.”
Potgieter wrote a book called ‘children must be protected!' and in the book, she said that it is important that parents and children are aware of the Criminal Law Amendment Act (Sexual offenses and related matters) The Legislation contains the following: the age at which person may consent to sexual intercourse is sixteen, this age is valid for heterosexual and homosexual acts.
But how does this abuse affect the child emotionally? Potgieter answered that question in the book by stating, “When a child has sexual intercourse at an early age, it can have an influence on his or her life because he or she is not sufficiently emotionally mature for it.
“Emotional consequences such as depression, a weak self-esteem, guilt feeling, shame, anxiety, and anger can occur. The person can only later in his or her life realize that early sexual experiences did have an impact on his or her life.
“Feelings that he or she made a mistake can result in behavioural consequences such as self-mutilation, suicide, eating disorders or substance abuse.”
Expert: 5 ways to help spot teacher sexual misconduct
by BrieAnna J. Frank
Goodyear police warned parents to monitor their kids' activity on phones and social media following the arrest Thursday of a 27-year-old sixth-grade teacher on suspicion of sexual misconduct with her 13-year-old male student.
Although abusive educators are only a small fraction of the nation's teaching pool, which is filled overwhelmingly with law-abiding teachers, experts say parents should be mindful of signs to keep their kids safe.
Data from Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation , an organization dedicated to preventing sexual abuse of students, has pushed for closing loopholes that make it easier for schools to allow educators investigated for abuse to quietly resign and get a new job at another school.
The group is lobbying for a California bill aimed at making it harder for educational institutions to conceal a school employee's history of child abuse or sexual misconduct.
While parents are unable to conduct a nationwide search for the disciplinary history of teachers , some states, including Arizona , have online resources for searching a teacher's background.
Teachers and abuse
Goodyear police say the parents of the 13-year-old child found sexually explicit text messages from Brittany Zamora, a teacher at Las Brisas Academy Elementary School in Goodyear, on his phone and through Instagram.
Court records say Zamora allegedly had sex with a male student three times and performed oral sex on him in the classroom and in her car since Feb. 1. Police said the school's principal contacted them on Wednesday night to report the incident.
Last year, a former Peoria high school teacher was sentenced to 12 years in prison after a past student came forward about a three-year long sexual relationship with the man.
Brian Woolsey, 47, was a geometry teacher and softball and soccer coach at Sunrise Mountain High School in January 2010 when he began having sexual relations with a 15-year-old student, police said.
Carol Shakeshaft , a leading researcher on teacher sexual misconduct and professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, has described warning signs of possible sexual misconduct that parents, students and other educators should be aware of.
Shakeshaft is listed as member of Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation 's board of advisers. The group's website spotlights Shakeshaft's report, which notes that when she interviewed teachers at a school following an arrest for sexual misconduct, she often heard that people who had suspicions did not report it because they feared the consequences of being wrong.
"A common explanation for not reporting questionable behavior is, 'If I reported and I was wrong, I would have ruined the life of another teacher,'" she wrote.
"I have never heard a colleague say, 'If I didn't report and this person had abused, I'd have ruined the life of a student,'" she wrote.
Other warning signs included:
1. Spending unauthorized alone time with a student
Shakeshaft wrote in her report that teachers who commit sexual misconduct often spend significant time alone with the student in order to build trust. The report said that this could present itself as afterschool tutoring or home visits, which the educator might also use as an avenue for building trust with the child's parents. This, Shakeshaft writes, makes the educator's behavior less suspicious to parents, who she said "might feel a sense of relief, knowing that a respected teacher has reached out to help...", and makes it easier to exploit, harass or abuse the child.
2. Frequently complimenting a particular student
Shakeshaft's report noted that in some cases of sexual misconduct by educators, he or she had regularly complimented or rewarded the victim by assigning them roles such as class monitor or class helper. This paves the way for predators to develop a closer relationship with the student that includes regular compliments not given to other students. This behavior, Shakeshaft wrote, can serve to instill trust in the student and could eventually provide an opportunity for the educator to engage in physical and/or sexual misconduct.
3. Trying to blend in
Opportunistic abusers — who Shakeshaft described as those who take sexual advantage of a situation but are not exclusively attracted to children — tend to "spend a lot of time around groups of students, talking with them, going to the same places they go, and trying to blend in." Shakeshaft continued to say that predatory teachers "tend to be emotionally arrested and operate at a teenage level." They tend to know much more about the personal lives of students than other teachers typically would, Shakeshaft wrote.
Shakeshaft's report included data from Anna Salter, an expert on sexual predators, which concluded that abusers "work hard to be likeable." Salter added that popularity and likeability are "often confused with trustworthiness." She wrote that this phenomenon leads to victims' allegations being discounted and oftentimes causes further harassment of the student.
5. Unusual behavior from the student
The Children's Center for Psychiatry, Psychology and Related Services published a blog post on its website saying that sexual misconduct from a teacher can manifest itself in odd behaviors from the student. These behaviors can include things such as nightmares or sleep problems, a loss of appetite, mood swings, a new or unusual fear of a certain person or place, unusual knowledge of adult sexual behaviors and language, and/or not wanting to be touched or hugged.
Report misconduct before it's too late
Shakeshaft's report suggested ways for school leaders to prevent sexual misconduct, such as not permitting one-on-one meetings between students and teachers in a private setting, requiring at least two adults to be present during off-campus events and trips, and establishing clear guidelines for teachers and staff on appropriate contact with students.
She also encouraged schools to establish protocols for reporting and handling sexual misconduct allegations.
Those who suspect a child is being or has been sexually assaulted can contact local law enforcement as well as child-service organizations such as ChildHelp at 1-800-422-4453 or the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-656-4673.
Utah becomes first state to legalize 'free-range parenting'
by Ashleigh Jackson
SALT LAKE CITY (Meredith) – Utah has legalized a controversial child-rearing method known as “free-range parenting,” encouraging children to be independent.
Gov. Gary Herbert signed the bill, which states it's not neglectful for parents to allow their kids to do the following without adult supervision: walk to and from school, play outside, be in a car unattended, stay home alone.
The law states that children must be mature enough to handle each situation, though it does not specify an age. It's believed to be the first legislation of its kind in the United States and takes effect May 8.
Utah lawmakers said they were prompted to pass the law after seeing cases where parents had their children temporarily removed when people reported seeing the kids playing basketball in their yards or walking to school alone, the Associated Press reported.
Republican Sen. Lincoln Fillmore of South Jordan has said allowing kids to try things alone helps prepare them for the future. Meanwhile, others are concerned the law could be used as a defense in child-abuse cases if not carefully deployed.
Arkansas considered a similar “free-range kids” bill last year but ultimately rejected it after receiving pushback from critics who said it was too dangerous to leave children unsupervised.