Abuse survivor advocated talk about what to watch for, what to do
by Christopher Heimerman
SYCAMORE – Signs of abuse are not all as obvious as bruises.
April is both Child Abuse Awareness Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Experts sat down for a roundtable discussion with the Daily Chronicle recently to discuss red flags people can watch for, upcoming events to raise awareness, and misconceptions surrounding these delicate topics.
As Lynnea Erickson-Laskowski, director of communication and prevention services for Safe Passage, pointed out, movements such as the #MeToo phenomenon have helped survivors of all genders and backgrounds, but there's a long way to go.
"We've seen how hesitant people are to believe survivors – how quick we are to write off their stories, how we want to look for holes, gaps and things we can blame them for," Erickson-Laskowski said. "Before we ever start to believe them, we have to try to punch as many holes in the story as possible."
She pointed out that Tuesday is Start By Believing Day, which encourages people to give survivors the benefit of the doubt. Why not, considering the court system gives people charged with crimes such treatment?
"Isn't that the $24 million question?" said Erickson-Laskowski's boss, Safe Passage Executive Director Mary Ellen Schaid.
What to watch for
The paradigm shift aside, the experts pointed out numerous signs of abuse. Survivors' performance at school might suffer. They might experience changes in sleep patterns and in the language they use. They might have reasons for changing their appearance and the clothing they wear.
"We've had many children tell us in their interview that they started wearing baggier, bulkier clothes so they look less attractive," said Holly Peifer, director of the Children's Advocacy Center at Family Service Agency of DeKalb County.
Sarah Slavenas, Family Service Agency's development director, said another telltale sign is when a child starts avoiding someone they previously had gravitated toward.
"When the abuse starts, the victim might suddenly be reticent to be around them," she said. "Perpetrators don't just groom victims but [also] the people around them. When someone you think is infallible, or highly respected, ends up being accused of something, it violates your own intuition. You thought your child was safe around that person, but you were wrong."
That's an important reasons that anyone affected by abuse should find someone to talk to about their experience.
"That child isn't the only one traumatized," Slavenas said. "It's the family, the friends, their siblings, their teachers – any adult who missed [that] this child is struggling. When they realize the dots are connected, they're traumatized."
What to do
Experts were quick to dispel the common misconception that if someone has the Department of Children and Family Services called to their home, they're going to lose custody of their child.
Slavenas said all social service agencies prefer that a child stay in their home.
"As long as a safety plan is put into place, the child can remain in that home, and that's usually what social service agencies strive to do," she said. "Children have such a powerful bond with their family."
Schaid said the bulk of abuse cases involve neglect, which often correlates with socioeconomic status. This presents a challenge, since most administrators are in different circumstances.
"Look at who's sitting around the table: We're all white, female, middle-aged and educated," said Tynisha Clegg, recently named FSA's executive director. "That can be a barrier. We don't look like them."
A partnership and grant was approved at the March 23 DeKalb City Council meeting, which will allow local agencies to hire a part-time caseworker who also would coordinate other activities at the University Village apartment complex in the Annie Glidden North neighborhood, where more than 80 percent of residents receive government assistance to pay rent. In fact, the worker could be hired from within the complex, Clegg said.
As part of the redevelopment agreement for University Village, the city has $33,333 a year to spend for social service delivery over 15 years, records show.
Agencies such as FSA, Adventure Works, DeKalb County Gardens, the Kish Work Network and Kishwaukee College all are involved in the partnership, and that caseworker will help residents tap into resources they might not have known exist.
"Then they tell their neighbors, their kids' friends – 'This is someone you can trust,' " Clegg said.
Anyone who witnesses signs of neglect or outright abuse can make an anonymous report when they call 800-25-ABUSE.
"Don't err on the side of caution," Peifer said. "Err on the side of the child. You don't need evidence. All you need is suspicion."
Slavenas said calling DCFS isn't always the preferred option. If there's clear evidence something isn't right, she urges people to call the police.
Learning how to talk
Erickson-Laskowski said from the time children have basic comprehension skills, parents should be modeling appropriate behavior.
"If your brother is tickling you, and you said no, he needs to stop," she said. "Ask your children whether they want a hug goodnight, whether they want to kiss their aunt goodbye, or whether they'd rather wave. We need to model those behaviors in the home, so the child learns it's normal to say 'No.' As soon as your child begins to comprehend, they can learn about consent."
Peifer suggested several ways parents can talk to their children about touchy subjects: talk while cooking, while in the car, while going about everyday activities that don't feel like a deliberate attempt to tackle the elephant in the room – which can scare off children.
Even TV programs provide an opportunity.
"Something might come up on a show, and it's a great talking point," Peifer said. "You have to have that conversation repeatedly, and you have to start young."
It's tough to put a thumb on the pulse of abuse since so many agencies field reports. FSA, specifically, has seen a 25 percent-plus uptick in reported cases year over year as of March. The agency will put a blue-and-silver pinwheel along DeKalb Avenue for every active case.
"Hopefully that visual will help the community really grasp the sheer number of cases," Slavenas said.
"But don't forget, that's not necessarily a bad thing," Schaid said. "This means it's being reported, and children are becoming more aware they can talk about it."
Find your voice, connect to survivor community with Spartans Act
by Brendan Watson
I was a child in the 1980s, when we didn't talk about it. As a result, we didn't know much at all about it. We didn't know how to protect our loved ones, friends, and co-workers, and we didn't see the pain many around us were experiencing.
Today it is still largely a silent epidemic. Most survivors never tell anyone.
I hadn't told a soul about the sexual abuse I experienced at the hands of a childhood babysitter until the #metoo movement and the Larry Nassar scandal made it unbearable to hold onto that tormented secret. It is not unusual for survivors to not disclose the abuse they faced until the 30s and 40s. Especially young children's minds cannot process trauma the way adults can.
Like many people, I was not ready to talk about this issue and its impacts. But recent events didn't leave me, and I believe us, much option. To heal, we must all begin to talk about sexual violence in a trauma-sensitive manner, regardless of how emotionally difficult it is. We must support survivors and work towards prevention. Otherwise, sexual violence, particularly against children, will remain a silent epidemic.
Michigan State University understandably has been focused internally on its institutional failures and on the “survivor sisters,” among other mishandled sexual misconduct allegations. Survivors of Larry Nassar courageously shed much needed light on sexual violence and its impacts, and the university must do what it can to help them heal. Personally, the survivor sisters gave me much strength and confidence.
But not only is the issue of sexual violence much broader, the community's responsibility to support survivors and take a leadership role in preventing future abuse reaches far beyond campus and this particular group of survivors.
Access to counselors specifically trained in helping childhood and adult survivors of sexual violence is essential. It means the difference between healthy coping versus years of psychological, health problems, and shortened life expectancy.
Yet mental health professionals specifically trained in helping survivors of sexual violence are scarce in our community. My therapist in MSU's Department of Psychiatry, who was trained in the now infamous College of Osteopathic Medicine, told me that he knows that many of his patients have experienced sexual abuse but that “we just don't talk about it.” I am now on the waitlist to see therapist who does talk about it and has experience supporting survivors' healing. Apparently judging by the potentially months-long wait, many other survivors are waiting, too.
That's one reason that organizations such as Small Talk, EVE, the Firecracker Foundation are so essential to the community. They provide free charge trauma-aware counseling to survivors. These organizations are also active in our community raising awareness about how to prevent sexual violence.
In order to be a community where survivors are heard, that has the capacity to support their healing, and one in which we work together towards prevention of sexual violence, these organizations need the community's support – donations of money and supplies, volunteering, spreading awareness about the services they offer – during this difficult time.
I personally needed something positive to focus on I'm stuck on a waitlist to see a therapist who can help me begin to heal, so I started a group called #spartansact ( http://facebook.com/spartansact ). I envision it as a positive, independent, grassroots, capacity-building campaign to provide trauma-aware services to survivors of, and to prevent, sexual violence in our community.
But that effort is but one small, initial step. In the long run, the focus of #spartansact will be to serve as connector between individual community members those organizations in our community that are working on this issue. The ultimate goal of #spartansact is to find multiple ways to end the silence around sexual violence around and to build much-needed capacity in our community to tackle the problem of sexual violence head on while helping survivors heal.
To be connected, follow the campaign on Facebook ( http://facebook.com/SpartansAct ) or email email@example.com.
Students at Parkland High School in Florida used their campus's tragedy to start a dialogue about gun violence. We also have an opportunity to turn our community's tragedy into something positive. Collectively, we can end the silence around sexual violence so we can begin to start working towards more awareness, better support for survivors, and prevention of this epidemic in our society.
It's time we all find our voice.
Brendan Watson is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism at Michigan State University. The views expressed are his own.
County rolls out new child abuse hotline
by Bay CityNews Service
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month
The Santa Clara County Social Services Agency announced today a new toll-free 24-hour phone number to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect in accordance with the county proclaiming April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
The toll-free number, (833) SCC-KIDS, will reach the county's Child Abuse and Neglect Center at any time.
"We encourage everyone to call the toll-free number if they suspect child abuse is happening near them, and to participate in prevention and awareness activities to show their commitment to help prevent this horrendous crime," Supervisor Joe Simitian said in a statement.
The month will be dedicated to preventing child abuse on Tuesday when a memorial flag will be raised at 9 a.m. at the James P. McEntee Sr. Plaza, and a proclamation will take place at the 9:30 a.m. Board of Supervisors meeting that day, according to the county.
The flag will fly throughout the month of April.
"Adults are guardians for our children," Supervisor Cindy Chavez said in a statement. "When that trusting relationship is violated through abuse, we cannot be silent."
The county has planned two events to pay respect to the cause in April, including Wear Blue Day on April 6 and the 36th Annual Child Abuse Symposium on April 27, according to county officials.
Wear Blue Day is the day that people are encouraged to wear a blue ribbon to stand against child abuse and "raise awareness among friends and coworkers."
The annual symposium will drive hundreds of experts and advocates to Villa Ragusa in Campbell to discuss approaches and new data about child abuse, according to the page dedicated to it on Campbell's Child Abuse
Prevention Council website.
The Cosby Trial: What You Need To Know
by Laura Benshoff and Tanya Ballard Brown
Next week, Bill Cosby goes to court again to face three counts of aggravated indecent assault for allegedly drugging and molesting Andrea Constand more than a decade ago.
Last June, a jury couldn't decide whether to convict or acquit the 80-year-old celebrity on these allegations, resulting in a mistrial.
Now, there's a new jury, new defense attorneys and, with the #metoo movement, a new era of accountability for sexual assault. If found guilty, Cosby faces up to 10 years behind bars for each count.
Here's what you need to know about the case and the people involved.
The accuser: Andrea Constand is a former Temple University employee. Cosby and Constand met more than a decade ago while she was working for the university's women's basketball team. She said they became friends and he invited her to dinners at his home and offered her career advice. She is now a massage therapist who lives in Ontario, Canada.
The allegations: On Jan. 4, 2004, Cosby invited Constand to his home near Philadelphia. In the 2017 trial, Constand testified that Cosby gave her three pills that he indicated were "herbal" — but were something else.
She said during trial that those pills made her feel "frozen" and pass out. That's when she says Cosby assaulted her.
Constand reported the assault to the police in 2005 and filed a civil suit against Cosby when prosecutors initially declined to press charges. Ten years later, a judge unsealed deposition testimony Cosby gave during that civil suit, in which he said he did give Constand pills and there was sexual contact the night of the alleged assault. In light of this new information, prosecutors looked at Constand's case again, and decided to file criminal charges in 2015.
What happened in the first trial: Constand testified, Cosby did not. Jurors also heard testimony from Constand's mother, Gianna Constand, and recorded phone conversations between Gianna and Cosby where Cosby offered to pay for Andrea to go to back to school.
Prosecutors also called Kelly Johnson, another woman who claims Cosby drugged and assaulted her, to the stand, to try to show Cosby had a criminal pattern of behavior. Juror Bobby Dugan said he wanted to convict Cosby on two of the three counts he faces, based on Cosby's own past statements, not because of the testimony of either woman.
"In my opinion, consent is a verbal agreement. If there is no verbal agreement there is no consent," he said.
Jurors could not reach a unanimous decision after 52 hours of deliberation. The judge declared it a mistrial.
What's different in this trial: This jury will hear new witnesses. More than 50 women have accused Cosby of assaulting them, dating back to the 1960s. A judge recently ruled to allow testimony from up to five women, in addition to Constand, who say Cosby also drugged and sexually assaulted them.
Cosby's not on trial for these other women's accusations. But they're allowed to testify in this case to help a jury decide whether Cosby knew what he was doing.
And then, there's the explosion allegations of sexual harassment and assault against high profile men, known as the #metoo movement, which kicked off a few months after the mistrial.
Cosby's lawyers asked the court to ban T-shirts, flowers, buttons and any other paraphernalia that could be used to make a statement about the movement during the trial, to try to keep public opinion from biasing the jury. Judge Steven O'Neill granted that request, banning any items that could make a statement for or against either side in the case.
The defense: Cosby testified in a 2005 civil deposition that he did give Constand pills and there was sexual contact.
Last year Cosby's then-attorney, Angela Agrusa, argued that the incident was consensual and romantic . Cosby's defense team also questioned Constand's credibility, pointing to inconsistencies in her accounts to the police.
For this trial, there's a new lead defense attorney, Tom Mesereau, who previously defended Michael Jackson against child molestation charges.
Court documents indicate the defense has asked to call a witness they say shows Constand planned to fabricate a claim of sexual assault in order to get a big payout. Lawyers may also be able to discuss the money Constand received from settling the civil lawsuit against Cosby in 2006.
VCF Launches Website for Adult Survivors of Child Sex Abuse to Anonymously Identify Their Abusers
by the Vertigo Charitable Foundation
DUNN LORING, Va., April 3, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Vertigo Charitable Foundation, LLC (VCF), which advocates for child sex abuse survivors, announced today the launch of a new website for survivors to anonymously identify their abusers.
"Our goal is to provide a safe and confidential method for adult survivors to identify their abusers and to determine if particular abusers are identified by multiple survivors," said Valerie Gibson, VCF's founder and CEO.
The website, Me2csa.com, was created by VCF in conjunction with Senthil Nathan, an IT specialist. The site includes an identification form for survivors to complete online. VCF will review the forms and develop a database of abuser identifications. If an abuser has been identified by more than one survivor, VCF will notify the survivors, who will determine whether they want to make their identifications public, individually or collectively.
Child sex abuse is a silent epidemic. It is estimated that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by the age of 18. Some 67% of all sexual assaults reported to law enforcement are committed against victims under 18 years old. Only about one-third of child sex abuse victims ever identify their abusers and the vast majority of such crimes are never reported to legal authorities. The Me2csa.com identification system will put perpetrators on notice that their identities could be disclosed at any time.
As recent events have demonstrated, there is strength in numbers – survivors are more likely to identify their perpetrators alongside other survivors who also make identifications. VCF's new website will empower survivors to come forward to identify their abusers and will connect those survivors who seek to hold their abusers accountable.
About Vertigo Charitable Foundation
For the past seven years, VCF has consulted with survivors about their legal rights, lobbied for legal reforms, and made two documentaries exposing the fundamental flaws in the justice system's handling of survivor cases ( Pursuit of Truth: Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Seeking Justice ; Off the Record: Justice Denied to Child Sex Abuse Survivors ). The Me2csa.com website is an outgrowth of VCF's mission to help make justice a reality for adult survivors of child sex abuse.
For more information, contact Neil Jaffee, VCF's legal counsel, at 703-987-0819 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
'The warning signs are different': Raising awareness on child abuse in Arkansas
April is Child Abuse Awareness month and Arkansans are working to raise awareness on the issue. It often times goes unnoticed or reported.
by Melissa Zygowicz
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – Thousands of child abuse cases are reported not only in Arkansas but nationwide every year.
April is Child Abuse Awareness month and Arkansans are working to raise awareness on the issue. It often times goes unnoticed or never reported.
"Whether it's neglect or on up to physical and sexual abuse. The warnings signs are different,” Mischa Martin said.
Martin is the director of Arkansas Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS). She said raising awareness about the problem is crucial.
“If you're in the community and you have reasonable cause to suspect child abuse you can call the hotline,” she said.
According to DCFS, the Arkansas child abuse hotline received 34,459 reports of child maltreatment in 2017. Twenty-four percent of those reports were found to be true.
The number of reports remained consistent in years past. 2016 saw 35,493 calls to the hotline. 2015 had 33,683. Both years also found 24 percent of the calls to be true.
“Most people don't know that of those cases, those reports, they're coming from kids that know and love their perpetrators,” Chad Sievers said.
Sievers is the program manager for Arkansas Building Effective Services for Trauma at UAMS.
He said it is not always easy to identify a child who is abused.
"We know that one in five kids will go on to develop traumatic stress symptoms,” Sievers said.
He said most of the time, the abuser is a family member or a relative.
"People need to know that it's not just a stranger in a van,” Sievers said. “Unfortunately perpetrators are really smart and they can really groom these kids. Slowly but surely they can get in there.”
But child abuse is preventable and it starts with getting entire communities involved.
“Prevention work happens when people volunteer in their churches, when they volunteer and help in sports leagues, after school programs. When they reach out to that new mom. That's child abuse prevention,” Martin said.
Advocates will gather on the steps of the Arkansas State Capitol with Governor Asa Hutchinson on April 11. The group hopes to promote prevention and call on community members to speak up if they see something.
If you do suspect abuse, call the hotline at 1-800-SAVE A CHILD.
Online course focuses on child sex abuse prevention
Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan's Law and The Crime Victims Center, urges community to "become a guardian for children."
by Chau Lam
A Ronkonkoma-based nonprofit on Monday announced that the group has launched a free online course that seeks to teach adults how to detect, report and, hopefully, prevent child sexual abuse.
Enrollees will learn tips on how to prevent a sexual assault from taking place and “tricks” sexual predators employ to gain access to children, said Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan's Law and The Crime Victims Center.
“We have to move beyond #MeToo and ask ourselves what can we do, and that's why we're here today,” Ahearn said at a news conference at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood. “You can become a guardian for children.”
The course, about an hour long, was designed by Ahearn, with Suffolk County taxpayer money, she said.
The online class is available for everyone in New York and around the country free of charge, Ahearn said.
Enrollees must provide their names, home addresses, and emails.
Child sexual abuse in US costs up to $1.5 million per child death, study finds
by the Georgia State University
Child sexual abuse in the United States is costly, with an average lifetime cost of $1.1 million per death of female victims and $1.5 million per death of male victims, according to a new study.
Researchers measured the economic costs of child sexual abuse by calculating health care costs, productivity losses, child welfare costs, violence/crime costs, special education costs and suicide death costs.
They estimated the total lifetime economic burden of child sexual abuse in the United States to be $9.3 billion, based on child sexual abuse data from 2015. For nonfatal cases of child sexual abuse, the estimated lifetime cost is $282,734 per female victim. There was insufficient information on productivity losses for male victims, which contributed to a lower estimated lifetime cost of $74,691. The findings are published in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect .
"This study reveals that the economic burden of child sexual abuse is substantial and signifies recognition that reducing children's vulnerability will positively and directly impact the nation's economic and social well-being and development," said Dr. Xiangming Fang, associate professor of health management and policy in the School of Public Health at Georgia State University. "We hope our research will bring attention to the need for increased prevention efforts for child sexual abuse."
The World Health Organization defines child sexual abuse as the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, is not developmentally prepared or violates the laws and social taboos of society. It is the activity between a child -- anyone under the age of 18 in most states -- and an adult or another child who by age or development is in a position of responsibility, trust or power.
Child sexual abuse includes commercial sexual exploitation and the use of children in pornographic performance and materials. The estimated prevalence rates of exposure to child sexual abuse by 18 years old are 26.6 percent for U.S. girls and 5.1 percent for U.S. boys. International rates of exposure are often higher in low- and middle-income countries. The effects of child sexual abuse include increased risk for development of severe mental, physical and behavioral health disorders; sexually transmitted diseases; self-inflicted injury, substance abuse and violence; and subsequent victimization and criminal offending.
The researchers examined data from 20 new cases of fatal child sexual abuse and 40,387 new cases of nonfatal child sexual abuse that occurred in 2015. The data were obtained from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System of the Children's Bureau and child maltreatment reports issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
One abused child is one too many
by the Valdosta Daily Times
This is child abuse prevention month.
If one child in our community is abused, that is one too many.
The number of abuse cases reported here is, quite frankly, staggering. There were 1,217 reported cases of child abuse in the Lowndes County area in 2016. In 2017, there were 1,807 reported cases.
Child abuse ranges from neglect of basic care, to substandard living conditions to emotional abuse, to sexual abuse. Both boys and girls suffer sexual abuse and more often than not it is from a family member or close family friend.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services offers these cautions to help parents and caregivers prevent and combat child sexual abuse:
— Take an active role in your children's lives. Learn about their activities and people with whom they are involved. Stay alert for possible problems.
— Watch for “grooming” behaviors in adults who spend time with your child. Warning signs may include frequently finding ways to be alone with your child, ignoring your child's need for privacy (e.g., in the bathroom) or giving gifts or money for no particular occasion.
— Ensure that organizations, groups and teams that your children are involved with minimize one-on-one time between children and adults. Ask how staff and volunteers are screened and supervised.
— Make sure your children know that they can talk to you about anything that bothers or confuses them.
— Teach children accurate names of private body parts and the difference between touches that are “OK” and “not OK.”
— Empower children to make decisions about their bodies by allowing them age-appropriate privacy and encouraging them to say “no” when they do not want to touch or be touched by others, even in non-sexual ways.
— Teach children to take care of their own bodies (e.g., bathing or using the bathroom) so they do not have to rely on adults or older children for help.
— Educate children about the difference between good secrets (such as birthday surprises) and bad secrets (those that make the child feel unsafe or uncomfortable).
— Monitor children's use of technology, including cell phones, social networking sites and messaging. Review contact lists regularly and ask about any people you don't recognize.
— Trust your instincts. If you feel uneasy about leaving your child with someone, don't do it. If you are concerned about possible sexual abuse, ask questions.
— If your child tells you that he or she has been abused, stay calm, listen carefully and never blame the child. Thank your child for telling you. Report the abuse right away.
Locally, the Children's Advocacy Center of Lowndes County provides services to children who have been in abusive environments. We wish their services were not necessary, as do they. Sadly, those services are needed in our community almost every day, and we are fortunate to have an agency such as CAC.
The Children's Advocacy Center of Lowndes County, Inc. is a community resource center that was created to minimize the trauma of child victims of abuse by responding to their immediate and long term needs in a child friendly, safe environment. The CAC works hand in hand with law enforcement, child protective services, the courts, mental health professionals and the medical community as they investigate, treat and prosecute child abuse cases.
Last week, the community came together with CAC at Valdosta City Hall where participants placed blue pinwheels on the lawn to represent thousands of reported cases of child abuse in Lowndes County each year. We commend organizers and volunteers for doing what they can to raise awareness.
The CAC will bring pinwheel gardens to homes and businesses April 3-13. Pinwheel gardens are currently being sold for $25 per dozen for each business or home, with the money raised being used to combat child abuse in the community. To purchase a pinwheel garden, email email@example.com , or call (229) 245-5364.
Children should be protected at all costs, and suspicious behavior should always be reported to authorities.
Falsely accusing someone is bad, but allowing a child to go even one more day in an abusive situation is far worse.
It may sound cliche', but if you see something, say something.
Court docs: Speedometer in Woodland family's car 'pinned' at 90 in deadly California crash
by FOX 12 Staff
WOODLAND, WA (KPTV) - The speedometer in the car of a Woodland family who died in a crash on the California coastline was “pinned” at 90 mph, indicating to officers the vehicle was running and in motion just prior to hitting the rocks below, according to court documents.
A search warrant was served at the home of Jennifer Jean Hart and Sarah Margaret Hart on Thursday.
A search warrant affidavit was granted in Clark County in connection with this investigation for items including travel itinerary, bank records, cell phone records, credit card billing statements, bank receipts, notes, journals and possible suicide notes.
No details have been released about the results of the search at the couple's home. The couple purchased the home in May 2017 and previously lived in West Linn.
The Harts and at least three of their adopted children were killed after Jennifer Hart drove off a cliff near Highway 1 in the Westport area of Mendocino County on Monday, according to deputies.
Their three other adopted children were believed to be in the car, according to deputies, but they have not been located.
Court documents state California Highway Patrol investigators found no “acceleration marks, tire friction marks or braking furrow marks” at the scene.
Investigators said there was no evidence the car collided with the embankment as it “traversed towards the tidal zone below.”
“Based upon the California Highway Patrol investigation, it is their belief ‘a felony has been committed,'” according to court documents.
Neighbors in Woodland told FOX 12 this week they contacted Child Protective Services when one of the children, 15-year-old Devonte Hart, came to their home begging for food for himself and his siblings.
The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services released a statement Wednesday confirming a case was opened regarding the family last Friday, as “the now-deceased children were identified as potential victims of alleged abuse or neglect.”
Timeline of Hart family's child welfare concerns in WA, OR, MN
Records show several allegations of abuse or neglect involving the Hart family.
by the KGW Staff
PORTLAND, Ore. – Authorities in Oregon, Washington and Minnesota all received reports of child welfare concerns involving the Hart family prior to the family's fatal crash on the California coast, records and interviews show.
Married couple Jennifer and Sarah Hart were found dead, along with three of their adopted children, after Jennifer drove the family's SUV off a cliff in California on March 26. The couple's three other children are missing and presumed dead.
Investigators believe the crash was intentional.
Over the past decade, the family has lived in Alexandria, Minnesota; West Linn, Oregon; and Woodland, Washington. Friends say the family was loving but records show several allegations of abuse or neglect.
Below is a timeline of what was reported, where and when.
Nov, 15, 2010: One of the Hart's daughters Abigail, then 6 years old, told her teacher that she had “owies” on her tummy and back, according to a complaint filed in Minnesota. The teacher said she saw bruises on her stomach and back. Abigail then told her teacher, “mom hit me.”
During an interview with detectives, Sarah Hart admitted to spanking her daughter and she said she let her anger get out of control, according to the complaint.
Jennifer Hart told investigators she knew that Sarah spanked her daughter.
Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to domestic assault and was sentenced to 90 days in jail but wasn't required to serve time due to terms of her probation.
Read Minnesota complaint
July 18, 2013: West Linn police generated a report based on a child welfare concern that came in to the department involving the Hart family. West Linn police said they forwarded their report to the Oregon Department of Human Services. That document has not yet been made public and the details of the complaint are unknown.
March 23, 2018: The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services said Child Protective Services opened an investigation into the Hart family after the children were identified as potential victims of neglect and abuse.
Neighbors told KGW they contacted CPS on March 23 and reported the children weren't being fed.
Washington Child Protective Services was unaware of any other child welfare concerns involving the Hart family either in Washington state or elsewhere.
A few hours after the CPS visit, neighbors reported the family left the home.
Neighbors' abuse claims
In an interview with KGW, neighbors Dana and Bruce DeKalb said one of the children, Devonte Hart, made a daily habit of sneaking next door and asking for tortillas, cured meats, and non-perishable food items. He sometimes visited the neighbors multiple times a day. The DeKalbs said Devonte claimed his mothers didn't feed him and "they would withhold food from him as a punishment."
The DeKalbs said they were alarmed by how thin and small the kids were, and the fact that one daughter was missing her two front teeth at the age of 12.
"They were all small," Bruce DeKalb said. "One girl who was 12 looked like she was 7. Both of her teeth were missing, front teeth, and we questioned [the mothers], 'What's up with the teeth thing' and they said, 'She didn't want them replaced.' We thought that was a little weird."
The DeKalbs also said one of the daughters showed up at their doorstep in the middle of the night, covered in blackberries because she had walked through blackberry bushes trying to escape her home.
"She said that she wanted us to take her to Seattle and that they [the parents] weren't treating her right, and don't make her go back," Bruce DeKalb said. "You know, kids can do stuff sometimes when they're at a certain age, they run away from home and stuff like that. By that time, [the family was] all out looking for her with flashlights so we tried to get some story as to what was going on and, of course, they told us what we wanted to hear, I guess. Life went on for another eight months and here we are today."
March 23, 26, and 27, 2018: CPS officials tried to contact the Hart family on three separate occasions.
March 26, 2018: The family's SUV was found at the bottom of a cliff in California. The vehicle was accelerating when it went off the cliff.
Jennifer and Sarah Hart were found dead inside the vehicle. Three children, Abigail, Jeremiah and Markis Hart, were found dead outside the vehicle. Three other children, Hannah, Sierra and Devonte Hart , are missing and presumed dead.
Surge in people seeking help to stop viewing child abuse images
More than 36,000 people contacted Stop It Now! child protection charity in UK last year
by the Press Association
The number of people seeking help to stop viewing child abuse images has risen by 40%, figures suggest.
Data from the Stop it Now! campaign , run by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation child protection charity, showed 36,443 people contacted the scheme in 2017. This was up from the 26,089 potential offenders who sought help in the previous 12 months.
Most contacted the group via the website, though 2,251 people called the anonymous Stop it Now! helpline with concerns about their own or someone else's behaviour.
The National Police Chiefs' Council lead for child protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey, said: “Police forces are arresting more offenders who view or share sexual images of children online and protecting more children than ever before. However, child sexual abuse cannot be countered by enforcement alone.
“It requires schools and parents to educate children to ensure they stay safe, as well as for technology and social media companies to take their responsibilities seriously in protecting young people online.
“Alongside the important role for education in raising awareness and a greater role for technology companies in child protection, it is also crucial that offenders who are yet to be arrested are given the opportunity to seek help.”
Each part of the UK saw a rise in the number of people contacting Stop it Now! England went up 41% from 22,325 in 2016 to 31,373 the following year, and Scotland up 55% from 1,614 to 2,508.
Wales showed a 20% increase from 896 to 1,073, and Northern Ireland rose by 40% from 456 to 639. However, the country was not specified in the remainder of cases.
Tom Squire, clinical manager at the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, said: “Stop it Now! is determined to protect children from abuse and the devastating impact of having their image repeatedly shared across the internet.
“The best way to do this is to deter people from looking at these images in the first place, and to get those who are looking to stop. When you make people aware that help is available to stop, people will take up that offer of help.
“We work with many men arrested after downloading huge numbers of abusive images of children. Nearly all of them say they wish they had known sooner about the help that's available to stop.”
Susie Hargreaves, chief executive of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), said: “While these are shocking figures, it is encouraging to see how many offenders out there are wanting to get help and support to stop looking at illegal online images of child sexual abuse.
“We work closely with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation in our work protecting children from sexual abuse and, while the IWF works to remove child sexual abuse images and videos from the internet, the Stop it Now! campaign has proved to be incredibly effective in stopping offenders from continuing to access this content online, or preventing them from looking at it in the first place.”
Andy Burrows, associated head of child safety online at the NSPCC, said stopping potential offenders from viewing abuse images must be part of wider work to “cut this material off at the source”.
He said: “Every child abuse image is a crime scene and behind each picture is a real victim who is re-abused with every click.
“NSPCC research suggests that up to half a million men in the UK may have viewed child abuse images, which shows that this is a serious problem which must be urgently addressed.
“Deterring people from viewing these images is vital, but it must be part of a larger approach by tech companies, government and law enforcement agencies to work together and cut this material off at the source.”
Age-appropriate lessons about child sex abuse coming to Virginia schools
by Capital News Service
RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia is taking a step toward teaching children how to recognize and prevent child abuse, abduction, sexual abuse, and sexual exploitation after Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill to include age-appropriate instruction in those areas in the state's family life education curriculum.
Current law already requires age-appropriate education on preventing dating violence, domestic abuse, sexual harassment and sexual violence, but child advocates like Patty Hall, the director of community engagement and volunteer services at Hanover Safe Place, have pushed for stronger measures.
“The work that I do with the kids shows that they don't know often and understand the concept of being able to say no if somebody is touching them or doing something that makes them feel uncomfortable. Whether it is by a family member, or a friend or a dating partner, many of them do not understand these concepts,” said Hall, who does prevention education with children of all ages in Hanover County.
On Thursday, Northam signed SB 101, which was sponsored by Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, and incorporates proposals by Sen. Jennifer Wexton, D-Loudoun, and other legislators. Wexton is an advocate for Erin's Law, a national movement urging states to implement prevention-oriented child sexual abuse programs.
LaTonsha Pridgen, founder of the advocacy group Stomp Out the Silence, also supports Erin's Law.
Pridgen said she was sexually abused from the ages of eight to 13. Her experience inspired her to start S.O.S., a nonprofit dedicated to preventing childhood sexual abuse through awareness and legislation.
“I know firsthand what it means to be a child and not understand that adults can do you harm – not even know that I could go to my teachers or to another adult outside of my home to report this,” Pridgen said. “So I wholeheartedly support educating our children and giving them the information they need to prevent child sex abuse.”
The final version of SB 101 will create guidelines on age-appropriate programs on the prevention, recognition and awareness of child abuse, abduction, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation, but it does not require schools to implement such programs. Still, advocates say it's a step in the right direction.
“The law gets us one step closer to #ErinsLaw in Virginia,” Wexton stated on her Facebook page after SB 101 passed the House on March 7.
Besides adding child abuse prevention programs, SB 101 clarifies that sexual harassment by digital means will be included in the existing curriculum. The bill takes effect July 1.
The Silent Treatment: Understanding Wordless Emotional Abuse
by Peg Streep
When my mother got angry or was displeased, she would act as though I wasn't there. It was like I'd become invisible like a ghost or a pane of glass. When I was small—say six or seven—I would melt under the heat of her glare, crying and begging for her to say something but she wouldn't. Of course, I tiptoed around her all during my childhood, afraid. You know, it was like being locked in an attic as a punishment but it was more confusing and subtle. I didn't understand it as abusive until I was in my forties.
This woman is not alone; children who grow up around verbal and emotional abuse usually normalize it, believing wrongly that what goes on at their house goes on everywhere. Not altogether surprisingly, there's a lot of cultural confusion about what exactly constitutes abusive behavior. While most people are quick to condemn physical abuse—the kind that leaves visible bruises or breaks bones—many don't understand where the inability to manage emotions like losing your temper stops and abusive behavior begins. Is it intention that separates one from the other—the effort to control or manipulate another person—or is the victimizing effect that pushes it over the line? The short answer is both.
Contrary to the public muddle, research is very clear on what emotional and verbal abuse does to the child's developing brain, literally changing its structure. These children grow up to be adults who mistrust their perceptions and have difficulty managing their emotions; they develop an insecure style of attachment which can make them detach from their feelings (avoidant style) or make them highly vulnerable and rejection sensitive (anxious style). Because they tend to normalize verbal abuse, they may end up in adult relationships with those who are abusive.
When most of us think about verbal abuse, we imagine screaming and yelling but the truth is that some of the most pernicious abuse is wordless and quiet; just re-read the story which begins this post and note that it's the mother's silence that is the weapon of choice.
Wordless abuse: What it is and how it damages
Here's what Leah,38, wrote me about her first marriage:
I would become a pathetic creature, begging him to tell me he still loved me after a fight and he wouldn't answer. I would beg some more, crying, and he would sit there on the couch, his face like stone. Then I would apologize even though he'd started the fight and I'd done nothing wrong. That's how scared of his leaving I was. I didn't recognize his behavior as abusive and controlling until I went into therapy at 35. I lived with this for 12 years and never once thought that this was not okay.
Leah's story isn't unusual in that she normalized her husband's behavior for years. This kind of quiet abuse is relatively easy to rationalize or deny: “He didn't feel like talking,” “She was actually trying to regroup,” “It's not like he deliberately tried to hurt me” or “Maybe I am too sensitive just like she says.” As I explain in my book Daughter Detox: Recovering From an Unloving Mother and Reclaiming Your Life, children internalize not just the messages conveyed by the articulated kind of verbal abuse but also form their expectations and understanding of how people behave in relationships from the quiet kind.
Among the kinds of quiet abuse are stonewalling, ignoring, displaying contempt, and withholding. They all share the goal of marginalizing the person, making the person feel terrible about him or herself, and facilitating control.
Stonewalling or Demand/Withdraw
Widely recognized as one of the most toxic patterns of relationship, this behavior has been studied often enough that it is has its own acronym: DM/W. Stonewalling effectively ends the possibility of dialogue, and is meant disempower the person who initiated the conversation. When a parent does this to a child, he or she effectively communicates that the child's thoughts and feelings are absolutely of no value or concern; since the child needs a parent's love and support, he or she will absorb that lesson as a supposed truth about the self. When an adult intimate partner does it, it's a power play pure and simple, but effectively sends the following message: What you want, what you think, what you feel don't matter in this relationship.
The silent treatment or ignoring
Pretending that you neither see nor hear someone is especially poignant for children, especially if served up as a punishment. A young child may feel as though she's been banished or abandoned; an older one may feel the pain of rejection but may also experience deep anger, as Ella explained:
My father would systematically stop talking to me whenever I disappointed him which was often. The infraction could be something like not getting a good grade on a test, missing a goal in field hockey, or just about anything. He was always saying things like ‘You need toughening up. You're too sensitive and only the tough survive in this world.' My mother went along with it too. By the time I was a teenager, I was angry with them but, of course, I also thought I was somehow to blame for disappointing him. I was an only child and had nothing to compare it to. Long story short, I fell apart when I went to college and luckily, a great therapist saved me.
Intimate partners also use the silent treatment to marginalize and demean, as well as to make his or her partner fearful or off-balance. It's a way of making someone feel vulnerable, banishing them to an emotional Siberia, and is intended to make them more malleable and less resistant to control.
Contempt and derision
Laughing at someone, deriding him or her with facial gestures of disgust or eye-rolling, can also be tools of abuse, meant to marginalize and demean, and don't require words. These gestures, alas, can easily be deflected or denied by the abuser who's likely to say that you're too sensitive or that you can't take a joke or that you're reading in.
Make no mistake: this is abusive behavior. You don't need words to tell someone they're stupid or worthless.
This is perhaps the most subtle form of abuse, especially when it involves a child: Deliberately withholding the words of support, love, and caring that a child needs in order to thrive. Of course, a child doesn't know what he or she is missing, but recognizes the loneliness that fills the empty space in his or her heart. But it's only slightly easier to see when you're an adult in an intimate relationship because having your emotional needs denied only serves to make you even more needy and, sometimes, more dependent on that partner. It's counterintuitive, but true. Withholding is the ultimate tool of people who crave power and control.
Bermuda at 'tipping point' of child abuse
by Lisa Simpson
Bermuda is the first country in the world to reach “tipping point” with more than 12 per cent of its adult population trained in child sex abuse prevention.
More than 6,800 residents have taken courses with Saving Children and Revealing Secrets, and the impact of the charity's work was highlighted by American-based partner organisation Darkness to Light.
Debi Ray-Rivers, Scars founder and executive director, said: “Tipping point is a measurement Darkness to Light uses based on Malcolm Gladwell's book of the same name.
“The basic theory is that if 5 per cent of a given population changes their behaviour, a cultural shift is created, thereby changing societal values.
“The tipping point theory is aptly applied to our community-based child sexual abuse prevention initiative which is creating a new norm in Bermuda — child sexual abuse is no longer tolerated.”
Jon Brunson, chairman of Scars, added: “I really believe that Bermuda has, in action, not in theory, reached tipping point.”
Mr Brunson said there was now far greater awareness of child sex offences, and knowledge that it was not limited to physical abuse.
He added: “Now that the community understands that and the importance of talking about it and understanding their charge as an adult to really protect children, it has really caused behavioural changes in the community. I think that is cause for why you see more and more reporting. People aren't waiting on the legislators to legislate change.
“They are making the changes themselves within their own organisations and institutions to really create a protective environment for children because they recognise the importance that their actions have in contributing or minimising vulnerabilities.”
Ms Ray-Rivers added: “Parents are talking to their children, organisations are getting training, organisations entrusted with the care of children are implementing codes of conduct and reporting is up.”
Bermuda was featured in Darkness to Light's 2017 impact report as the first country to reach tipping point.
Katelyn Brewer, Darkness to Light president and CEO, said: “Scars and Bermuda are the perfect example of how grassroots movements can change culture.
“Darkness to Light is proud to partner with Scars and to see the real impact their passion is making in Bermuda.
“We are eager to see what work they'll accomplish in the coming years to keep all children in Bermuda safe and to help adult survivors realise they are not alone.”
Ms Ray-Rivers emphasised that the award showed how residents had embraced the charity's message.
She said: “It's really about our great people of Bermuda, who have embraced this because we could have been a country that's in denial.
“Our people of Bermuda have taken it upon themselves to do this training and get educated.”
She added: “Our goal has always been that every adult should receive this training and we are not going to stop until that happens.”
Ricky Brathwaite, health economist at the Health Council, added: “Social change can happen very quickly as long as society buys in. That can be with social situations. That can be with healthcare.
Dr Brathwaite said: “We have a normalised society when it comes to chronic disease but we are not OK with it staying like that and we believe that examples such as the tipping point here can show that social change can happen.”
Breaking down the barriers of child abuse
by Ricky Blackburn
No more violence week is continuing on with an extremely important topic for our community, ending child abuse, and how we can help, something very important in our community.
“We look at the rates of sexual abuse that are reported to the children's advocacy center here in Great Falls, they are very very high, and it's a topic that's hard to talk about,” said Jamie Marshall.
Especially for the kids that it happens to. One in ten children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Almost 73 percent of victims don't tell anyone within the first year of it happening. Less than half tell someone within 5 years. And many never say anything at all.
But first barriers need to be taken down to begin the discussion
“What are some of those barriers in preventing sexual abuse? and how is it as a community or individuals we break down those barriers to ensure our kids are safe,” said Anne Auld.
Those boundaries may not seem like much to some, but they can cause someone to not report a problem.
“They're embarrassed, they don't want to embarrass somebody else, and they don't want to wrongly accuse someone. Intervening has to be some sort of accusation, when in fact it's just a, hey I say you over with that kid, tell me what's going on,” said Auld.
Although this may seem difficult, it could save a child's life. Speaking up is the best thing that can be done. As for a community like ours having a week devoted to this, it makes Auld proud.
“When I see a small community doing this much work, I really am encouraged by this community that is coming together and saying we care about our kids and we care about our families,” said Auld.
If you see or hear anything that does concern you, break down that barrier and don't be afraid to report abuse. The number to call child services is 406-841 2400.
Football child abuse scandal rocks Argentina
Two of Argentina's biggest football clubs have been names in child abuse allegations made by a local NGO. Former youth players from River Plate and Independiente have reported a child prostitution ring.
by Deutsche Welle
River Plate, who have won 36 domestic titles, and Independiente, the most successful side ever to play in South America's top club competition, the Copa Libertadores, are both named by the NGO, which claims minors were allegedly abused in River's youth divisions between 2004 and 2011.
At least two of Independiente's youth players were allegedly the victims of a more recent prostitution ring. The allegations first emerged after one of the players broke down during a session with a psychologist. He said that he had been abused, that he had had sex with men in exchange for money and that players were recruited to the prostitution ring by another club member.
Read more: Barry Bennell child-abuse case about justice rather than change
On Wednesday, the prosecutor investigating the case said that a 19-year-old who recruited them was abused himself, and is now cooperating with authorities. At least seven minors were prostituted and 10 more minors are believed to have been potential victims. As it stands, five men suspected of being part of the prostitution ring have been arrested.
Investigators are also looking at calls made to young players that may have been incidences of grooming. "Many kids were contacted but they didn't fall. We're investigating this. Thank God these acts were not carried out," prosecutor Maria Soledad Garibaldi said at a press conference. "We're all united here - the kids, the parents, and the law."
The accusations come just days after police arrested a referee for his suspected involvement in a child prostitution ring with young Independiente players.
River Plate have said that they will work with authorities while Dante Majori, the president of the Argentine Football Association's (AFA) youth and children's committee, said the claims will be examined.
"We want this to be investigated," said Majori. "We want to contribute with the law so that those responsible for these abhorrent acts are caught."
The Argentinian FA also said it will monitor boarding houses, where the country's young players often live. Many of the children come from low-income families and move far from their homes to try and make it in the sport.
But the abuse scandal is not confined to football. Argentina's Olympic Committee has also filed a legal complaint against a gymnastics coach who is accused of abusing a number of athletes.
New TPD wrap aims to raise awareness, prevention of child abuse
by Julie Montanaro
(Picture on site)
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- It's a mobile way to raise awareness of child abuse and ways to prevent it.
We've been sharing stories of pinwheels going up in both Florida and Georgia this week as Child Abuse Prevention Month begins.
Tallahassee Police unveiled their newest patrol car wrap Wednesday.
It has a big pinwheel plastered on the hood.
It's a rolling billboard of sorts to try to encourage folks to report abuse and stop it before it starts.
"As much awareness as we can raise in every community the more people are willing to notice when a family might need help or when a child might be a victim of abuse or neglect," said Chris Lolley, Director of Florida's Ounce of Prevention.
"Those cases are always difficult," said Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo. "The focus is obviously on the child who's the victim and what we can do to help them and make sure they have the opportunity to live dreams and be little kids and do the fun things that kids are supposed to do and not live in fear or be hurt."
The Florida Department of Children and Families website indicates that in our area, most children are removed from their homes due to domestic violence and physical abuse. DCF's online records show that between February 2017 and February 2018, there were 183 cases of child abuse in Leon County and more than 250 cases when you include neighboring counties in the Second Circuit.
Lolley says there are many ways people can help to prevent child abuse including volunteering, mentoring and donating to organizations that help families in distress.
For more information, click here .
Day Care Red Flags: Signs of Child Abuse
by Allison Royal
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Two Sioux Falls day care workers are facing a long list of charges this week after allegedly injuring children in their care during nap time. If your child attends a daycare, there are signs to look out for.
Child's Voice at Sanford Medical Center saw about 1,400 children last year.
There are some key warning signs of abuse that their staff looks for and that you can look for, too.
First are behavioral changes.
“First, they could have an abrupt change in their personality so a once happy kid could be more angry or moody or have behavioral problems,” said Doctor Brooke Jones, a child abuse pediatrician.
Another sign is regression of milestones. For example, a warning sign could be if your child suddenly forgets how to use the bathroom.
There are also physical signs. A big red flag is bruising in unusual places. Experts look for bruising that's uncommon for your child and bruising that's a pattern.
“So any bruising to the ears, neck, or torso between kind of your neck and kind of your hip bones – any of those softer surfaces because kids don't bruise as easily in those areas from accidental means,” said Jones.
Jones recommends you ask these questions to a potential daycare provider: “What is their process to report any concerns for abuse and neglect? How do they handle those situations? Kind of, is there any record that you have of this in your (in your) daycare, and how have you handled those situations?”
Your child or grandchild may have disabilities. This could make them a bigger target to abusers.
For example, it's a concern if a child in a wheelchair has bruises that usually result from atheltic activity.
If someone has concerns about a child's safety, there are child advocacy centers across South Dakota.
Child sexual abuse in sport: Council of Europe calls for action to break the silence
Press release by the Council of Europe
Madrid, 05.04.2018 – The Council of Europe today made a call on public authorities and the sports movement to take determined action to prevent sexual abuse of children. Under the theme “Start to talk”, it launched in Madrid an international awareness-raising initiative urging governments, sports clubs, associations and federations, as well as athletes, coaches and parents to take concrete measures to prevent and respond to abuse.
This call for action aims to extend to sports the reach of the Lanzarote Convention , a treaty focused on preventing and combating sexual exploitation and abuse of children.
Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland said: “Child sex abuse is a most wicked crime and we must do everything we can to eradicate it in all areas of society, including in sports. Start to Talk is our call to public authorities and the sports movement to give children a voice and to help prevent and respond to abuse”.
Research suggests that one in five children in Europe is a victim of some kind of sexual violence, often committed by people from their “circle of trust”. Although there is few data available about the prevalence of child sexual abuse in sport, children can be particularly at risk because of unequal power relationships between coaches and children and because incidents are often silenced to avoid scandals.
Other factors that may increase children's vulnerability to sexual abuse in sport are that physical contact is often required, inappropriate sexual behaviour is often tolerated, and discrimination and gender inequality accepted. In addition, sport offers potential risk situations, such as changing rooms, showers, carpooling and overnight stays.
In its call for action, the Council of Europe invites sport organisations to promote a culture of respect and zero-tolerance against sexual violence, to designate a person for child protection so everyone knows who to contact, to screen professionals working in contact with children, to train coaches to prevent, detect and report abuse and to ensure high quality standards for infrastructures. It also recommends concrete measures to coaches, athletes and parents.
Key actions of this initiative will be the release of a 45 seconds TV spot in English , French and Spanish (also available in a 1m45s version in English and Spanish ), the launch of the website www.starttotalk.org and other awareness raising materials, as well as a training kit for coaches and sport managers to help them prevent sexual abuse of children. These materials will be made available to public authorities, sports institutions and child protection organisations across Europe, so they can adapt them to each country´s strategy to fight sexual abuse.
The Council of Europe´s call for action was presented at the Spanish High Council for Sport, which also launched its national campaign #abusofueradejuego (#keep abuse offside) - aimed at raising awareness amongst coaches, sport managers and children and to empower them to prevent, detect and combat sexual abuse.
To fight sexual child abuse in sport, the Council of Europe – through its children´s rights programme and it Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport (EPAS) - offers support to public authorities, sports organisations and child protection agencies to improve legislation, set up strategies to protect children and develop codes of conduct. It also aims to train sports professionals and to empower children and parents to combat sexual abuse. Some of the materials and tools proposed have been developed within the framework of Joint Programmes with the European Union.
We need to believe survivors of sexual assault and child sexual abuse
by the LNP Editorial Board
April is both Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Child Abuse Prevention Month. YWCA Lancaster will sponsor “An Evening with Matthew Sandusky” at 7 p.m. Friday at the Ware Center, 42 N. Prince St. It's one of many events the YWCA is sponsoring this month. Tickets are $25; proceeds will benefit the YWCA's Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center, which is this county's rape crisis center as designated by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.
If you think the #MeToo movement has fully attained its aim of raising awareness about sexual assault, we respectfully ask that you think again.
That movement “has broken the stigma and silence of sexual assault and started a dialogue in our country. But it is only the beginning,” noted Kayla Schneider, of Quarryville, who is a survivor of child sexual abuse, a children's advocate and a member of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services' Children's Justice Act Task Force.
“Child victims for the most part have been left out of the conversation,” Schneider wrote in an email Wednesday. “As adults who support the #MeToo movement, we have a real opportunity to speak out about ending sexual abuse with all demographics, including children.”
We agree with her that the movement should speak out for child victims, too. We also agree that it's only the beginning for the #MeToo movement.
It may take years, generations even, before the facts surrounding sexual assault are accepted as truths: that boys as well as girls, men as well as women, can be victims; that it is normal if victims don't report what's been done to them; that sexual assault and abuse are never a victim's fault.
If you doubt there's work still to be done, consider the complaint lodged just last week by a New Jersey judicial conduct committee against Superior Court of New Jersey Judge John F. Russo Jr.
These were some of the questions Russo asked a woman seeking a protection from abuse order against the man she alleged sexually assaulted her: “Block your body parts? Close your legs? Call the police? Did you do any of those things?”
That a judge would exhibit such a shocking lack of knowledge about normal, common physical responses to sexual assault is hard to fathom.
As Swedish researchers reported last year, studies have indicated that — contrary to the notion that active resistance is the “normal” reaction during rape — “humans exposed to extreme threat may react with a state of involuntary, temporary motor inhibition known as tonic immobility.” In other words, they freeze.
Why victims don't report
And despite what that judge thinks, it's pretty common for a victim to decline to call the police.
The reality is that many victims “wait weeks, months or even years before discussing with anyone what was done to them,” Kristen Houser, the chief public affairs officer of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and National Sexual Violence Resource Center, wrote in LNP last year. “When victims do begin to discuss the victimization, it is often through a slow, deliberate process of revealing parts of the full story.”
Houser noted in a 2016 LNP op-ed that rape is the most underreported crime: An estimated 63 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police. “People do not report sexual assault for a variety of complicated reasons,” she wrote. “Those who do come forward often face scrutiny and are met with disbelief — even more so when the person who committed sexual violence is a person of influence — despite the rate of false reporting being consistently estimated between 2 and 8 percent.”
Danger in stereotypes
Reporting abuse and assault can be difficult for victims of all ages — especially if, as is most often the case, the perpetrator is someone the victim knows and trusts.
Matthew Sandusky told authorities he was sexually abused by his father, former Penn State football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
Jerry Sandusky now is a notorious and convicted sexual abuser serving 30 to 60 years in prison for his crimes.
But 25 years ago, he was regarded as a pillar of Centre County who founded a charity for at-risk youth . Those who hadn't heard even a whisper about his misconduct with young boys no doubt considered him a stand-up guy.
Perpetrators of sexual violence were then, and still are, stereotyped as monsters, trench coat-wearing weirdos who lurk on the edges of society — not the kind of people we know.
But as Matthew Sandusky learned in the most painful way possible, “Anyone can be a perpetrator.”
An athlete. A teacher. A priest. A minister. A lawmaker. A Hollywood studio executive. A gymnastics coach. A physician. A football coach. A parent.
And if a perpetrator is a pillar-of-the-community type, he's likely worked hard to make people see him in that light. Houser said “offenders invest time, energy and often money to gain the trust of the people they intend to assault.”
They count on an ill-informed public to believe stereotypes. We can counter them by learning the facts, and by believing victims when they come forward with reports of abuse and assault.
In Matthew Sandusky's interview with LNP , he said that one of the things that causes him the most pain is to see his wife and children endure the spillover of hatred and vitriol from people who believe he betrayed Penn State by coming forward as one of his father's victims.
That is truly appalling — a stomach-turning reminder of how twisted some people's priorities are. Sadly, even in 2018, there are still some people who refuse to acknowledge reports of sexual abuse and assault because they don't comport with the reality to which they cling.
We are likely to see more evidence of this as t he retrial of comedian Bill Cosby gets underway in Montgomery County. Despite the fact that more than 50 women have alleged sexual misconduct and assault by Cosby, people still insist that the star of the eponymous “Cosby Show” cannot be guilty.
So yes, we still need a designated month — and the #MeToo movement — to raise awareness about sexual assault and child sexual abuse.
And we need to support those who come forward — despite all the obstacles — and disclose the terrible harm that has been done to them.
To report suspected child abuse, call ChildLine at 800-932-0313 or online at keepkidssafe.pa.gov .
YWCA Lancaster's Sexual Assault Prevention & Counseling Center has a 24-hour hotline at 717-392-7273.
Breaking the chain of child abuse and neglect: How you can recognize the signs
by Fabiola Ramirez
April is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month and here on the Central Coast, families and communities are working together to prevent child abuse.
Eli Salgado, a mother and college student, was able to break the chain of abuse and neglect in her family.
“It's not just abuse, it's not just hitting, it's neglect as well. There are many forms of abuse,” she said.
With adequate resources, she has been able to move forward and is now helping others.
“I like to give back to my community and give back to people who need the help and don't know that it's there,” Salgado said, adding that prevention is key.
San Luis Obispo County has a multitude of resources available but in most cases, a child won't be the one to reach out.
“Sometimes, kids are scared to say what is happening at home or they don't know how to say it or how to ask for help or they are scared that they are going to get in trouble for it,” Salgado said.
She says that's when the community comes in, to report anything suspicious and speak up when things don't look right.
“As a community, we all have a responsibility to the children that are here,” said Teresa Tardiff, Executive Director for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).
A child who's being abused may feel guilty, ashamed or confused.
Experts say signs to look out for include:
Rebellious or defiant behavior
Delayed or inappropriate emotional development
Unexplained injuries, such as bruises, fractures or burns
Loss of self-confidence or self-esteem
Withdrawal from friends or usual activities
“If there is domestic violence between parents or people that live together, we do consider that child abuse because it is traumatic for a child,” explained Katie Robinson, CASA Director.
In San Luis Obispo County alone, there are approximately 500 children in the foster care system because of abuse and neglect.
If you witness, hear or suspect child abuse or neglect, you are asked to call the hotline (805) 781-KIDS.
Six Catholic dioceses under investigation for possible child sexual abuse: The story so far
by Ivey DeJesus
Six dioceses under investigation: The story so far
As early as May, a state grand jury is expected to release the findings of its investigation into allegations of clergy sex abuse across six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania.
Since 2016, when the grand jury was empaneled, investigators have been hearing testimony and examining documents in connection to allegations that church officials, in some cases for decades, failed to protect children from predator priests.
Here is a primer of this developing story so far:
The grand jury has been investigating allegations of sexual abuse by priests in the Catholic dioceses of Harrisburg, Allentown, Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Erie and Scranton. It is not clear how many victims or church officials have been subpoenaed by the panel.
In a written statement to PennLive, Pennsylvania Catholic Conference spokesperson Amy Hill said:
"The Catholic Church has embraced the need to make this right for survivors. Pennsylvania's dioceses have fully cooperated with the grand jury's investigation. Every diocese in Pennsylvania has helped survivors and their families pay for counselors and treatment programs of their choice, and will continue to do so. We pray the victims and their families can recover as they continue through a difficult healing process."
Here's what we know about the dioceses being investigated:
Diocese of Harrisburg: Serves more than a quarter-of-a-million parishioners and encompasses 15 counties, including Adams, Columbia, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Mifflin, Montour, Northumberland, Perry, Snyder, Union and York.
The diocese has one cathedral - St. Patrick - and two basilicas, Sacred Heart Basilica, Conewago (the oldest stone church in use in the United States) and the Basilica of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Danville.
Over the years, at least 15 priests who had at one time served in the Harrisburg Diocese have been identified in allegations of child sex abuse - several of which were deemed credible.
Will Harrisburg release names?
Officials with the Harrisburg Diocese on Thursday told PennLive that they may revisit an earlier plan to release a list of priests who have been accused of child sex abuse. The diocese in 2016 tabled such a plan after the state attorney general's office advised the diocese not to release the list. Officials declined to say how many priests were on the list.
The Diocese of Allentown: encompasses Berks, Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton, and Schuylkill counties and serves more than a quarter-of-a-million Catholics. Diocesan spokesman Matt Kerr this week told The Morning Call in Allentown that church officials in the diocese were subpoenaed in September 2016. Officials turned over to investigators all the records requested, he said.
The diocese has over the years faced multiple accusations against priests with lawsuits alleging that the diocese systematically covered up decades of sexual abuse by priests through secret files, code words and transfers, according to BishopAccountability.
Past lawsuits have claimed the diocese promoted accused priests, supported them and transferred them without revealing past allegations.
Archdiocese of Philadelphia
The themes that came out of Boston and other large archdioceses across the U.S., including Los Angeles, reverberated in two stunning grand jury investigations into clergy sex abuse in Pennsylvania - that out of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.
Investigators in Philadelphia in 2011 found widespread clergy sexual abuse and concealment by church officials. As a result, in addition to the removal of a number of priests deemed unsuitable for the priesthood, the Philadelphia report resulted in the conviction and sentencing of Monsignor William Lynn, the highest-ranking U.S. Catholic Church official convicted in a child sex abuse scandal. He served nearly three years of a three- to six-year sentence when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed his conviction over trial errors. He's currently a free man.
A judge in March 2017 allowed in a ruling for prosecutors to retry Lynn in connection with his handling of sex abuse complaints involving children and priests. Because of an unresolved defense defense appeal, that retrial for Lynn wasn't expected to take place until this year.
A 2014 study commissioned by the Catholic Church found that more than 4,000 U.S. priests had faced sexual abuse allegations in the last 50 years. The cases involved more than 10,000 children - mostly boys.
Between 2004 and 2013, the Catholic Church spent more than $2 billion in a settlements, therapy for victims, support for offenders and attorneys' fees with regards to clergy sexual abuse.
Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown investigation
In March 2016, a report from a grand jury investigation into allegations of sexual abuse of children in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown found widespread abuse involving at least 50 priests or religious leaders. The findings revealed a history of diocesan superiors concealing the child abuse as part of an effort to protect the church's image.
The 147-page report found the systemic abuse of thousands of children over decades by priests and church leaders in the diocese. It detailed - at times graphically -- accounts of sexual abuse of children at the hands of priests and church leaders, including the late Monsignor Francis B. McCaa, whom the report noted, was "a monster" who groped and fondled the genitals of at least 15 boys, many of them altar boys.
Six months after the release of the findings in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, state investigators launched their latest probe into the six counties currently under investigation.
Diocese of Pittsburgh: encompasses Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Greene, Lawrence and Washington counties. Victims of abuse have for years alleged widespread clergy sex abuse across the diocese and deep cover-up by church officials.
In 2004, more than two dozen complaints were filed against the diocese, alleging that it covered up child sexual abuse accusations against five priests. The statute of limitations had expired on all the cases. Attorneys for the victims sued the diocese and not the priests, naming then-Bishop Donald Wuerl and the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.
Like other dioceses under investigation, the state attorney general's office subpoenaed documents relating to sexual abuse by priests from the diocese in September of 2016. According to media reports, investigators requested files dating back to 1947.
Diocese of Greensburg: encompasses Armstrong, Fayette, Indiana, and Westmoreland counties.
The diocese has been named in a number of lawsuits alleging clergy sex abuse of children over the years. In 2005 lawsuit filed in Westmoreland County court, a 52-year-old man accused the late Rev. Francis Lesniak of abusing him in the mid-1960s, when the man was a 12- or 13-year-old boy.
According to the lawsuit, the abuse happened when Lesniak worked at the St. Stanislaus Church in Calmut. The boy was a parishioner. Lesniak died in February 1991. The lawsuit named the diocese and retired Bishop Anthony Bosco as defendants.
Diocese of Scranton: encompasses Bradford, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Monroe, Pike, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Wayne and Wyoming counties.
More than 25 priests from the diocese have been accused of child sexual abuse allegations since 1950, according to The Pocono Record. In April, the diocese removed the Rev. Martin M. Boylan as pastor of St. Patrick's Parish in West Scranton and episcopal vicar for the Northern Pastoral Region, after an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor surfaced. The alleged abuse happened in Wayne County, according to the media outlet.
Diocese of Erie: encompasses Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, Jefferson, McKean, Mercer, Potter, Venango, and Warren counties.
In late March, Erie Bishop Lawrence Persico announced the diocese would release the names of priests who had been removed from ministry, retired, or left the ministry after being accused of sexual assault. The announcement came two days after neighboring Buffalo Diocese released the names of priests who faced similar accusations.
According to a story on goerie.com , the Erie Diocese previously had never disclosed the names of priests accused of or dismissed in the past over allegations of sexual abuse. The diocese in 2004 released information that showed 20 priests were credibly accused of sexually abusing 38 minors in the diocese from 1950 to 2002.
The ongoing grand jury investigation is the latest chapter of a clergy sex abuse scandal that has embattled the 1.2 billion strong Roman Catholic Church for decades. In 2002, The Boston Globe uncovered widespread sexual abuse of children by scores of priests in Boston and the systemic cover-up by church officials.
That investigation resulted in hundreds of priests, deacons, religious order clerics, nuns and other church officials been accused of child sex abuse.
Scores of individuals tied to the church faced criminal charges, lawsuits and convictions.
The archdiocese in 2011 published a list of accused clergy, naming a total of 159 clerics. The Globe later revealed that the archdiocese list excluded the names of 70 religious order clerics who had been accused.
Grand jury investigation
Sources close to the investigation suggest that investigators have been overwhelmed by the sheer number of victims who have come forth and testified and the volume of information and documents.
Carolyn Simpson, a spokesperson for the state Office of Attorney General, however, cautioned about any characterization of the investigation.
"Protecting the secrecy of Statewide Investigating Grand Juries is paramount," Simpson said in a written statement to PennLive. "Only those individuals directly involved with the Grand Jury are aware of its inner workings, and any speculation on current or former investigations from people outside of that small population should be dismissed."
The human toll of abuse
Victims of clergy sex abuse have long demanded reform to the state's statute of limitations, which as currently written, bar the majority of adults who were abused decades ago as children from legal recourse to bring predators or church officials to justice. Many victims face lingering suffering from emotional pain, and many turn to substance abuse and even suicide.
Lawmakers have tried unsuccessfully for years to reform state law.
How pediatricians can assess for child neglect, support at-risk families
by Ryan D. Brown, M.D.,FAAP
Child maltreatment is a medical condition that affects hundreds of thousands of children yearly, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In 2012, an estimated 686,000 children were victims of maltreatment, and 1,640 children died.
Child abuse and neglect have been shown to affect males and females of all ages, races and socioeconomic backgrounds.
About 75% of child maltreatment cases are neglect, according to HHS. This is more than all other forms of child abuse combined. Neglect also is the No. 1 killer of children who die as a result of child maltreatment.
Neglect is an omission in care by a parent or caregiver, which can lead to significant harm or risk of significant harm. Neglect can come in multiple forms, including nutritional, medical, educational, supervisory and even dental. In a nutshell, neglect occurs when a child's need for food, clothing, shelter, education, supervision, protection or health care is not met.
The vast majority of neglect cases can be prevented with education, resources and support for the family. Pediatricians may feel overwhelmed by the number of surveys, assessments and tools that are available to evaluate parents and children. However, the following questions can help assess for child neglect when evaluating the family for the first time:
Was this pregnancy planned?
Who lives in the house with the child?
Who will be caring for the child?
Do you have a car seat for the child?
Do you have adequate clothing for the child?
Does your house have running water and electricity?
Lack of a paternal desire for a child has been shown to be associated with physical abuse, whereas from a maternal perspective, neglect and psychological maltreatment can manifest. Also, according to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, children whose single parent had a live-in partner had more than eight times the rate of maltreatment overall, over 10 times the rate of abuse and more than six times the rate of neglect compared to children living with married, biological parents. Therefore, it is optimal for every member of the house to have a sense of ownership of the child's well-being.
Many caregivers who work rely on some form of child care. Nearly half of children under 5 years of age attend out-of-home child care, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A safe and nurturing child care setting can be beneficial to both the physical and developmental well-being of the child. Information for parents on how to select a child care provider or babysitter can be found at www.aap.org/healthychildcare .
Nutritional neglect in infants and children results from inadequate nutrition to maintain physical growth, development and intelligence. Failure to thrive is the most common consequence of nutritional neglect. However, allowing the ingestion of an abundance of calories that can lead to obesity and other health consequences can be construed as a form of maltreatment.
Pediatricians can reduce nutritional neglect by referring families to local resources and services such as charities, thrift stores and food banks. They also should know the eligibility criteria for and how families can enroll in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). It may be helpful to have applications in the office. AAP guidance on helping families in poverty is available at www.aap.org/poverty .
Communication, education and a trusting partnership between the pediatrician and caregiver can help secure a happy, healthy and safe future for the child.
Dr. Brown is a member of the AAP Council on Child Abuse and Neglect.
CASA on front line to prevent child abuse
by the Tahlequah Daily Press
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cherokee Country is working to shine a spotlight on the problem.
Child abuse and neglect affect children of every age, race, and family income level. However, research has identified many factors relating to the child, family, community and society that are associated with an increased risk of child abuse and neglect. Studies have also shown that when multiple risk factors are present, the risk is greater.
Families placed under stress by poverty, divorce, or a child's disability; overwhelmed single parents with little support; young mothers and fathers unprepared for the responsibilities of raising a child are all at greater risk. Some families are stressed by worries about employment, health, substance abuse, mental health, domestic violence, or other problems, or are simply unaware of how to care for their children's basic needs.
Studies conducted by the Children's Defense Fund in 2016 report that a child is abused or neglected every 47 seconds each day in the U.S. The report also notes that more than four children die in the U.S. each day as a result of child abuse.
"Studies conducted by the Child Welfare League of America have found that there is an increased likelihood of future delinquency and crime in children experiencing abuse and neglect," said Jo Prout, executive director of CASA of Cherokee Country. "A child abused or neglected has a 59 percent increased likelihood of being arrested as a juvenile, a 28 percent increased likelihood of being arrested as an adult, and a 30 percent increased likelihood of being arrested for a violent crime."
Prout said that in the U.S., one in every four female children will be sexually abused by age 16, and one in every six male children will be sexually abused by age 16. A history of child abuse or neglect has been associated with increased risk of mental illness, substance abuse, developmental disabilities and learning problems, social problems with other children and with adults, lack of success in school, alcohol and other drug use, domestic violence, chronic illnesses.
A recent report by Childhelp USA states that abused teens are more likely to engage in sexual risk taking, with 25 percent more likely to experience teen pregnancy. In addition, as many as two-thirds of the people in treatment for drug abuse in the U.S. report being abused as children. More than a third of adolescents with a report of abuse or neglect will have a substance use disorder before their 18th birthday - three times as likely as those without a report of abuse or neglect.
"Sadly, 30 percent of abused and neglected children will abuse and-or neglect their own children, 80 percent of 21-year-old individuals who were abused as children meet criteria for at least one psychological disorder, 14 percent of all men in prison in the U.S. were abused as children, and 36 percent of all women in prison in the U.S. were abused as children," Prout said.
One analysis of the immediate and long-term economic impact of child abuse and neglect suggests that child maltreatment costs the U.S. approximately $124 billion each year. The estimated annual cost of child abuse to the state of Oklahoma is nearly $100 million.
To prevent victims of child abuse and neglect from falling through the cracks of the legal system when they are deemed unsafe in their home/family circumstances, to speak up for the safety and well-being of children who have suffered from abuse and neglect, and to ensure that the children's best interests remain at the forefront of court proceedings, CASA of Cherokee Country trains community volunteers age 21 or older to advocate for young victims of abuse and neglect in Cherokee County District Court, Adair County District Court, and Cherokee Nation Tribal Court.
During the calendar year 2017, CASA volunteers served 71 abused children in the three court systems of CASA's service area; the cases of 35 of those children were closed and the children were placed in safe, permanent homes. Of the 71 young victims served in 2017, 35 were male, 36 were female; 15 were Caucasian, one was African-American, 55 were Native American - Native American children are served in all three courts, not exclusively in tribal court; 33 children were age newborn-five years of age, 25 were ages 6-11, and 13 were ages 12-18.
In 2017, CASA of Cherokee Country child advocates donated more than 1,230 hours of time and drove 12,897 miles to serve the children in their cases. Time devoted by CASA volunteers to their cases equaled $29,704 in donated services.
"Child abuse is epidemic in our state and across the country," said Prout. "A report from the Children's Defense Fund tells us that in the U.S. a child is abused or neglected every 47 seconds, and right now there are more than 102,000 abused and neglected children in foster care awaiting adoption in the U.S. In calendar year 2017, there were more than 15,000 children in DHS custody in Oklahoma; in the three courts served by CASA of Cherokee Country, there are presently nearly 300 young victims of abuse and neglect."
The need for more volunteers to speak for abused and neglected children is real and ongoing. CASA of Cherokee Country will offer volunteer advocate training in May, August, and October.
"No special experience or education is required, just a desire to help an abused child find a safe, permanent home," said Prout.
For information, call CASA, 918-456-8788 or 866-400-8788, visit www.cherokeecasa.org , or stop by the office at 304 W. Keetoowah St. in Tahlequah.
Websites shutting down across the internet after Congress passes sex-trafficking law
by Susan Yoshihara
April 4, 2018 ( C-Fam ) – Many websites are shutting down or curtailing their sex trade just weeks after the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed similar anti-human trafficking bills that would allow victims to sue the websites on which they were bought and sold.
"Illegal commercial sex advertising platforms and forums have been blowing up, and johns have been calling our office and messaging us left and right, indicating that Congress has taken a powerful first step," Congressman Ann Wagner's staff told an anti-trafficking coalition on Thursday. "FOSTA-SESTA is disrupting demand for sex trafficking and shaking up the illegal commercial sex industry."
Rachel Wagley, Wagner's legislative director, told the coalition that many websites traffickers use to buy and sell victims for sex have shut down or curtailed business in just the last week.
Cityvibe shut down completely, the Erotic Review, the "Yelp of the sex trade" where men rate their experiences with trafficking victims, shut down advertisement boards in the United States, NightShift shut down to review policies, VerifyHim shut down its "newsreel," Craigslist personals section was shut down, Reddit's prostitution-related "subreddits" were marked private and the site instituted new policies banning the sale of sex acts and drugs, Google reportedly deleted its publicly shared commercial sex-related advertising, WordPress.com reportedly removed its commercial sex-related advertising sites, Paypal reportedly disabled advertised accounts for commercial sex-related payment, Rubmaps, Erotic Monkey, and USA Sex Guide had extended maintenance periods over the weekend, suggesting upcoming changes due to the new law, Microsoft is issuing new Terms of Service effective May 1st covering all of its platforms, including Skype and Xbox, to urge users not to use the services to share pornography or criminal activity.
The sex trafficking sites Cityxguide and Backpage were reportedly seeing a surge in use by sex traffickers as the other sites shut down.
Backpage was the subject of the Netflix movie I am Jane Doe by director Mary Mazzio and producer Alec Sokolow which demonstrated that judges and state attorneys-general were powerless to prosecute traffickers because of a clause in a 1996 law called the Communications Decency Act. Tech giants like Google fought Wagner's bill, claiming the 1996 law gave them immunity, before finally succumbing to pressure last November.
The two new bills amend the 1996 law. FOSTA passed the House on February 27 th . The Senate passed SESTA last week.
"FOSTA-SESTA set out to establish a meaningful criminal deterrent, so that fewer businesses would ever enter the online sex trafficking industry," Wagley said. As a result, sex traffickers have been calling Wagner's office to demand other venues open up.
"Criminal sex buyers have been arguing that they should have the right to buy sex," Wagley said. "There are 3,142 counties/county equivalents in the U.S., and prostitution is legal in only two of them. And even in those two counties, the promotion of prostitution – at which FOSTA aims – is illegal."
Congressman Wagner addressed the UN Economic and Social Council high level panel on trafficking last year asking Americans to urge their representatives to support FOSTA, which she co-sponsored. Wagner told UN diplomats that the "Internet has become a red-light district," and that it was time to shut down online trafficking. The event was co-sponsored by the Group of the Friends of the Family, and Civil Society for the Family, which is co-chaired by C-Fam, publisher of the Friday Fax.
No Safe Harbor: Sex Trafficking in the United States
by South Brooklyn Network
Domestic sex trafficking in the United States is a nationwide endemic?—?a form of modern-day slavery that entraps thousands. Traffickers target victims, often teenagers and young women, who are homeless, live in foster care, or have a history of childhood sexual abuse. Victims are forced and coerced to work on the streets, but also in hotels, apartments, truck stops and strip clubs where the crime is largely undetected.
The Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs presents No Safe Harbor ?—?an illumination on this harsh reality by Getty Images photographer Robert Nickelsberg. The exhibition, opening at Fordham University Rose Hill in Canisius Hall on April 5, highlights domestic sex trafficking through a variety of angles: women and girls trapped in a cycle of exploitation; traffickers and johns who fuel the trade; advocates and law enforcement officials tackling the problem; and survivors who have had the chance to start a new life.
As a $99 billion global illicit industry, sex trafficking flourishes due to high demand and lack of accountability for the buyers and pimps who perpetuate this grave injustice?—?one which we have a humanitarian obligation to end.
“Domestic sex trafficking remains a poorly understood public health concern. I'd like to see a qualitative change in public awareness of domestic sex trafficking, its underlying causes and misconceptions about women who fall victim to sexual exploitation, coercion and violence. Society in general remains ill-equipped to deal with maintaining adequate funding for child welfare officers, the retraining of law enforcement officers and an improved justice system.
Members of the public remain unaware of the number of women and men who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault that often leads to prostitution and sex trafficking. Our social services safety net has failed to recognize and act upon the breadth and extent of the causes that force individuals into sex trafficking. The causes rather than the crime cannot be overlooked and left to be solved by law enforcement officials,” said Nickelsberg.
In the United States, between 244,000 and 300,000 American children are at risk of commercial sexual exploitation, according to Polaris Project. In 2008, New York became the first state in the country to pass a Safe Harbor Law that prohibits the prosecution of children who have been sexually exploited. Even so, victims are arrested at much higher rates than buyers and traffickers. Additionally, victims of trafficking above the age of 18 are still culpable for prostitution-related offenses, even if they were first forced into the illicit industry as children and are entrapped in a vicious cycle of control.
“I was affected by the survivor's narrative related to their childhood experiences, their vulnerability and traumatic circumstances they lived through as teenagers before they were pulled into commercial sex trafficking. From the law enforcement side, the major impact for me was the number of women I photographed who are put onto the street each day and the need for trained police officers who understand that the women arrested are not criminals but victims,” said Nickelsberg.
The exhibition is open for viewing from Monday to Friday, 10 AM to 4 PM in Canisius Hall (2nd floor) at Fordham University Rose Hill. The exhibition opens on April 5th from 4 PM to 6 PM and a panel discussion with advocates and Robert Nickelsberg on April 24th at 6:30 PM. Registration for both is now open on Eventbrite.
Backpage.com shutdown by FBI, seized by feds
by Chuch Goudie, Barb Markoff and Christine Tressel
CHICAGO (WLS) -- A popular online sex marketplace has been seized by federal investigators.
The website Backpage.com has been under investigation for several years amid allegations it was used to facilitate prostitution and money laundering.
On Friday an electronic sticker was slapped onto the online classified ad site, stating it has been seized by the FBI, U.S. postal inspectors and the IRS.
Until this action Backpage.com had been the nation's second largest classified ad service; $135-million in income according to the most recent figures. Most of its income is generated by ads for sex services. Illinois is among the states lining up against Backpage.com, with Cook County sheriff Tom Dart leading a charge for the last decade to stop the website, saying it was a pimping service and a purveyor of child sex crimes.
Friday night Dart told the ABC7 I-Team he is "ecstatic that after many years a website involved with sex trafficking, child trafficking and prostitution has been shut down."
One lawsuit filed against Sheriff Dart by Backpage is still winding through federal court. But until Friday the website had continued to operate, shielded by free speech protections.
The Justice Department promised more information on this would be released Friday evening, but nothing came from from DOJ on possible charges or arrests. The online takedown notice did not detail the reason for the seizure but noted that Justice Department's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, as well as the offices of the Texas attorney general and California attorney general, were involved.
Current anti-trafficking laws cannot be applied to websites such as Backpage. But federal legislation that is awaiting the president's signature will make it easier for prosecutors and sex trafficking victims to take legal action against websites that host ads for prostitution. After both the House and Senate recently passed the bill, the largest classified ad site, Craigslist, preemptively shut down its personals section.
Child sexual abuse: trauma, rehabilitation and hope
The human mind is complex but it has one overriding goal: survival. And if memory of a violation can threaten this, then the memory can be blunted, altered or even deleted. We speak to child sexual abuse survivors and experts, on how they deal with the trauma that may be only partly remembered but is fully felt.
Child sexual abuse is more common than you think. A government-commissioned first-ever survey on child abuse in the country (done in 2007) found that more than 53 per cent of children in India are subjected to sexual abuse. The study also reported that 50 per cent of abusers are known to the child or are in a position of trust and responsibility and most children had not reported the matter to anyone. There are several reasons behind this. Says psychiatrist Ambika Bhatt, “Not being able to comprehend that it was abuse, lack of support, fear of stigmatisation, fear of rejection by family, psychological impacts such as aggression, and the mind's complex defense mechanism, are just a few of the reasons.”
Take the case of Mohan*, who was sexually abused for over two years by an older cousin when he was seven. He finally told his parents about it when he turned 18. Because, it was at the age of 18 that he came across a ‘trigger'—a man tried to grope him in the train—and it brought back another bad memory. Social activist Harrish Iyer says, “Your mind shuts out those memories by creating blind spots. I was sexually abused from the age of 7 to 18, and if you had recorded my statement at the age of 18, it would have been very different from the one I would give now.”
Even now, he says, when he speaks about the abuse in different forums, those blind spots start opening up. “For instance, I didn't speak about being gangraped until quite recently. There are a lot of things that your mind shuts out. I think it is a survival instinct. If I had remembered everything, I would probably have been a manic depressive. As a child, I wouldn't have been able to cope with the whole truth.” That is why there are often discrepancies in the statements of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) survivors—like in the case of Dylan Farrow, who accused her adoptive father and Hollywood director Woody Allen of sexually molesting her at the age of seven. Sadly, the air of disbelief created by those discrepancies is usually what sexual predators rely on when they abuse or molest children.
The legal angle
While the anti-rape laws in India protect only women, fortunately, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012, goes a step further, by acknowledging and addressing the fact that boys can be sexually abused too. In fact, some studies have shown that abuse is more common among boys than girls. “While the law is stringent, its implementation leaves a lot to be desired,” says Harrish. In May 2013, Harrish complained against an unidentified man who bragged about having sex with a minor on Facebook. However, nine months later, although repeated complaints at several police stations as well as with the cyber cell resulted in the tracking of the IP address and the person behind the post, no action has been taken against him. “The law also needs to understand that a survivor's statement will change and evolve. It cannot be taken down at the crime scene, right after the crime. With 11 years of abuse behind me, one cannot expect me to remember it all and talk about it in one go,” he explains.
Scars and aftershocks
CSA leaves a huge impact, and sometimes it takes a lifetime for a person to deal with the fallout. Says counsellor Anandi Rane, “Many times, patients may have symptoms such as aggressive behaviour, infidelity and other psychological issues. But a few sessions reveal the actual problem: sexual abuse.” Survivors may show symptoms such as constant need for approval and appreciation, etc. Sexual abuse often affects development, particularly the sexual development of the child (they may either become hyper sexual or hypo sexual); they are unable to have relationships, suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, phobias such as fear of dark places etc, she says.
Mistaking sex for love
Dr David Finklehor, an American sociologist known for his research on CSA, came up with a model that charts its impact. “According to him, there are four things generally seen in a CSA survivor. Betrayal and trust issues, because of which they are unable to build and maintain trusting relationships, powerlessness—because of the power dynamic between them and the abuser, they feel helpless and cannot take charge of their lives—stigmatisation and traumatic sexualisation, which is quite unique to CSA survivors. Because the abuser has used inappropriate ways to seek sexual gratification, the child's understanding of sexuality becomes dysfunctional. Sometimes, they equate sex with love. This is because the child has experienced sexual activity without the right context.
“Your idea of sex and sexuality gets warped,” agrees Harrish. “There are cases of CSA survivors who think it is okay to abuse children because it happened to them and they believe that's what happens to everyone. Then there are others who have tendencies of wanting to gratify people by offering sex. I myself took a number of years to understand my sexuality.”
Erasing the silence
Arpan, a Mumbai-based NGO for counselling and spreading awareness about CSA, counsels about 15 survivors a week. Counselling involves stabilising and trauma processing over 15 to 20 sessions. “But,” says Pooja Taparia, who runs Arpan, “I notice that most patients do not stay for the trauma processing part—they leave as soon as they start feeling slightly better. Also, trauma processing is a very painful experience—you have to revisit the past, which not many are willing to.”
Nevertheless, the process helps you heal. Trauma processing techniques like hypnotherapy and eye movement desensitisation reprocessing (EMDR) help relieve those repressed emotions and are fantastic tools for healing, she adds.
And then there is also, what Harrish calls, ‘the Flintstone effect'. Whenever a person opens up on CSA, he/she becomes a catalyst for another person going through it. He recalls how he received several emails after his appearance on the TV talk show Satyamev Jayate, asking for help in dealing with sexual abuse. He says it is the first step towards accepting and healing.
“We went to rescue one girl and found 14 others”
Triveni Acharya, founder of Rescue Foundation, Mumbai, talks about her efforts to rescue and rehabilitate trafficked women and children.
As a young journalist working with a Gujarati newspaper, back in 1993, Triveni Acharya was full of fire, and already a social activist at heart. “One of my assignments was to cover the late actor-turned-politician Sunil Dutt's visit to Kamathipura on Raksha Bandhan, when commercial sex workers would tie a rakhi on his wrist,” she recalls. On that particular visit, she found a young girl, perhaps 12 years old, cowering in fear and crying for help. It was the first glimpse Triveni got into the inner workings of a brothel. That one visit changed the course of Triveni's life. Today, the social activist heads Rescue Foundation, which has rescued over 5,000 young girls, victims of human trafficking. These girls are from various parts of the country as well as from Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, and some are as young as 10.
About six months after she first visited the brothel, Triveni, along with her husband Balkrishna Acharya, and officials from the local police station, managed to conduct a raid at the brothel. “We had gone to rescue one girl, but instead we found 14 others who said they wanted to leave.”
The girls had stories of horror. Those who refused or attempted to run away were beaten by the gharwalis (Madams), raped, and even had chilli powder poured in their vagina. And since they had been trafficked when they were very young, they did not remember where they were from. Triveni and her husband decided that merely rescuing them in a raid was not enough—they needed to be rehabilitated, reintegrated
and repatriated. And that is what Rescue Foundation does through its three shelters in Mumbai, Thane and Pune.
Dealing with rape survivors is an unfortunate side-effect of the rescue work, since many commercial sex workers are sexually abused. “Many people ask me why I am involved in rescue work. It is dangerous, I often receive threats. But when I see a rape survivor or a commercial sex worker rebuild her life and smile again, I find that it was all worth the effort.”
Talk about sex
Pooja Taparia, who runs Arpan, an NGO for counselling and spreading awareness about Child Sexual Abuse talks about why it is important to address the issue at home and in schools.
What is the right time to talk to a child about personal safety? According to me, as soon as a child can start talking and understanding basic things. I recommend teaching children at the age of 2.5 to 3 years about private parts and how they should not allow anyone to touch them inappropriately and tell their parents if someone does. We are currently doing the programme with 6 to 13 year olds. We have helped them with skills on how they can say no and get away from an unsafe situation and how to approach an adult with a complaint. And, most importantly, how it is not their fault and they are not to blame.
A year after we started in 2008, when I revisited the children I had addressed, I noticed that the children remembered 100 per cent of what had been taught to them about the difference between safe and unsafe touches. They even said they found it useful in their day-to-day life. Whenever we organise a talk in a school, about 10 per cent of the children we address approach us and share an issue—an ongoing abuse, peer touching, bullying, etc. We approach all schools, municipal or private, in Mumbai and Thane area, randomly, as all children are vulnerable. At a time when sex education is still not compulsory in schools, it is an uphill task. But I do notice a trend where more and more principals are keen to do this programme in schools, although some of the older schools are not so open. We also have sessions with parents, where we have seen an 85 per cent increase in awareness among them.
There are two huge myths regarding child sexual abuse (CSA). One is that it largely happens to girls. But the truth is boys are just as vulnerable and just as likely to not report it to anyone. The other myth is that CSA makes you homosexual. Though CSA survivors do have problems dealing with the trauma, the truth is there is no corroborative research to prove any link between CSA and homosexuality.
However, awareness has certainly increased. Post movies like Highway and shows like Satyamev Jayate, for instance, we got quite a few calls and people who came for counselling. Usually it is either some encouragement or push from a friend, something they have seen on TV or film, or an article they have read which acts as a trigger that makes people approach a counsellor. The impact of CSA is the same on the child anywhere in the world. The West is more open to talking about the issue, seeking help, and organising awareness programmes. However, in India, there is a huge culture of silence around it. And that is why addressing the issue in schools and in homes is so important.
11 Common Symptoms Experienced by Victims Of Childhood Sexual Abuse
by Mihaela Bernard, MA, LCPC
Recognizing common symptoms of childhood sexual abuse can help parents, caregivers, teachers, social workers, counselors and childcare staff alert the appropriate authorities and take proper steps to protect the welfare and safety of our children. It is far too often that I hear stories of adults, who fail to recognize that something is wrong with their child and attribute concerning changes in their kids' behavior to temperament, age or other misguided explanations.
Because of this, I want to take a quick look at 11 common psychiatric symptoms experienced by victims of childhood sexual abuse but please keep in mind that this is not a diagnostic guide or a substitute for professional consultation. I have tried to clump together common symptoms that bring people (both children and adults) to the therapy office due to past history of childhood sexual abuse but this is by no means a comprehensive list and any of those symptoms taken separately may have other etiologies.
Depending on the age, specific nature of the sexual trauma and the temperament and coping skills of each person, the clinical presentation may look differently. If you have experienced any form of childhood trauma, abuse or neglect, you may identity with some of the behaviors and patterns discussed below. In that case, I would highly suggest seeking out some help.
1. Dissociation. Dissociation is probably the most common defense mechanism the mind employs to protect itself from the trauma of sexual assault. It is the escape of the mind from the body in times of extreme stress, sense of powerlessness, pain and suffering.
2. Self-Injurious Behavior (cutting, self-mutilation). Self-mutilation is another way survivors of trauma employ in an effort to cope with the experience of severe emotional and psychological pain. Some research shows that during cutting or self-mutilation, the brain releases natural opioids that provide a temporary experience or sense of calm and peace that many, who cut, find soothing.
3. Fear and anxiety. An overactive stress response system* is among the most common psychiatric symptoms in survivors of sexual trauma. This is manifested in extreme fear, social anxiety, panic attacks, phobias and hyper vigilance. It is as if the body is in a state of constant alert and cannot relax.
4. Nightmares. Just like the intrusive terrorizing memories of war veterans, survivors of sexual abuse often experience nightmares, intrusive thoughts and disrupted sleep.
5. Substance Abuse. Abusing substances is a common coping mechanism for people, who have experienced trauma. Even the “normal” experimentation with drugs of adolescence is not so “normal,” especially if you raised your kid to know the impact of drugs on the central nervous system, the consequences of addiction and the long-term effects of habitual drug use.
6. Hypersexualized behavior. This is a common reaction to pre-mature sexual exposure or a traumatic sexual experience. If a child is too young to be excessively masturbating or is engaging in pre-mature sexual play or behavior, this is typically a sign that the child has witnessed, been a participant in or has been exposed to adult sexuality. In adolescence and adulthood, this can take the form of promiscuity, illegal sexual activity such as prostitution or participation in pornography, escort services, etc.
7. Psychotic-like symptoms. Paranoia, hallucinations or brief psychotic episodes are not uncommon for survivors of child sexual abuse.
8. Mood fluctuations, anger and irritability. Children are often unable to verbalize their feelings so instead, they act out on them. Sometimes, the same is true for adults. Mood fluctuations, irritability and disrupted neurotransmitter systems in the brain that present as depression, mania, anger and anxiety are common among trauma survivors.
9. Disrupted relationships and difficulties maintaining long-term friendships or romantic partners. Following the aftermath of sexual abuse, people are not experienced as safe, trustworthy and available so maintaining long-term relationships based on honestly is difficult and often tumultuous.
10. Regressive behaviors (mostly in children). Enuresis (bed wetting) and encopresis (involuntary soiling ones' underwear with feces) in a previously potty-trained child, unexplained and sudden temper tantrums or violent outbursts, as well as clingy, uncontrollable or impulsive behaviors that were previously missing from a child's way of being with others is another common indicator of something gone terribly wrong.
11. Physical complaints, psychosomatic symptoms or autoimmune responses of the body. Many clinicians from different schools of thought have written on the subject of the way the body stores and remembers trauma in response to the mind rejecting, forgetting or dissociating from the experience. Psychoanalysis terms these reactions “unconscious” as they express an experience out of language, out of words and often out of what is perceiveable by an individual.
When the unthinkable happens such as in several of the clinical cases described by Dr. Bruce Perry in his book “The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog and Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook: What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us about Loss, Love and Healing, ” the mind copes by mobilizing the body to express something that is otherwise inexpressible with words. We see in Dr. Perry's neuroscientific approach to the understanding and treatment of traumatized children how the physical brain responds to the experience of trauma and how the mind communicates and eventually heals from this experience in the safety of the therapeutic relationship.
For more information on this subject, visit www.childtrauma.org
Hundreds of alleged child abuse cases not being investigated due to lack of social workers
by Brigette Namata
HONOLULU (KHON2) - Hundreds of alleged child abuse or neglect cases are not being investigated in the state, because there aren't enough social workers to handle the caseloads.
It's a problem with potentially severe consequences, and lawmakers are now stepping in.
A decade ago, hundreds of state positions were cut due to the recession. Several social workers in the state's Child Welfare Services branch lost their jobs.
Ten years later, the jobs were never filled.
Now, state social workers are swamped with double or triple the amount of caseloads a typical social worker would handle.
The lack of resources has Joseph O'Connell concerned. The Big Island resident says he grew up in the foster care system.
"We grew up in a house with a lot of drugs, a lot of domestic violence," he explained. "I'm one of five children, four different dads. At the age of 8, my mom was in a long-term prison sentence. My dad committed suicide, so we went into foster care."
O'Connell credits his social worker, Lois Smith, for taking him off what he called a bad path.
"I dropped out of school, wasn't doing well. Because of the work the state did through great social work, I was able to get back on track and get my GED. Then I ended up graduating UH Hilo with a bachelor's in economics. Lois saved me and my siblings' life, and my future," he said.
Hawaii's social workers are swamped with cases of child abuse or neglect. There are 326 cases currently on backlog.
"Because they're short staffed, they're taking double and triple the caseloads. They can't continue to go on," said state Rep. John Mizuno, chair of the Health and Human Services Committee.
Mizuno says social worker positions in the Child Welfare Services branch need to be filled immediately.
"We have kids at risk of abuse. God forbid, what if a fatality happens?" O'Connell said. "The best way of preventing future abuse of children is to take care of the children we have now and make sure they get on the right track, spend the money on salaries, not settlements."
According to Mizuno, the state legislature would need to provide at least $3 million to fill all 52 vacant social worker positions.
"At this point, what is a life? A child's life is priceless, so the state needs to step up and fill those positions. We need to come up with the money and we need to get these case workers hired right away," said Mizuno.
In an email response, Department of Human Services public information officer Keopu Reelitz wrote:
"We have 180 social worker / human services positions. These positions are professional staff who take on a number of roles which include assessment, permanency, licensing, intake and voluntary case management. Some of these staff interact directly with clients and others provides support for our programs and service providers. Not all of them are front-line CWS workers.
"As of a vacancy report at the close of 2017, there are 46 vacancies.
"We are currently working statewide within our department and in collaboration with the Department of Human Resources Development (DHRD) to address vacancies in CWS. We appreciate that we've also been able to work with the current legislature to address recruitment issues. Social work in general is a difficult career, and working in Child Welfare Services can be even more challenging due to the kinds of cases our team takes on. We know that addressing recruitment (filling vacancies) as well as improving retention are both integral to maintaining a full team.
"We do want to mention that much of our staff have been with Child Welfare Services for more than 10 years, showing their dedication to improving the well-being of vulnerable children, adults and the families we serve.
"In calendar year 2017, a total of 23 of those social worker / human services positions separated from the department. Of that total, 3 were vested retirements (meaning vested in the state retirement system)."
Awareness, prevention keys in April
by Consuelo Contreras
VALLEY — April is both Child Abuse Prevention Month (CAPM) and Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), and Tu Casa, Inc. would like to invite everyone to support the cause. Throughout the month of April, Tu Casa will be raising awareness by promoting the colors royal blue for CAPM and teal for SAAM amongst other activities and educational resources. We want to educate everyone about abuse and help prevent it in our community.
Child Abuse Prevention Month is focused on fostering great childhoods in our community. The prevention is to encourage others that child abuse and neglect is preventable. It can be as simple as supporting children and families to live healthy, safe lives. Prevent Child Abuse America states most adults who help prevent child abuse and neglect assist by mentoring children or parents, donating time or money, or advocating for children and families.
Sexual Assault Awareness Month is a campaign to raise public awareness about sexual assault and educate the community on how to prevent sexual violence. In 1976, Take Back the Night was organized to protest rape and sexual assault that women encountered walking the streets at night. Over time, the organization became a movement across the United States. By the late 1990s, advocates began coordinating events throughout the month of April, and SAAM became observed in 2001. In 2009, President Obama proclaimed April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted and every eight minutes, the victim is a child. About 3 percent, or 1 in 33 of American males have experienced an attempted or completed rape in his lifetime. One out of every six American females has been a victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. The majority of sexual assaults occur at or near the victim's home. Sexual violence can have long-term effects on victims such as PTSD, contemplated suicide, distress, and drug/alcohol abuse along with STIs and/or pregnancies.
As stated with Child Maltreatment 2015, there were 7.2 million child abuse cases reported: 75.3 percent child victims were neglected, 17.2 percent child victims were physically abused, and 8.4 percent child victims were sexually abused. More than 27 percent of the reported child victims were younger than 3 years of age. The Child Maltreatment 2015 also reports children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect, as it is greatly under-reported.
Tu Casa, Inc. and the San Luis Valley Children's Advocacy Center are non-profit agencies that help adults and children live free of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. The agency provides services to all six counties in the San Luis Valley with a 24-hour crisis/assistance hotline. Tu Casa, Inc. provided services to approximately 326 people in 2017 and the SLV Children's Advocacy Center assisted about 137 children in 2017. All services are free, confidential, and available in English and Spanish. Our mission is to support healthy, safe, violence free lives for all children and adults in the San Luis Valley.
During the month of April, we will be promoting the colors royal blue and teal. On April 6th, royal blue was worn to promote Child Abuse Prevention Month (CAPM) and on April 25th, teal along with any and all denim will be worn to promote Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Denim Day is a campaign to honor a victim who was raped about 20 years ago in Italy by a driving instructor. The Italian Supreme Court overturned the rape conviction, because the justices felt the victim's jeans were too tight, thus she must have helped her rapist take them off; therefore, the justices were implying it was consensual sex.
Along with promoting the colors royal blue and teal, Shelly Martinez and Theresa Ortega of the SLV Children's Advocacy Center presented at Lunch N Learn at Hospice del Valle on Wednesday, April 4. Also, Tu Casa, Inc. and SLV Children's Advocacy Center are joining with Alamosa Department of Human Services for a Child Abuse Carnival on Saturday, April 14th from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Alamosa Recreation Center. All month long the Alamosa Elementary students will be participating in a poster contest, with the theme “Speak Up Who's Your Safe Adult.” The Alamosa Elementary School libraries, Southern Peaks Library, Adams State University Nielsen Library along with Trinidad State Junior College will have display boards about Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Child abuse and sexual assault can no longer be ignored and we must work together to raise awareness and end the violence. If you need help or know someone who does, call our local 24-hour crisis/assistance hotline at 719-589-2465. Also, you can donate or volunteer to help honor those who have been impacted by an abuse. You may go to our website, www.slvtucasa.net , and click on the link to donate or contact us.