Sex crimes against children far outnumber adult-victim cases in South Carolina
by Tim Smith
COLUMBIA – By the time charges were brought by the Greenville County Sheriff's Office in 2015, Gabriel Betancourt Jr., a 33-year-old man, had been sexually abusing a 10-year-old girl since she was 5.
Two years later Betancourt was convicted of two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor, third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and lewd act on a minor. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
His case was one of 2,086 sexual criminal charges prosecuted last year in South Carolina in which the victims were children, according to a review of court data by The Greenville News. That's almost three times the 769 cases of sexual crimes in which adults were victims, court records show.
Analysis revealed that the conviction rate for child sex crimes is low, the cases are difficult to prosecute and they often result in plea deals.
The 2,086 cases involving children reflect an increase of almost 18 percent from the year before, according to records. The cases reflect only those victims who choose to come forward and where authorities decide to pursue criminal charges.
The state has seen an increase in sexual assault cases involving children over the past decade while national trends reflect significant decreases. According to the Crimes Against Children Research Center, substantiated cases of child sex abuse across the nation declined by 53 percent from 1990 to 2007. From 1993 to 2005, according to the center, sexual assaults against teenagers declined by 52 percent.
Like within the state, across the nation sexual crimes against adults are outnumbered by child sex crimes, according to surveys and research. According to the group Darkness To Light, which works to battle child sexual abuse, nearly 70 percent of all reported sexual assaults reported nationally are against those age 17 and younger.
The South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division in its latest crime book in 2015 reported that 53 percent of sexual battery victims, including victims of rape, sodomy and sexual assault with an object, are age 17 or younger.
“It's horrible. It's scandalous,” said Laura Hudson, executive director of the South Carolina Crime Victim's Council. “It's unacceptable that so many of our young people are in those kind of circumstances.”
The number of court cases of child sex crimes in every state is unknown. Officials with Georgia's court administration say they do not track such aggregate data. North Carolina's court system does, though, and it has reported more than 3,500 child sex cases for the same time period and about 800 cases of sex crimes in which adults were victims.
The gap between sexual crimes targeting children and those victimizing adults is known by those who regularly handle such cases, as is the increase in recent years of child sex-crime cases in South Carolina. Such increases may reflect more of an increase in reporting than actual incidents, officials say.
Hudson said she believes South Carolina has “an inordinate amount of pedophiles.”
“Some of it comes because they are victims themselves,” she said. “Some of it happens because we have a society inundated with sexual messages and sexual violence.”
Solicitor Walt Wilkins, the chief prosecutor for Greenville and Pickens counties and a former U.S. attorney in South Carolina, said he doesn't know if the increase in the number of child sex crimes in South Carolina represents anything particular about the state.
Wilkins said he has 205 cases pending of crimes alleging some type of child abuse, the most since he took office in 2011. He said he has seven full-time lawyers in his office to prosecute such cases.
“From my perspective, one child who has been abused is a failure on so many levels because in my experience of dealing with young victims of criminal sexual conduct crimes, it's hard to restore their faith in humanity after they have undergone such a traumatic experience,” he said.
There are more cases because there is more education about what constitutes abuse and more dialogue in the community about abuse, Wilkins said. Child advocacy centers such as the Julie Valentine Center in Greenville help address the issue by offering forensic medical exams, forensic interviews of children, therapy and community education.
“We had a case last month, and it was the result of someone coming to school and talking about OK touching and not-OK touching,” Wilkins said. “And this individual victim did not realize that what was going on with her was not OK. She did not have the maturity to understand that.”
There also are more resources in place to help victims and their parents. Wilkins said law-enforcement agencies aggressively pursue such allegations, contributing to the increase in cases.
Shauna Galloway-Williams, executive director of the Julie Valentine Center, said about 800 children come to the center every a year.
“When you look at sexual assault, the vast number of victims that are reported are under the age of 18,” she said. “The thing with adults is that it doesn't necessarily have to be reported. With children, it's a mandated report.”
Many adults choose not to report sexual assaults, she said, while those coming in contact with children, such as teachers, by law must report abuse. The Julie Valentine Center estimates only about one in three rapes are reported.
Galloway-Williams believes the increase in awareness also has led to an increase in reports from those who are required to report abuse. And she believes there could be more, still.
“You'd be shocked at the number of mandated reporters who do not know they are mandated reporters,” she said. “How can you hold someone legally and ethically responsible for something they don't even understand?”
Adults aren't the only perpetrators.
“You have 12-year-olds being charged with crimes on 6-year-olds,” Wilkins said. “We've even seen an uptick on them. That's a question I've been struggling with about why that is.”
Difficult to prosecute
Both Wilkins and Galloway-Williams said sexual-assault cases are challenging to win, and court records show low conviction rates for both adult and child cases.
For offenses with the most cases involving child victims, the conviction rates range from 13.7 percent for lewd act or attempted act on a minor, the sexually inappropriate touching of someone under 16 that does not end in intercourse, to 43.3 percent for criminal sexual conduct, what most would call rape, or attempted conduct on a minor, according to a statistical report on the state's judicial website for the 2016-17 fiscal year.
Overall, the conviction rate for the child sex offenses with the most cases last year ranged from 27 percent to 35 percent convictions, records show.
For adult sexual offenses during the same time period, the conviction rates range from 21.2 percent for criminal sexual conduct second-degree to 43.8 percent for indecent exposure.
“The challenges in prosecuting a child sex case are numerous,” Wilkins said. “They are some of the most difficult cases to try, and we try more of those than any other type of case.”
He said one reason for more trials is many offenders do not want to acknowledge they have had sex with a child.
Proving a child sex case is challenging because the witness is young and has to tell strangers in a courtroom what happened to them, he said.
“A lot of times our evidence is the victim's statement,” Wilkins said. “They are subject to cross-examination. Does a 10-year-old say things that are inconsistent along the way? Yeah, a lot of times they do. Does that mean they are lying? Absolutely not.”
Another challenge, Wilkins said, is that the victims have to confront the adult offender in court, which can sometimes prove to be emotionally difficult.
“Many times they change their story on the stand and balk,” he said. “They can't go through with it for whatever reason. I think it's a pretty high burden to put on such a young person who is a victim.”
Sometimes, he said, prosecutors must plead the cases to another charge, at times because the child does not have enough emotional strength to get through a trial.
“A lot of times it's more traumatic for them to go through a trial than it is to put this person in jail for a long time,” he said. “We have to make that assessment along the way many times."
Threat of registry limits convictions
The average sentence for an adult having sex with a child is three to six years, Hudson said. She said family court judges, in an effort to keep juveniles charged with sex crimes from being listed for life on the state sex-offender registry, allow perpetrators to plead to assault and battery or other non-sex-crime charges.
“We're not locking people up,” she said. “Much of it is being pled down to assault or battery... The family court is hiding people by the way they treat perpetrators.”
Hudson said she wishes there was a way of removing the names from the registry after 10 years rather than accepting pleas to assault charges.
In most of cases of sexual assault, Galloway-Williams said, no matter the age of the victim, the key piece of evidence is the victim's statement. Many victims do not tell about the assault right away, with some delays lasting weeks, months or years. Men tend to wait longer, sometimes decades, she said.
DNA evidence, which appears plentiful on television crime dramas, is more rare.
One tool investigators now have is videotaped interviews of children conducted by forensic interviewers such as Galloway-Williams. There are 16 child-advocacy centers in South Carolina such as the Valentine Center that can conduct forensic interviews that, under certain conditions, can be used in court.
Having a videotaped interview can be valuable when trials may not occur for more than a year, Galloway-Williams said.
Adult cases can be complicated by a victim's use of alcohol or drugs. Children's cases may be complicated by behavior problems, promiscuity, risky behaviors or mental-health conditions.
“Sometimes those things may also be used against the child, to portray the child who might engage in vindictive behavior or lying or other things,” she said. “What needs to be known is a child who is engaging in risky behaviors, who has emotional problems, those kids from the outset are vulnerable to being abused. Offenders will prey on those vulnerabilities, because they know when that child makes an outcry, people are not going to believe them.”
She said most children who seek attention do not want to say, for example, that they have been engaging in sex with their stepfather, their pastor or their youth-group leader.
“That's not the kind of attention children want,” Galloway-Williams said.
She said child-advocacy centers, rape-crisis centers, prosecutors and law enforcement are working more closely now.
Galloway-Williams said one case that stands out in her mind occurred almost a decade ago. An adult was charged with having sex with an 11-year-old girl. There was DNA evidence on the girl's clothing, a rare circumstance, Galloway-Williams said, but the jury found the defendant not guilty.
"I think about how the verdict affects the victim and the victim's family," she said. "It has to be disappointing to go through the process and hear a not-guilty verdict or a hung jury. And yet, I think sometimes it is an empowering experience because at least 12 total strangers and the judge and all these other people in the courtroom at least had to hear their voice and hear what they had to say and listen to them, even if they didn't convict."
Our children deserve better
by the Winchester Sun
On average, five children die every in the U.S. because of abuse and neglect, according to the American Society for the Positive Care of Children (ASPCC). That's the equivalent of a classroom-full of children lost forever at the hands of abusers.
The U.S. has one of the worst records among industrialized nations, and Kentucky has the second-highest rate of child abuse cases in the nation. American children, and especially those in Kentucky, are suffering from this often underestimated and hidden epidemic of abuse, neglect and maltreatment.
According to the 2015 Child Maltreatment Report issued by The Children's Bureau in January 2017, children abuse referrals have increased to 4 million cases in the U.S. Child deaths from abuse and neglect have also increased from 1,580 annually in 2014 to 1,670 in 2015.
Children younger than 1 suffer the highest rates of abuse. Neglect is the No. 1 form of abuse with more than 75 percent of victims neglected; 17 percent at physically abused, 8 percent are sexually abused and 7 percent are psychologically abused.
A parent is most often the perpetrator.
While many die each year, there are likely thousands more cases where the abuse goes unreported. These children survive, but are destined to deal with the negative ramifications of their childhood abuse for the rest of their lives — often prohibiting them from becoming well-functioning, healthy, productive adult citizens.
April is Child Abuse Awarness Month, a time dedicated to honoring and remembering the lives lost too soon to abuse and neglect. The month also serves as an opportunity for community to band together to raise awareness, educate about risk factors and indicators and advocate for children.
We can all take part in reversing this negative trend and helping survivors.
The most important things we can do are advocate and educate.
Learn about the indicators of abuse. There are many, including unexplained bruises, cuts, welts, scars, fractures and burns. There are also behavioral indicators, like aggressiveness or withdrawal. Other obvious signs are children who are frightened of their parents or say they are afraid to go home. Be mindful of children who report being extremely hungry, who exhibit had hygiene or dress inappropriately of the season. Watch for children in your community who are often unsupervised, especially for long periods of time or in potentially dangerous scenarios.
Report potential abuse to the police or by calling the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4ACHILD.
Childhood should be fun. It should be time of growth and learning. It's a time to be nurtured and loved. While it presents its own difficulties, childhood should not include abuse or neglect.
Our children deserve better. There's not excuse for abuse.
Be mindful. Speak up. Stop abuse. Report it. Be an advocate. Help make the world a better place for children.
Child Rescue Coalition and Magnet Forensics Partner to Combat Growing Child Sexual Exploitation Crimes
by Business Wire
BOCA RATON, Fla.--( BUSINESS WIRE )-- Child Rescue Coalition (CRC) , a nonprofit organization dedicated to combatting the sexual exploitation of children, today announced its partnership with Magnet Forensics , a global leader in the development of digital investigation software. The partnership will further enable child exploitation investigators' efforts to better identify and convict perpetrators and use technology to rescue and protect children.
“Child Rescue Coalition and Magnet Forensics share a mission of assisting our partners in law enforcement combat the heinous crime of child sexual exploitation,” stated Carly Yoost, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Child Rescue Coalition. “We at Child Rescue Coalition thank the team at Magnet Forensics for their partnership, sustainable financial support and willingness to integrate technologies to improve child sexual exploitation investigations with the ultimate goal of bringing perpetrators to justice and keeping children safe from sexual exploitation.”
Each year, more than 300,000 children are abused in the U.S. alone, and the number of child exploitation cases globally is rising. Predators are leveraging common technology tools like cell phones, social media, and chat applications to target and coerce children. Increasingly sophisticated technologies, including encryption techniques and peer-to-peer networks on the “Dark Web,” provide easier, more anonymous access to child sexual abuse material, and hide perpetrators' activities. In addition, as many as 85 percent of online offenders viewing child sexual exploitation material are also sexually abusing children.
The partnership between CRC and Magnet Forensics came together on the recommendation of the national police forces in the United Kingdom and Canada.
As part of the partnership, Magnet Forensics will provide a multi-year donation to help fund CRC's operations. “Child Rescue Coalition is an integral partner to law enforcement in the global fight to stop child sexual exploitation,” said Jad Saliba, a former digital forensic examiner, and Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Magnet Forensics. “We at Magnet Forensics are proud to partner with Child Rescue Coalition and support their operations as we share a common mission of keeping children safe from sexual exploitation and bringing perpetrators of these terrible crimes to justice.”
Details on the technology integration and innovation between CRC and Magnet Forensics will be released later in 2018.
About Child Rescue Coalition
CRC, a south Florida-based nonprofit organization with global reach, has spent the past decade building the world's most sophisticated technology to hunt online predators. CRC's Child Protection System (CPS) is utilized by law enforcement officials in all 50 states and 79 countries around the world. The technology allows law enforcement to track predators, monitor their activities, prevent potential assaults, and make important arrests.
Through proactive partnerships with law enforcement, the nonprofit's system has tracked 54 million offenders around the world in order to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse. With a mission of protecting innocence through technology, the technology developed by the CRC has aided in the arrest of 10,000 online predators and rescued over 2,300 abused children in the last four years alone. For more information, visit childrescuecoalition.org or call (561) 208-9000.
About Magnet Forensics
Magnet Forensics is a global leader in the development of digital investigation software that acquires, analyzes and shares evidence from computers, smartphones, the cloud and more. Magnet Forensics tools are used by over 4000 agencies in 93 countries and has been helping investigators fight crime, protect assets and guard national security since 2011. For more information, please visit magnetforensics.com or contact PR@magnetforensics.com . Follow us on Twitter: @MagnetForensics and LinkedIn.
Scotland County DSS moves to curb child abuse
by Beth Lawrence
LAURINBURG – Staff at Scotland County Department of Social Services came together Monday to jump start the annual child abuse prevention and awareness campaign.
April is has been designated as Child Abuse Prevention Month since 1989, and Scotland County DSS is encouraging the community to educate itself on the definition of abuse and how to prevent it.
Abuse is defined by the state as: when a parent or caregiver causes emotional harm, injury, death or allows a risk of harm to a child. Abuse can be the result of direct action or failure to take action that ensures the child's best interest.
According to DSS Director April Snead, the department investigated 455 total claims of abuse and neglect in 2017 – 55 for abuse and 400 for neglect. There were, fortunately, no deaths directly resulting from either circumstance in the county last year. Scotland County currently has 59 children in foster care.
During the ceremony, Snead read from a proclamation signed by Whit Gibson, chair of the Scotland County Board of Commissioners.
Rob Deese, Child Protective Services supervisor explained the history of the pinwheel to represent child abuse prevention.
Pinwheels were chosen by Prevent Child Abuse America in 2008 because they represent childhood's energy, freedom and playfulness. Pinwheels stand as a symbol that every child should have a healthy, happy childhood.
“The pinwheel connotes whimsy and childlike notions. In essence it has come to serve as the physical embodiment … of the great childhoods we want for all children,” Deese said.
CPS Supervisor Atysha Locklear, read from the poem “A toy in Tiny Hands.” The ceremony was closed out by a prayer asking for the protection of all children and those investigating the claims.
The ceremony was attended by DSS board members Leon Butler and Joyce McDowell.
“Child protection is everybody's business. We should put forth effort to make positive impacts on every child's life because one child abused is one too many,” McDowell said.
When CPS is called in to investigate a claim of abuse it does not immediately take the child from the home unless there is imminent danger. Social Services does everything it can to keep families together only taking a child into DSS custody if absolutely necessary and then makes every attempt to reunite the family.
“When children are removed from a home, the department works with the caregivers to address individual and family needs. The department requests voluntary placements and/or removes children from their home in approximately 20 percent of cases,” Snead said. “Based on needs that place children at risk, the department refers caregivers to the appropriate service. This can include mental health counseling, substance abuse counseling, parenting skills development, and so on.”
By law in North Carolina, anyone who suspects that a child is being abused is required to report it whether the reporter is a caregiver or indirectly involved in the child's life, according to Snead.
Abuse does not follow any particular pattern, and it is not confined to one socioeconomic group. It happens across all walks of life regardless of background or finances.
“The myth that [it's] only uneducated people or those receiving public assistance is just that, a myth,” Snead said. “Caregivers from all backgrounds, various lifestyles, and with all levels of education are investigated based on allegations of abuse and/or neglect. The statutory definitions of abuse and neglect cover such a wide array of behaviors, and DSS does receive and investigate reports among a wide range of people.”
DSS spent approximately $990,000 last year to operate its child protective services program covering all facets of the department from investigations to placement.
Abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual or exploitative in nature, and the consequences can be long-term and include the lack of ability to cope, cognitive delays, and emotional problems. Abuse can also negatively impact the nervous system and immune system leading to the possibility of health issues well into adulthood.
Emotional abuse is sometimes overlooked in the face of more dire threats like sexual or physical mistreatment, but it too can lead to removal from the home and long-term consequences.
Snead's CPS team works to help offset the fallout.
“To consider what constitutes emotional abuse the department considers how the child functions in school, symptoms of psychological and social impairment, and any failure to thrive, how long a situation has occurred,” she said. “For children who are emotionally abused, we refer caregivers to a mental health provider for assessment, diagnosis, and treatment, we may also refer the caregiver to a provider for assessment, diagnosis, and treatment. Through the mental health provider and the department caregivers are educated in how their actions can result in emotional damage and have lasting effects.”
Members of DSS plan to visit schools and other community groups throughout the month to help educate the public. Anyone who would like to learn more about abuse and what to do if abuse is suspected should contact DSS.
DSS' efforts to provide prevention awareness information and provide resource information will continue into May with its 12th annual Family Fun Day on May 5 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Department of Social Services at 1405 West Boulevard. For more information, contact email@example.com
If you suspect abuse or neglect call Scotland County DSS at 910-277-2500 or call 911.
Child Abuse Prevention Month: Signs of Abuse
by Brittany Lake
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Mary Jacobson, Director of WI Youth and Family Programs at the Family & Children's Center, explained some of the signs of child abuse.
According to FCC:
There are many signs of abuse, but sometimes they are hidden or are revealed in a way you might not realize.
Four main types of abuse that have different indicators, but often times signs overlap.
Responsibility of adults to take action and keep children safe, report your suspicions.
It's not always obvious but catching abuse early helps the child receive appropriate treatment and increases the chances of recovery.
Signs of Abuse and Types
There are many red flags and warning signs that indicate abuse may be happening, however, it is difficult to differentiate the type of abuse without further investigation.
Four main types of abuse:
Signs of Physical Abuse
Frequent or unexplained injuries such as bruises, burns, or welts.
Explanations that don't match the injuries
Injuries that have a specific pattern, like they could've been made with a hand or belt
Abuses pets or animals
Signs of Sexual Abuse
Torn, stained or bloody underclothes
Unexplained sore throats
Trouble walking or sitting
STDs or pregnancy (especially before age 14)
Signs of Emotional Abuse
Overeating or not eating enough
Speech disorders such as stammering or stuttering or other developmental delays in speech or motor skills
Nervous disorders rashes, hives, facial tics and frequent stomach aches
Signs of Neglect
Clothes are inappropriate for the weather, don't fit correctly, or are unclean
Consistently bad hygiene: unbathed, matted hair, noticeable body odor
Untreated medical or dental problems, or other untreated injuries
What to Look For in Behavior
Sometimes there can be overlap in signs of behaviors for the different types of abuse.
Behavioral indicators of abuse include:
Extreme changes in behavior, excessively withdrawn, overly anxious or aggressive, loss of self-confidence
Always on the lookout for something bad to happen, appear scared
Avoiding certain situations or people for no apparent reason
Lingering after school or other activities, not wanting to go home
Frequent absences from school
Interest in sexual behavior or language that is age-inappropriate
Experimenting with high-risk activities such as using drugs and alcohol or carrying a weapon
Changes in sleep habits that could include frequent nightmares
Behaviors from an earlier stage of life could return such as bedwetting, thumb-sucking, fear of the dark and strangers, or loss of acquired language or memory.
Certain risk-factors can increase the likelihood of abuse occurring. These include:
Alcohol and drug use in the home
Witnessing domestic violence
Caregivers who have untreated mental illness
Lack of parenting skills
Stress and lack of support
Unexpected behavior from parents and other adults can also be warning signs.
Shows little concern for the child
Denies any problems exists at home or school
Blames problems on the child
Consistently berates the child with negative terms such as "worthless" and "evil"
Severely limits the child's contact with others
Offers conflicting or unconvincing explanations for the child's injuries.
Disclosures & Reporting
Most people that work with children in a professional setting are mandated reporters, meaning they are required by law to report abuse and signs of abuse.
You don't have to be a mandated reporter, anyone can report abuse.
Your suspicions could save a life or help a child who has been suffering.
If a child discloses that they are being abused, don't place blame or deny their reports, remain calm and limit your questions so that the child can talk.
For more help, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD to talk to a counselor. The phone line is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
If you suspect child abuse or neglect, report it
People do not want to think a child they know is being abused or neglected. However, if you suspect child abuse or neglect you should report it.
Child abuse and neglect, unfortunately, is not uncommon. In 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (PA DHS) reported just over 44,000 cases of child abuse and neglect in the state of Pennsylvania, resulting in 79 near-fatalities and 46 fatalities.
What's even worse is that there may be many more victims than are presently unknown, due to underreported incidents.
Certain professionals, such as medical providers, teachers, child care workers, clergy, and priests are required by law to report when they suspect child abuse (for a complete list of mandated reporters visit keepkidsafe.pa.gov), though everyone should act regardless of their employment or volunteer status. Failure to report or to make a referral to the appropriate authorities may lead to serious consequences if you are an individual required by law to report suspected child abuse or neglect. However, whether required by law or not, PA DHS encourages anyone who has reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or neglect to make a report.
What are some signs that abuse is taking place, whether it's emotional, physical or sexual? And what are the signs that a child is being neglected?
In cases of physical abuse, some visual clues might be the appearance of frequent injuries the child has a hard time explaining, burns or bruises in unusual patterns, cigarette burns, defensive injuries and unseasonal clothing to hide injuries. Behavioral clues might be aggression, withdrawal or passiveness, and fear of going home or seeing family members, according to the PA DHS .
Though these signs might seem obvious, some of these indicators can also be caused by something other than abuse.
With a child who has been neglected, signs can include consistent dirtiness, obvious malnourishment, fatigue and listlessness, frequent absences or incidences of tardiness to school, the obvious need for medical help, or lack of sufficient and appropriate clothing for the weather, notes the PA DHS.
Sexual abuse can be signaled by sudden changes in appetite, behavior or school performance; complaints about pain in urinating; difficulty sitting or walking; sexually suggestive talk; or age-inappropriate behavior (visit keepkidssafe.pa.gov for information to help recognize the signs of child abuse or neglect).
Children who are abused can suffer many effects from their experiences. Abuse can lead to "improper brain development, impaired cognitive and socioemotional skills, lower language development and anxiety, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , and can even cause "higher risks for heart, lung and liver diseases, obesity, cancer, high blood pressure and high cholesterol." Children who have been abused are also more likely to smoke and abuse drugs and alcohol.
Timely intervention is key in helping young people who have been abused. The sooner the report is made, the sooner a child can be removed from a situation and given appropriate support.
From 1961 to 1985, priest Monsignor Francis McCaa of the Holy Name Catholic Church in Ebensburg, Pa. sexually abused altar boys. Many of the survivors are now advocates in the fight against child abuse and have publicly stated the psychological horrors they face as adults as a result of the priest's actions.
According to The Guardian , "[one of the victims] Brian Gergely started drinking at 10 after he says he was groped by McCaa. Disappointing grades at school and two DUI convictions thwarted his ambition to become a lawyer. He is now a behavioral therapist for kids with special needs, has trouble keeping a girlfriend and is single, he said. In 2006, he tried to hang himself."
State Senator David Burns noted in the same article, "We have a large drug problem in our area, we deal with high driving-under-the-influence (DUI) arrests, and we just think that's because the community is poor and unemployed, but it could be that a lot of these kids have had a hard time integrating into society because of the impact of this abuse. It strains family and sexual relationships, and it often takes years, especially for a man, to report something."
You can make a report any time you suspect a child is the victim of child abuse. Trained specialists are available 24/7 to receive referrals of suspected child abuse and general child well-being concerns. If you've suspected child abuse or neglect make the call to ChildLine at 800-932-0313. Mandated reporters in the state of Pennsylvania can also file a report online, at Pennsylvania's Child Welfare Portal . Visit keepkidssafe.pa.gov for additional information on keeping Pennsylvania's children safe.
Let's end global sex trafficking one law, step and person at a time
We must remember that sex trafficking is not an action movie nor is it a faceless, abstract issue too huge to comprehend. Every victim of sex trafficking is a woman or child with a story, a family background, a name.
by Rachel Linden
Last week's headlines about President Donald Trump signing the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act into law mentally took me back to a girl I once met.
We sat across the table from one another in the capital city of a former Soviet country in Eastern Europe. A victim of human trafficking and a missionary. Two women in our twenties. She was a pastor's daughter. So was I. We had a lot in common.
I shared about being sexually abused as a child by a friend's older brother. She had been trafficked by a man who pretended to be her boyfriend. She felt such shame, she confided to me, as she looked with wonder at the photos of my husband and baby son, daring to hope that one day she would have such a life. It can happen, I assured her.
She was taking her traffickers to court, the safe house caregiver told me as I prepared to depart. A gutsy, courageous move. This tiny, brunette wisp of a girl with huge, sad eyes was bravely standing up to the men who had exploited her. She was seeking justice.
Her name is Miriam, and for me, she is the face of global sex trafficking.
It is easy to become overwhelmed by the enormity of this issue. Almost 30 million women and girls are modern-day slaves according to the 2017 Global Estimates of Modern Slavery. That is more than the population of the state of Texas or the entire country of Australia. Many of these women and girls experience sexual exploitation and trauma. Ninety-nine percent of sex trafficking victims are female.
The thought of millions of women and girls enduring sexual exploitation can feel crippling in its horror and scope. How in the world can anything change? How in the world can we hope to make a difference when faced with such a massive, intricate global problem?
The answer lies not in the vastness of the problem but in the immediacy of the solution. As the director of a safe house for trafficked women in Moldova once told me, “We are not about causes. We are about people.”
Sex trafficking can sometimes feel sensationalized. The graphic details of rape, torture and enslavement of women who have been trafficked and exploited are frequent news items around the globe. And movies like “Taken” can sensationalize it even more, making the reality of sex trafficking into an action movie with glamour, suspense and a tidy resolution after 90 minutes.
We must remember that sex trafficking is not an action movie nor is it a faceless, abstract issue too huge to comprehend. Every victim of sex trafficking is a woman or child with a story, a family background, a name. Many have suffered early abuse in childhood and then been exploited because of economic need or through the promise of a relationship and love. Every woman and child who has been sexually exploited deserves to be treated with dignity and to have justice, to be treated not just as a victim but as an individual with intrinsic value.
How can you help this to happen? There are many ways. Volunteer with or contribute financially to organizations that seek to prevent sexual exploitation or provide after care for women who have been exploited. Seek training in your church or community to better understand how sexual exploitation happens and how you can be a part of the solution. Support organizations that provide legal services for trafficked women or who are working to change laws to empower victims. Use your vote to support politicians who have an interest in ending sex trafficking and helping bring about justice for the exploited.
The new federal anti-sex trafficking law is a good step toward ensuring justice for sex trafficking victims who were exploited online in the U.S. We can work together to end sex trafficking. One law, one step, one person at a time.
As we engage with the enormous horrors of global sex trafficking, as we consider what our course of action should be, we must do so in the light of this truth: True liberty and equality is about freedom, justice and fullness of life for every person.
This is true for Miriam. This is true for you and me.
Florida mother charged in death of her 2 newborns
by Karma Allen
A Florida woman was charged on Monday in connection with the deaths of her two newborns, both of whom were found unresponsive in her home over the weekend, according to police.
Rachael Lynn Thomas, 30, was arrested on felony charges Monday afternoon, just a day after police found the infants unresponsive at her home in West Melbourne, Florida, located about 70 miles southeast of Orlando, police said. Police did not know the ages of the children, but said they believed both were newborns.
She faces two counts of child neglect and one count of tampering with evidence, both felonies, according to the West Melbourne Police Department. She being held in the Brevard County Jail in Cocoa, Florida, on a $30,000 bail, court records show.
Investigators have not released a cause of death for either child, but said “there are suspicious circumstances involved." West Melbourne patrol officers found the children on Sunday around noon while responding to a call, the department said.
“It is something that is very serious. We will methodically investigate this to try to get the answers that the children here deserve,” Richard Cordeau, captain of the West Melbourne Police Department, told ABC affiliate WFTV .
Neighbors in West Melbourne said Thomas lived at the home with her mother and kept to herself, according to WFTV. They said they've only seen her with one infant and an older child.
The police department and Department of Children and Families , which is investigating the case, have not had any previous contact with Thomas.
The infants' siblings are being cared for by relatives, WFTV reported.
'ER' Star Anthony Edwards: I Don't See My Childhood Sexual Abuse as a 'Tragedy'
As the 'ER' star makes his Broadway debut in 'Children of a Lesser God,' he tells Tim Teeman how opening up about alleged sexual abuse has helped him-and others.
by Tim Teeman
Men come up to Anthony Edwards on the street to thank him.
“They will say to me, ‘It happened to me too,'” Edwards told The Daily Beast. “They have kept it to themselves, just like me. They say, ‘I'm not ready to talk about it yet, but I will.'”
Edwards, most famous for his role as Dr. Mark Greene on the NBC hit ER , was talking about the sexual abuse he says he endured between the ages of 12 and 14, and which he wrote about in a powerful Medium essay last year.
We were sitting in Edwards' dressing room at Studio 54 theatre in New York City, where the 55-year-old actor is making his Broadway debut in a production of Mark Medoff's Children of a Lesser God , about the intense relationship of a speech therapist (Joshua Jackson) and a former student (Lauren Ridloff) at a school for the deaf .
Edwards said he was molested and his best friend raped by Hollywood producer Gary Goddard, who was his “mentor, teacher, and friend.” Goddard has denied Edwards' allegations and remains on a leave of absence from entertainment design group Legacy/GGE, formerly the Goddard Group, which he founded.
Edwards told The Daily Beast: “The most important thing is to encourage people to not be afraid, to talk and to share. It only gets better once you start talking. I don't look at what happened to me like a tragedy.”
Telling his story, sharing his story, and seeing its positive impact has “been incredible,” Edwards added.
Edwards wrote in his essay: “Only after I was able to separate my experience, process it, and put it in its place could I accept this truth: My abuse may always be with me, but it does not own me.”
Indeed, his heart is in theater: It's where he got his start in acting, growing up in Santa Barbara. It's where he got his first work as a professional actor, at 16. And now, 20 years and global TV stardom behind him, it's where he's returned to playing Mr. Franklin, an uptight and narrow-minded deaf school teacher.
“I think I'm envious of people like him, for whom the world is black and white, because the world is truly gray. I just love his ownership of his small pond,” Edwards said of his character.
A New York City resident of 15 years' standing, Edwards is a longtime attendee of Broadway himself and likens acting in eight theatrical performances a week to another passion, race car driving. “I dabbled recreationally in a couple of races,” he said, smiling. “People think, ‘How can you drive around the same track?' but there are so many curves and problems to it, there's always room for improvement. It's what actors keep coming back to.”
The youngest of five children, Edwards recalled the first play he performed in in junior high, Robert Bolt's The Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew , in which he played Obadiah Bobblenob. He operated the spotlight in another production involving one of his older brothers. “I fell in love with the theatrical space. I loved it. I don't think I was ever the most talented at anything, but I was certainly most eager to be there.”
Edwards learned to tell jokes early, because “being funny in a big family was important.” His father was an architect, his mother a painter. He learned to surf, ski, and sail.
To execute the alleged abuse, Edwards said, Goddard made him feel as if he was “part of a whole thing,” a “special group.”
Edwards described his experience as, “Something minor was being done to you ‘over here,' while ‘over there' your friend is getting raped. It's the way pedophiles work: They create a whole world. The whole cultivating and grooming and creating a world is as much part of the abuse as the sexual abuse itself. It's all control. That control element is very abusive to the psyche, and you combine that with this happening in a world of performing, which is about love and friendship.”
Edwards had “survival techniques,” as he called them. He avoided staying overnight with Goddard and eventually “worked his way away” from him.
Goddard's betrayal, as Edwards calls it, was made worse because it was mixed in with love; Edwards trusted him as his mentor and friend, “and so from that you form a conditional relationship to love. You think love follows certain rules. Being abused kicks you into a fearful place without even knowing it.”
Edwards told The Daily Beast he wasn't molested daily, and that it took place simultaneously with becoming immersed with theater and acting.
“There was so much good at that time, and as with most abused people I compartmentalized it and put it away, and that's how it became PTSD. Later in life I am meeting men in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s who are finally looking at something they have put away, because there's so much shame in it.”
“22 years ago,” Edwards wrote in his essay, “I happened to run into Gary Goddard at an airport. I was able to express my outrage at what he had done. He swore to his remorse and said that he had gotten help. I felt a temporary sense of relief. I say temporary because when Goddard appeared in the press four years ago for alleged sexual abuse, my rage resurfaced.” (The 2014 complaint against Goddard, referenced by Edwards, that alleged teen sex abuse was voluntarily dismissed by plaintiff Michael Egan III .)
“You learn later that denial, the ability for people to lie and deceive themselves, pedophiles, goes very deep, and it's why psychiatrists and therapists talk about how untreatable it can be,” Edwards told The Daily Beast.
“That day at the airport Goddard was remorseful, he said he was sorry that it had happened and that he'd gotten work and changed his life,” Edwards told The Daily Beast. "There's part of you that goes ‘Thank god.' That's why when his name came up in the news again, the rage comes bubbling.
“You feel like taking a full-page ad in Variety to say, ‘This man is a liar.' It is such a betrayal, especially when you are starting to heal. That's what it did, it kicked me into finding out about it, and then you learn you are not alone and it's such a relief.”
Edwards, who talked about the alleged abuse in therapy and a men's group, was spurred to write the Medium essay having played a judge in Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders. Lyle and Erik claim they were abused by their father and Lyle also by their mother.
“I thought, ‘There is no shame here. Maybe this is a good time to say ‘This happened to me,'” Edwards said. “It happens to one in six men, perhaps this is a way to try and shake some of the stigma off.
“The anger's big, and that's why we have anger to motivate us into some kind of action. The important thing is to use it as the healthiest thing for yourself, which is why I wrote the essay.”
The California statute of limitations meant Edwards couldn't pursue a legal case against Goddard, “but there was no reason to carry on covering up and maintaining that secrecy, which was also part of the code of co-dependency, part of the culture of abuse. You hear the same thing around alcoholism: people staying silent, and ending up denying the truth. Mariska Hargitay [his friend, and ex- ER and Law and Order: SVU colleague] told me to take care of myself first. That's where the journey started.”
Edwards said he wasn't surprised by Goddard's denial of the content of his Medium essay.
“But what it did do ultimately was great: It enraged a whole other group of other people who had been abused, who thought he was lying and not taking responsibility. My intention wasn't to get him, but I certainly have no problem saying what had happened. It's not my responsibility as to whether or not what his reaction would be.”
Goddard didn't reach out to him after the article came out. What, if anything, I asked Edwards, would he want from Goddard now?
“I want young boys to kept away from him, of course,” Edwards said firmly. “The damage that's happened isn't going to heal whatever he does. The damage has been done. The important thing is for me to let go. Let's focus on the survivors and the fact that so much shame and secrecy is involved for survivors, but men particularly, and to say, ‘There's no shame here. It's OK. It happens, and there are ways to heal and recover from this so that a little boy can be a man.'”
In response to Edwards' interview with The Daily Beast, a spokesperson for Goddard reissued the same statement given in response to Edwards' Medium piece. (A spokesperson declined The Daily Beast's request to interview Goddard.)
“Gary first met Anthony more than 40 years ago. Gary was a mentor, teacher and a friend to Anthony, which makes this story all the more disturbing to him. As to the allegations that Mr. Edwards made in his post today, I can unequivocally deny them on Gary's behalf.
“Gary played an important role in helping start Anthony's acting career and acted as his personal manager. He has nothing but the greatest respect for Anthony as a person. Gary is saddened by the false allegations.
“The post by Anthony, as well as many of the news stories today reference a legal claim made against Gary approximately four years ago regarding sexual harassment.”
That complaint was withdrawn, and “demonstrated to be fraudulent as it was completely fabricated,” said Goddard's spokesperson.
Edwards told The Daily Beast he was relieved to tell his story, and then to help others: “To be of service to myself was the first thing to do. Taking care of yourself is the opposite of being abused. It was new territory. It was nerve-wracking. You think, ‘I will melt if I do what is right for me.'”
He has seen “so many examples” of other men whose stories make his seem “mild” (his word). “There are so many people who have suffered so much more. It felt good to share, and good to talk. I've had a really, gratefully blessed life. I have a wonderful career, four beautiful children, I have so much to be thankful for.”
That Edwards has inspired others is “incredibly satisfying,” he said.
In his essay, Edwards writes that his mother initiated a conversation about Goddard when Edwards was a teenager. He wasn't ready then. He wrote that he was recently “finally able to have the conversation that I wish I could have had with my mom when I was 14.”
Sadly, Edwards' mother has dementia, and so her memory “is a little all over the place” in terms of what she remembers and does not. Edwards' father died in January of this year, aged 93, and he and his son talked about the abuse as he was working on the Menendez drama. “One of the last conversations we had, he told me he was so glad I had talked and I had written that article. He was very proud of that.”
His parents were suspicious of Goddard, but “in that time there were no tools for speaking up. In our case, Gary Goddard was such a charming, incredibly charismatic figure and powerful in that world.”
The #MeToo movement is important, Edwards said, because people are finally speaking up about “the kind of abuse and treatment of women that was so horrific and so accepted. I look back to some of the movies in the '80s and I think, ‘This is really inappropriate.'”
As he wrote in his Medium essay, Edwards thinks his father had PTSD resulting from his wartime experiences, meaning it was “very difficult for him to connect emotionally with his kids. He carried that with him his whole life and it manifested in comedy, telling jokes, being funny. Now you'd think, ‘What's that person covering? Why is he always on?'”
Goddard, Edward thinks, saw that paternal lack in the young Edwards and so set out to play a corresponding role. “It's the misrepresentation of love, like ‘I've got your best interests' and you believe it. So when my mom said, at 14, ‘What's going on?' I said, ‘No, Gary's great, Mom. There's no problem.'
“That's what is hard for people to wrap their minds around. People ask, ‘Why didn't you say something?' It's been said in a sexist way to women for so long. It's always going to be a challenge. There's always going to be room for darkness, abuse. There are bad people out there doing stuff.”
Edwards' alleged abuse by Goddard didn't put him off acting; it actually made him more trusting, loving, and communicative in his art, he said. He found an agent, a manager, he didn't get into any self-destructive behavior. It changed the way he formed intimate relationships, he said, but he does not elaborate on how.
Edwards is enjoying being on stage. As one of the hearing cast in Children , he is learning so much from the deaf and hearing-impaired cast, he said. It's such an emotional play, it's good to hear from him that they exercise and laugh together.
Of Joshua Jackson's (Pacey from Dawson's Creek ; Cole in The Affair ) performance as the lead, playing a character and interpreting Ridloff's character for other characters and us, Edwards is “pretty amazed. I call him Ginger Rogers. He's doing more than Fred, while dancing backward, in heels.”
Being in a play at Studio 54 reminds Edwards he came to the venue when he was 21 and it was the infamously hedonistic nightspot of yore. “It wasn't its heyday, but it was full-on disco with people going crazy.” Around the same time, he and Helen Hunt were flatmates in SoHo.
There was theater and movies before ER . But, although he had appeared in Top Gun (as the ill-fated "Goose") and independent movies too, he was “beginning to fade a bit,” and considered a move to directing.
Then the pilot for ER came like a bejeweled gift: Edwards immediately noted the quality of the writing. “It turned out to be the best acting job ever.” The heads of NBC were against it, Edwards recalled, and then test audiences saw it, registered their delight, and the rest is shaky hand-held, shooting blood, and drama-filled romances, TV history.
“George worked really hard, and he's super smart, and he's done such good things both as a director, actor, and activist,” Edwards said of co-star George Clooney. “George was always about that from the day I met him. He was very concerned socially and politically. He knew what he wanted to do, and hats off to him.”
Edwards smiled, recalling the moment he, Clooney, and their fathers attended a Super Bowl, flying on an NBC company jet.
All four of Edwards' children were born during his time on the show.
He and his ex-wife Jeanine Lobell, who ran a cosmetics company, moved to New York; after ER , Edwards walked away from acting and fame to raise them. “I never felt any pressure about my career, and I've never met a man who said he wished he'd spent less time with his kids [oldest son Bailey, and three daughters Esme, Wallis, and Poppy] when they were little,” he said.
Edwards said that Bailey, now 24, looks set to be the only child to follow his father into the acting profession.
Unlike co-star Clooney , the paparazzi kept away from Edwards. He laughed that outside the stage door every night, kids of the original viewers of the show now ask for his autograph, as it's being repeated on Hulu. In his time away from acting he ran, learned to fly planes, and took a year off to travel the world with his family.
Edwards and Lobell were married for 20 years. Now divorced, he is in a relationship with fellow actor Mare Winningham, whom he has known for 35 years.
Five months ago Edwards became, he revealed smiling, “the benefactor of a miracle of medicine. This,” he said, lightly gripping his side, “is a brand new hip.” He is already back to running 5K around Central Park.
Edwards' 89-year-old mother is in an “excellent” memory care facility in Los Angeles near his sister. He sees her a lot. “She is very much a glass half-full woman. She's happy. She may not remember all things, but boy she likes to eat and laugh and talk about her memories. She's safe and happy. She may forget how many kids she has, but she knows that kid when they're there.”
As we said our farewells, I asked Edwards what he would say to male survivors of abuse.
“After giving them a hug, I'd say, ‘You're not alone,'” he replied. “It's a really simple way to start. Then go to a website like 1 in 6 [on whose board Edwards sits; its name was taken from the estimated number of men who have been sexually abused or assaulted], and start your journey. Read people's accounts of what happened to them, and find ways to get help. Start the conversations to get help.”
His four children were “proud” of Edwards opening up about what had happened to him. “They were a little scared about what the response might have been, but it was pretty clear that whenever anyone has an opportunity to stand up, they should.”
Yet Edwards wants to retain stewardship over the terms of the discussion he started. He has not accepted invitations to speak on TV about the alleged abuse, “because then it becomes about me, and what was done to me, and that doesn't seem right.”
Edwards was determined to tell his story so it would help others, he emphasized, and then sighed again over one in six men having been sexually abused or assaulted.
“It means,” Edwards said, quietly, “that millions of guys are silently going, like, ‘What the fuck happened?'''
Trust your instincts when it comes to reporting abuse
by Laura Singleton
NAVAJO COUNTY — Data shows that child abuse and child sexual assault are disturbingly common events, even in rural areas such Navajo County.
One in four girls and one in six boys in Arizona will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Approximately five children die each day from child abuse, and, 90 percent of sexual offenders are knwn to the child, according to Sandra Ann Angelo, director of development at the Family Advocacy Center and data from from the Arizona Child and Family Network (ACFAN). The Family Advocacy Center provides counseling, conducts forensic interviews and assists in the investigation of cases involving child abuse and sexual assault.
Child abuse and neglect are also tracked at the county level by the health departments throughout Arizona. The aggregate data is submitted by each county and compiled at the state level by the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS) and also provided to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Apache and Navajo County health departments, local law enforcement agencies and non-profit organizations like the White Mountain Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) council are working together to increase awareness and educate the public about preventing child abuse and neglect. A large part of their agenda is educating the public about the importance of reporting suspected child abuse and neglect, especially during April, which has been designated Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Local providers and healthcare organizations also communicate and exchange information with Navajo and Apache counties continually. “Summit Healthcare has seen an increase in the number of children presenting to the emergency department as a result of abuse and neglect,” said Danielle Poteet, RN and pediatric nurse liaison at Summit Healthcare Regional Medical Center.
“To date, there have been 19 child abuse-related deaths in Arizona and three near deaths,” said Poteet. “Summit has experienced an increase in cases in the last six to nine months,” she added.
Navajo and Apache counties, maintain a Child Fatality Review (CFR) team to study and review each case to determine preventability, trends in root cause and other factors. County CFR teams throughout the state send the raw data about each child fatality to the Arizona Child Fatality Review Program, who then forward the information to national agencies. In the first quarter of this year, the Navajo County Public Health Services District and Summit Healthcare Regional Medical Center identified a possible increase in child fatalities related to maltreatment for the latter part of 2017.
“There has been a recent spike in deaths and injuries related to child abuse,” said Janelle Linn, RN and Public Health Nursing Supervisor of the Navajo County Public Health Services District in an earlier interview with The Independent .
While the specific number of fatalities have not been officially released, Navajo County felt the increase in numbers was significant enough to form a impromptu work group within the Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) council to further review those cases.
She also shared that the overall child mortality rate in Arizona due to maltreatment (abuse/neglect) has increased by 16 percent since 2011. (This does take into account year-to-year fluctuations.) State analysis, combined with the trends recognized by Navajo County's CFR team appear to substantiate the dire need for awareness, public education and outreach efforts regarding child abuse prevention and reporting.
During Child Abuse Prevention Month, local officials want people to know that speaking up about potential abuse or neglect is important.
During an April 5 meeting of the Community Network Team of Navajo County, Linn spoke on behalf of the White Mountain CAP council. Linn said that the CAP council is spreading the word about Child Abuse Prevention Month through public service announcements, school visits, community classes and more.
“Reporting [suspected abuse] is one of the most difficult things to do, but at the end of the day, you could be making a huge difference in a child's life and possibly saving their life,” says Cecilia Fernandez, Healthy Steps Coordinator for Summit Healthcare Regional Medical Center and the co-lead of the White Mountain Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) council. Fernandez has some advice for the public.
“I encourage you to trust your instincts and make the call and don't assume that someone else is calling. The more people who call, the more information investigators have to go on when following up,” Fernandez explained.
“Once you do call, provide as much information as you can regarding the situation, the child and the adults involved in order to give investigators details to follow up on. But, the most important thing to know is that sometimes investigators need to follow up with you in regards to what was reported; they won't be able to do that if they don't have your name and contact information. This information is kept confidential and isn't shared with who you are reporting,” she said.
Knowing what to look for, what not to dismiss or minimize and having the courage to speak up can become easier when people realize the how much the benefits of reporting possible abuse outweigh to long term affects of abuse on a child.
Children themselves may not be able to talk about the abuse they are suffering. According to kidhealth.org , many cases of child abuse or neglect go unreported or undetected because, “...children are afraid to tell somebody who can help.” When children know the perpetrator of their abuses, it even more difficult for them to speak up because they, “...may feel trapped by the affection they feel for their abusers or fearful of the power the abusers have over them — so they stay silent,” writes kidshealth.org .
The Ark of Hope for Children, a national organization whose mission is to “...break the chains for those victimized as children by human trafficking, child abuse and bullying...,” say that for every report of abuse, two more go unreported.
That's why it's especially important to be able to identify the signs of child abuse. To help educate White Mountain communities, the CAP council has several educational campaigns in progress.
“We are promoting awareness about child abuse from every angle,” said Linn. “We have started public service announcements and are even meeting with school districts in Navajo County.”
“Trust your instincts,” advised Alysia Heward, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for children coordinator who was in attendance at the April 5 network meeting. “If you see something, say something,” said Heward. “Sometimes we have those gut feelings but we don't act on them because we have been conditioned to think that we are overreacting,” she explained.
“When it comes to children, it's better to report it to the police and have it investigated and not substantiated than to ignore it,” she explained. “We understand that people are often afraid of backlash for saying something about someone, but we have to look at the big picture. A child's safety should be our main concern because they can't protect themselves,” also said Heward.
Another message that the CAP council is circulating with local law enforcement is that when a person uses a crime tip line, please include as much information as possible.
“Please don't report anonymously if at all possible,” said Linn. “Providing your name and contact information not only makes you more credible but it helps the agency or department follow up on the situation.”
The Arizona Revised Statute divides abuse into four types: physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse and emotional maltreatment. However, you don't have to know what type or category of abuse may be occurring to report it. Here are some guidelines from Arizona Child and Family Network (ACFAN) to help you report:
Consider the possibility of physical abuse when the child: Has unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or black eyes; Has fading bruises or other marks noticeable after an absence from school; Seems frightened of the parents and protests or cries when it is time to go home from school; Shrinks at the approach of adults; or Reports injury by a parent or another adult caregiver.
Consider the possibility of neglect when the child: Is frequently absent from school;Begs or steals food or money from classmates;Lacks needed medical or dental care, immunizations, or glasses;Is consistently dirty and has severe body odor;Lacks sufficient clothing for the weather;Abuses alcohol or other drugs.
Consider the possibility of sexual abuse when the child:Has difficulty walking or sitting;Suddenly refuses to change for gym or to participate in physical activities;Demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated, or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior;Becomes pregnant or contracts a venereal disease, particularly if under age fourteen;Runs away; or Reports sexual abuse by a parent or another adult caregiver.
Consider the possibility of emotional maltreatment when the child: Shows extremes in behavior, such as overly compliant or demanding behavior, extreme passivity or aggression;Is either inappropriately adult (parenting other children, for example) or inappropriately infantile (frequently rocking or head-banging, for example)Is delayed in physical or emotional development;Has attempted suicide; or Reports a lack of attachment to the parent.
“Go Blue” to show local support
To show support, for Child Abuse Prevention Month, members of the community are encouraged to wear blue on Mondays through April. Then, while wearing blue, take a picture of yourself, your work team, department, friends and/or family and post to the White Mountain Child Abuse Prevention Council's social media page. Tag your post with #WMAZchildabuseprwvention.
How to report suspected child abuse or neglect
Call 1-888-SOS-CHILD or 1-888-767-2445. If your concern involves an emergency situation, call 911 immediately.
If you are a parent that is struggling with any issue, you can also call the Birth to Five Helpline at 1-877-705-5437.
Continuing education opportunities
Cecilia Fernandez, M.Ed, CLC, CIMEB, a Healthy Steps Coordinator for Summit Healthcare Regional Medical Center, currently co-leads the Show Low CAP council offers training in Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Protective Factors which include parental resilience, social connections, knowledge of parenting and child development, concrete support in times of need and social and emotional competencies of children. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
'You disgust me'-examining the impact of verbal abuse on children
by Amy Wright Glenn
Linda's heart races. She begins to sweat. Looking down at her phone, a familiar knot grips her guts. Compulsively, she reads the text message again.
“You are truly pathetic.”
It is a message from her mother.
Linda and her mother are meeting for breakfast. Yet, Linda inadvertently gave her mother the wrong street address. Her mother is now lost, unable to find her way.
“So sorry mom,” Linda quickly replies. From childhood she has learned to bypass her own feelings – to soothe her mother's troubled soul. Even now, as a 30-year-old woman, she is pulled into this familiar role. “I'll text you the directions right way.”
As Linda pulls up the restaurant's website and forwards the correct directions on her phone, her mother's reply comes in.
“Don't bother. I'm going home. You disgust me.”
You disgust me.
Linda (a composite character drawn from real stories of multiple people) has heard these three words countless times over the course of her childhood. She was often scolded because her actions were “so embarrassing.” She was routinely criticized for how she presented herself both in private and in public. Only when her mother was out did she feel like she could breathe freely in her childhood home.
Not surprisingly, Linda internalized a worldview that left her self-image in tatters. Perhaps this is why she was constantly drawn into dead-end sexual relationships, to married men or those unwilling to commit. She had also come to experience verbal abuse as normal.
This is the most insidious impact of verbal abuse on children – they come to regard such abuse as par for the course, as the modus operandi of one's intimate and familial life.
While verbal abuse – characterized by swearing, insults, spiteful words, gaslighting, and threats – does not leave physical scars, its impact is significant. In fact, a recent study conducted at the University of Limerick revealed that witnessing parents verbally abuse each other is more damaging “in the long term” to children than witnessing physical abuse between parents.
When the ugliness of verbal abuse is directed at children themselves, they are much more likely to suffer disorders like anxiety and depression as adults. Why? According to an overview of a Florida State University study: “Over time, children believe the negative things they hear, and they begin to use those negative statements as explanations for anything that goes wrong.”
Linda spent much of her childhood trying to please. Suffering from years of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), she hid her physical and emotional discomfort and pain while putting on “a happy face” for her mother. She learned to silence her own interests and needs, always putting her mother first. Maybe then she will be kind. Maybe then she will love me.
According to psychologist Linda Martinz-Lewi: “The child who must forfeit his authenticity to survive is the adult filled with rage.”
Linda's rage isn't obvious in her waking life. But consult her dreams and one will find a cacophony of screaming, fighting, running, racing for safety and encounters with madmen intent on murder. Linda wakes frequently and suffers from insomnia.
In fact, it was the insomnia and night terrors that inspired her general practitioner to gently suggest therapy, in addition to prescription sleep aids.
It was only in therapy, for the first time, that Linda began to connect the dots of her life and link the constant stream of verbal abuse to her maladies. Such links are no longer regarded as purely narrative or theoretical. Indeed, the study of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) clearly reveals that the state of a person's childhood profoundly impacts her or his health, literally rewiring how the body expresses its genetic code.
Author of “Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes your Biology, and How You Can Heal,” science journalist Donna Jackson Nakazawa explains:
“When the young brain is thrust into stressful situations over and over again without warning, and stress hormones are repeatedly ramped up, small chemical markers, known as methyl groups, adhere to specific genes that regulate the activity of stress-hormone receptors in the brain. These epigenetic changes hamper the body's ability to turn off the stress response. In ideal circumstances, a child learns to respond to stress, and recover from it, learning resilience. But kids who've faced chronic, unpredictable stress undergo biological changes that cause their inflammatory stress response to stay activated.”
A consistently activated stress response wrecks havoc on one's emotional and physical well-being. What one person may experience as a slight can trigger a profoundly disproportionate response in another whose body is primed with fight or flight chemicals ready for action. As Nakazawa summarizes:
“Experiencing stress in childhood changes your set point of well-being for decades to come.”
Yet, there is good news.
While one cannot travel back in time to unravel the hurt done by damaged and personality-disordered parents, one can move forward mindfully. The negative impact of verbal abuse on children need not fully determine their destiny. In fact, according to Nakazawa, “the most important take away from ACE research” is that we can rewire the brain and connect areas that were disconnected or never linked in the first place. We can “reset our stress response so that we decrease the inflammation that makes us ill.”
For example, Florida-based Amanda Heisman, a certified holistic health coach, emphasizes this good news in her work daily. “People come to me with IBS for example,” she states, “and then we go deeper. We encounter the first step in healing which is the basic acknowledgment that physical maladies are often tied to childhood experiences. This knowledge in itself is empowering.” Heisman offers her clients guided inner child meditations. (One can view an example of her work here.)
Today, Linda still feels a rush of adrenaline and cortisol when receiving a hurtful text message from her mother, but she has learned to pause. She has learned to pause, put the phone down and breathe. She knows now not to personalize the insults. Her mother's putdowns reflect her mother's unfortunate state of mind; they are not a reflection of her. She isn't pathetic. She isn't embarrassing. She isn't disgusting.
Linda has learned to close her eyes and revisit her childhood. She sees herself as a young girl with a frozen smile and hurting tummy. She sees herself trying to fix and please. And today, she embraces that girl in her mind. She tells her younger self that she is loved. She tells her that she, as an adult, will protect her. She affirms her inner child's beauty, strength, and worth.
Then, after some time has passed and her heart rate is steady, Linda has learned to send this reply:
“Mom, your text message is inappropriate. When you are ready to treat me respectfully, we can meet for breakfast.”
And the little girl within is no longer afraid.
DCFS blasted for "unconscionable" witholding of child abuse data
by Capital Fax
Today, Assistant Majority Leader Sara Feigenholtz joined child advocates to address alarming child abuse trends and to demand accountability from the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS.)
“I filed HR986 last week because the Department has been hiding child abuse data since July, 2017,” said Feigenholtz. “DCFS took a step in the right direction this morning by reversing itself and releasing data, but it took 9 months of advocacy from former Youth in Care to get that done. DCFS should be ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of the children of Illinois—not withholding vital information that advocates have used for decades to identify child abuse trends and protect children and families.”
For nine months, DCFS ignored advocates' requests for a complete set of child abuse data, questioning their legal obligation to report the data, and suggesting that the computer systems they have used to compile the reports for over three decades are suddenly incapable or producing the reports. This morning's data release shows that is not the case.
“The data released shows an increase in the number of children being re-abused—that number has skyrocketed by 50% since 2015,” said James McIntyre, President, Foster Care Alumni of America Illinois Chapter. “We also see a spike in opioid related calls. Services for people addicted to opioids have been cut over the last three years, and we worry that is the reason for the spike of caseloads related to opioid use.”
The alarming information contained in the released data makes it clear that more transparency is necessary to prevent child abuse in Illinois.
“This is a matter of being able to advocate for abused and vulnerable children,” said Kyle Hillman, a spokesperson for the National Association of Social Workers Illinois Chapter. “Without this data, social workers in the field haven't had the supports they need. It was a total failure for this department to hide the data, and it was unconscionable for them to withhold it for as long as they did.”
“The Department continues to drag its feet on requests to release information related to the safety and well-being of our children, and that's wrong,” concluded Feigenholtz. “DCFS is failing children and families across Illinois. They should step up and do the right thing all the time—not just when they are called out publicly for hiding information.”
…Adding… Pritzker campaign…
JB Pritzker released the following statement in response to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services releasing monthly child abuse data:
“It is shameful that during National Child Abuse Prevention Month, Bruce Rauner had to be talked into releasing critical child abuse information while his Department of Children and Family Services continues to fail vulnerable children,” said JB Pritzker. “Understanding child abuse trends is vital to preventing child abuse in the future. I am relieved we will again have access to data, but real damage was done because this failed governor was hiding important information from the public. We should be able to count on DCFS to fight for vulnerable children, not fight against transparency.”
Director Walker is committed to the families and children of Illinois who need the critical services offered by DCFS. During her 9 months at the Department, she has made significant structural changes aimed at protecting our clients, improving operations, and building a stable foundation at this agency. As Director Walker mentioned in the hearing, data reporting at DCFS is severely hampered by outdated technology. The old report required transporting data in pieces from one system to another, then manually entering data and putting pieces together. The new reports have information drawn directly from SACWIS (Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System). They are titled: Child Protective Services Report and Hotline Call and Intake Volume Report The new data reports can be found here, https://www2.illinois.gov/dcfs/aboutus/newsandreports/reports/Pages/default.aspx
Paedophiles are using ad industry tricks to spread child sexual abuse
By using a convoluted series of URL redirects, paedophiles are hiding images of child sexual abuse in plain sight
by James Temperton
Paedophiles have a powerful and worrying new tool to help them find images and videos of child sexual abuse: the humble website redirect. And it's causing a major headache for those leading the global fight against abuse.
“It works in same way as advertising referrers work,” says Fred Langford, deputy CEO of the Internet Watch Foundation , a UK-based charity that last year found and removed 78,589 images or videos of child sexual abuse. For Langford and his small team, the so-called “disguised website” technique is the latest salvo in the evade and detection arms race.
Here's how it works: when a paedophile visits a bulletin board or online forum to find images and videos of sexual abuse, they click on a link. When they do, they enter a convoluted redirection system. As they pass from redirect to redirect, they are handed session cookies that confirm the route they've taken. Without going down this elaborate path, the site at the end of the redirect displays legal content. But with the right session cookie, that exact same URL displays child sexual abuse content.
For paedophiles, it means images and videos stay online for longer. For law enforcement, it makes finding and removing such content significantly more difficult. “If you did a Google search and clicked on it you'd just get the legal content,” says Langford. “If you came from a bulletin board that is used by paedophiles then this system just seamlessly passes people through. It's exactly the same page.” The IWF was the to first detect the disguised website technique and saw an 86 per cent year-on-year increase in its use in 2017. In total, the IWF found 2,909 disguised websites last year. And many more likely still evade detection. “It's getting worse and worse,” says Langford.
The shift to a more sophisticated method of hiding child sexual abuse content is part of a trend of professionalisation by the criminal networks feeding the demand. Providers want the content to remain live for longer as it suits their business models. “With this technique, the potential is that they can build consumer confidence in their brand much more,” Langford says. “Which is a worrying sign because it brings more traffic to the sorts of sites that aren't getting removed as quickly.”
The increase in disguised websites forms part of the IWF's annual report that tracks the number of images and videos of child sexual abuse being shared and removed online. Overall, the charity saw a 37 per cent increase in the total number of child sexual abuse URLs – 78,589, up from 57,335 in 2016. More worrying still, the severity of this content is also increasing. Of the URLs the IWF found and removed, 33 per cent were Category A – the most extreme type of abuse – an increase of five per cent year-on-year. Images and videos in this category involve penetrative sexual activity and often include elements of bestiality or sadism. Langford believes this increase is the result of paedophiles being able to easily access more and more extreme content. “New material, that's like Class A drugs to someone. People seek it out,” he explains.
The IWF's team of 17 people, a mix of technical and content removal specialists, is now able to assess a web page every four minutes. "We can take action and get a page or image removed every seven minutes,” Langford says. The aim is to keep bringing that number down. But it's a daunting task. The charity receives no government funding and relies heavily on support from its 136 industry members – including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple – who provide technical assistance and contribute to the IWF's vast list of known images and videos of child sexual abuse.
To help with its work, the team uses a suite of crawlers, open-source software and Firefox plug-ins to search the web and detect new and historic child sexual abuse content. In recent years, the team has seen a sharp increase in website ‘brands' hosting child sexual abuse images and videos. In 2017 alone, the IWF reported a 112 per cent increase in content that it believes is part of a coordinated network of distributors.
“We started seeing these patterns going back seven or eight years now,” Langford explains. While the images and videos would be different, the fonts and graphics would be similar. “We started trying to work out if someone was stealing these templates off a free web template site. And we didn't find that. What we found is that they're very specific to child sexual abuse sites.” The IWF has now recognised a definite pattern in these brands, though it's still some way from unpicking how everything is connected. “They're not just a huge number of disparate commercial sites. They're actually being controlled by a limited number of entities,” Langford says. “And it could end up being just one entity but with different strands.”
The IWF's annual report also found that European hosting companies now account for 65 per cent of all child sexual abuse imagery it sees, up from 60 per cent in 2016. And, with 36 per cent of the global total, the Netherlands continues to be the country of choice for hosting child sexual abuse content. This is down to a combination of three major factors: its geographic location, the cheap cost of hosting and the amount of resource being put into tackling the problem by law enforcement. Langford says this means the country has now achieved something of a reputation. “Once it's been successful for a number of people hosting this sort of material they start sharing that information amongst likeminded people. Over the last few years it's grown exponentially.”
As the volume of content being detected increases – both a result of the IWF getting better at finding it and more paedophiles coming online and seeking it out – Langford says the IWF is increasingly reliant on its industry partners to help it tackle the problem. “The thing with child sexual abuse is that it's globally accepted as abhorrent. And the standards are very similar globally about what is considered illegal. So organisations like Facebook are quite comfortable taking action with something as long as somebody has said, 'This is illegal'. Which is what we've done,” Langford says. “We use the mantra, 'The polluter should pay'. We're a self-regulatory body, we're not funded by the government or the police, we're funded by industry.” With 136 members already signed-up, the IWF is calling on all partners to get more involved – and for more companies to join. “The most urgent thing is getting more industry members engaged,” Langford says.
Awareness campaign: Child sexual abuse happens more often than you think
by Samantha Baars
April is one of the first warm and welcoming months of the new year, but it's also given two not-so-ideal titles: National Child Abuse Prevention month and Sexual Assault Awareness month.
“Child sexual abuse is much more prevalent than people think,” says Rachel Thielmann, a prevention education specialist at Foothills Child Advocacy Center. Though her group served 326 local children last year—with 65 percent of them reportedly victims of sexual abuse—she says the number of abused kids is likely much higher because a lot of children never disclose it.
Many signs forewarn of child sexual abuse, but the specialist says it can be difficult to pinpoint them. She offers a few things to look for.
“For all kids, curiosity about sex and their bodies is really natural, but when you see a child who knows really specific things or specific language about sex that's outside of what you would expect for their age, that could be a sign,” she says.
Adults should also notice when children are averse to being with a grown-up they used to spend a lot of time with, or any kind of unexplained physical mark or rash, or discomfort when using the bathroom.
When abuse is suspected, she says adults should immediately report it to Child Protective Services.
One in four children will be sexually abused in their lifetime, and more than 90 percent of them are abused by someone they know well, according to Thielmann, who adds that dodging perpetrators isn't as simple as refusing candy from strangers, or staying away from the bad guy.
“They're in your community,” she says, nodding to the case of former Venable Elementary School teacher Corey Schock, who pleaded guilty in 2014 to online coercion and enticement with a minor, and who is now serving 10 years in federal prison.
“He was that person that everybody loved,” she says. “Kids loved him. Other teachers loved him.”
She also mentions a more recent case that went through her office, in which a 14-year-old girl was being sexually abused by her father.
“She felt really, really terrible because she felt like she had gone along with it,” says Thielmann. “Kids are typically groomed in that process.”
While adults may think young children should be able to recognize a “bad touch,” she says, “when someone they love says, ‘I love you,' and ‘you're really special to me, so we're going to have a secret,' kids don't really understand that's not okay.”
The employees at Foothills administer a free national training called Stewards of Children. Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman—who recently made headlines for being a victim of former national gymnastics team doctor and convicted child molester Larry Nassar—has advocated for every adult involved in youth sports to undergo this training.
The next Stewards of Children sessions are on Saturday, April 21, at the Foothills office on East High Street. It'll be offered in English at 10am and in Spanish at 2pm. Visit Foothillscac.org to register.
Rachel Thielmann, a prevention education specialist at the Foothills Child Advocacy Center, says a large majority of child abuse goes unreported. Many victims don't speak out until they're older, so the numbers are likely much higher. In fiscal year 2017, Foothills representatives served 236 new cases in Charlottesville and Albemarle, and 90 in surrounding counties.
The 326 children were:
32% 0-6 years old
37% 7-12 years old
31% 13-18 years old
All kids were alleged victims of at least one type of abuse, but some of them reported more than one type.
65% sexual abuse
20% child pornography/internet crimes/trafficking
26% physical abuse
17% witness to violence
28% other types of abuse
In fiscal year 2017, 55,258 children in Virginia were reported as possible victims of abuse or neglect, according to Child Protective Services.
6,947 kids participated in founded investigations, which means a review of the facts gathered during the investigation met the state's preponderance of evidence standard
9,796 children were involved in unfounded investigations
38,515 children were involved in reports that yielded family assessments
120 investigations of child deaths due to suspected abuse or neglect
38 children died as a result of abuse or neglect
How parents can prepare kids for attempted abductions, abuse
by Spectrum News Staff
Brittany Fish's case became known across the entire country after she was kidnapped, and miraculously found alive. But most children who are abducted by someone they don't know – aren't always that fortunate.
Brittany Fish, now 19, sat down exclusively last month with Spectrum News' Brittani Moncrease to describe her tragedy as it unfolded 14 years ago. The second part in a five-piece series debuts at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Timeliness is everything in missing child cases – Brittany was found in less than 24-hours – but not every child is. The more time that passes, the less likely it is to find the child alive, if at all.
While statistics show that the majority of these cases involve runaways or family abductions – there are ways to help protect your children.
Spectrum News reporter Brittany Moncrease sat down with the now 19-year-old child abuse and abduction victim, and put together some resources family members should know, and go over with kids.
There are multiple forms of child abuse including child neglect, sexual abuse, physical abuse and emotional abuse. Here are some safety tips from the McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center to help prevent child abuse.
Tips for children:
Run away to the closest, safe adult.
Tell that adult what happened.
Discuss with parents a safety plan in case of an emergency.
Tips for adults:
Identify parts of the body
Discuss the Touching Rule (No one should ever touch your private areas)
Talk about boundaries
Children Touching Other Children (Discuss appropriate and healthy behaviors with youth)
Let your child know that he or she can tell you anything
Use affirming language and powerful messages
Quick facts on child abuse:
In more than 90%, children know their abusers.
Most children do not tell.
1 in 10 children will suffer some form of sexual abuse before turning 18-years old.
70% of child abuse and neglect fatalities involve children younger than 4-years old.
Nearly five children die every day as a result of child abuse.
Every 8 minutes a child is sexually abuse in the United States.
How can I prepare myself in case my child becomes missing?
Keep a complete and current written description of your child/children
Take color photos of your child every six months or more
Know your child's medical and dental records and where to locate them.
Contact your local law enforcement to see if they offer fingerprinting for children
Collect a DNA sample from your child.
Most common missing child cases involve runaways, family abductions, and lost, injured or otherwise missing children. The cases seen the least are non-family abductions.
#KidsToo: Numbers are staggering in child sex abuse
by Lisa Piercey
The recent social media-fueled #MeToo movement focuses largely on adult female survivors of sexual harassment and assault, but if children could draw societal attention to the widespread offense of child sexual abuse, would it be called #KidsToo? While we universally recognize adult rape as a heinous crime, sadly, children are sexually victimized at two to three times the rate of adults, but where is the public outcry?
Designated as child abuse prevention month, April is a cornerstone for those of us who work in the child protection arena to bring awareness and education to families and caregivers on the risks to our children. When I tell others my medical subspecialty is child abuse pediatrics, I suspect their minds reflexively conjure up images of battered infants and bruised toddlers. Yes, I have seen entirely too many beautifully innocent children murdered or permanently disabled at the hands of a frustrated caregiver. However, it may surprise you to know that over 70 percent of the children I evaluate are suspected victims of sexual abuse. Estimates vary, but across all races and socioeconomic classes, at least one in five girls and one in 12 boys are sexually abused before they reach adulthood.
Wait … I thought child molesters drove vans with no windows and enticed children with candy and puppies? Unfortunately, the prevailing myth of stranger danger and the reality of actual perpetrators are worlds apart. Over 90 percent of perpetrators are known to the child, with a large majority of incidents occurring in either the victim's home or the perpetrator's home. Often, the abuse evolves insidiously over time — through a process of secrecy and trust-building, called “grooming” — and, unlike adult rape, is hardly ever violent.
But you would know if your child is being victimized, right? Parents tell me every week, “We are really close, and s/he tells me everything.” Wrong. Your kids do not tell you everything, and neither do mine, especially if they believe the disclosure will be upsetting or perhaps even incriminating. In fact, well over half of children who have been sexually abused will never report the inappropriate contact to an adult or authority.
Physical signs of trauma, like bleeding, sores, or discharge, are relatively infrequent, but many child victims will display a pattern of concerning behaviors that indicate internal turmoil. Common warning signs include significant mood changes, new-onset bedwetting or soiling, an unusual interest in sex, or display of age-inappropriate sexual knowledge, and self-destructive behaviors in adolescents, such as cutting, substance use, and thoughts of suicide.
At the risk of oversimplification, the single most effective technique for talking to your child about inappropriate touch is to be available and open. Kids need to know you are willing to listen and that you can handle what they have to say, whenever they are ready. Resist the urge to ask pointed or abrupt questions, especially in the presence of others. Use open-ended questions (“Tell me about …” or “How did you feel when …”) directed toward uncomfortable situations or improper secrets. Remember, disclosure is a process, and children will often first test the waters by giving bits of information, to gauge your reaction.
If you do suspect that a child is being sexually abused, report your concern to child protective services and/or law enforcement, then seek out qualified professional support services through your pediatrician, child advocacy center, or rape crisis center. Helpful websites for more information and local resource availability include D2L.org and tncac.org.
The lasting effects of child sexual abuse are primarily psychological, and are much too pervasive and disruptive to ignore as a distant memory. Victims of repeated childhood sexual abuse are often plagued with low self-esteem and feelings of being “damaged goods,” leading to higher rates of teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and a distorted view of a normal adult sexual relationship. Hence, after ensuring ongoing safety of the child, proactively addressing the mental health consequences of abuse, through counseling and support, is ultimately the most significant outcome of the investigative process — much more impactful than medical treatment or prosecution.
I pray for the day when we no longer have to have abuse awareness months or need child abuse pediatricians, but until then, be watchful of those most vulnerable and powerless. The injustices suffered by children are just as deserving of national media attention, and I urge you to advocate for #KidsToo.
Lisa Piercey, MD, MBA is the Executive Vice President of West Tennessee Healthcare and is a board-certified child abuse pediatrician.
Some male sexual assault victims feel left behind by #MeToo
"As a male survivor you're always an adjunct...You're never the leading subject of a conversation"
by the Associated Press
For some male victims of sexual assault and abuse, #MeToo can feel more like #WhatAboutMe?
They admire the women speaking out about traumatic experiences as assault and harassment victims, while wondering whether men with similar scars will ever receive a comparable level of public empathy and understanding.
"Because the movement happened to get its start with women only, in a way it furthers my loneliness as a past victim," said Chris Brown, a University of Minnesota music professor. He was among several men who in December accused renowned conductor James Levine of abusing them as teens several decades ago, leading to Levine's recent firing by the Metropolitan Opera Company.
"Men are historically considered the bad guys," suggested Brown, referring to public attitudes. "If some men abuse women, then we all are abusers ourselves ... so therefore when it comes to our being abused, we deserve it."
Brown's sense of distance from the #MeToo movement is shared by other abused men — some of whom have been using a #MenToo hashtag on Twitter.
"We're never necessarily welcome to the parade," said Andrew Schmutzer, a professor of biblical studies at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago who has written about being abused as a teen.
"As a male survivor you're always an adjunct," he said. "You're never the leading subject of a conversation."
Schmutzer is among a group of survivors and therapists forming the leadership of MaleSurvivor , which since its incorporation in 1995 has sought to provide support and resources to men who suffered sexual abuse as children or adults. It says its website has been visited by hundreds of thousands of men worldwide.
The psychologists and therapists who work with MaleSurvivor endorse the findings of multiple studies concluding that about one in six men in the U.S. experienced childhood sexual abuse, compared with one in four women. Many adult men also suffer sexual abuse: Rape in prison is frequent, and the latest Pentagon survey found that 6,300 men in the military said they were victims of sexual assault or other unwanted sexual contact in 2016.
Despite such data, experts say many men, because of social stigma and feelings of shame, are reluctant to speak up about the abuse they experienced or to seek professionalhelp.
Joan Cook, a psychiatry professor at Yale School of Medicine, has been treating sexually abused men for more than 20 years.
"Many of them still espouse this John Wayne mentality," she said. "If something bad happens to you, just wall it off and don't acknowledge it to yourself or others."
Some of her patients fear they'll be perceived as weak if they go public about their abuse, she said, while others worry people will view them as more likely to be abusers themselves because of what they suffered as children.
According to MaleSurvivor, a significant portion of abuse perpetrators report having been victimized by abuse, but most victims do not go on to commit sexual abuse against others.
New York-based psychoanalyst Richard Gartner, a co-founder of MaleSurvivor, says there's increased public awareness of the childhood sexual abuse of males as a result of the extensive publicity given to scandals within the Roman Catholic Church and at Penn State University, where Jerry Sandusky was an assistant football coach before being convicted in 2012 of sexual abuse of 10 boys.
However, Gartner, like other advocates for abused men, said that in both those cases, public attention was far more focused on the perpetrators than on their victims.
Given the reluctance of many male survivors to speak publicly about the abuse, Gartner says it's helpful when prominent men, including actors, music stars and pro athletes, do make that decision.
"They are models for others to come forward, to tell their families, to find help," Gartner said. "It becomes a less shameful thing when somebody famous says it happened to them."
Among the celebrities who have taken that step: former pro hockey star Theo Fleury, Cy Young-award-winning baseball pitcher R.A. Dickey; film director Tyler Perry; actors Tom Arnold and Anthony Edwards; and Chester Bennington, lead singer for the rock band Linkin Park, who hanged himself last year.
Edwards, best known for his role on the television series ER, announced Wednesday that he has joined the board of directors of 1in6, a national nonprofit similar to MaleSurvivor that supports men who have experienced sexual abuse or assault.
Dickey and Perry, in accounts of their youth, say they were abused by females as well as males — in Dickey's case a teenage baby sitter, in Perry's case the mother of a friend.
The Catholic Church and Penn State scandals reinforced a pervasive perception that the child sexual abuse is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men, but Gartner said female-on-male abuse "is not as rare as people think."
According to one large-scale study published in 2005 by researchers with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, female perpetrators accounted for 40 percent of the child sexual abuse experienced by men. The study found that both men and women who were abused as children were twice as likely as other people to attempt suicide later in life.
Perry, in an interview in December with The Associated Press, recalled how difficult it was for him to go public about the abuse he suffered. He expressed hope that the momentum of the #MeToo movement might ease the path for other survivors.
"It takes a tremendous amount of courage and it's very, very scary and you don't know how people are going to react to it," he said. "So being in this moment, you know I'm hoping that there is change."
Joan Cook, the Yale professor, said she was thrilled by the magnitude of the #MeToo movement, yet frustrated on behalf of abused men who "don't seem to be included under the tent."
"Women have waited so long to get their due, so maybe there's an attitude of, 'Don't take away my voice,'" Cook said. "But it's not a competition."
"Men also have been waiting a long time, and they shouldn't have to wait. They should be heard now."
Video shows 7-year-old boy dragged off school bus by his feet
by Fox13 Memphis
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis, Tennessee, mother sent WHBQ video that shows her 7-year-old son being dragged off a school bus.
The incident, which happened April 12 , involved students at Robert R. Church Elementary School.
“Another parent of a child at the school contacted me Friday evening, and she said she had video of the teacher dragging my soon of the school bus,” the 7-year-old boy's mother, Kimberly Hardin, told WHBQ . “Her son recorded it."
Shelby County Schools said the teacher was breaking up a fight just before the camera started recording, but the child's mother said her son was not part of the fight.
Hardin also claims the district didn't tell her about the incident until days later. She said her son was seriously injured and doesn't want to go back to school.
“He had a concussion and his back was bruised,” Hardin said.
“An employee from Robert R. Church Elementary is being investigated based on reports of forcibly removing a student from a bus while breaking up a fight last week,” Shelby County Schools said in a statement. “We take any report involving student safety very seriously, and immediately reported this situation to the appropriate authorities. Per standard District procedure, this employee has been removed from the school while the matter is being investigated.”
Child Victims Act left behind in state's budget, kept alive by survivors
by Elizabeth Floyd Mair
ALBANY COUNTY — The state budget left out the Child Victims Act — a bill supported by the governor and the State Assembly — that would have extended the statute of limitations for child victims of sexual assault, but adult survivors are not giving up.
The bill never made it to the State Senate floor, so the GOP majority leader is the focus of upcoming efforts.
Meanwhile, a group called Lawyers Helping Survivors of Child Sex Abuse released a document entitled “Hidden Disgrace III” on March 29, listing all of the priests who have worked for the Albany Diocese and have been accused of sexual abuse, what they are alleged to have done, and all the places they have worked.
Attorney Jerry Kristal of Lawyers Helping Survivors of Child Sex Abuse told The Enterprise that the statute of limitations in these cases should be extended by passing the Child Victims Act, and that the Albany Diocese should create an independent reconciliation compensation program that would allow people alleging sexual abuse to get some “recognition that this really happened and some measure of the church taking responsibility.”
Reaching a settlement through a compensation program means that an individual victim would never be able to bring a claim in the future. “What you give up if you settle, is the right to ever sue, if you get that right,” said Kristal, who is a managing attorney with the firm Weitz & Luxenberg in the New York metropolitan area.
Currently, under New York law, child victims must bring charges by their 23rd birthday; most states allow more time. The Child Victims Act would extend this to age 28 for criminal claims, and age 50 for civil. The act also provided a look-back year that would allow claims from any time period to be brought.
“Most survivors are not even able to process what happened to them, until decades later,” Kristal said.
Why so long?
“Let's assume that you're a 9-year-old boy being anally raped by a priest. It's not only by an adult, but a trusted adult, and an adult supposedly speaking for God,” Kristal said.
Children think no one will believe them, Kristal said. In some cases, they might believe that their parents will believe them and that they will kill the priest.
In any case, this secret, he said, is a “psychological trauma of the deepest possible proportions.”
The bill should also include a “look-back,” Kristal said, “so that people currently time-barred would have, say, a one-year window for filing claims.” The Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America opposed the bill.
Views of local state reps
George Amedore Jr., a Republican in the GOP-dominated State Senate, told The Enterprise last week, “I support justice.” He represents the 46th District, which stretches 140 miles and covers parts of five counties — Albany, Greene, Montgomery, Schenectady, and Ulster. Amedore said he would need to see the language of any bill before saying definitively whether he would vote for it.
But Amedore called the acts of predators who abuse children “very evil” and said, “The book should be thrown at those predators that are doing that.”
Amedore said it was “unfortunate that the governor, the speaker of the assembly, as well as the majority leader and the Independent Democratic Conference leader all agreed to take it out of the budget.”
Amedore added, “Hopefully, it will be addressed by June,” referring to the end of the session.
Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy, a Democrat in a Democrat-dominated house, said, “I'm not out to bankrupt anybody, and this is not about trying to do harm to good institutions. For me, this is about giving people their day in court, many of whom have waited many years. It's overdue justice.” She represents the 109th District covering the towns of Bethlehem, Guilderland, and New Scotland, and parts of the city of Albany.
Some of the opposition, Fahy said, falls along religious lines, and “not just Republicans versus Democrats.”
There are 42 priests' names on the “Hidden Disgrace III” list, including two with connections to Guilderland:
— Edward N. Leroux worked at St. Madeleine Sophie in Guilderland in 1970 and, the report alleges, “abused three boys in the late 1970s and early 1908s”; and
— James J. Rosch who worked at St. Madeleine Sophie from 1985 through 1995 and is alleged, the report says, to have abused a teenage boy in the 1980s.
Leroux is dead and Rosch said he had no comment. Both of them are on an Albany Diocese list of clergy found to have abused minors. Both Leroux and Rosch were removed from the priesthood in 2002.
Richard Tollner of Rensselaerville came forward about his abuse almost right away, as a teenager, as soon as he figured out that what the priest was doing was wrong and constituted abuse, he said.
Tollner says he was abused when he was 15 and 16 by Alan Placa, a priest at the school he attended, St. Pius X Preparatory Seminary in Uniondale, New York. He was sexually molested when he was 17 and still a student, Tollner said.
Placa could not be reached for comment.
Asked if he felt awkward having to see Placa around school after he had reported the molestation, Tollner said no.
“Once I understood what was going on, it was more of, ‘This guy is harmful,'” Tollner said.
Tollner recounted the way his abuse ended, at a funeral home during his father's wake:
His mother had said to Placa during the wake, “Richard looks upset. Why don't you go talk to him?”
Tollner overheard his mother saying that and realized “in that fraction of a second” that his father was no longer around to take care of him, and that he needed to take care of himself.
He left the funeral home, turned around, and waited just outside the door. When Placa walked through it, he grabbed the priest and said to him, “Don't ever fucking touch me again or I'll kill you,” Tollner recounted.
Tollner had warned his friends about Placa before that, he told The Enterprise. It was soon after that that he reported the abuse.
He reported it three times, he says — to a math teacher, to the head of the seminary, and to another priest — and nothing was done.
It was in 2002, he says — after “Boston started to blow up,” referring to the explosive exposé of priests' sexual abuse of children that stemmed from a Boston Globe investigation — that Tollner went public with his story in the press.
In 2006, when he was 47, Tollner requested a canonical penal trial, he says. The trial, which was assigned to the Albany Diocese by the Rockville Centre Diocese on Long Island, took more than three years, he said.
During the trial, the church made it practically impossible for some victims who were to serve as witnesses in his case to testify, Tollner said, by making appointments and then changing the time, or by changing the place of an appointment — sometimes to a town 50 to 100 miles away — several times, “making it hard, for the person who is having a hard time, to testify,” Tollner said.
He explained that many survivors find it very difficult to talk about their experiences.
No one from the Roman Catholic Church ever called or wrote informing him of the decision from the trial, Tollner said; he found out from a Newsday reporter that the church had decided his allegations were unsubstantiated.
“That's the terminology they use,” he said this week of the word “unsubstantiated.”
After Tollner reported his abuse, Placa went on to become an attorney and to represent the church in numerous claims of sex abuse by priests, Tollner said. Tollner added that Placa is a good friend of former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.
A Suffolk County Supreme Court Special Grand Jury investigated the Diocese of Rockville Centre, its priests, and its parishes, because of reports of many instances of sexual abuse by priests working in the diocese. Included in its report are Placa, who is referred to as Priest F, and Tollner.
In its report, the grand jury concluded: “[O]fficials in the Diocese failed in their responsibility to protect children. They ignored credible complaints about the sexually abusive behaviors of priests. They failed to act on obvious warning signs of sexual abuse including instances where they were aware that priests had children in their private rooms in the rectory overnight, that priests were drinking alcohol with underage children and exposing them to pornography. Even where a priest disclosed sexually abusive behavior with children officials failed to act to remove him from ministry.”
The report also states that diocesan officials “agreed to engage in conduct that resulted in the prevention, hindrance and delay in the discovery of criminal conduct by priests.” It says, “They conceived and agreed to a plan using deception and intimidation to prevent victims from seeking legal solutions to their problems.” The report says, too, that the conduct of certain diocesan officials would have warranted criminal prosecution, but that the existing statutes are inadequate.
The report concludes that the statute of limitations should be extended, not just to age 28, but to age 33. It also says that mandatory reporting directly to law-enforcement officials should be expanded to include cases that involve abuse by people other than parents and guardians, to include people working in any capacity — ministry, employment, or volunteer — in a religious institution.
Tollner has kept his faith, although he attends an Episcopal church now and has for over 20 years. He was married there in 1989 and is head of his church's board of directors and runs the church's events.
“I consider myself an Episcopalian because the Catholic Church left me. I didn't leave the Catholic Church,” Tollner said, referring to the way that church officials ignored his situation.
If the Child Victim Act is passed, with a “look-back” clause allowing one additional year for people who are time-barred to bring cases, Tollner said, he plans to bring civil charges against Placa.
The Diocese of Albany is committed to providing meaningful support to survivors of clergy sexual abuse, said Mary DeTurris Poust, diocesan spokeswoman, this week in an email, responding to Enterprise questions. The diocese believes that both the criminal and civil statute of limitations should be extended, DeTurris Poust said.
“We support complete elimination of the criminal statute of limitations and a substantial increase in the civil,” said DeTurris Poust. “Through the NYS Catholic Conference, we oppose an unlimited retroactive window that would allow for claims going back 60 and 70 years to be revived.”
In 2004, the Albany Diocese established an independent reconciliation program for victims and survivors of clergy sexual abuse and became one of the first dioceses in the nation to do so, DeTurris Poust said. The Independent Mediation Assistance Program, or IMAP, was developed and overseen by retired New York State Court of Appeals Judge Howard Levine and funded by the diocese, she said.
Judge Levine reviewed allegations and determined settlements in his sole discretion for more than 40 individuals and provided assistance totaling nearly $3 million, DeTurris Poust said. The program was originally intended to operate for a year but was extended several times, concluding two years later after all the requests for assistance were addressed, she said.
Today, the diocese continues to provide financial support, counseling, and other assistance, based on the procedures and protocols of the IMAP program, to people who were sexually abused by a priest or employee of the diocese, said DeTurris Poust.
Although the official IMAP program has ended, DeTurris Poust said, the diocese “has continued to assist those who come forward.” She added, “We encourage anyone who knows of or suspects sexual abuse of a minor to contact a law enforcement agency. Anyone wishing to report a complaint of clergy sexual misconduct in the Albany Diocese can contact our Diocesan Assistance Coordinator at 518-453-6646.”
Kristal, the attorney from Lawyers Helping Survivors of Child Sex Abuse, responded, “It can take years or even decades for survivors of clergy sex abuse to come to terms with their abuse and gather the courage to speak out. It's been more than 10 years since the Albany Diocese closed its mediation program and there are plenty who were unaware or unable to participate in the previous program who are currently suffering and need support.
“It is unacceptable to suggest that a program launched more than a decade ago is sufficient to address this ongoing, persistent problem. We know there are those who are hurting in Albany who currently do not have the same options as survivors in other parts of the state, and the diocese should support these survivors now with the chance to seek healing and relief.”
DeTurris Poust, in turn, responded through The Enterprise, “This is simply not the case. Today, the Albany Diocese continues to provide financial support, counseling and other assistance, based on the procedures and protocols of the IMAP program, to individuals who were sexually abused by a priest or employee of the Diocese.”
Anyone wishing to report a complaint of clergy sexual misconduct in the Albany Diocese is encouraged to contact the Diocesan Assistance Coordinator to start the process and get the support they need, DeTurris Poust said. If a survivor has a claim that has not previously been reported, he or she should report the incident to law enforcement as well, she added.
DeTurris Poust went on to say that no priest or deacon who is determined to have sexually abused a minor at any time is permitted to remain in ministry, nor can he be transferred into, out of, or within the diocese, DeTurris Poust said; any employee who is determined to have sexually abused a minor also will be removed from diocesan employment.
There are no priests or deacons in ministry nor any employees serving the diocese today whom the diocese has determined sexually abused a minor at any time, she said; all allegations of clergy sexual abuse, regardless of when the incident was alleged to have occurred, are reported to law-enforcement agencies. DeTurris Poust said the diocese cooperates fully in all investigations. The diocese conducts mandatory background checks — repeated periodically — on priests, deacons, employees and volunteers who interact with children, said the spokeswoman.
The diocese provides age-appropriate safety training programs for children, to help them recognize the warning signs of inappropriate behavior and to protect themselves by reporting the behavior, according to DeTurris Poust; training is also provided to parents, teachers, and volunteers on an ongoing basis to help them recognize potential signs of abuse.
Asked about Tollner's claim that the diocese never told him about the conclusion of his case, DeTurris Poust said that that would have been up to the Rockville Centre Diocese to do, since Placa was a priest there and never served in Albany.
Tollner said that Albany had referred to him Rockville Centre, and Rockville Centre referred him to Albany.
SHINE art event in Fort Wayne focuses on healing and hope
by Kevin Kilbane
He was sexually abused by his father and stepfather, the young man wrote.
“This made me scared and confused – I didn't know what to do,” he said, adding that he did some “bad things” because it what he had gone through.
But how you approach life is a choice, and he chooses good, he continued in the description of his painting, “Balanced Worldview.”
“What is real is that no one is perfect,” the teen wrote. “It is up to you to find balance in your world and to and to try to make the right decisions.”
The young man's art will one of about 60 paintings or drawings included in the SHINE art exhibit 3-5 p.m. April 26 at C2G Music Hall, 323 W. Baker St. All of the artwork was created by survivors of childhood trauma or adult sexual abuse, and many are accompanied by the victim's story or description of what inspired the art.
Making art is one of the activities therapists use to help children and adults heal from abuse or neglect.
As they create the story of what they have experienced, children can correct the information or belief that the abuse somehow was their fault, said Amanda Wyatt, a licensed social worker and a therapist with the Three Wishes program for children from birth to age 6 at Park Center, a community mental health center in Fort Wayne.
Park Center worked with SCAN (Stop Child Abuse and Neglect) and the Fort Wayne Sexual Assault Treatment Center to organize the SHINE art exhibit. At the event, two adult sexual assault survivors will share their stories and staff from local social-service agencies will take part in a panel discussion about childhood trauma or sexual abuse.
Since July 1, 2017, Park Center staff have treated 614 children ages 12 and younger and 562 youth ages 13-18 for some level of trauma in their lives, said Beth Butler, Park Center's marketing and public relations coordinator.
Many of the children had been removed from their parents or family members by the Indiana Department of Child Services, Wyatt said.
“A lot of what we see in our work with kids is intergenerational trauma,” she said. “A lot of times, we work as much with the parents as the kids.
“We have found a lot of parents don't always view things kids go through as trauma because, ‘That's what I went through,'” Wyatt said.
Wyatt and Nicole Gaedtke, Park Center's SHINE project coordinator, said causes of childhood trauma include:
• Witnessing violence
• Experiencing sexual, physical or other abuse or neglect
• Having a parent in jail
• Having a parent suffering from substance abuse
Research shows children who experience such trauma early in life have a greater risk of behavioral problems, poor health, early death and getting involved in crime, Wyatt said.
But children respond differently to experiencing trauma, she said.
Some get more anxious, shut down and become more withdrawn, Wyatt said. Those children's need for help with healing sometimes can get overlooked.
Other children become defiant, aggressive and lash out, she said.
“We see a lot of attachment problems,” especially if the child hasn't had any good relationships with adults in the past, she said.
Fortunately, studies have shown that having even only one stable relationship with an adult can produce a better outcome for a child who has suffered trauma, Wyatt said. That person can be a grandparent, teacher, mentor or other person in the child's life.
“It really does make a difference,” she said.
Other ways to help children heal after trauma include play therapy, art, drawing and books, Wyatt said. Park Center programs also try to teach them basic coping and stress management skills.
Healing and recovery are possible, as the young man who created the “Balanced Worldview” panting states in the description of his work.
“I choose to focus on being a better person than my dad,” he said. “I choose to focus on making good decisions and being a good person. I choose to accept that there is both good and bad in the world, and I choose to do more good than bad.”
Here is another teen man's description of his painting, “Pain can be Rough,” which also will be included in the SHINE art exhibit:
“Some people say pain can break your heart; but my heart doesn't break, it tears and feels like a sword is going through it. Some people can hurt you, and it is hard for your heart to heal itself. My heart healed by talking to friends and family.
“My heart still has scars to show that I have been hurt and offended. The scars are not bad; they mean that I am healing up. It is possible that the scars will never go away – they are a reminder of what happened.
“It doesn't matter where your scar is; if you don't take care of it, it can get worse – like a cut that gets infected. In order to heal, you have to take care of it. That is true whether the wound is on your body or on your heart.”
WHAT: The SHINE art exhibit will feature paintings and drawings created by children who have survived trauma and adults who have suffered sexual abuse. Two adult sexual abuse survivors will share their stories, and a panel of experts will discuss trauma and sexual assault.
WHEN: 3-5 p.m. April 26
WHERE: C2G Music Hall, 323 W. Baker St.
COST: Free; reservations requested but not required at Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/shine-2018-tickets-44189831977?aff=es2 .
NOTE: Park Center staff recommend parents only bring children to the first hour of the event because some of the information discussed by the adult survivors and panel discussion experts may not be suitable for children.
Lisa Project gives children of abuse a voice
by Donna Orozco
One out of every 11 children in Tulare County is a reported victim of abuse. Abuse can be neglect, physical, sexual or emotional.
The goal of the Child Abuse Prevention Council (CAPC) is to make it a subject that is talked about, the stories shared, the public saying we no longer will let this happen.
As The Lisa Project states, “Some stories need to be told.”
During Child Abuse Prevention Month in April, we talk about programs that are making a difference.
Most students at Mt. Whitney High School finished walking through The Lisa Project with eyes like deer in the headlights. When asked their reaction to the uniquely-designed child abuse exhibit, all they could say was “emotional.”
But they had clearly gotten the message. Asked to leave post-it notes on the message board as they left, they wrote comments such as, “Make sure that you are not silenced.” “Having been someone who has gone through this, I'm letting you know that it will get better eventually.” “You matter too. You can get through this. Speak up!” “You are not alone! Talk to someone.”
The Lisa Project is a multi-sensory exhibit experience allowing the visitor to hear, see and experience the reality of child abuse. In just 10 minutes, people walking through the various rooms come face-to-face with the reality of child abuse and neglect. In the first “room,” the visitors hear Lisa's actual heart-wrenching 911 call begging for help.
The Tulare County Child Abuse Prevention Council (CAPC) was the first agency to bring the exhibit to town after it was created in Stockton in 2010. Two years ago, CAPC with other agencies purchased their own smaller version with the goal of taking it to all area high schools and other venues.
Earlier this month it went to Mt. Whitney. It will go to Exeter High School in May.
At Mt. Whitney, history classes went through the exhibit. School counselors and psychologists were on hand to talk with students after they walked through the exhibit, although they have found that it often takes weeks or even months for students to open up after viewing it.
“I had several students tear up,” said history teacher Todd Souza. “I also had a couple students come up to me and discuss some domestic violence issues that their friends had gone through. The Lisa Project helped open up honest dialogue for the students, encouraged them to come forward and report these occurrences, and help them be aware that they are not alone.”
“It definitely tapped into emotions for many students,” said history teacher May Stevens. “They were surprised to learn of the cyclical nature of abuse and did not expect that ‘Lisa, the adult' would end up in a situation very similar to that which she experienced as ‘Lisa, the child.'”
Quinn Peltzer, Visalia Unified psychologist, recalled one student who went through the exhibit several years ago at Golden West High School.
“She and her brother would ride the bus home from school but be locked out of their house for undetermined amounts of time (sometimes late in the night) until their mother returned. Sometimes the mother came early, but other times it was late at night and the children had to fight hunger and fear. A transient parent, neglect and food shortage in the home were on-going issues,” Peltzer said.
“Until this student walked through the Lisa Project, she hadn't really opened up to anyone about it. But the experience made her realize that it was abuse and that other people also have experienced that kind of thing. Being able to hear and see the different types of abuse in the Lisa Project made her realize that she herself was a victim of abuse/neglect. It was after her experience that she finally reached out to talk to someone about it.”
Exeter High School
The Lisa Project will be hosted by Exeter High School May 16-18 and will be open to the community from 4-7 p.m. that Friday. Barbara Simpson, a former Exeter teacher and counselor, brought the idea to the leadership class. The leadership class is the group that hosts events on campus: Toys for Tots, blood drives, special education prom and faculty appreciation. So Simpson knew if they got behind the project, it would be done well.
“Two years ago, I joined CAPC,” she said. “My background as an English and psychology teacher, as well as eight years as a counselor/dean, made me aware of the quiet suffering of children caught in abusive and traumatic situations where they feel powerless to help themselves. In addition, I have worked with many adults whose lives have been impacted by childhood trauma which has never healed.”
To introduce the subject to the leadership students, she brought in three survivors of child abuse to talk to the class. The students were surprised to learn that child abuse can happen in little towns like Exeter.
“What convinced us that we should have the Lisa Project here is that child abuse is so silent,” said student Adriana Gomez. “It happens everywhere, and it shouldn't be something that people go through alone.”
Only one student had seen the Lisa Project before, when she was just 13 and it was on display in Visalia.
“It really opened my eyes,” said Samantha Gomez. “It's not only physical abuse, but verbal. Going through the different rooms and hearing the stories was hard to hear.”
The leadership students said they thought it was important to raise awareness and be a support outlet for students going through this kind of trauma.
Students want to help
“Because it is an interactive simulation, the Lisa Project stimulates conversation about the prevalence of abuse, and provides resources for help,” explained Simpson.
“Thus, instead of hiding and burying painful trauma, victims can find avenues for change, hope for healing and move from victim to survivor. Empowering these young people to become trauma informed, and encouraging their sensitivity to help their peers, reminds me once again of the goodness and generosity of our students.”
Besides filling out post-it comments after walking through the exhibit, students are invited to fill out a pledge card. There are three items they can check on the card:
Some secrets should be told. I will be a voice.
I will be a great parent!
I will be part of the team and help educate other students by volunteering.
Most of the students at Mt. Whitney checked the box “I will be a great parent!”
Bringing awareness and breaking the cycle of abuse is what the Lisa Project is all about. These student pledges bring hope that child abuse can be curbed with the next generation.
How to attend:
The Lisa Project will be open to the public at Exeter High School, 505 Rocky Hill Drive, from 4-7 p.m. on Friday, May 18. Just follow the signs.
Honoring abuse victims
April 27—CAPC will hold a Child Memorial Flag Raising Ceremony at Visalia First Assembly Church, 3737 S. Akers. All California counties will be raising their flags at 10 a.m. that day to remember children who lost their lives to child abuse.
At 17, this sexual abuse survivor set out to fix a broken system
by Laura Klairmont
Cochabamba, Bolivia (CNN)Brisa De Angulo grew up in Bolivia and remembers having a wonderful childhood. That is, until she was 15.
That's when she suffered repeated sexual abuse by an adult in her extended family.
His threats to hurt other family members silenced her. She fell into a deep depression, dropped out of school and developed an eating disorder. She made multiple suicide attempts.
When she finally gained the courage to tell her parents about the abuse, they reported it to the police and took the case to court. But they had trouble finding a lawyer willing to take the case. Members of her community worked to silence her. Her home was set on fire twice, and people tried to run her down with their cars.
"There was a lot of pressure for me to stay silent, but I just couldn't stay silent," said De Angulo, now 30. "I found out that I wasn't alone, that there were tons of girls that were also being sexually abused, and I had to do something."
Of the 12 countries that make up South America, Bolivia has the highest rates of sexual violence against women -- with seven in 10 women experiencing it in their lifetime.
In 2004, at 17 years old, De Angulo established Fundación Una Brisa de Esperanza -- or A Breeze of Hope Foundation . At its center in Cochabamba, Bolivia, the group provides free and comprehensive psychological, legal, medical and social services for child and adolescent survivors of sexual abuse.
"We work with the families...to see (the) child as a very powerful survivor, and to have the support that she needs so that she can take her case to court, and she can heal," De Angulo said.
The organization also advocates for legal reforms and policy changes for the rights of abuse survivors in Bolivia.
"I had to use the rest of my life to prevent other girls from going through what I went through," said De Angulo, whose extensive team has assisted about 1,500 young survivors.
CNN spoke with De Angulo about her work. Below is an edited version of the conversation.
CNN: Sexual violence has long been prevalent in Bolivia. What are the cultural stereotypes you're working to combat?
Brisa De Angulo: We see it a lot in Bolivia, that a woman is seen as having less value than men, and that starts even before the baby is born. If it's a boy, then you're in this culture of being more aggressive, the one who has control. If you're a girl, then you're this one who has to be submissive, not make problems and sit quietly. Even from a very young age, their path is already set.
We need to start changing that mentality so that they can be born in a context where they will be seen as equal. One of our most powerful ways of challenging the machismo culture is to work with pregnant women, to work with that family, to start challenging the stereotypical roles.
We also work a lot with prevention by giving workshops, training people -- people from government, police officers, judges, prosecutors, children in school.
CNN: Your experiences inspired you to pursue your law degree. What impact has your organization's legal efforts had?
De Angulo: When I went to the authorities, I was blamed for what happened to me, I was questioned for many hours. I was told that I was insensitive for wanting to put a man in jail, for wanting to destroy my family. I was one of the first adolescents in Bolivia to take my case to court, but the judges didn't want to take my case.
When we started the program, the conviction rate for sexual crimes was .02 percent. From the hundreds of cases that we've taken to court, we have a 95 percent conviction rate.
When I was taking my case to court, at the time, it was normal for an aggressor to question the victim on trial. It wasn't a lawyer, it wasn't the judge; it was the aggressor. Through our work, we've proved that that is a human rights violation and have changed the law.
Another law is that if the aggressor married the victim, you couldn't take the aggressor to court for rape. That was being used to marry a 13-year-old with a 40-year-old just to make sure that this man will never be taken to court for rape crimes. Thanks to all our work and our push to the government, we have been able to overturn this law.
CNN: The country now has an annual Walk Against Sexual Violence. How did that come about?
De Angulo: August 9 was one of the hardest days of my life because it was the day I had to go to court and face my aggressor. I started telling my story and asking people if they would join me on a walk against sexual violence and use a blue ribbon, meaning that you were against sexual violence.
(The first year) I thought there were only going to be about 20 people who would join me. But that day, thousands of people showed up with a blue ribbon. August 9 was later declared the National Day Against Sexual Violence in Bolivia. Now thousands of people all around the country, in the most remote communities, march on August 9.
It's beautiful because sometimes you are walking in the street and you see someone with a blue ribbon and you just look at their eyes and you know that we're in this together. And you don't have to say any words, but you know that you're not alone.
Want to get involved? Check out the A Breeze of Hope Foundation website and see how to help.
What you need to know to prevent, spot signs of and report child abuse
by Holly Gainer
Approximately 676,000 children were victims of child abuse or neglect in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . However, the CDC says this number likely underestimates the true occurrence. Prevention and reporting cases of abuse are the best ways to reduce child abuse and neglect, and improve the lives of children in the United States.
As part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Patricia M. Speck, DNSc, a board-certified family nurse practitioner who specializes in forensic nursing and sexual violence at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing , explains how to prevent, spot signs of and report child abuse .
Know the signs
Different types of abuse come with different warning signs. Children who have experienced emotional abuse are typically excessively withdrawn, fearful or anxious about doing something wrong. They also may show extremes in behavior by acting either extremely compliant or demanding, or passive or aggressive.
For physical abuse and sexual abuse, the signs may be more visible to the eye. Children may have frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, appear to always be watchful or on alert, flinch at sudden movements, or seem afraid to go home or be around someone they fear.
Other signs that are more specific to sexual abuse include trouble walking or sitting, talking about or drawing sexual acts that are inapprorpriate for the child to be aware of at his or her age, and making an efforts to avoid a specific person or place.
Spotting the signs is the first step to preventing future abuse; but it's up to community caregivers, like teachers, doctors and coaches, to intervene.
“It is imperative that members of the community understand the symptoms of abuse in children,” Speck said. “Any time a child is isolated, it may not be physical or sexual abuse — it could be emotional or some other trauma in their lives, it is imperative that the adults in their lives take responsibility for the child and make sure they are in a safe and healthy environment.”
If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, or if you are a child who is being abused, contact your local child protective services or law enforcement agency. Alabama has a mandatory reporting process for those who regularly work with children, such as teachers, doctors, social workers, nurses or day care workers, meaning they are required by law to report suspected abuse or neglect.
“We don't have the luxury of not reporting,” Speck said. “You may even be charged as an accessory, and that is important for people to know. You could also be fined in the tens of thousands of dollars for not reporting cases of continual abuse.”
If a child or another person in the child's life comes to you about suspected abuse, you should listen and take action.
“There is a campaign called Start By Believing ,” she said. “It basically says, when somebody tells you, believe them first and then begin the process. It is geared toward sexual assault victims, but it also applies to child abuse.”
Studies show that, the earlier abused children and adolescents get help, the greater chance they have to heal and be moved to a safer environment. It also helps them succeed later in life, and it is important to provide treatment for the trauma right away.
Speck says abuse that is not treated in the beginning often leads to problems in adulthood, such as lack of trust and relationship difficulties, depression, and anxiety. These are normal reactions to trauma.
“People with early childhood traumas have a 20-year reduction in life expectancy,” Speck said. “It's important to make sure the child is in a safe environment and then address the trauma through therapy and, in some cases, medication. They need to have the tools to recover and thrive.”
Sex trafficking of adolescents is another form of child abuse that is often under-reported. According to Thorn , an organization that aims to stop the spread of child sexual abuse material and child trafficking, one in six runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children likely became a victim of sex trafficking.
Access to technology without parental supervision and the lack of fear of the unknown, like strangers that they may meet online, is one of the reasons sex trafficking is a growing concern today, Speck says.
“The problem is they don't have the lens to recognize danger,” Speck said. “They've seen things related to sex on television and online and that are talked about in their homes and communities. They don't realize that, by engaging in some of these things, they are setting themselves up for vulnerability, and when they become vulnerable, that's when the perpetrator gains access to the victim.”
The good news is there are ways for parents to help prevent this. One of the best ways is to be your child's parent, not their friend, and supervise their behavior, especially during the teen and tween years.
“There are a lot of parents who are afraid of the rejection of their child, and as a consequence, they give in too many times, and they end up creating an individual who has expectations that are unreal,” Speck said.
Instead, Speck says, it's important to talk to your children about potential dangers in the real world and try to have conversations with them as opposed to fights where the child may run away – right into the lair of an abuser.
To learn more about how to prevent, spot and report child abuse in Alabama, visit Alabama's Child Protective Services website.
Parenting Children from Hard Places
by Cheryl & Dennis Gowin
Have you accepted the privilege of adopting a child out of the foster care program? The Virginia Department of Social Services reports currently over 5,000 children in Virginia's foster care system with over 700 children also available for adoption. In Virginia, foster parents adopt a majority of the children adopted out of the foster care program.
This is an encouraging trend. However, adopting a child who is in foster care can also present unique challenges. Many children come from traumatic, unstable backgrounds and reflect the effects of early childhood trauma, abuse, and/or neglect. Some children have suffered physical or emotional abuse. This abuse can reflect in numerous relational barriers between your child and you. Your child may also act out violently or become sullen, withdrawn, or silent.
Thankfully, if you have adopted a child from a traumatic background, there are steps you can take to build a stronger connection with him or her. The process can be slow, and it may require a great deal of patience as well as a willingness to parent differently than you may think.
Dr. Karyn Purvis and her team at Texas Christian University developed a parenting model called Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI). Extensive attachment, sensory processing, and neuroscience research supports this parenting model. TBRI is an attachment-based, trauma-informed parenting model designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children. TBRI focuses on Empowering Principles to address physical needs, Connecting Principles for attachment needs, and Correcting Principles to disarm fear-based behaviors. The fundamental core of TBRI is developing connection. Dr. Purvis is quoted, “When you connect to the heart of a child, everything is possible.”
For children exposed to difficult circumstances or trauma during childhood, a special parenting style proves beneficial. A couple of factors support this need for a unique parenting style. First, a child, whose brain is wounded by trauma, has difficulty responding positively to traditional parenting methods. This is especially important to remember when your child behaves irrationally or withdraws sullenly into a corner. Secondly, the more you try to force a change in behavior, the more frustrated you'll become. That's because your child's acting out is due to his or her brain being in a “reactive” mode that stems from emotions such as fear, anger, and hurt.
Specifically, TBRI is designed for children from “hard places” such as abuse, neglect, and/or trauma. Because of their histories, it is often difficult for these children to trust the loving adults in their lives. TBRI offers practical tools for parents, caregivers, teachers, or anyone who works with children, to see the whole child and help that child reach his/her highest potential.
This model of parenting identifies “reactive” patterns inside your child's brain and show how these reactive patterns influence behavior. Once you gain a good understanding of your child's reactive patterns, you can address problematic issues at that level before dealing directly with his/her actions. The aim is to help your child transition to a “responsive” mode where he/she can make a conscious choice to engage in acceptable behavior.
You can find out more about this model of parenting by going to TCU's Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development website www.child.tcu.edu . The resource page offers several free videos designed to help parents understand their child's brain development. Also, Dr. Purvis' book on the subject, The Connected Child, Bringing Hope and Healing to the Adoptive Family, is an excellent resource. If you feel that you need more specific help in utilizing this parenting model the website also provides a list of TBRI-trained counselors.
Don't forget, as you set out on this journey toward connecting with your child, it's vital that you and your spouse make time for yourselves, time to re-energize. Find options for downtime and use that time for your marriage relationship. You are learning a new model of parenting based on the needs of your adoptive child and the process that takes time. If these safeguards for your own health and well-being aren't in place, the chance of burnout greatly increases.
Cuomo announces plans to fix state's weak sex trafficking laws
by Kirstand Conley, Yoav Gonen and Ruth Brown
Gov. Cuomo on Thursday announced plans to fix the state's weak sex-trafficking laws — a day after a Post exposé revealed how they're allowing twisted pimps off with wrist slaps.
Even Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who has opposed such reforms for years, said he's open to hammering out tougher laws.
Cuomo's proposed bill would bring New York into line with federal laws, which recognize that anyone who pimps out minors is a sex trafficker — a felony charge that carries mandatory prison time.
The state's current laws require prosecutors to prove an underage victim was forced, coerced or defrauded into the trade — even though they can't legally consent to sex with an adult — which means pimps can get away with far lighter sentences if their victim can't or won't testify.
“These reforms will close dangerous loopholes in the law that allow these human-misery agents go free and will give law enforcement more tools to help protect victims and bring human traffickers to justice,” Cuomo said in a statement.
Some lawmakers have been fighting to change the laws for years, but the proposals keep dying in the Assembly's Codes Committee, where critics claimed tougher laws could technically punish trafficking victims who help recruit other minors.
Heastie said that innocent people could still wind up being accused of aiding and abetting traffickers under tougher laws.
“The Assembly wants to make sure the harshest penalties are targeted toward those who are actually engaged in human trafficking and not, for example, a relative or a friend who is helping a person by giving them a roof over their head or providing a meal,” Heastie spokesman Mike Whyland told The Post.
“These kinds of situations are not uncommon and could result in harsh sentences under this proposed law just for providing aid to someone who may desperately need it.”
But an advocate for trafficking survivors argues that the Assembly's example of unintended consequences is both “ludicrous and blatantly deceptive.”
“Someone providing a child with a meal, or a room to sleep in, in no way, shape or form could be construed as intentionally advancing or profiting from the prostitution of that child” said Dorchen Leidholdt, a legal director at Sanctuary for Families.
Prosecutors say thousands of victims are being pimped out by traffickers across the city every day, but note state's laws get in the way of locking up the dirtbags, as their victims are too traumatized to take the stand or are brainwashed into believing they're in love with their pimps.
Germany smashes massive Thai sex trafficking ring in 'biggest ever' raids
The ring 'specialised' in a niche for transsexual prostitutes
by Agence France-Presse
German federal police said they carried out the biggest raids in their history Wednesday against an alleged organised crime ring suspected of trafficking hundreds of women and transsexuals from Thailand for prostitution.
The federal police force said that a record 1,500 officers swooped on more than 60 brothels and flats in 12 of Germany's 16 states.
Prosecutors have 56 suspects in their sights, 41 of them women.
Authorities say a “core group” of 17 suspects “smuggled Thai women and transsexuals into Germany with fraudulent” visas for the passport-free Schengen zone.
Those brought to Germany “had to hand over 100 per cent of their wages to the operators of the respective ‘massage parlours' to pay off their smuggling fee”, an extortionate sum of between 16,000 and 36,000 euros (US$20,000-US$45,000).
Seven of the accused, including a 59-year-old Thai woman and her 62-year-old German partner, were taken into custody on outstanding arrest warrants.
Beyond human trafficking, forced prostitution, procurement and embezzlement of wages, the ringleaders also face charges of tax evasion, a spokesman for the Frankfurt prosecutor's office, Alexander Badle, told reporters.
Some of the suspects could face 15 years in prison.
Prosecutors in Frankfurt, who have been working with police on the case since February 2017, estimate that the ring drew more than one million euros in income.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer praised the operation as an “unprecedented strike against a national organised crime network”.
“Several hundred women and men were at the mercy of the inhumane, boundless greed of human smugglers for years and across borders,” he said.
“This unscrupulous behaviour and the sexual exploitation on an abominable scale were put to an end today.”
Badle said the ring had “specialised” in a niche for transsexual prostitutes in Germany's vast sex industry.
He said that while the Thai victims were aware that they were being taken to German brothels, they were duped about the “conditions, including the fact that they would receive virtually no remuneration”.
They were brought to Europe on tourist visas that explicitly prohibited work, and spoke no German, leaving them particularly vulnerable to exploitation, Badle added.
He said immigration authorities would now examine the victims' legal status to determine how long they could stay in Germany.
Prostitution is legal in Germany but heavily regulated and taxed. However a 2002 law intended to improve the legal footing for sex workers has failed to stamp out mass-scale trafficking.
Thailand has a famously permissive attitude toward the so-called third sex people or “ladyboys”, but its laws still refuse to recognise their sexual identity, rooting discrimination in the bureaucracy.
Sex work, drugs and stigma combine with a lack of health care to push many of the country's estimated 180,000 third sex people to the “social, economic and legal” margins“, a 2012 study by the United Nations Development Programme found.
It said HIV prevalence rates among transgender people across the Asia-Pacific region could be as high as 49 per cent – a rate that “far exceeds (that of) the general population”.
The sick tactics sex traffickers use to find victims
by Gabrielle Fonrouge
Sex-traffickers hunt for victims outside large group homes filled with foster kids who have been abandoned by their families and near high schools because “victimization is all about vulnerability,” says Laura Riso, a victim's specialist with the FBI.
As many as 90 percent of sex-trafficking victims suffer abuse — mental, physical, sexual — long before they are forced onto the streets to sell themselves, and traffickers know and exploit the damage that such trauma can cause, she told The Post.
The traffickers “will try everything. It's very simple, it's very easy. .. ‘Hey you're really beautiful, I love your hair. Why don't you let me take you to dinner?' ” Riso said.
Rachel Lloyd , the founder and executive director of the anti-sex-trafficking group Girls Educational & Mentoring Service, added, “There's that appeal of being wanted and being loved. … [When] someone comes along who can offer that, it's incredibly compelling, it's very easy to get hooked into someone who's promising them the world.”
Still, it's not as if sex-traffickers rip the kids off the sidewalk and take them to a dungeon and chain them up, the experts said — at least not most of the time anyway. Pimps use time to groom their victims, flatter them, make them think they love them until they're close enough to make their move, they said.
“The method is to try and put their arm around them and gain their trust and give them a place to stay and make it look as if someone actually cares about them,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance explained. It's about “taking kids who are in need of help, preying upon that need, developing a relationship and then turning against them and turning them into kids who are making money for them on the street.”
Erin Williamson from the anti-trafficking organization Love 146 said social media is a common tool for pimps to use to target vulnerable kids .
“The internet has made every child online susceptible and accessible to traffickers… so a lot of youth are being recruited right from their own home,” said Williamson, who has been working on issues related to child sex exploitation for the past 20 years.
“It can be an individual who is on Facebook and is friend-requesting all of the students who say they attend a certain middle school. And then when one or two accept, they friend-request all of their friends and so on. … By the time they're friend-requesting a vulnerable youth, they have 30 mutual friends, and they seem that they're legitimate.”
Studies have shown that the average age of entry into the sex industry is as young as 12 years old.
The children “are really looking for some type of attachment, some type of caregiver,” Williamson said.
“A trafficker comes and says, ‘You know, you're more mature than other youth your age, there's something special about you, tell me about your goals, who do you want to be.' They spend this time getting to know them, and there's no way for that youth to know this is all part of the grooming process. It's all done to make the youth feel special. [The traffickers] spend time making connections with them in order to exploit them later on.”
Once the exploitation begins, pimps and traffickers use a cycle of abuse and affection to keep their victims in their clutches and to essentially brainwash them into thinking this is the best situation for them and most of all, keep them loyal so they won't testify against them to police.
“It's a mind game,” Riso said.
“[Traffickers will] drive home, ‘The Lord don't care about you, Joe don't care about you, only Daddy' … It's breaking down and reprogramming some of these kids.”
So when the cops do come knocking, most kids have two middle fingers in the air and aren't interested in cooperating with law enforcement, Riso said. This is largely due to a psychological effect that happens between a victim and their abuser known as a “trauma bond.”
Dr. Elizabeth Hopper, who is the director of the anti-trafficking program Project Reach, is a clinical psychologist with a background in traumatic stress.
She said four things are usually present when trauma bonds occur: The victim must perceive a real threat of death and an inability to escape; they must be isolated; and there must be some perception of kindness.
It's the same mindset that keeps battered women with their abusive husbands for years, and it was famously exhibited by Elizabeth Smart during her 2002 kidnapping when police tried to rescue her and she lied about who she was.
Barbara Amaya, 61, was trafficked between the ages of 12 and 24 after she ran away from home and was sold to a pimp who brought her to New York City. Amaya, who details her story in her memoir “Nobody's Girl,” said her “trauma bond” began with her pimp the first night she met him during a car ride from Washington, DC, to New York City shortly after she was sold to him.
“I went to change the car radio, and he slapped my hand away, and I was shocked,” she said. “I hadn't experienced that with anyone, and then he made sure I saw he had a gun in his belt.
“He was making sure all these things were in place. [Then] he started asking me on the way there, ‘tell me what happened in your home,' he came off as my protector, like he was going to help me and love me.”
Amaya, who said she had been sexually abused by her father and her brother, explained that her vulnerability made her an easy target for traffickers.
“For me as an abused child of 12, bringing the trafficker cash money each night after being raped by 10 to 20 men, seeing that I made him, the trafficker, happy, was the same as getting an A on a school report,” Amaya said. “The human brain doesn't differentiate. All the brain knows is, ‘Wow, I made this person happy. Now I feel happy, too.' ”
Williamson said he has seen example after example of trauma bonds that are heartbreaking to witness.
“We'll have youth that say, ‘I know that he loves me,' and we'll say, ‘He literally put a rope around your neck and tried to kill you.' … And then they'll say, ‘Well, he didn't kill me,' so in their mind they love them. … Sometimes they'll say, ‘When I was sick, he went and got me soup and medicine. I'm 16 and my own mother has never done that for me.' ”
Hopper said this phenomenon is often not understood by the public and even by some service providers, causing them to needlessly view victims in a negative light.
“When they just look at the facts of what this person did to you, he made all this money, he sexually assaulted you, he beat you up, he threatened to kill your family, why do you feel this is love? It's pretty important to step into what it is about that that feels like love,” Hopper said.
She added that those who escape “the life” often experience severe psychological trauma that sometimes lasts many years. But, that's not to say the situation is hopeless.
“I've worked with lots of people who've gone and lived normal lives, who've gone on and gone to college and gotten married and had kids and been involved in leadership, all kinds of amazing things that people are doing with their lives,” she said.
Shanifa Bennett, a survivor who escaped trafficking two years ago , said, “I want them to know they're not alone.
“We're here, I'm advocating for you,” she said in an open message to other victims. “There are other people literally just like you so don't ever feel like you're alone, because you're not.”
Alexis*, who escaped trafficking six years ago, also said she wanted to tell other victims to not give up.
“Listen, this is only temporary, you can help yourself, you'll be OK,” she said.
If you or someone you know may be a victim of trafficking, call the national human trafficking hotline at 888-373-7888 or text “HELP” to 233-733.
Former county couple are on a mission to stop child trafficking and will bike all the way across the country to help accomplish it
by Kimberly Marselas
Four years ago, Brad and Lori Ortenzi walked away from their careers and their Rothsville home to fight child trafficking half a world away.
They're back in town temporarily — just long enough to gear up for a different kind of mission starting Saturday.
Over the next two months, the Ortenzis will be pedaling across the U.S. for their cause: Zoe International and its center in Thailand, where the couple is working to prevent the sexual abuse of children and training staff who help victims heal the deep wounds caused by sexual slavery and trafficking.
The Ortenzis hope to raise $250,000 as they trek 3,712 miles on the coast-to-coast “Road of Justice” ride they created and coordinated. Along the way, they'll be joined by friends and other volunteers, including quite a few from Lancaster County.
“Raising awareness and funds is one thing,” says Brad Ortenzi, a former Ephrata police detective. “But we're fueled by the kids and the restoration of the kids. We just continue to be blown away by their resiliency. Sometimes, the first time we see them is on surveillance through binoculars.”
Lori says witnessing the children's smiles and the way they grow under the guidance of Thai house staff reflects a strength she still can't fully fathom.
She first envisioned the ride as a way to raise funds for their continued stay as missionaries and the larger organization, which is expanding with a new Los Angeles location for girls who have been rescued from sexual exploitation.
After reporting to Zoe, Brad Ortenzi originally posed undercover or traveled to remote areas to coordinate care for orphans or other children at risk of being trafficked. Since then, his work has transitioned to training others, coordinating with a nationally recognized Thai internet task force and supervising five investigative teams.
Lori Ortenzi, a former orthodontics office manager, originally oversaw a U.S. grant to Zoe and has since transitioned to managing up to six teams of short-term missionaries who arrive from the U.S. and Australia each year. She also assists the founder, Carol Hart, on trips to the organization's administrative offices in California.
Both help teach English classes twice a week and interact with rescued children at regular prayer and worship sessions. Between 60 and 75 children, typically referred through the Thai social welfare system, live on the campus where the Ortenzis serve.
“We get to be part of the healing process and watch them while they're progressing and trying to figure out their lives,” Lori says. “It's almost like we're pouring into the staff and they're pouring into the kids.”
The Ortenzis will be pouring sweat into 70-mile daily rides through the end of June, covering the miles with friends for some stretches and shadowed by a support van throughout. They've trained for two years in Thailand, with its relatively flat roads and tropical temperatures.
Mike and Nancy Sensenig started their share of the ride early — and inside. Mike and his brothers own Sensenig's Feed Mill in New Holland. The family first learned about the Ortenzis' interest in working with victims of child trafficking when they, Mike, Nancy and their children attended Ephrata Church of the Brethren.
The Sensenigs supported the couple in raising the initial funds they needed to support themselves in Thailand.
For the ride, the mill is serving as a corporate sponsor, and the Sensenigs will take turns driving the support van for some of the final miles in Arizona. Their son, Kyle, 30, will head out on the first leg with the Ortenzis on Saturday.
A second son, Kurt, and daughter-in-law, Emily, both 27, signed up to raise money through an indoor spinning component. Mike and Nancy joined them Tuesday for the second of eight sessions — each one a vehicle to solicit donations for the larger “Road of Justice” effort.
“With all they've given up and done, we just figure it was something we could do small on our end,” Mike Sensenig said.
Additional information, such as how to volunteer and donate, is available at gozoe.org/road-of-justice .
ROAD OF JUSTICE
• What : A 3,712-mile charity bike ride from Yorktown, Virginia, to Santa Monica, California, between Saturday and June 23.
• Who: Brad Ortenzi will ride the entire route, accompanied by his wife, Lori, most of the way. Eleven other riders, most from Lancaster County, will join them for the first leg. Currently, a total of 37 riders are slated to stop in for stretches of the route as it crosses the U.S. Riders who meet the fundraising requirements can still sign up for later legs as short as one day.
• Goal: To raise awareness about child trafficking in the U.S. and around the world, while collecting $250,000 for Zoe International. The effort had raised more than $88,000 as of Wednesday. Corporate sponsors have covered the cost of the ride, support and accommodations.
• Other options: Those who don't hit the road can support Zoe through merchandise purchases, coin collections and other donations, or an indoor cycling component with its own fundraising pages. Donors can support a specific rider, give a set amount to the overall effort or pay by the mile.
• For more information: See gozoe.org/road-of-justice or email email@example.com.