National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

child abuse trauma prevention, intervention & recovery

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"News of the Week"  

April, 2018 - Week 4
MJ Goyings
Many thanks to our very own "MJ" Goyings, a resident of Ohio,
for her daily research that provides us with the news related material that appears on the LACP & NAASCA web sites.


Reimagining How We Talk About Rape and Rapists

A rights-based approach to child criminality would result in children having their voices centred, protected and heard in the debate about them and their issues

by Devina Buckshee

To understand and work at chipping away at the roots of rape culture, we need to reassess our ways of thinking about rape. How do we talk about it? How do we talk about the people raped? We know that the focus on language – survivors versus victims – is an important distinction. We know that rape is not about sex or desire, but about power and control. But what do we know about rapists? Beyond black and white binaries, and as hard as it is, we must try to understand what kind of men rape – and why they do – and then work on addressing these causes.

In the recently held research symposium ‘Every Child Matters: Bridging Knowledge Gaps for Child Protection in India' by the Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation (KSCF) in New Delhi, understanding perpetrators was a key theme. Rape is usually an umbrella term to refer to both adult and child rape or sexual abuse, and the panel discussion attempted to zone in on the difference between child perpetrators and adults. The panellists consisted of professor Nimesh Desai, director, Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences, Geeta Sekhon, international consultant, Trafficking in Persons and the Exploitation of Children, Ngaitlang Mary Tariang, assistant professor, Christ University, Ramesh Negi, chairperson, Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights and Geetanjali Goel, special secretary, Delhi State Legal Services Authority. They argued for splitting the monolithic, complex category of rape into child rape and adult rape, and then further into child/adult victims and perpetrators, and analysing them all as linked but separate.

In the symposium, Desai and Goel suggested we attempt to understand rapists – their mindsets, conditioning and sociocultural situations. Does this mean creating a profile for them? This would likely lead to the stereotyping of an entire class of people, typically lower class men who are already vulnerable in a casteist, classist society. It also reasserts the idea of the rapist as an unknown monster, when they are statistically more likely to be someone we know and trust, according to National Crime Records Bureau data. So the suggestions included understanding rape culture at a meso level, looking at group interactions to observe the contextual, cultural realities and interplay of various intersectional identities.

The normalisation of misogyny, through the socialisation of a gendered nature of power, escalates in group situations where peer groups pressurise and influence younger members to take increased risks. Peers would pass down this toxic masculinity, and the child may commit the crime but not have the maturity to realise and deal with the consequences. Dr Desai thus suggested studying groups of risky behaviours and groups of individuals as a key motivating factor. The panellists urged for a law to not target individuals but keep in mind the larger context that enabled these people to commit crimes. Of course, this assumes for a lack of agency in the individual, but the panellists argued that targeting the culture would be a more effective way of addressing the problem.

For child survivors and victims of rape, more often than not, the perpetrator is also below the age of 18 – a child himself. Juvenile crime is a heavily contested issue, and the hot button reaction is often extreme – wanting for child perpetrators to be tried as adults, or even demanding for the death penalty depending on the age of the victim (the perpetrator's age is not mentioned). This assumes all perpetrators of child rape are adults, and again conflates the worlds of adult and child rape, and ignores the realities of children committing these crimes. Goel spoke about the importance of understanding their lived situations to find the root causes of criminality. The lack of education, specifically, the lack of sex education that ignores important concepts like consent and bodily autonomy was one contributing factor. She argued that a lot of the crimes began with a natural adolescent curiosity, lack of proper information and a lack of respect for any non-male genders – and while this does not condone the act, it does explain the circumstances that breed sexual and gendered violence.

The report launched by the KSCF launched titled ‘The Psychological Impact of Child Sexual Abuse' mapped the realities of child perpetrators. It revealed how rape culture is inextricably linked to the same ‘-isms' that plague society: classism, casteism and sexism. It shows that children from higher classes and castes have a behavioural attitude of superiority, born out of a classist and casteist society. So, when mixed with other behavioural issues, such as learnt gender disparity, it breeds a toxic mindset that assumes violence – against all people deemed as ‘lesser' – as the norm. Rape is about gendered power dynamics but rape culture exists within the larger context of casteism, classism, and other systems of inequality.

Legally, the report argues that child and adult rape is often conflated and despite the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, both perpetrators are treated the same. The importance of restorative justice is evident by the report's findings that most child perpetrators are repeat offenders – mostly of lesser crimes. It exposes the unjust treatment of children convicted of rape where they are sent to an adult jail and often abused at the hands of older inmates. Without appropriate counselling, this usually pushes them further into the folds of criminality. Focussing on understanding the child's ground realities and environment, and accordingly framing a preventive, protective and justice-based punishment could break this cycle of recidivism.

“There is no band-aid solution to this epidemic, as attention to the legal and sociocultural and political context is required,” said Desai. Sexual violence is varied and complex, and so it demands a nuanced perspective to really, wholly understand it. Beyond the sensationalist terminology, an understanding of the lived experiences is fundamental to curb the culture of gendered inequality and violence at a grass roots level. This could help in the healing of the survivor and the perpetrator, and have eventual rehabilitation and reintegration as the ultimate goal. A rights-based approach to child criminality would result in children having their voices centred, protected and heard, in the debate about them and their issues.



How churches can help prevent child abuse, neglect

by Denise George

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time when individuals, families, organizations and churches are urged to help prevent and stop the growing epidemic of child abuse.

The high rate of child abuse in Alabama keeps the state's more than 30 child advocacy centers busy. In January 2018 alone, the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) received 2,088 reports of child abuse or neglect.

The total number of children in DHR custody in January was 6,314. The high statistics in Alabama and other states confirm that child abuse and neglect is a national nightmare.

Too common

The horrifying news stories are becoming much too common. A week before Thanksgiving 2016 police officers in Helena discovered a 14-year-old boy close to death. Imprisoned in the basement of a Helena home for two years, he suffered from malnourishment, dehydration, hypothermia and respiratory distress. Police arrested the boy's adoptive parents, Richard and Cynthia Kelly, charging them with aggravated child abuse.

Days before Christmas 2016, Butler County deputies found a brother and sister, both under age 12, severely beaten in their home outside Georgiana, near Chapman. They were rushed to a hospital in Greenville for life-saving treatment.

Police arrested Jonathan Smith, 33, and Michelle Smith, 30, charging them with aggravated child abuse, sexual torture and sexual abuse of a child under age 12.

Child abuse happens in churches, communities and in the homes of Christian families within our congregations. Most offenders aren't lurking in dark back alleys wearing trench coats but are respected members of our churches and communities.

According to the American Medical Association, “family members or trusted friends or persons of authority commit nearly 90 percent of substantiated child abuse cases.”

The Southern Baptist Convention uses strong words in its resolutions on child abuse, citing that it “has occurred too often in churches and homes — which ought to be places of shelter and safety — and it has happened at the hands of family, educators, ordained ministers and ministry workers — who ought to be trusted persons of authority.”

They implore all Southern Baptists “to pray for children who are victims of abuse, to stand for their protection from abuse and to support safe and healthy children's ministries in our churches and communities.”

How can Alabama Baptist churches help protect vulnerable children from child abuse and neglect?

Before hiring or placing potential church staff and volunteer workers who will work with children and youth:

• Request and check at least five personal and professional references.

• Interview the person, asking directly: “Have you ever been charged with or convicted of a crime?”

• Ask for written permission to conduct a criminal background check.

For existing staff, establish a clear set of policies with staff, teachers, children and youth workers, etc., to prevent child abuse. Respond immediately when abuse is suspected or reported.

Teach those who work with children and youth to understand Alabama law concerning child abuse. Ask professionals, such as the Alabama Network of Children's Advocacy Centers Inc., to train church workers to recognize and report abuse. The state office provides education to schools, organizations, the public and others on child abuse and neglect issues.

It's also vital to educate workers and parents to look for symptoms of child abuse:

• Physical marks on the body, including bruises, welts, burns, swollen areas.

• Behavioral changes such as withdrawal, aggressiveness, self-destructive tendencies, fear of adults, etc.

• Inappropriate dress, poor personal hygiene, inadequate nutrition, clothing meant to cover bruises, cuts, etc.

Report it

If you suspect child abuse within your church or congregation, report it. In an emergency situation, call 911.

Work with leaders in your community to help prevent abuse. Support agencies and organizations that address the problem.


What is child abuse?
Under Alabama law child abuse is defined as “any harm or threatened harm to a child's health or welfare which can occur through nonaccidental physical or mental injury; sexual abuse or attempted sexual abuse; sexual exploitation or attempted sexual exploitation.”



The causes of paedophilia and child sexual abuse are more complex than the public believes

by Kelly Richards

The public often feels intense loathing and anger towards paedophiles and those who sexually abuse children. A raft of sex offender policies such as Western Australia's publicly accessible register of “dangerous and high risk offenders” has been introduced globally to appease an increasingly hostile, punitive and vocal community.

What the public thinks about the causes of child sexual abuse is important, because what people think causes a problem informs what they believe should be done.

My recent research examined what the public think causes paedophilia and child sexual abuse. I found there were four common causal explanations, and while each had some truth to them, they ultimately missed the complexity of the actual causes.

‘Born that way' or cycle of abuse?

I analysed nearly 800 comments posted by members of the public to four online forums created following the announcement of a new program for reintegrating sex offenders in South Australia.

The forums are a rich source of data on public views about causality, particularly since people's comments are “off the cuff” rather than telling the researcher what they want to hear.

People posting on the forum put forward four causal explanations for paedophilia and child sexual abuse.

The first common view was that paedophilia is a sexual orientation akin to homo- or heterosexuality. This is the belief that paedophiles are simply “born that way”:

They do it because their sexual orientation is children.

If their brain says it's children [there is] nothing anyone can do to change that.

U can't “cure” a persons eye colour! And u can't cure the way these child rapists think or behave.

Others believe that paedophilia and/or child sexual abuse is caused by mental illness, making reference to “a mental health issue”, and the need for “mental health support” and to help “the mentally ill”.

Typical comments include:

[…] paedophilia is also a sort of mental illness. Their brain isn't “wired” correctly, causing them to be sexually attracted to children.

[…] they have a brain malfunction and they cannot change.

In line with previous research findings from the US , I found that members of the public also commonly view paedophilia and child sexual abuse as a manifestation of the cycle-of-abuse theory.

This refers to the notion that child sexual abusers were themselves abused as children, and go on to perpetuate the abuse as adults.

For example, posters to the online forums repeatedly referred to the “vicious cycle” of abuse. Others claimed that:

Most of them have been sexually abused as kids.

They are almost always manifesting their own abuse.

Finally, many members of the public believe that child sexual abuse simply reflects a choice on the part of the perpetrator, referring to perpetrators' “choice to take a child's life and innocence away”, the “choice they have made to permanently destroy a child's life by raping them”, and their “sick cowardly choice that they make to destroy a child”.

Some even characterise sexual interest in children in and of itself as a choice: “They have made a choice between having sexual feelings towards children over having sexual feelings towards adults”.

What's really going on

First, it's important to understand that paedophilia and child sexual abuse are not the same thing . “Paedophilia” refers to an enduring sexual interest in prepubescent children, which may or may not be acted on.

Not all those who sexually abuse children are paedophiles, with many abusers acting opportunistically or due to something other than a sexual preference for children. This distinction isn't always well understood.

Secondly, the reality of child sexual abuse is far more complex than any of the four explanations suggest. While it is a truism that anyone who abuses a child chooses to do so, it is not the case that people with paedophilia choose to have this sexual attraction.

Research increasingly suggests that a paedophilic orientation is innate. But this does not explain all child sexual abuse, because not all paedophiles act on their sexual interest in children, and many child sexual abusers do not have paedophilia.

There is some truth to the cycle-of-abuse explanation too, but again the reality is more complex. It is clear that most victims of child sexual abuse do not become perpetrators. Most victims are female, while most perpetrators are male, and there is no direct link between victimisation and perpetration.

However, male victims of child sexual abuse are over-represented among perpetrators of child sexual abuse. This suggests that that for males, victimisation is a risk factor for later offending. A range of factors , including the severity of the abuse, the age of the victim, and the gender of the perpetrator, appear to shape this risk.

There is also some truth to the public belief that paedophilia and child sexual abuse reflects a mental disorder, but only in some circumstances.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , paedophilia can only be classed as a disorder if it causes distress or impairment to the individual, or if acted on would cause harm or risk of harm to others.

So are members of the public right about what causes paedophilia and child sexual abuse? The short answer is “yes and no”.

While they adhere to a number of explanations that are correct in some circumstances, the problem is that most people strongly adhere to only one explanation.

In reality, the causes of paedophilia and child sexual abuse are multiple and complex. Given that public opinion influences law and policy, it is critical that the public is better informed about this important issue.



How to help coaches identify and report suspected child abuse

Study shows positive impact for one-hour training program

by Jeff Grabmeier

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A program designed to help coaches learn to identify and report suspected child abuse and neglect among their players has measurable impact 10 months later, a new study shows.

Researchers found that up to two-thirds of coaches who completed the one-hour program could recall at least two signs of physical abuse without prompting 10 months after training. Nearly all of them said they were more likely to report suspected child abuse or neglect as a result of the training.

The results are encouraging, especially given the current attention to child abuse in sports communities, said Dawn Anderson-Butcher , co-author of the study and professor of social work at The Ohio State University .

“We have a lot of coaches and volunteers who don't have training in this area and don't know what to look for and what to do when it comes to abuse and neglect,” Anderson-Butcher said.

“Even a short training program like the one we studied can go a long way in helping coaches become more knowledgeable and feel more comfortable taking action.”

The study was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance .

The researchers investigated the impact of the “Protecting Youth” training program used at Ohio State's Buckeye Sports Camps . The training was developed by the university's College of Social Work and Department of Athletics.

More than 14,000 youth attend one of 140 summer Buckeye Sports Camps offered through the Department of Athletics each year. The “Protecting Youth” training is aimed at the more than 1,350 coaches, staff, student athletes and volunteers involved in the sports camp operation annually. Many of the coaches involved come from high schools around the state.

The training is given prior to each camp's start date. Participants learn what child abuse and neglect are, how common they are, and how coaches can detect, prevent and report suspected incidents.

While most of the coaches may be familiar with some of the signs of physical and sexual abuse, the program also talks about emotional abuse and neglect. “People are not as aware of these incidents as much, but they're just as important to identify and report so youth can get help,” Anderson-Butcher said.

Coaches are taught how each young person may have a different reaction to experiences of abuse or neglect – some may become volatile, while others may become more withdrawn.

“We want coaches to be aware that signs or symptoms may not always mirror what is commonly expected,” she said.

Participants were also told how to report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect if they encountered them among youth at their camps. Leaders of the camps decided to have a single contact person in Ohio State's Department of Human Resources.

“We wanted to have an objective point person who was not affiliated with camp operations so that no coach had to feel uncomfortable bringing up any issues with a supervisor,” Anderson-Butcher said.

The “Protecting Youth” program also included training on how the coaches themselves should behave around the youth in their camp. For example, they were taught the “rule of three,” which stated they should never be alone with one young person in the camp. They were also given guidance on appropriate touching in specific sports, such as how to perform spotting in gymnastics.

For the study, the researchers surveyed 271 coaches and other camp workers about 10 months after their training and camp experience.

Results showed that 94 percent of participants said that, as a result of the training, they had become more aware of the prevalence of child abuse and neglect and were more likely to report suspicions of it.

“We made it clear in the training that they as coaches didn't have to investigate. All they had to do is report what they saw or heard. It is up to Children's Services to determine what needs to be done,” Anderson-Butcher said.

The researchers reported what percentage of participants in the training could recall one or two signs of physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect – without any prompting or answers to choose from.

More than half the participants could correctly identify two signs of each of the four types of abuse and neglect ten months after participation. The number of correct identifications ranged from 53 percent to 66 percent depending on the type of abuse.

In addition, 67 percent were still able to correctly identify who they were supposed to contact at Ohio State if they suspected child abuse or neglect.

Anderson-Butcher said the study suggests even short training sessions like “Protecting Youth” can have a positive impact.

“The importance of these trainings cannot be overstated. We need to make sure that coaches feel equipped to identify and report child abuse and neglect and know how to act themselves when working with youth,” she said.

Anderson-Butcher conducted the study with Rebecca Wade-Mdivanian and Lauren Paluta of Ohio State's College of Social Work; Jerome Davis of Ohio State's Department of Athletics; Allison Gibson of the University of Kentucky; and Mark Wilson of Harrison Kent Advisors.




Yes, there is a solution to child medical neglect

by Carolyn Bridges

During this legislative session, Idahoans marched to the Capitol with 183 child-sized coffins representing Idaho children who have died in sects opposed to medical care. This number of deaths is certainly an underestimate since many children in sects that shun medical care are born at home, don't have birth certificates and don't have their deaths investigated by county authorities – because medical neglect of these children is legal in Idaho.

In 1971, Idaho law was changed to allow medical neglect of children through a religious exemption. The direct result of this law is that injured and sick children in Idaho are allowed to suffer and die from treatable illnesses, such as pneumonia and gastroenteritis (stomach flu), and injuries.

Advances in medical treatment and prevention have resulted in a 90 percent reduction in death rates in U.S. children since 1935 and 50 percent reduction just since 1980. Yet children in these sects are denied the benefits of these advances. Many of the 183 children honored in the march had common infectious diseases, diabetes or other conditions for which treatment is routine.

Gov. Butch Otter's State of the State address on Jan. 8 reminded us of government's role in “helping individual citizens realize their full potential” and the government's responsibility to provide “equal protection under the law” as called for in the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment.

But since 1971, Idaho children have been denied equal protection. Idaho law gives parents' beliefs against medical care greater importance than a child's right to life and health.

In a Statesman article published after the march, Sen. Dan Foreman was quoted as saying legislators had “agoniz[ed] over this almost to the point of tears,” but “there is no solution.” Hogwash.

The 1971 Idaho Legislature created this problem and now the Legislature must fix it. First, they must choose to protect children who have no voice from the flesh-and-blood consequences of medical neglect. Quite simply, the law should return to pre-1971 language in place since Idaho was a territory; it required parents to provide “necessary food, clothing, shelter, or medical attendance” for their children without a religious exemption.

Legislators need to act on behalf of people like Willie Hughes. As a child, he watched two little brothers suffer and die, and he himself suffered from lack of medical care for childhood illness and injury, only to have his parents get medical for their own illnesses. The Ada Country coroner also testified about the death of a child from untreated diabetes based on religion grounds, only to find out much later that the father treated his own diabetes with insulin. This is child neglect, pure and simple.

Some Idaho legislators have said parents should not be criminalized for their religious beliefs. I agree. But when a person's belief turns into actions that directly result in physical harm, permanent disability or death to a child, the line is crossed and the child's right to life must take precedence.

In 1944, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Prince v. Massachusetts, stated that “the right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community or child to communicable disease, or the latter to ill health or death. . . . Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children before they have reached the age of full and legal discretion when they can make that choice for themselves.”

Parenting is an awesome responsibility that should include the duty for all parents to provide children with the necessities of life, including medical care.

Legislating is also an awesome responsibility. The Idaho Legislature should do their duty to protect all Idaho children equally and remove religious exemptions to medical care. Too many children have died already due to legislative inaction.



More than just stranger danger

by Nonpareil Online

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month as well as Child Abuse Prevention Month. It seems appropriate and worthy to reflect on the issues of child sexual abuse and what we can do as individuals or as a community to prevent this epidemic.

“... I didn't know that what was happening to me was not normal in a family”

“... I was his special girl so I am getting a special treatment ...”

“... no one will believe you ...”

“... if you say no, I will do this to your sister ...”

“ ... you do not want to break up this family, do you? ...”

“... your coach is pushing you to be better, you better do what he tells you ...”

“... not he, you always make up stories.”

These are some of the common statements we hear working with childhood survivors. Talking about sexual assault experiences as an adult is already a very difficult thing to do, but when you are a child, it is extremely challenging. Along with the fear, blame, shame and guilt, children also face the barrier of not knowing relationship norms or the language to express the incidents. After all that, if and when a child tells one person they feel comfortable with, many times they are not believed, dismissed, ignored, shut down or worse — accused of lying or misunderstanding the intent of the abuser.

Childhood survivors of sexual abuse report again and again that the incident of sexual abuse was very traumatizing, but worse was when they were not believed after they told someone they trusted about it. Instead of taking actions against those who victimize children, many times the perpetrators are sadly protected by the inaction of people who have knowledge that “something wrong was going on.” This culture of silence disempowers victims and emboldens perpetrators to continue victimization further and wider.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network organization, every eight minutes Child Protective Services substantiates, or finds evidence of, a claim of child sexual abuse. It also reports that out of the reported child sexual abuse cases, 93 percent of them are perpetrated by family members or someone the child knows; only 7 percent of the cases are perpetrated by a stranger.

In fact, most perpetrators are reputed family men, well respected and liked in the community, according to Children's Assessment Center. These predators are often able to hide in plain sight for long periods of time without being caught and many times not being taken seriously even after being reported to authorities.

We have seen over and over again that adults in positions of authority with access to children such as teachers, coaches, youth counselors, clergy, child care providers and such have abused multiple children for long periods of time. Many of the child victims of sexual assault do not want to come forward for fear of retaliation, repercussion, breaking up the family, creating an uncomfortable environment and mainly not being believed.

Child sexual abuse is a widespread problem in our country. According to the Stop it Now organization, one in three girls and one in seven boys are sexually assaulted before the age of 18 in America. One in five adults report that they were sexually abused as a child, and 85 percent never spoke to authorities about the abuse. Locally speaking, from July to December of 2017, Catholic Charities Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

Program served 184 survivors of sexual assault; of those, 65 percent (120 individuals) were children. It is an alarming statistic, and we adults need to do something about this.

Protecting children from harm is the responsibility of adults. Kids cannot and should not have to prevent sexual abuse all by themselves. As parents, we teach our children to identify different kinds of harm, prepare them with knowledge and arm them with necessary tools to protect them. We adults need to take child sexual abuse seriously and teach our kids more than stranger danger.

A good preventative measure would be teaching our kids about body ownership, healthy boundaries, assertiveness and helping them identify safe adults to talk to. They should be encouraged to speak if they feel someone is acting inappropriately, including within their own family. Parents should model the behavior and provide space and time for children to have open communication with them. It is important to respect children's wishes when they say they do not want to hug someone or are not comfortable being with certain individuals.

As parents and caregivers, we need to make sure we know where our children are and be attuned to children's use of social media. Having regular communication on the topic of sexual abuse and inappropriate behaviors will help children to bring up issues they might face.

As a community, we need to be invested in learning about child sexual abuse, pay attention and speak up when people are acting inappropriately around children before they are harmed. Most of the time, potential child predators groom children for a period of time before they sexually act. The grooming process usually includes special attention, isolation, bribes, compliments, secrecy, favors and eventually gaining their trust. It is a very confusing phenomenon for children to understand how someone who loves them can also hurt them. So, adults in the community need to be alarmed if we see an adult displaying certain behaviors such as: an adult who wants to be with children all the time; adults who have a “special child” friend; an adult who devotes much time and energy on a certain child; adults who show poor boundaries and such.

Our community can also demand child sexual abuse training and discussion in schools, organizations and facilities for youth and children. More than anything, our community needs to be aware and actively participate in changing the cultural norm around child sexual abuse, because preventing child abuse is everyone's job.

To learn more what you can do as an individual and as a community, go online to .

For assistance, contact Catholic Charities Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Program, 888-612-0266.

— Catholic Charities Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Program provides domestic violence and sexual abuse services to anyone faced with these issues through a 24-hour emergency shelter and crisis phone line, court advocacy, educational groups, job and housing assistance, counseling and outreach to under-served populations. The shelter provides safe, confidential living for our clients. Prevention programs are also offered in high schools and through athletic programs. Catholic Charities Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Program serves a nine-county area which includes Audubon, Cass, Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Montgomery, Page, Pottawattamie and Shelby Counties in southwest Iowa.



As child abuse cases increase, Macon County officials seek support in community

by Claire Hettinger

DECATUR — The number of kids put under the supervision of the Macon County court system because of child abuse incidents increased 44 percent in 2017 from the year before. Organizers of a panel discussion Tuesday are working to see that trend decline.

“We need to enlist everyone (for prevention) so we don't have so many children to deal with in Macon County,” said Steve Miller, executive director of the Macon County Court Appointed Special Advocates, a nonprofit organization that assists with abused or neglected children in the legal system.

Macon County last year reported 87 additional kids compared to 2016. Children in care are supported by the Department of Court Family Services, CASA, child welfare agencies, courts, law enforcement, educators and health care, Miller said. But the missing component that officials hope to improve through awareness efforts is the community working to address this problem and support parents and families who are struggling, he said.

A panel of experts Tuesday shared experiences and answered questions at Eisenhower High School, discussing the best way to prevent cases of abuse. The group included Kristin Kaufman from Prevent Child Abuse Illinois, Sarah Biehl from Heritage Behavioral Health, and Shelley Husemann from Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois. The moderator was Terrence “TAT” Taylor, a radio show host and Decatur Public Schools family support coordinator.

Kaufman, a Prevent Child Abuse Illinois prevention specialist for the central region, said prevention must be a goal for the overall community to protect children and families before trauma occurs.

“Prevention comes down to strengthening families,” Kaufman said.

This can be done through programs for new parents, encouraging positive behaviors instead of reacting to negative ones and creating a trusting relationship between social service professionals and families. The panel said the stigma around seeking help as parents should be diminished so people who need assistance or guidance can ask for it.

“Trust is what is going to start making a change,” Kaufman said.

Part of this can be providing information about traumatic experiences to people in schools or other areas where children are. Oftentimes people don't know how to recognize when children are exhibiting certain behaviors because of trauma in their homes, panelists said.

These behaviors are brought on by stress conditioning and children operating in survival mode for long periods of time, Biehl said. Children sometimes show signs of abuse through these behaviors that are strange in situations, such as suddenly wetting the bed, growing shy, becoming angry or acting like a parent.

A child who suffers abuse may experience more triggers in school or other activities, which can come across as bad behavior but may have a deeper reason, Biehl said.

The perception of the programs can prevent those from seeking help, Husemann said. People are afraid of getting involved with the state, she said. But it isn't necessarily a bad situation.

“We are not baby rescuers,” she said. “We are not here to raise a group of children in the system but to heal families.”

There were also representatives from community organizations to provide more information to parents, guardians and others interested in volunteering for services.

Anyone who suspects a child is being abused or neglected is asked to call (800) 252-2873. Each year, 250,000 calls are made.

More information is at .

The event was organized as part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, which started in 1983. The group National Children's Alliance estimates nearly 700,000 children are abused annually in the U.S.



Winnipeg police dispatch free online training to help spot child sexual abuse

Course free for anyone getting a criminal record check

by Dana Hatherly

Free training to spot the warning signs of child trauma is being offered to front-line workers, in hopes of preventing sexual abuse.

The Winnipeg Police Service and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, with $15,000 from the Winnipeg Foundation, teamed up to launch the online training program. It will be free for anyone who gets a criminal record check (often required to work with children) through the police.

The Centre for Child Protection says everyone working with youth under 18 should be trained to recognize and reduce child abuse and exploitation.

"This is a very important initiative to help keep children safe, and at the same time, arm those important and protective adults who are committed to doing everything necessary to keep our children safe," said Noni Classen, the centre's education director. "Day in and day out, our child protection analysts see firsthand the horrific abuse of children."

Police Insp. Kelly Dennison said that to protect children, caregivers need to be aware of the physical and behavioural signs of abuse. "And over 90 per cent, as we know, of children under the age of 18 who have been abused usually know their abuser," he said, citing national statistics.

Over half — 59 per cent — of all police-reported sexual assault victims were children and youth under 18 across Canada, based on the most recent Statistics Canada data from 2008. Those numbers could be higher, according to child advocates who stress that sexual abuse tends to be underreported.

Sexual abuse involves aspects of both power over children and sexual acts. It includes everything from inappropriate language, to sexual harassment, exhibitionism, fondling, oral sex, and penetration, as well as child exploitation via pornography and prostitution.

Some red flags include sexualized play and interests, self-penetration and inappropriate touching of others, and trauma, infection and pain in sexual areas. However, not all children show warning signs.

In order to build staff members' capacity to safeguard children, the web initiative trains users on abuse, the grooming process, professional boundaries, child disclosure and reporting. The training, which is broken into eight separate modules, is delivered online in less than two hours.

Users receive a certificate after successfully finishing the knowledge validation test, according to the police website. Winnipeg police reported that 11,000 people nationwide have completed the training since it launched last summer.

The police and the centre were unable to provide the overall cost of the program by publication.

The per-person cost to participate is normally $12, but Winnipeg police are offering it free of charge until the end of March 2019 for anyone who has just received a criminal record check.



Bill Cosby Found Guilty of Sexual Assault After Years of Accusations

by Graham Bowley and Jon Hurdle

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — A jury found Bill Cosby guilty Thursday of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home near here 14 years ago, capping the downfall of one of the world's best-known entertainers, and offering a measure of satisfaction to the dozens of women who for years have accused him of similar assaults against them.

On the second day of its deliberations at the Montgomery County Courthouse in this town northwest of Philadelphia, the jury returned to convict Mr. Cosby of three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand , at the time a Temple University employee he had mentored.

The three counts — penetration with lack of consent, penetration while unconscious and penetration after administering an intoxicant — are felonies, each punishable by up to 10 years in state prison, though the sentences could be served concurrently.

It was the second time a jury had considered Mr. Cosby's fate. His first trial last summer ended with a deadlocked jury after six days of deliberations.

Mr. Cosby sat back in his chair after the verdict was announced and quietly stared down. Several women who have accused Mr. Cosby of abusing them, and attended the trial each day, briefly cheered, then fell silent. Judge Steven T. O'Neill praised the jurors, calling it “an extraordinarily difficult case” and adding, “You have sacrificed much, but you have sacrificed in the service of justice.”

The Montgomery County district attorney, Kevin R. Steele, asked that Mr. Cosby's $1 million bail be revoked, suggesting he had been convicted of a serious crime, owned a plane and could flee, prompting an angry outburst from Mr. Cosby, who shouted, “He doesn't have a plane, you asshole.”

“Enough of that,” said Judge O'Neill, who said he did not view Mr. Cosby as a flight risk and could be released on bail, but he would have to surrender his passport and remain in his nearby home.

In recent years, Mr. Cosby, 80, had admitted to decades of philandering, and to giving quaaludes to women as part of an effort to have sex, smashing the image he had built as a moralizing public figure and the upstanding paterfamilias in the wildly popular 1980s and '90s sitcom “The Cosby Show.” He did not testify in his own defense, avoiding a grilling about those admissions, but he and his lawyers have insisted that his encounter with Ms. Constand was part of a consensual affair, not an assault.

The verdict now marks the bottom of a fall as precipitous as any in show business history and leaves in limbo a large slice of American popular culture from Mr. Cosby's six-decade career as a comedian and actor. For the last few years, his TV shows, films, and recorded stand-up performances, one-time broadcast staples, have largely been shunned, and with the conviction, they are likely to remain so.

At his retrial in the same courthouse and before the same judge as last summer, a new defense team argued unsuccessfully that Ms. Constand, now 45, was a desperate “con artist” with financial problems who steadily worked her famous but lonely mark for a lucrative payday.

The prosecution countered that it was Mr. Cosby who had been a deceiver, hiding behind his amiable image as America's Dad to prey on women that he first incapacitated with intoxicants. During closing arguments Tuesday, a special prosecutor, Kristen Gibbons Feden, had told the jury: “She is not the con. He is.”

The defense's star witness was a veteran academic adviser at Temple, Mr. Cosby's alma mater, who said Ms. Constand had confided in her in 2004 that she could make money by falsely claiming that she had been molested by a prominent person. Mr. Cosby paid Ms. Constand $3.38 million in 2006 as part of the confidential financial settlement of a lawsuit she had brought against him after prosecutors had originally declined to bring charges.

But Ms. Constand said she had never spoken with the adviser, and prosecutors rebutted the characterization of Ms. Constand as a schemer. Perhaps most damaging to Mr. Cosby, they were able to introduce testimony from five other women who told jurors they believed they too had been drugged and sexually assaulted by Mr. Cosby in separate incidents in the 1980s. The powerful drumbeat of accounts allowed prosecutors to argue that Ms. Constand's assault was part of a signature pattern of predatory behavior.

The case was the first high-profile trial of the #MeToo era. Candidates were required during jury selection to provide assurances that the accusations against scores of other famous men would not affect their judgment of Mr. Cosby. Mr. Cosby's lawyers referred to the changed atmosphere in American society, warning it and the introduction of accounts from multiple other accusers risked denying Mr. Cosby a fair trial by distracting jurors' attention. “Mob rule is not due process,” Kathleen Bliss, one of Mr. Cosby's lawyers told the jury.

Then she spent much of her closing argument urging the jury to discount the accounts of the five supporting witnesses. One was a failed starlet who slept around, she suggested, another a publicity seeker. “Questioning an accuser is not shaming a victim,” she told the jury.

The remarks inflamed Ms. Feden, the prosecutor, who called the attacks on the women the same sort of filthy and shameful criticism that kept some victims of sexual assault from ever coming forward.

When Ms. Constand testified, she took the stand as something of a proxy for the other women, more than 50, who have accused Mr. Cosby of abuses, often with details remarkably similar to Ms. Constand's account. A few of those women attended the trial.

None of the other accusations had resulted in prosecution. In many of the cases, too much time had passed for criminal charges to be considered, so Ms. Constand's case emerged as the only criminal test of Mr. Cosby's guilt.

But Mr. Cosby is facing civil actions from several accusers, many of whom are suing him for defamation because, they say, he or his staff branded them as liars by dismissing their allegations as fabrications.

The suits have mostly been delayed, pending the outcome of the criminal trial and are likely to draw momentum from the guilty verdict.

The case largely turned on the credibility of Ms. Constand , who testified that in a visit in early 2004 to Mr. Cosby's home near Philadelphia, when she was 30 and he was 66, Mr. Cosby gave her pills that left her immobile and drifting in and out of consciousness. He said he had only given her Benadryl.

“I was kind of jolted awake and felt Mr. Cosby on the couch beside me, behind me, and my vagina was being penetrated quite forcefully, and I felt my breast being touched,” Ms. Constand said. “I was limp, and I could not fight him off.”

Adding weight to her accusations was the revelation that a decade earlier, in a deposition in Ms. Constand's lawsuit against him, Mr. Cosby had admitted to having given women quaaludes in an effort to have sex with them.

But perhaps most damaging was the testimony by the five additional accusers, which took up several days. In Mr. Cosby's first trial, last summer, only one other accuser had been allowed to add her voice to that of Ms. Constand. At the retrial, the accusers included the former model Janice Dickinson, who told jurors Mr. Cosby had assaulted her in a Lake Tahoe hotel room in 1982, after giving her a pill to help with menstrual cramps. “Here was America's Dad on top of me,” she told the courtroom, “a happily married man with five children, on top of me.”

The defense suggested in its cross-examination that Ms. Dickinson had made up the account, pointing to the fact that in her memoir she had recounted the meeting without making any mention of an assault. But Ms. Dickinson's publisher testified that she had told her the rape account and it was only kept out of the book for legal reasons.

Another accuser, Chelan Lasha, told how Mr. Cosby invited her to his suite at the Las Vegas Hilton in 1986 when she was 17 to give her help with her modeling career. Mr. Cosby, she said, gave her a pill and liquor, and then assaulted her.

In court, Ms. Lasha, who was often in tears, called across the courtroom to the entertainer, who was sitting at the defense table.

“You remember,” she asked, “don't you, Mr. Cosby?”

As in the first trial, Mr. Cosby's legal team insisted Ms. Constand was lying about a consensual, sexual relationship. But while last summer the defense had depicted Mr. Cosby as a flawed man, an unfaithful husband who shattered his fans' illusions, but committed no crime, this time his lawyers focused on the financial struggles they said Ms. Constand was experiencing, which led her to extort money from a man who had been trying to help her with a career in broadcasting.

“You are going to be asking yourself during this trial, ‘What does she want from Bill Cosby?' And you already know the answer: ‘Money, money and lots more money,'” his lead lawyer, Thomas A. Mesereau Jr., told the jurors as he opened his defense of Mr. Cosby. “She has a history of financial problems until she hits the jackpot with Bill Cosby.”

The defense emphasized inconsistencies in the version of events Ms. Constand had given the police, saying, for example, at one point that the assault had taken place in March 2004, then later changing that January 2004.

Mr. Cosby's lawyers cited her phone records to show she had stayed in touch with him after the encounter and they produced detailed travel itineraries and flight schedules in an effort to show that Mr. Cosby did not stay at his Philadelphia home during the period she said the assault occurred.

“He was lonely and troubled and he made a terrible mistake confiding in her what was going on in his life,” Mr. Mesereau said.

Under cross-examination, Ms. Constand explained the lapses in her accounts as innocent mistakes, and said her contacts with Mr. Cosby after the incident were mostly cursory, the unavoidable result of her job duties.

Mr. Steele told the jury that Mr. Cosby took away Ms. Constand's ability to consent with the pills he gave her, and that their later contacts were irrelevant.

When Ms. Constand's mother called to confront Mr. Cosby about a year after the incident, the prosecution argued, his apology and his offer to pay for her schooling, therapy and a trip to Florida were evidence he knew he had done something wrong.

Mr. Steels, the district attorney, also worked to rebut the defense claims. He said that Mr. Cosby, a member of Temple University's board of directors and the university's most famous alumnus, set his sights on Ms. Constand, an employee in the university's athletic department who considered Mr. Cosby a mentor.

“This case is about trust,” Mr. Steele had told the jurors. “This case is about betrayal, and that betrayal leading to a sexual assault of a woman named Andrea Constand.”




We need to talk about sexual abuse and how to stop it

by Rachel Freeman

Cances are, someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault.

Rape, incest, acquaintance rape, human sex trafficking, exposure, voyeurism and forced participation in pornography, child rape, sexual exploitation, non-consensual image-sharing, or unwanted sexual contact can happen to anyone regardless of age, race, ethnicity, religion, ability, income, appearance, orientation or identity.

•  1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday.

•  1 in 6 women and 1 in 17 men will suffer rape or attempted rape in their lifetime.

•  1 in 5 females and 1 in 16 males will be sexually violated while in college.

•  Only one victim of sexual child abuse out of 12 will tell

For 40 years, the Sexual Assault Center has served and been a voice for survivors of sexual assault and sexual violence.

Throughout April, Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, we have invited the community to be part of Nashville's collective voice to end this silent epidemic.

Whether you have a story to share, a loved one to support or a child to protect, embrace your voice. Your voice has power. Let's talk about consent, healthy relationships and boundaries.

Let's start by believing when someone discloses a story of rape or sexual abuse. Even if that story happened years ago. Over half of those we serve at the Sexual Assault Center are adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse who have often held their stories inside for decades.

Sexual assault survivors have come out in great force the last several months as a result of the viral #MeToo movement, because there is power and safety in numbers.

Why do so many survivors of sexual assault not tell right away? Here are some of the common reasons it might take someone a long time to share their story, if ever:

•  Fear — of being hurt again, of not being believed or supported, of something bad happening if the truth comes out;

•  Alcohol or drugs were involved;

•  They did tell but weren't believed.

•  With children, grooming behaviors are used that make it difficult for the child to know that what was happening was actually abuse;

•  Unsure who to tell or lack of support system.

Children, sisters, wives, mothers, brothers, husbands, fathers, friends and neighbors have suffered in silence because great shame comes with being victimized by sexual assault.

The time to talk is now. Embrace your voice.

Nashville, it's time to say no more to sexual assault. We will not tolerate it any longer. We all deserve a better and brighter future.

Let's embrace our voices now so that our children, the next generation, won't have a #MeToo story to share.

If you would like to join us in this movement or would like help starting these tough conversations, please give us a call, visit our website (, or call our 24-hour crisis support line at 1-800-879-1999. We're here to help. But, we need your help to put an end to sexual violence in our community.

To all the survivors out there who have shared your story or who are still waiting for that right moment: We believe you. It wasn't your fault. We're here to help. Embrace your voice.

How to talk about sexual assault and #MeToo

Watch and join a live discussion on Facebook with Sexual Assault Center CEO Rachel Freeman and Tennessean Opinion and Engagement Editor David Plazas at 9 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, May 16. Freeman will talk about how to have healthy conversations about sexual assault and abuse and why it sometimes takes victims a while to talk about their trauma. This part of the Civility Tennessee campaign , which encourages respectful discourse on tough issues.



To prevent child sexual abuse, we must expand school-based programs for adolescents

by Lee Nichols and Maggie Ingram

When you see a tragic news headline about child molestation, who do you imagine the perpetrator to be? The stereotype is an adult male.

However, up to half of child sexual abuse is actually perpetrated by older youth . Harmful sexual behavior by older children and adolescents is an issue that is emotionally challenging and often goes unaddressed when discussing child sexual abuse. But it must not be swept under the rug, because it has serious consequences for both the survivors and perpetrators of these behaviors.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month — a good occasion to discuss youth-on-youth sexual abuse, because this segment of child sex crimes offers a significant opportunity for intervention before harm occurs.

In most cases, youth who engage in harmful sexual behaviors with other children (including younger children) do not do so out of a preferential attraction to children, but out of a history of abuse, lack of understanding of developmental differences, impulsivity, lack of monitoring, and other personal and situational factors that can be addressed through prevention efforts.

Research suggests that school-based programs aimed at teaching adolescents about proper behavior among peers, as well as developmental differences and the continuum from healthy to harmful behavior with younger children, could help reduce harmful sexual behaviors.

Such programs already exist but ought to be expanded. Among many examples:

Mental Health America of Greater Dallas offers a curriculum named WHO (We Help Ourselves) that encourages learning through age-appropriate videos, discussion topics, situational problem-solving and follow-up activities aimed at school children of all ages.

The Healthy Relationships, Safe Choices, Connected Youth program targets grades seven through nine and promotes healthy youth relationships through innovative programming, research, education and consultation.

Others are being tested now, such as Responsible Behavior with Younger Children (RBYC), which aims to prevent adolescents from sexually assaulting younger children. Currently in its pilot stages in Baltimore middle schools, RBYC is provided to all adolescents, not just those labeled as “at-risk.”

RBYC uses evidence-based approaches to reduce known risk factors for harmful sexual behaviors by adolescents. For example, due to adolescents' limited knowledge of developmental differences, they may mistakenly believe children are able to consent to sexual activity. Programs such as RBYC would challenge potentially harmful attitudes and beliefs by educating adolescents about differences between children and older youth.

After allegations of and a conviction for child sexual abuse at the USA Gymnastics program, Gov. Greg Abbott announced a policy initiative recommending $39 million in state funding to increase efforts to address sexual violence . This initiative represents an important opportunity for Texas to shift our attention toward evidence-based approaches for preventing the public health problem of child sexual abuse.

Most of the existing approaches to prevention are school-based programs aimed at preventing sexual victimization by teaching children “the three R's”— recognize, resist, report. While such programs have benefits, research has not yet found these programs to be effective in reducing rates of abuse.

We encourage Abbott to incorporate programs like those described above into the curriculum for Texas middle schools as part of his initiative. If we can prevent first instances of child sexual abuse, we can prevent the emotional trauma that victims and families endure.

We can also reduce the financial cost to state and federal governments associated with investigating and prosecuting child sexual abuse cases, treating victims, and incarcerating and managing convicted sexual offenders.

It is our obligation as advocates for children to follow the science when it comes to preventing child sexual abuse. Until we commit to taking the road less traveled in the prevention of sexual violence, we will continue to fall short in our pursuit to protect children.




Ending child abuse isn't 'someone else's' responsibility. It's mine. And yours

by Todd Suntrapak

It started as Child Abuse Prevention Week in 1982. The next year, President Reagan proclaimed it to be a month-long awareness initiative. Every year since then, during April in particular, we all say that child abuse must end.

And it does not.

There are three fundamental truths behind this issue.

First, every day should be the day we end child abuse. Not just a week or a month.

Second, it is a harsh reality that we even need to have an awareness campaign at all around an issue like child abuse.

And, third, child abuse rates have continued to rise over the last almost-four decades, despite our best public awareness efforts.

At Valley Children's Hospital and across our network, our team works every day to get kids back to being kids – playing, growing and learning. But for the nearly 1,000 children we see every year at the hospital for reasons directly related to child abuse, the opportunities to play and to grow and to learn in healthy, loving environments simply do not exist.

Of those precious children, 146 had to be hospitalized because their injuries were so severe. And of all the statistics, the one that we, as a community, should never accept – is that every year, four to five children die at Valley Children's from complications directly related to child abuse.

We have all heard the national, state and local statistics. In the United States, more than four children die every day from child abuse and neglect. In California, half a million children are reported abused every year….most often at the hands of someone the child knows and trusts.

The highest rates of child abuse occur in children under the age of 1. More than one-quarter of victims are younger than three years old. Right here in Central California, as many as 90,000 reports of suspected child abuse are filed each year.

The effects of child abuse last a lifetime.

In a 1990s landmark study sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control, a strong correlation was discovered between childhood abuse and subsequent adult diseases including diabetes, obesity, depression, hepatitis, alcoholism, heart disease, fractures and suicide.

For adults who experienced adverse childhood experiences, their likelihood to attempt suicide, develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol, smoke or suffer from mental illness are significantly increased.

So our ability to prevent child abuse now will make a huge difference to every kid we help, today and as they grow into adulthood.

We must keep working at this.

Our communities are growing, the challenges for many families are complicated and there is conflict present in the world around us. Despite all of that – and maybe because of it – we must continue the work to end the cycles of child abuse here in our communities.

The Guilds Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Center at Valley Children's provides education to parents, caregivers, health care personnel and teachers throughout the Valley on how to spot signs of child abuse. The center remains open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If we diagnose or suspect intentional harm has been done to a patient, our Child Advocacy Clinic works with local law enforcement, child protective services and district attorneys' offices with a goal of rescuing children from abusers.

To strengthen our community's response to child abuse cases, the Fresno County District Attorney's office recently received a grant from the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), Victim Services and Public Safety Branch, to initiate an Electronic Suspected Child Abuse Report System (E-SCAR) in Fresno County.

E-SCAR establishes a database enabling electronic sharing of suspected child abuse reports among district attorney's offices, local law enforcement and county child welfare departments. The more we can share information about suspected child abuse cases, the better our chances to protect children.

Each of us must commit to ending child abuse.

Ending child abuse is not “someone else's” responsibility. It is my responsibility. And yours. And every neighbor, teacher, faith leader, police officer, store owner and parent's responsibility. So what can we do?

Learn the signs. Child abuse occurs everywhere. It doesn't know limits of zip codes, how much someone earns or what kind of house they live in.

If you see something, say something. If you suspect a child is being neglected or abused, report your concerns to authorities. It is better to be wrong than sorry.

Support the families around you. Offer parents the resources they need.

Talk about child abuse prevention in your family, your schools, workplaces and places of worship.

Volunteer your time to organizations working to help kids who are victims of child abuse. Advocate for kids at the local, state and federal levels of government.

Above all, be a voice for those smallest, most precious members of our community who often have no voice at all.

From our vantage point, it is difficult to witness a child going through an illness or injury, but it's particularly devastating when we see a child who has been deliberately harmed.

There is one thing we simply cannot forget. Child abuse ends lives, destroys hope and changes a kid's life forever.

And at Valley Children's, we know that every child has a future worth fighting for.



Billboard campaign aims to prevent child abuse in Utah

by John Franchi

SALT LAKE CITY – Billboards along Interstate 15 in Utah are delivering a jarring message as people pass by.

Designed by Prevent Child Abuse Utah, the billboards display a simple stat claiming one in five children in Utah will be sexually abused before turning 18.

“You have a very small window of time in order to have somebody read something,” said Mary Lucero, the Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse Utah. “When we were designing the billboards, we really just wanted to be able to capture peoples' attention.”

She hopes the billboards begin a conversation about a serious problem in this state.

“Our confirmed rate of child sexual abuse specifically in the state of Utah is worse,” Lucero said. “It's three times the national average.”

She encourages people to take a free course found on the Prevent Child Abuse Utah website.

“It takes 30 minutes, it takes 30 minutes to know what to look for,” Lucero said.

Statistics show most sexual predators know their victims and establish trust.

“There's a grooming cycle that usually these perpetrators will go through, and so they will build a trusting relationship with the parents and the child,” Lucero said.

By learning the signs of abuse and educating children about what is and isn't acceptable, Lucero hopes Utah can make a dent in the number of cases of sexual abuse.

“It's easily understandable from a kindergarten-aged child, all the way up to an adult,” Lucero said when asked how parents can bring up the subject with their children. “Just don't let somebody touch you where your bathing suit covers.”

To learn how to protect children from sexual abuse, you can find the online course here.


New Mexico

CYFD has new focus in efforts to stop child abuse

by Jackie Kent

CYFD is sending packets this week to the state's 750 child care centers about its new "Pull Together" initiative, which includes information that tells them how to identify signs of abuse or neglect and report it by calling #SAFE (1-855-333-SAFE), which directs them to the CYFD's call center.

"[More calls] will help us get the reports that we need so that we can go out, do the investigations to keep these children safe," CYFD Cabinet Secretary Monique Jacobson said.

Jacobson also said she knew there needed to be an immediate change after the CYFD questioned whether a child care center could have done more to spot a recent child abuse case.

"We reached out to the child care center to talk to them about what they may have seen or known and really ask them why things were not reported. We found that there was just an uncertainty of how to report or what to report," she added.

She said a similar initiative in New Mexico school districts led to 550 more reports to CYFD over the past two years.

"It's a double-edged sword: We want them to report which is good because it's getting eyes on children who need eyes on them. It's just always sad when we see our child abuse numbers increase," she stated.

To compare the number of reports, school districts in 2017 called #SAFE 5,387 times, while all of the child care centers made 100 calls, according to CYFD.

CYFD also says another reason child care center reporting numbers are lower than they could be is because some child care workers report to police without knowing they can call CYFD directly.



Pennsylvania is national leader in aggressively going after institutional child sex predators

by Ivey DeJesus

More than any other state, Pennsylvania is aggressively going after child sex predators.

From multiple grand jury investigations into the Archdiocese of Philadelphia , a similar grand jury probe into the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown , the prosecution of Jerry Sandusky and the investigation into systemic sex abuse of students at a New Hope private school , state prosecutors have positioned the state as arguably the most aggressive in the nation against child sex crimes.

A pending grand jury investigation into six Roman Catholic dioceses in the state is poised to further ratchet up the scope of that outlook. The probe ostensibly will provide a complete look into clergy sex abuse in Pennsylvania.

"Pennsylvania is to be commended for pursuing these criminal matters," said Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney who specializes in sexual abuse cases and represented hundreds for victims in lawsuits against the Catholic Church. "In a way they are showing many states the great need for criminal actions to be pursued with regard to clergy sex abuse and sex abuse of children."

Garabedian was featured prominently -- as portrayed by Stanley Tucci -- in the film " Spotlight ," which disseminated to a global audience the story of decades of abuse and cover-up in the Archdiocese of Boston.

When released, the grand jury report, which is expected out as early as May, will position Pennsylvania as the state with the most grand jury reports into child sex abuse by institutions.

"No other state prosecutors have taken this issue as seriously as they have here," said Marci Hamilton, a University of Pennsylvania law professor and one of the nation's leading advocates for reform to child sex crime laws.

"Some other state might have one. It might be into a diocese but this persistent follow up, largely started by Lynne Abraham, sent the message that whether or not the statute of limitations have expired, we need to know what happened. I think that's what has been happening in the state of Pennsylvania."

Abraham, a former Philadelphia district attorney, in 2005 led the grand jury investigation that found the Philadelphia archdiocese for decades failed to investigate claims of sexual abuse of children by priests, and failed to protect children.

Hamilton, who has during her career represented scores of plaintiffs in child sex abuse cases, said the scope of the pending grand jury investigation report is likely to eclipse other reports. Hamilton said the report will give insight into how systemic abuse of children happens in institutions -- whether religious or secular.

"This is huge," she said. "No other state attorney general has done this before. I believe that what they are going to do is give a comprehensive picture of the system in the Catholic Church that put children at risk."

The grand jury has been investigating allegations of sexual abuse by priests in the Catholic dioceses of Harrisburg, Allentown, Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Erie and Scranton. The probe comes in the wake of four other similar reports in Pennsylvania: three reports out of the Archdiocese in Philadelphia and the 2016 report on the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.

The capacity to recommend that criminal charges be brought against individual perpetrators as well as church hierarchy, says Hamilton, will be among the compelling outcomes of the report. A grand jury has no power to charge or convict, but it can present probable cause to bring a case to trial.

Hamilton said the probability is high that criminal charges will come out of the pending grand jury report. She points specifically to the case against Monsignor William Lynn , the church's most senior official to have been convicted in this country for his handling of pedophile priests.

Lynn, a former secretary for clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, was convicted in 2012 for transfering a known pedophile priest. As a result of an unresolved defense appeal, Lynn currently is a free man, and may not face retrial for months. He had served nearly three years of a three- to six-year sentence.

"The Lynn case opened the door to being able to charge supervisors for endangering the welfare of children," Hamilton said. "There is every reason to believe there is a possible charge here."

Advocates for victims increasingly are looking to Australia as a potential change in outlook towards the decades-old clergy sex abuse scandal. Australia is poised to prosecute the country's top Catholic official, Cardinal George Pell.

The case against Pell stemmed from a national inquiry into child abuse in Australia a few years ago. The Australia Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2012 launched an investigation into how the Catholic Church and other institutions responded to sexual abuse of children in Australia over 90 years.

Garabedian said that Pennsylvania's aggressiveness in pursuing criminal matters pertaining to child sex abuse has set a tone and signals probable outcomes.

"I think one will see a lot more criminal actions being filed," he said. "If the aggressiveness of the state of Pennsylvania in its investigation is any indication, I believe you will see a lot more criminal actions being pursued in Pennsylvania than most other states."

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has long said it advocates for the rights of victims and their healing.

"The Catholic Church has embraced the need to make this right for survivors," conference spokesperson Amy Hill recently said to PennLive in a written statement.

"Pennsylvania's dioceses have fully cooperated with the grand jury's investigation. Every diocese in Pennsylvania has helped survivors and their families pay for counselors and treatment programs of their choice, and will continue to do so. We pray the victims and their families can recover as they continue through a difficult healing process."

Both Hamilton and Garabedian note that the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania present a primary barrier.

No criminal charges, for example, resulted out of the grand jury report into the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. Most, if not all, victims in that report had "timed out" of the legal system -- meaning the statute of limitations had expired for them.

Under current law, civil action can be pursued only until the victim reaches 30. A victim can bring criminal charges against an offender until he or she reaches 50, as long as he or she turned 18 after Aug. 27, 2002. The law allows victims older than that to report until their 30th birthday.

"The state of Pennsylvania is one of the more aggressive states pursuing the facts and law concerning criminal actions, but Pennsylvania, like so many other states, has to amend its statute of limitations," Garabedian said.

Hamilton said that while she expects the majority of the cases that will be outlined in the pending grand jury report are likely to be out of statute, she is still confident criminal charges could result, perhaps not so much on predator priests but on church hierarchy.

"With respect to the endangerment claim against Lynn, the argument is not only had he endangered children with respect to particular cases, but that it was an ongoing activity of endangerment by a diocese," Hamilton said. "The question will be 'what was the last act by a church official that would have endangered children?' That could be more recent even if most victims claims have expired."



Hundreds of Connecticut Children Home Schooled in Households Where Abuse, Neglect Suspected

by Josh Kovner

Home schooling.

The phrase evokes a vision of committed parents, with the capacity to give their children what the law requires — an education equivalent to what is provided in school.

But that ideal is not the reality for a significant number of disadvantaged children in Connecticut. From 2013 through 2016, nearly four out of 10 children withdrawn for home schooling in a sampling of urban, suburban and rural school districts lived in households reported to child-protection authorities for suspected abuse or neglect, state child advocate records reveal.

Yet Connecticut is one of only 11 states with no law compelling schools to follow up once a child is withdrawn for home schooling. That means no required home visit, or meeting with mom and dad to assess the work, and no way for a school district to veto a notice of intent to withdraw a child once the notice is filed.

That applies even in households where there have been extensive reports of abuse and neglect, including what is known as educational neglect, where a child has missed large swaths of a school year and is failing academically.

At a packed public hearing Thursday on Child Advocate Sarah Eagan's findings, lawyer Deborah Stevenson of Southbury, who has advocated for the rights of home-schoolers for nearly 30 years, made it clear that the parents she represents don't want Connecticut to leave that group of 11 unregulated states, not even for a minimal framework of requirements.

In the hearing-room gallery behind Stevenson, parents who home-school their children listened intently, some with their children by their side. Some of the mothers even turned their trip to the Capitol into a civic lesson for their children.

Stevenson said the legislature should leave well-enough alone.

She said that if the concern is that some percentage of children are being withdrawn into unsafe homes, “then that is neglect, and neglect is the responsibility of the Department of Children and Families.”

But Eagan said basic regulations, such as those in place in 39 states, would help protect children in neglectful households while not interfering with the right of families to home-school their children.

The Courant reviewed several case reports in which children were withdrawn into dysfunctional households, ostensibly to be home-schooled. One of the cases involved a 15-year-old greater Hartford youth with an extensive history of chronic absenteeism and exposure to recurring bouts of domestic violence at home. The youth had accumulated another 70 unexcused absences before the mother — who had failed to cooperate with several programs designed to help her – filed the one-page notice of intent and withdrew the child to be home-schooled, apparently with no interference from the large suburban school district.

Earlier this year, the Office of the Child Advocate examined home schooling records in a sampling of six school districts across Connecticut – urban, suburban and rural.

The review found that 36 percent of children withdrawn for home schooling in those districts from 2013 through 2016 lived in households with a history of involvement with the Department of Children and Families, said Eagan.

“The majority of these families had a history of multiple prior reports to DCF for suspected abuse or neglect,” Eagan wrote in an investigative summary she prepared for Thursday's public hearing.

Eagan wrote “none of the six districts had protocols to conduct follow-ups with the withdrawn students or his/or her family, such as an assessment of academic progress, or a portfolio review.”

Rep. Diana Urban, a Democrat of North Stonington and co-chairwoman of the committee, scheduled Thursday's public hearing after Eagan outlined for legislators the dearth of state regulations on home schooling.

Urban asked the home-school parents on Thursday if some of them would participate in a working group that would try to devise an approach that both protects children in neglectful households and preserves the unfettered right of parents to direct their children's education.

But after several speakers said they would oppose any regulation, Urban said, “I hope you all would be open to a dialogue, but I'm not hearing that. This is not you we are talking about. This is not happening to your children, but it is happening to someone's children.”

Urban said she was looking for “a way forward” to bolster the safety net for children withdrawn into dysfunctional homes.

According to the Virginia-based Homeschooling Legal Defense Fund, which fights to the protect the right of parents to home school their children, seven nearby states have moderate to high amounts of regulation – New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania. Others with at least some laws governing home schooling include Alabama, Montana and Kansas.

Connecticut is in the group of 11 states with no regulations.

A lawyer with the Virgina-based legal-defense team, Peter Kamakawiwoole, said at the Thursday's hearing that more regulation doesn't mean fewer child-abuse fatalities.

Eagan said she supported adding regulations not because children in neglectful households will die from abuse, but because those children were likely not receiving the education their parents said they would provide.

The state Department of Education in 1994 drafted “guidance” on what school districts should do when children are withdrawn for home schooling. Stevenson, legal adviser to several coalitions of home-school parents, helped draft the guidance, which mirrors laws in place in many states.

“If parents wish to educate their child in their home, they must show equivalency … and local boards of education must determine whether or not such a child is receiving equivalent instruction,” the guidance reads.

The suggested procedures include “an annual portfolio review … to determine if instruction in the required courses has been given.”

If a parent refuses to comply with requests from the school district to participate in those annual reviews, it “may cause the child to be considered truant,” the recommendations say.

But Connecticut's school districts are not compelled to follow those suggestions – and many don't, citing a shortage of time, money and resources.

“There is some guidance, but it's just that – guidance. There's a lot of room for interpretation,” said Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, Hartford's superintendent of schools since December of 2016.

She said the Hartford public-school system is a year into a sweeping reform in the way teachers and staff members recognize and react to any deficiencies in the instruction of special-education students and any other vulnerable pupil, including those who have been withdrawn for homeschooling in troubled households.

She said administrators are routinely gathering more information about children who are withdrawn, including their educational records, and the results of any home visits that school case workers may have had with those parents.

Torres-Rodriguez said that where there was once a nonexistent partnership with DCF, the Hartford school system since December has been routinely conveying a larger amount of information to the child-protection agency about home-schooled children in households where there is a question about safety.

But she said that the school district doesn't have the legal right to veto, or even delay, a child's withdrawal once a parent has filed the notice of intent – a single page that merely notifies a school district of the impending withdrawal of a child. No information about the content or method of instruction is required.

Eagan said she has no beef with the time-honored practice of home schooling.

“This is not a challenge of parents' Constitutional right to home school their children or the merits of home schooling,” Eagan told The Courant on Wednesday.

“It's the absence of regulations and the unintended consequences for some children that are concerning.”

In the six school districts Eagan reviewed, 380 children were withdrawn for home schooling over the three years.

Of the total, 139, or nearly four out of 10, lived in homes with past or current DCF involvement. In a number of those cases, school officials themselves were the ones to lodge the abuse or neglect reports, yet parents were able to withdraw for home schooling the children who were the subject of those reports, or their siblings.

Of the 139, 43 children lived in households with at least four prior DCF reports.

One home-school family was the subject of 30 abuse or neglect reports.

In the three case files reviewed by The Courant, and in case after case examined by the child advocate, parents were under increasing pressure by DCF to explain a child's chronic absenteeism from school. But it appeared in many of instances that those questions stopped when it was learned that those same children had been officially withdrawn for home schooling. Eagan said she was confident the problem exists statewide.

Eagan said that adding basic regulations on school district follow-ups and the educational quality of the home instruction “may deter parents who would use home schooling as subterfuge to keep the child out of school. It wouldn't be as simple as filing a form and taking a child home.”



Evidence of world's biggest child sacrifice found in Peru

by Luis Jaime Cisneros

Lima (AFP) - Archaeologists in Peru have found evidence of the biggest-ever sacrifice of children, uncovering the remains of more than 140 youngsters who were slain alongside 200 llamas as part of a ritual offering some 550 years ago, National Geographic announced on Thursday.

The site was located on top of a cliff facing the Pacific Ocean in La Libertad, a northern region where the Chimu civilization arose, an ancient pre-Columbian people who worshipped the moon.

The cliff is located just outside the northwestern coastal city of Trujillo, Peru's third largest city which today has 800,000 inhabitants.

"While incidents of human sacrifice among the Aztec, Maya and Inca have been recorded in colonial-era Spanish chronicles and documented in modern scientific excavations, the discovery of a large-scale child sacrifice event in the little-known pre-Columbian Chimu civilization is unprecedented in the Americas -- if not in the entire world," National Geographic said.

The investigations were carried out by an international team led by National Geographic's Peruvian explorer Gabriel Prieto, of the National University of Trujillo, and John Verano, a physical anthropologist from Tulane University in New Orleans.

The team uncovered evidence of "the largest single incident of mass child sacrifice in the Americas -- and likely in world history."

"I, for one, never expected it," Verano told the magazine of the sacrifice site, known to the researchers as "Las Llamas."

"And I don't think anyone else would have, either," he added.

The excavations began in 2011 when the team uncovered the remains of 42 children and 76 llamas at a 3,500-year-old temple nearby.

By the time the excavations had finished five years later, they had uncovered more than 140 sets of child remains and 200 juvenile llamas, as well as rope and textiles dating to between 1400 and 1450.

Located about 300 meters above sea level, the site is in the middle of a cluster of residential compounds in Huanchaco, a neighborhood bordering Trujillo.

- Hearts removed? -

"The skeletal remains of both children and animals show evidence of cuts to the sternum as well as rib dislocations, which suggest that the victims' chests were cut open and pulled apart, perhaps to facilitate the removal of the heart," the magazine said.

Researchers determined that the children were between the ages of five and 14, although most were between eight and 12 when they died, with their bodies buried facing west -- out to sea.

The llamas were all less than 18 months and they were buried facing east, toward the Andes, they said.

"It is ritual killing, and it's very systematic," Verano said.

The Chimu civilization extended along the Peruvian coast to where Ecuador begins, with its empire brought down by the Incas in around 1475, just a few decades after the sacrifice at Las Llamas.

"Until now, the largest mass child sacrifice event for which we have physical evidence is the ritual murder and interment of 42 children at Templo Mayor in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan," National Geographic said, referring to what is modern-day Mexico City.



Southlake couple forced child from Africa into servitude for 16 years, authorities say

by Tom Steele

A Tarrant County couple brought a 5-year-old African girl to their home and forced her to work for them for more than 16 years until she was able to escape, authorities say.

Mohamed Toure and Denise Florence Cros-Toure of Southlake, both 57, made an initial appearance in federal court in Fort Worth on Thursday. They each face a charge of forced labor.

According to an affidavit, Toure and Cros-Toure worked with others to arrange for the victim to travel alone from Guinea to their Southlake home in January 2000. The 5-year-old girl did not speak English at the time.

For more than 16 years, the couple made the victim cook, clean, paint, do laundry and yardwork and care for their five children — all without pay, federal prosecutors allege. She was not allowed to attend school, and the couple took her identifying documents, according to the affidavit.

Toure and Cros-Toure also abused the victim physically and emotionally, authorities say.

The victim escaped the home in August 2016 with the help of former neighbors, according to the Department of Justice.

Toure and Cros-Toure each face up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted.



Dad had girlfriend rape son with autism because he thought boy was gay

by Crystal Bonvillian

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — An Alabama man and his girlfriend have been convicted of raping the man's 11-year-old son because he thought the boy might be gay.

Sean Brandon Cole, 29, and Khadeijah Moore, 21, both of Huntsville, were each convicted Tuesday of rape, sodomy and the sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12, reported . They each face life in prison, and sentencing is set for May 24.

Moore, who failed to show up for the trial, is considered a fugitive after the trial judge issued a warrant for her arrest Monday at the start of the proceedings.

Tim Douthit, the prosecutor on the case, told that the sexual assault took place over Thanksgiving 2016, while the boy, who has autism, was in Huntsville visiting his father for the holiday. The child lives in Georgia with his mother.

Cole allegedly found his son in a “compromising position” with another boy and became angry, Douthit said. In response, he made Moore have sex with the boy.

Moore raped and sodomized the boy, and she and Cole made the boy perform sex acts on her, reported .

“It was solely that he was worried that his son was gay, or might become gay,” Douthit said . “There was no evidence he had a sexual attraction to his son or children.

“He just thought he could, for lack of better words, ‘straighten him out.'”

Moore's defense attorney, Reta McKannan, defended Moore, even as she told that she understood that the jurors did what they had to do.

“My client did everything at Sean Cole's direction,” McKannan said . “That doesn't make it OK. That doesn't make it right.”

Madison County Jail records show multiple arrests in Cole's past related to domestic violence. It was not immediately known how many of those arrests resulted in convictions.

Investigators and prosecutors said the boy's mother became suspicious once he returned to Georgia and started asking her questions about sex, reported . When he told her what Cole and Moore had done, she drove straight to Huntsville to talk to police.

The couple was arrested in January 2017.

Douthit said that when a forensic interviewer asked the boy about the rape, the boy said he thought at the time, “Why is my dad doing this to me?”

“Dad said to tell no one. I failed him. I just told you,” the boy told the interviewer, according to .

Douthit told the news site that the boy, who turned 13 years old the day of his father's conviction, is doing well.

“The most terrible part of this is the little boy still doesn't understand it's not his fault,” Douthit said . “He still thinks he's the bad guy. It's heartbreaking.”



License to Betray

by Carrie Teegardin Danny Robbins, Jeff Ernsthausen and Ariel Hart

In Kentucky, Dr. Ashok Alur was examining an infection on a patient's abdomen when he entered forbidden territory. He told the patient she had sexy underwear. Then, he rubbed her and placed his mouth on her genitals. The patient pushed him away and went to police.

“It was so beautiful,” the doctor told her later, when she confronted him. “I couldn't resist.”

In Missouri, Dr. Milton Eichmann asked a woman badly injured in a sexual assault if she liked being tied up during sex, whether she was easily stimulated and whether she liked to be urinated on. He then told the patient, who was seeing the doctor for treatment of urinary problems, that he was being aroused.

In California, a patient was leaving an appointment with Dr. Mandeep Behniwal , a psychiatrist, when the doctor put his hand down her blouse, grabbed her breast out of her bra and placed his mouth on it. He then exposed himself and ejaculated on her hand.

In New Mexico, Dr. Twana Sparks for years performed genital exams she said were for screening on ear, nose and throat patients who were under anesthesia and hadn't given consent, the state medical board said. In Texas, Dr. Philip Leonard fondled patients' breasts or pressed his erections against them during exams, 17 women reported. In Georgia, a patient who saw Dr. Jacob Ward for a back rash and facial redness said the doctor exposed and fondled her breasts and put his hands down her pants.

In each of these cases, described in public records, the doctors either acknowledged what they'd done or authorities, after investigating, believed the accusations. While the scale and scope of the physicians' misdeeds varied tremendously, all were allowed to keep their white coats and continue seeing patients, as were hundreds of others like them across the nation.

In a national investigation, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution examined documents that described disturbing acts of physician sexual abuse in every state. Rapes by OB/GYNs, seductions by psychiatrists, fondling by anesthesiologists and ophthalmologists, and molestations by pediatricians and radiologists.

Victims were babies. Adolescents. Women in their 80s. Drug addicts and jail inmates. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

But it could be anyone. Some patients were sedated when they were sexually assaulted. Others didn't realize at first what had happened because the doctor improperly touched them or photographed them while pretending to do a legitimate medical exam.

Some doctors were disciplined over a single episode of sexual misconduct. A few physicians — with hundreds of victims — are among the nation's worst sex offenders . But the toll can't be measured by numbers alone. For patients, the violations can be life-altering. The betrayal even pushed some to suicide.

How do doctors get away with exploiting patients for years?

Some victims say nothing. Intimidated, confused or embarrassed, they fear that no one will take their word over a doctor's. Colleagues and nurses stay silent.

Hospitals and health care organizations brush off accusations or quietly push doctors out, the investigation found, without reporting them to police or licensing agencies.

Society condemns sexual misconduct by most citizens and demands punishment. A teenage boyfriend and girlfriend in North Carolina were arrested for “sexting” nude pictures of themselves to each other. A Georgia woman was placed on a sex offender registry for having sex when she was 19 with a 15-year-old who lied about his age. A Pennsylvania teacher who had sex with an 18-year-old student was dubbed a predator and sent to prison.

But when a physician is the perpetrator, the AJC found, the nation often looks the other way.

Physician-dominated medical boards gave offenders second chances. Prosecutors dismissed or reduced charges, so doctors could keep practicing and stay off sex offender registries. Communities rallied around them.

Erin Vance, who was sexually assaulted by an Oregon physician while she was under anesthesia, said the doctor should have been stopped long before she was wheeled into an operating room. He'd been reported by another patient years earlier.

“I keep going back to the ‘Do no harm' aspect of the Hippocratic oath,” Vance said. “I mean, I couldn't move. I was completely at the mercy of whoever was there, and it turned out that the person who was there was a serial predator.”


The Roman Catholic Church, the military, the Boy Scouts, colleges and universities. They have all withered under the spotlight of sexual misconduct scandals and promised that abuse will no longer be swept under the rug.

The medical profession, however, has never taken on sexual misconduct as a significant priority. And layer upon layer of secrecy makes it nearly impossible for the public, or even the medical community itself, to know the extent of physician sexual abuse .

“There just isn't accurate data,” said Dr. Gene Abel, an Atlanta physician who is a nationally recognized expert in evaluating sexual misconduct by professionals.

The AJC launched its national investigation a year ago after reaching a surprising finding in Georgia: two-thirds of the doctors disciplined in the state for sexual misconduct were permitted to practice again.

Today, after months of unearthing rarely viewed documents and tracking some cases from beginning to end, the AJC is exposing a phenomenon of physician sexual misconduct that is tolerated — to one degree or another — in every state in the nation.

The AJC obtained and analyzed more than 100,000 disciplinary documents and other records from across the country to find cases that may have involved sexual misconduct. Then reporters identified more than 3,100 doctors who were publicly disciplined since Jan. 1, 1999 after being accused of sexual infractions. More than 2,400 were sanctioned for violations that clearly involved patients. The rest were disciplined for sexual harassment of employees or for crimes such as child pornography, public indecency or sexual assault.

Yet many, if not most, cases of physician sexual misconduct remain hidden. The AJC investigation discovered that state boards and hospitals handle some cases secretly. In other cases, medical boards remove once-public orders from their websites or issue documents that cloak sexual misconduct in vague language.

When cases do come to the public's attention, they are often brushed off by the medical establishment as freakishly rare. While the vast majority of the nation's 900,000 doctors do not sexually abuse patients, the AJC found the phenomenon is akin to the priest scandal: It doesn't necessarily happen every day, but it happens far more often than anyone has acknowledged.


Over and over again, records show, predatory physicians took advantage of a doctor's special privilege — the daily practice of asking trusting people to disrobe in a private room and permit themselves to be touched.

Offenses ranged from lewd comments during intimate exams to molestation, masturbation by the doctor in front of the patient, swapping drugs for sex and even rape. Because many orders are vague or undetailed, it isn't always clear if a doctor claimed the patient consented. However, the profession says consent is never a defense because of the power imbalance between doctors and patients.

David Clohessy , the executive director of SNAP, a support and advocacy organization for people sexually abused by priests, doctors and others, said many Americans view physicians with too much deference and automatic respect.

“We are so reliant on them, we are so helpless and vulnerable and literally in pain often times when we go in there. We just have to trust them,” Clohessy said.

“So when they cross the boundary and their hands go into the wrong places, we are in shock, we are paralyzed, we're confused, we're scared. We just do not want to believe, first of all, that a doctor is capable of this , and secondly that their colleagues and supervisors will not address this immediately and effectively when we report it.”

Authorities say they take allegations of sexual misconduct seriously but sometimes compromise to settle cases without going through protracted battles.

Leanne Diakov, general counsel for the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure, said medical boards have to consider everything from the state's need for physicians to the limits imposed by state law. In Kentucky, for example, doctors whose licenses are revoked by the medical board have a legal right to petition for reinstatement two years later.

“It's always a balance,” Diakov said. “Obviously, the public looks at it and says, ‘Oh my gosh, how are they letting this physician practice.' It's a delicate balance between protecting public health resources, protecting patients and acting within the statutory authority that the legislature has given you.”


Sexual contact between a doctor and a patient, even if ostensibly consensual, is strictly forbidden. In ethical terms, it's a never event. In a legal sense, it can be a crime. Physicians know it's a line that can't be crossed — it's a prohibition as old as the Hippocratic oath .

Yet, the AJC found, even doctors who molest patients or subject them to bizarre exams for deviant purposes are frequently seen as sympathetic figures in need of therapy instead of predators who must answer to police. They get a diagnosis. They get a treatment. They come back.

Many are cleared to practice again after going to recovery centers where they take lie-detector tests and admit transgressions. They are expected to learn empathy and work through their issues, in some programs through art and yoga and in at least one through equestrian therapy. Others, seen in need only of further education, return to practice after attending weekend “boundary” classes at hotels or college campuses.

Only 11 states have a law requiring medical authorities to report to police or prosecutors when they suspect a sexual crime has been committed against an adult.

Doctors spend years in costly medical schools and training programs. They're smart. They're admired. They're needed. Like the giant banks that were once viewed as “too big to fail,” the nation's doctors are often considered too precious to discard.

Some of the disciplined doctors interviewed by the AJC expressed remorse. Some felt unfairly targeted by patients hoping to profit from a lawsuit. Others said they were frustrated that professionally damaging reports kept popping up years later, when they viewed their actions as brief lapses in judgment, not a life of misconduct. Most said they had paid dearly for the mistakes.

Behniwal, the California psychiatrist, said the patient who accused him initiated the sexual contact and he didn't stop himself quickly enough. “For half a minute, I lost my judgment,” he said. Sparks, the New Mexico physician, said she was conducting cancer screening exams when she touched patients, with no sexual intent. But she said she paid a huge professional price because she didn't have the patients' consent. Eichmann, now retired and focused on charity work, said he was dedicated to helping his patients and regretted making inappropriate comments.


Some states are apparently more forgiving than others when disciplining doctors in sexual misconduct cases. Georgia and Kansas, for example, allowed two of every three doctors publicly disciplined for sexual misconduct to return to practice, orders on board websites show. In Alabama, it was nearly three out of every four. In Minnesota, it was four of every five.

Nationwide, the AJC found that of the 2,400 doctors publicly disciplined for sexual misconduct, half still have active medical licenses today.

Larry Dixon, the executive director of the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners, has heard the argument that doctors who engage in sexual misconduct should be barred from practice. He doesn't buy it.

“If you graduate a class of more than 100 people out of the University of Alabama medical school, the resources that have been poured into that education almost demand that you try to salvage that physician — if it's possible,” said Dixon, who has led the Alabama board for 35 years.

Stop and think, he said, about how badly many communities need their doctors.

“You do not think so? Then leave Atlanta and go down to a little Georgia town and get sick,” Dixon said. “See how far they have to go to find a doctor.”


When examining cases, the AJC found all sorts of surprising twists allowing doctors to keep working.

Dr. Philip Leonard was a well-respected neurologist in Austin, Texas, when the first report of sexual misconduct came in. After one patient told police in 2001 that the doctor had rubbed his erection against her during an exam, 16 other patients came forward making similar complaints.

“It depended on where he was, but the way I like to put it (is) he led with his penis,” one told the Texas medical board, describing how Leonard pressed against her while seeing her for a head injury.

Yet today the 65-year-old doctor practices without restriction.

The medical board initially decided the complaints were credible and suspended Leonard's license. But it later changed its mind after one patient's criminal case went to trial and resulted in the doctor's acquittal. Because there was no forensic evidence, the case hung on the patient's credibility, which was attacked by the defense when she testified. The jury never heard about the other 16 women.

“It's sickening,” said Cathryn Blue, the woman whose case went to trial.

The medical board reached a deal allowing Leonard to return to practice as long as he saw only male patients for 10 years, a restriction that ended in 2014. He declined to be interviewed for this story.

The physician who served as the board's president at the time acknowledged that the agreement reflected how the board compromised to reach settlements doctors would accept without costly appeals.

“What (Leonard) did was clearly an abuse of his power over these women,” said Dr. Lee Anderson, a Fort Worth ophthalmologist. “But the ugly reality is, what can we actually achieve?”


When the AJC examined Dr. Jacob Ward's history, it found the physician is still practicing in suburban Atlanta even though he pleaded guilty after being accused of molesting a female patient.

The patient in 2011 told Woodstock police that Ward squeezed her buttocks, pulled up her shirt and felt her breasts and touched her genitals during an exam.

After Ward's arrest, the Georgia medical board placed him on probation with restrictions that included a sexual misconduct treatment program and supervision and monitoring of his practice. He also was directed to have a chaperone with female patients.

Ward later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor sexual battery and received two years' probation.

But documents obtained by the AJC reveal a startling back story: Two other patients had made similar charges against Ward four years earlier and the board did nothing other than write a “personal and confidential” letter to the doctor expressing its “concern regarding exams and patients of the opposite sex.”

Speaking at Ward's sentencing, the victim in the 2011 case said she had recently learned, on her own, of the previous complaints and that it made her pain even greater.

“How he could still be able to have a practice and see patients right now is beyond me,” the woman said at the hearing.

Cherokee County Judge Dee Morris found the victim's statement so compelling that he refused to go along with the initial plea agreement, which called for Ward to be sentenced as a first offender.

Ward, who now practices in Canton, declined to discuss his case in detail when contacted by the AJC.

“I've done everything I'm supposed to do, per the Georgia board,” he said. “I'm doing the right things.”


Doctors forced to stop practicing because of sexual misconduct in one state may get a second chance in another.

Alabama revoked Dr. Oscar Almeida Jr.'s license in 2002 after four female patients complained of various improprieties, including fondling and kissing and inappropriate vaginal exams. The Mobile physician steadfastly denied any wrongdoing and fought the decision in the courts, but the board's ruling was upheld by the Alabama Supreme Court in 2004.

A year later, Almeida applied for a Mississippi license. His request was approved, with the State Board of Medical Licensure saying the doctor “would be an asset to the State of Mississippi.” In 2007, Alabama reinstated Almeida's license. Its order cites his boundary training and says “it would be a great loss to the medical community, and to the public in general, if a physician of Dr. Almeida's obvious skill and ability would never again be able to practice medicine.”

Some regulators have a dim view of state hopping. Aaron Haslam, a former executive director of the State Medical Board of Ohio, said he grew weary of seeing doctors that Ohio deemed unfit to practice wind up with licenses in other states.

“It's frustrating now and it was frustrating then,” he said. “We would try to be tough on an individual that we thought had no business practicing medicine and that individual would lose his license and go set up shop in the state right next to us or in Georgia or in Florida.”


Even when sexual misconduct ends a doctor's ability to practice, investigators sometimes uncover a trail of misdeeds that goes back for years or even an entire career, highlighting a system that shielded them.

Dr. Paul Emerson , a Michigan osteopath, was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison in 2010 after pleading guilty to a scheme in which he gave out bogus prescriptions in exchange for cash or sex. Three people who received his prescriptions overdosed and died.

When investigators dug into his past to prepare a sentencing memo, they found a long history of sexual misconduct: As an intern at a Detroit area hospital, he drew suspicion for conducting a pelvic exam on a 14-year-old complaining of asthma. In Mississippi, he was discharged from the Air Force after being accused of inappropriately touching female patients, lost his privileges at a hospital for “unprofessional conduct” and was terminated as a prison physician after being sued for sexual harassment by a nurse.

“It is this court's belief that you simply were finally being caught and being charged with crimes that were perhaps ongoing for a long period of time,” U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts said at sentencing.

In Maryland, the medical board found that Dr. Ramon L. Gonzalez sexually abused female patients, including adolescents, all the way back to medical school in the 1970s. One patient gave birth to his child. But the doctor's entire history of sexual malfeasance only came to light years later, baffling even those in charge of disciplining doctors.

“The obvious question,” an administrative law judge wrote in 2002, “is how (Gonzalez) was able to practice medicine for so many years and escape any substantial consequences for his actions.”


In many states, physicians who engage in sexual misconduct are treated or disciplined in private, keeping patients in the dark.

Georgia sometimes uses private consent orders and private agreements, Robert Jeffery, executive director of the state medical board, told the AJC. “Sometimes half a loaf is better than no loaf,” he said, explaining that such orders are used when the board is concerned a public order may not stick if the doctor fights it.

Public orders, he added, may inhibit doctors from reporting themselves or their peers. “If the response every single time is going to be public suspension, public this, public that, then I think what you would end up with is the unintended consequence of fewer reports,” he said.

In North Carolina, a public order involving Dr. Darlington Hart revealed how he had been subject to years of private actions and warnings.

In 2013, the medical board denied his application to have his license reinstated after he had surrendered it in 2011. To justify the denial, the board revealed a history that had been handled almost entirely in private in both North Carolina and South Carolina.

Allegations against Hart between 2001 and 2010 ranged from inappropriate hugging to sexual assault. All were dealt with through “private letters of concern” and a “private agreement” that required the doctor to use chaperones, take a boundaries course and submit to regular polygraph tests.

The North Carolina board reversed itself a year later and allowed him to start practicing again.

“Dr. Hart has always categorically and emphatically denied that he has ever sexually assaulted a co-worker or a patient,” said Alan Schneider, the doctor's attorney.

Schneider said private letters do not constitute disciplinary action and that professional evaluations supported Hart's denials. He said the evidence supported North Carolina's decision to reinstate the license.

Jean Brinkley, a board spokeswoman, said the mission of the state's physician-led board is patient protection, not doctor punishment.

“They tend to look at misconduct and look at what went wrong and what can we do to fix it,” she said. Private letters, she said, are used as a tool to help physicians improve.

As far as the public's right to know, she pointed out that Hart's history of private letters and confidential board actions was eventually noted in public documents on the board's website. “At the very least,” she said, “there is a public record that any current, or prospective, patient has the opportunity to see.”

Dixon, the Alabama board's executive director, said his board holds out confidentiality as a carrot for those physicians willing to admit their wrongdoing.

Alabama requires those doctors to be evaluated and treated by top experts. As long as they stick with the program, the information stays confidential.

“If you are trying to salvage them,” Dixon said, “you do not ruin their reputation.”


During his years battling the Catholic Church to get it to stop protecting predatory priests, Clohessy said he learned one lesson well: “Secrecy is the enemy.”

He said he sees that enemy at work today when it comes to abusive doctors.

“This tendency on the part of medical boards and medical officials to err on the side of a quiet suspension or a secret, out-of-court deal, that's a recipe for disaster,” he said. “ Crimes are crimes, no matter who commits them. They need to be reported to and investigated by and prosecuted by the independent professionals in law enforcement. Period. Not a panel of your peers, not by some committee of supervisors and not by other people who have earned the same titles you have earned.”

Vance, who was one of 12 women sexually assaulted by anesthesiologist Dr. Frederick Field as they lay incapacitated at a hospital in The Dalles, Ore., said she found the sweeping nature of the AJC's findings startling.

“It would be one thing if it was only one incident, but to find out how prevalent it is, is frightening and angering,” she said.

Field received a 23-year prison sentence after pleading guilty. Beyond the assaults themselves, another story developed: The hospital, Mid-Columbia Medical Center, knew, or should have known, that Field was dangerous.

Three years before his arrest in 2011, a patient told a hospital administrator that Field fondled her nipples and placed her hands on his penis. Nurses also had notified hospital leaders in a series of memos in 2010 that, because of Field's misconduct with a nurse, the staff had agreed “to make it a point to not leave anyone alone in Dr. Field's presence.”

The hospital denied that it failed to act on complaints. Even so, a jury in 2013 ordered the hospital to pay Vance and two other victims $2.4 million in damages.

In a recent interview, Vance said she sensed that Field had kissed her on the lips and pressed her hand against his penis as she was regaining consciousness after surgery in December 2010. However, she didn't report him to police until she learned of his arrest. At the time of her surgery, she said, she thought she had been dreaming.

“I remember telling myself, ‘It's a hospital, how could that be true?'” she said.

“I hope people learn from that experience, to know that if they suspect something like that, it's probably true. Don't be afraid to say something. It can happen. It does happen.”



Child Abuse Prevention Month: How is Vermont protecting your kids?

by Megan Carpenter

They're the cases law enforcement officers say never get easier to deal with. Cases of child abuse. Reports continue to increase in Vermont. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Teresa is an advocate for Prevent Child Abuse Vermont , and a child abuse victim herself. It's been almost 30 years since she moved to Vermont and away from a life she swore she'd leave behind.

"There was a lot of physical and sexual abuse, all in relation to my surroundings," says Teresa. "There was probably between 7 and 10 abuse cases that I went through...stepfather, uncle, neighbors, friends of friends."

Teresa has asked us not to divulge her last name, as some of her abusers don't know where she is. One of them is currently behind bars. Memories continue to haunt Teresa.

"Sometimes, I'm triggered by certain things and have a couple weeks where I need to take care of myself and don't want to be around people," says Teresa. "If I get triggered, I do have anxiety disorder, that along with my PTSD can affect how I function."

Teresa teaches the nurturing program, offered through Prevent Child Abuse Vermont, an advocacy group geared towards stopping child abuse before it happens.

"It teaches parents empathy and learning from past behaviors and how to change them."

It's one resource you can turn to if you know of a potential child abuse, or neglect case. Reports in Vermont are going up.

"It's probably been in the order of about a 25% increase in the number of reports in the last three or four years," says Ken Schatz, Commissioner of Vermont's Department for Children and Families.

Schatz says so far this year, DCF has seen more than 20,000 reports of child abuse. Those are mainly called in through DCF's Child Protection Hotline . That number has steadily increased over the last few years, Schatz says.

"Out of that 20,000 calls, we've investigated a little over 5,000, but that's a significant number in our state," Schatz says.

Data shows since 2014, 50% of children from birth to five years old came into state custody due to opioid abuse in their families. Schatz says it's the most common factor for neglect that his case workers deal with.

If a criminal investigation is launched, DCF calls on its partnership with the Vermont State Police. Captain Jean-Paul Sinclair leads VSP's Bureau of Criminal Investigations .

"Unfortunately, some victims suffer years of abuse before it's uncovered," says Captain Sinclair. "Certainly in cases of sexual abuse, it's many times someone that's known to the victim."

Arguably the most publicized case of child abuse in recent years is the death of 2-year-old Dezirae Sheldon in Poultney. It happened in February of 2014. A jury found her stepfather, Denis Duby , guilty of the crime.

DCF put Sheldon back into her home , despite her mother also being accused of child abuse previously.

Local 22 and Local 44's Megan Carpenter asked this of Ken Schatz: "When you do reintegrate these children of abuse back into the families you had to take them from, how often do you have case workers visiting those children?"

"We have a practice for keeping those cases open for six months, so we'll have regular contact and communication to make sure those children remain safe," Schatz responded.

Since Dezirae's death, Vermont has upgraded its child protection laws and made changes to DCF protocols.

"We've added case aids to our staffing to provide additional support to our family service workers...we have staff in our central office who have to be consulted in cases of serious physical or sexual abuse," says Schatz. "We worked with KidSafe Collaborative to create an online training , and have had over 15,000 mandatory reporters go through that mandatory training."

Officials and law enforcement officers say they depend on the public too to spot signs of abuse and report them.

"If suddenly you're seeing differences in behavior, signs of withdrawal, acting out, things that are not typical for this particular child," says Captain Sinclair. "That's not necessarily definitive of abuse, but it's a red flag."

Teresa says the damage had already been done before those red flags for her were addressed.

"For example, all of my report cards where you could see how badly I was doing," she says. "Those are signs that should've been picked up on."

She says the work is far from over to make sure another child doesn't become another statistic.

"They need to have more people listening to their stories and helping them out and not just giving them a number."

To further child abuse prevention efforts, lawmakers created the Joint Legislative Child Protection Oversight Committee in 2015. Legislation is pending to extend its authority, which runs out in June. DCF is also waiting to hear if it will receive $500,000 in additional funding from the Governor.


Latin America

Columbia Considers Chemical Castration as Child Sex Abuse Soars

by Telesur

Chemical castration involves the use of 'anaphrodisica' drugs to lower sexual desire and libido, with minimum treatment lasting three to five years.

Colombia's senate has approved the use of chemical castration for rapists found guilty of sex crimes against minors, as a new report warns that such violations have soared by 27 percent.

The option received unanimous approval on Tuesday after a widespread public outcry followed the rape and murder of a minor in 2016.

Convicts interested in the voluntary procedure will be able to undergo treatment as well as psychological and psychiatric sessions, El Colombiano reports.

"Every day, seven children between 0 and four years old are sexually violated; between 10 and 14 one-year-old children, and between 15 and 17-year-olds, 12 children are violated," said Carlos Valdes, spokesman for Legal Medicine .

Psychiatrist and director of the Association Affect against Child Mistreatment , Isabel Cuadros, said: "There are no protective environments for children."

Senator Maritza Martinez , of the U Party, authored the bill supporting use of the procedure, which she says impedes the hormones driving such behavior.

"The epidemic of sexual violence that looms over our children and adolescents requires forceful and immediate responses," Martinez said.

"We appreciate the support of the senators and we hope to find an equal response in the representatives to the Chamber, who have always been ready to welcome our initiatives, as it happened with our proposal so that in the framework of the JEP, sexual crimes did not have alternative sanctions, but maximum prison sentences."

Since January, 5,870 cases of child sex abuse have been reported, according to Colombian Family Welfare (ICBF). Last year, over 11,000 reports were filed: an increase of more than 1,000 incidents since 2016.

Chemical castration involves the use of 'anaphrodisiac' drugs to lower sexual desire and libido, with minimum treatment lasting three to five years.

It has been trialled in Sweden, Denmark and Canada, with evidence from Scandinavia suggesting it can cut re-offending rates from 40 percent to five percent.

The bill will now be passed to the House of Representatives and, pending its approval, could become a staple in penal systems across the country.

The bill also stipulates a prison sentence of anywhere between six months to three years for sex offenders, as well as the creation of a national criminal registry.



Cops catch mother selling her own children for sexual exploitation

by Rambo Talabong

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine National Police (PNP) arrested on Thursday, April 26, a mother who tried to sell her own children for online sexual exploitation .

Cops from the PNP Women and Children Protection Center (WCPC) conducted an entrapment operation in Barangay Mahogany in Butuan, assisted by a team from Department of Social Welfare and Development, and International Justice Mission (IJM) field officers.

Their aim was to rescue 6 minors: 3 boys and 3 girls aged as old as 14 and as young as 3. Five of them were children of the suspected exploiter. (READ: How to avoid online child sexual abuse )

According to a statement by the IJM, the joint operation was timed just right when the mother was "in the act of selling the children."

The suspect reportedly asked her clients for P15,000 for each child to be part of a sex "show."

Philippine authorities were able to track the alleged sexual exploiter with the help of the United Kingdom's National Crime Agency, which just caught a UK citizen "paying for the production of child abuse images."

He is presumed to be one of the clients of the suspect. (READ: Most child abuse cases in PH happen at home – study )

"The online sexual exploitation of children is the most serious form of human trafficking we see today. We see it all over Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. This is a national issue and should be the concern of all Filipinos, not just in the country, but those abroad,” said IJM Manila field officer Reynaldo Bicol in the statement.

The suspect is now facing charges for violating Republic Acts 9208 (Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003) and 7610 (Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act).

According to PNP WCPC Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division chief Senior Superintendent Villamor Tullao, they expect Butuan police to conduct follow-up probes following their catch.




1 child death is too many; abuse and neglect must stop now

by William D'Aiuto

In the first three months of this year, the deaths of seven children in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties were reported to the state Department of Children and Families. While these numbers are fewer compared with the same period last year, one death is too many. The hard truth is more children likely will die.

Last year in the tri-county area, 53 children lost their lives too soon. Of those 53, four died as a result of abuse. Child abuse and neglect need to stop. Caregivers need to take responsibility for the nurturing of our young kids in this state. To clarify, that is 53 deaths too many, no matter what the cause.

The leading causes of child fatalities in Florida are unsafe sleep, drowning and inflicted trauma. At the root of these preventable deaths is the considerable need for caregivers to have the responsibility to educate themselves to ensure their kids are free from abuse, neglect or any maltreatment.

Research shows that smart and nurturing relationships along with stimulating and stable environments improve brain development and child well being. In contrast, researchers have identified four commonly occurring parental factors that put kids at risk; substance abuse, mental illness, domestic violence and child-conduct problems all lead to child maltreatment. That is to say, neglectful or abusive experiences and unstable or stressful environments increase the odds of childhood trauma. The abuse and neglect of children can cause severe, costly and lifelong problems affecting all of society, including physical and mental-health problems, trouble in school and criminal mischief.

Research shows that parents and caregivers who know how to seek help in times of trepidation are more resilient and better able to provide safe environments for their children. Although some may argue that parent education cannot succeed unless family problems are also addressed, much evidence suggests that first helping parents to be more effective with their children can address mental-health needs and improve the chances of substance-abuse recovery.

By working together, we can improve prevention and recovery efforts and change the paths of vulnerable children and families. Together we can identify at-risk children before they reach the child-welfare system and help provide the support and opportunities they need to grow up healthy and strong.

We need public support to effectively run programs that focus on parenting education and those aiming to reduce related risk factors. Certainly, we can do this in many ways, from supporting and mentoring a young, struggling mother to fostering or adopting a child who needs a home, to teaching adults how to exercise patience with young children.

If we all take steps like these, we can help grow the next generation of American leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators.

To echo the sentiments of our state Secretary Mike Carroll: Child Abuse Prevention Month (April) is a reminder that we all must be advocates for children. No one person or organization can do it alone. This past month reminds us who and what it takes to protect children — and that is all of us working together to protect the light in every child.



Father of daughter found dead in suitcase had role in son's 2004 death, records show

by the Tribune Media Wire

RICHMOND, Va. – Fourteen years before Travis Plummer was charged in connection with his daughter's death, he served one year in jail for his role in the drowning of his 8-month-old son, court records show.

Plummer was arrested in Puerto Rico on April 19th, after the body of his 2-year old daughter, Te'Myah, was found in a suitcase tossed next to train tracks in New Jersey.

According to an autopsy report for Plummer's son from 2004, the boy was left unattended by Plummer in a bathtub. The document said Plummer returned to find the infant unconscious. The Medical Examiner ruled the infant's death accidental, according to WTVR .

Plummer was initially charged with voluntary manslaughter and child abuse, court records indicate, but the legal proceedings ended in a mistrial.

Then, in 2005, Plummer pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child neglect and was sentenced to one year in jail, according to the guilty plea.

Plummer had a lengthy criminal record in Richmond that involved two counts of distributing cocaine in 2009, and abduction and child abuse charges for a 2013 incident. Later that year, Plummer was found guilty of possession of a deadly weapon while in prison, records show.

In March, Richmond Police issued a missing person's report for Plummer and his daughter, which said family members in Richmond had not seen either of them since October 2017.

Currently, police in New Jersey have charged Plummer with desecrating a body for his role in Te'Myah's death, but legal experts said stiffer charges are highly likely.

WTVR legal analyst Todd Stone said Plummer's criminal past would likely be a factor in the sentencing phase of this case if he is convicted. However, Stone said a defendant's criminal history cannot be used during a trial.

"They can't use his criminal history to prove guilt,” Stone said. "It has to be proven with specific evidence. Not what happened in the past in other cases, but what happened in this particular case.”

Investigators in New Jersey said they believe Te'Myah was killed somewhere else and are actively establishing a timeline for when and how she died. Stone said forensics testing and records reviews will be critical for establishing Plummer's connection to the suitcase the body was found in.

Plummer's past child neglect convictions would not have impacted his contact with his biological daughter because only Social Services, or a court order, can limit custody, Stone said.

Plummer is expected to be extradited to New Jersey to face the desecrating of a body charge.



New rescue center planned for Fresno sex trafficking victims

by Patrick Nelson

Fresno, California - The fight against sex trafficking in Fresno is getting a big boost. Leaders in the fight say by the start of next year they'll be able to rescue even more victims from the dangerous lifestyle. The fresno police department along with Breaking The Chains announced plans for a new rescue center to assist victims of sex trafficking.

Fresno police officers will soon be able to take victims of sex trafficking to a new rescue center. The vision is once women are there they can safely hold traffickers accountable as they rebuild their lives.

"This rescue center is going to take our ability to help rehabilitate these women and children to a whole other level," said Debrah Rush.

Rush is the CEO of Breaking the Chains and a survivor of sex trafficking. Police leaders announced her organization's effort to rescue women from the sex trade will soon get a boost-- in the form of a rescue center for victims

"Those officers out on the street can come into contact with those individuals like they do today, but in 2019 they'll be able to have a place to take them 24/7/365. A facility that will have trauma care, an open door, and a warm bed for them," said Fresno Police Sergeant Curt Chastain.

The location of the rescue center will not be released in order to protect the victims and this location will serve as a safe zone for women to work with investigators turning over information that can lead to more rescues and arrests of traffickers.

"I think we forget so many times that for every trafficker that's out there are five to fifteen girls who are being trafficked," said Rush.

Rush says the rescue center sends a clear message that fresno police officers care about sex trafficking victims.

"They truly are safe that they can truly trust these heroes in blue," said Rush.

Leaders in the fight against sex trafficking hope to have the rescue center open and available to victims in early 2019.



Florida dad outraged by sexually explicit question on teen's homework assignment

by Jennifer Earl

Omar Austin had to do a double take when he spotted a sexually explicit question on his teenage daughter's homework assignment this week.

"This needs to be seen. [What the hell] is going on in our schools???" the Florida father asked as he read the question aloud in a video posted to Facebook on Wednesday.

The mulitple choice question reportedly read, "Ursula was devastated when her boyfriend broke up with her after having sex. To get revenge, she had sex with his best friend the next day. Ursula had a beautiful baby girl nine months later. Ursula has type O blood, her ex-boyfriend has AB blood and his best friend is type A blood. If her baby daddy is her ex-boyfriend what could the possible blood type(s) of her baby NOT be."

As of Friday evening, the video has been viewed more than 500 times and sparked a handful of comments from concerned residents.

"Someone actually gets paid to make the test. I'm assuming someone checks the wording of the question? What happened to common sense!" one Facebook user wrote.

"Wow... just wow!" another exclaimed.

Austin told First Coast News in Florida he immediately contacted the principal at Westside High School in Jacksonville to flag the inappropriate question that was on his eleventh-grade daughter's practice test for her upcoming anatomy exam.

“This was a district-generated worksheet that her teacher just printed offline and it was given to the students,” Austin explained to the local news station. “I want it to be acknowledged. I want it to be reviewed. And I want it to be changed."

Duval County Public Schools said in a statement obtained by First Coast News that it agreed the question was "highly inappropriate" and confirmed it was not part of a district assessment.

"Immediately upon being made aware of this matter, school and district leaders began conducting a review of the situation. Appropriate and corrective action will be taken," the district stated. "We encourage parents to contact their school leaders directly if they ever have any concerns about their child's school and instructional experience so that we can immediately work to problem-solve."

Austin called the "biased" question "sad and a disgrace to our educational system." He said he hopes the school will be more careful in the future and thoroughly read every assignment they pass out to high schoolers.

"I think that we can do better," he added.

The school district said they don't believe the inapropriate worksheet was passed out to any other schools but they are still investigating.


New York

Male sex abuse victims break their silence

by Diane Dimond

Each of the men on the dais was successful in his field. There was a Broadway actor from the hit musical “Hamilton,” a popular TV personality and a district attorney. All came to talk about being sexually abused as a child and how it had impacted their life. Each story was unforgettable because males often keep sex abuse secret, sometimes for their entire life.

The symposium was sponsored by the New York State Office of Victim Services. The keynote speaker had also been a victim.

“Hello, my name is Charles Blow and I am a survivor of child sexual abuse,” he said. Blow, a columnist for the New York Times, told the crowd about his abuse at age 7 by an older cousin. “It was a complete betrayal,” Blow said. “I was paralyzed by fear. After the abuse I thought I was dead.” As a boy he kept the secret.

In his memoir, “A Fire Shut Up in My Bones” Blow relates how the pain and anger exploded in him at the age of 20. While at college he was talking to his mother on the phone one day and suddenly Charles heard the voice of his abuser greeting him as if nothing had ever happened. Without stopping to put on shoes Charles jumped in his car, grabbed a gun he kept there “just in case” and began to drive toward his mother's home determined to kill Chester. Thankfully, Blow did not follow through.

The actor Antuan Raimone described abuse at the hands of two older cousins when he was 7. With no father in the house, Raimone said, he was eager to spend time with males. The cousins told him it was “a game” that all boys play. Then, at the age of 15, the super at their rented house began to groom him with a constant supply of pornography. Full blown sexual contact followed. Antuan kept the secret.

“I didn't say anything because he threatened to kill my mom,” Raimone said. But after years of unsatisfying relationships where he saw lovers as “mere objects” he decided to enter counselling. Today, Antuan counsels other survivors brave enough to come forward.

Jason Gough, 47, revealed his childhood abuse via WNYT-TV in Albany, N.Y., where he was the popular weatherman. His parents' marriage was “a dumpster fire,” and it was his father's sister, “My mother's drinking buddy,” who began to molest him at age 8. Yes, women can be sexual predators of children, too.

“I was low-hanging fruit for her,” Gough told the conference attendees, and the abuse lasted three years. He began to display a series of odd behaviors, like pulling out all his eyelashes and spontaneous temper tantrums. No one, not his parents, teachers or counselors, ever asked him what was wrong. Today Gough seeks to educate adults about childhood warning signs that could signal they've been abused.

Perhaps the most interesting panelist of the day was Joe Fazzary, the district attorney from Schuyler County, N.Y. Imagine this: for years he looked child sex victims in the eye and soothingly told them it was OK to tell what had happened. Yet all the while Fazzary was keeping his own dark childhood secrets.

Joe was raised in a loving Italian family that befriended another Italian family next door. They often ate meals together, and afterword the adults played cards and drank a little wine.

“I was about 9 or 10,” Joe said. “The neighbor boy was about 15. He said it was a game.” Mimicking the adults downstairs the boys played cards, strip poker. From there the abuse began. “It can happen right under parents' noses,” Fazzary warned the room. “My parents were, like, 15 feet away!” The abuse lasted eight years and at times in his adult life, Joe said, he contemplated suicide. It wasn't until he told his wife and mother and sought counseling at the age of 36 that he finally felt in control of his own life.

The takeaway? A young boy's abuser is not always an older man, it is often another boy or even a woman. And to those who dismiss teacher-on-child abuse with a glib, “What a lucky kid!” Stop it. Stop thinking sex with a child can ever be a good thing. It isn't. It is a crime. It can be like a slow-growing cancer on the soul, stunting a child's social growth, forcing them into negative behaviors that haunt them for life.

If you know a child who is strong enough to tell the secret, what should you do? All the survivors at the symposium agreed the last thing the child needs to hear is, “I'm going to kill that guy!” That threat only adds another layer of guilt upon the already suffering child. What they long to hear from adults are calm and sincere statements like, “I believe you,” “It is not your fault,” and “What do you need?”

If you are an adult still struggling with childhood abuse the best advise came from D.A. Fazzary. “Go into therapy. It works. It really works.”



Broken trust: Child predators are often familiar faces, victims' advocate says

by Patrick Thomas

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — While the number of Acton Bowen's accusers grows , the number of child sexual abuse victims across America is countless.

No matter if they coach a team, teach a class, or preach at your place of worship, a child predator is more likely someone you know than someone you don't, says Victims' Advocate Rachel Anderton anywhere. Anderton says it can be "anybody, anywhere, anytime."

From Penn State officials to Alabama ministers...child sexual abuse is ubiquitous.

“We always want to think the best of people. We always want to think that nothing like this could ever happen," says Anderton. “We always say that everyone has the potential to not be who they are in front of your face.”

Anderton makes it clear: Parents can be proactive through constant communication with their child.

“Encourage to not only know who your child is with but know these people," Anderton advises.

Anderson strongly encourages doing this especially if an adult seems to be taking special interest in your child by connecting with them on their phone and on social media.

“If you don't have a good feeling about something, don't just ignore it and give people the benefit of the doubt. Explore that feeling," says Anderton.

An adult trying to spend one-on-one time with a child may be a bigger warning.

“They should never be alone with someone in an authoritative role, especially when someone is taking an interest in your child. That's when red flags should go up," she says.

If you know anyone who has been a victim of child sexual abuse you can call authorities in the area. The Prescott House, at which Anderton works to help victims, is open to anyone. The number is (205) 930-3622.



Child abuse: What to look our for

by Crispin Havener

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO/KJCT) -- The Western Slope Center for Children held an open house Friday for their new home in Grand Junction which they say gives them more opportunities to help kids and families get treatment and coordinate agencies that investigate and prosecute child abuse cases.

It's a tough topic to talk about but it impacts nearly 10 percent of children. Over 90 percent of kids are hurt by someone that they know.

Prevent Child Abuse America offers tips on how to prevent child abuse.

Ten Ways to Help Prevent Child Abuse

- Be a nurturing parent: Children need to know that they are special, loved and capable of following their dreams.

- Help a friend, neighbor or relative: Being a parent isn't easy. Offer a helping hand take care of the children, so the parent(s) can rest or spend time together.

- Help yourself: When the big and little problems of your everyday life pile up to the point you feel overwhelmed and out of control – take time out. Don't take it out on your kid.

- If your baby cries…: It can be frustrating to hear your baby cry. Learn what to do if your baby won't stop crying. Never shake a baby – shaking a child may result in severe injury or death.

- Get involved: Ask your community leaders, clergy, library and schools to develop services to meet the needs of healthy children and families.

- Help to develop parenting resources at your local library: Find out whether your local library has parenting resources, and if it does not, offer to help obtain some.

- Promote programs in school: Teaching children, parents and teachers prevention strategies can help to keep children safe.

- Monitor your child's television, video, and internet viewing/usage: Watching violent films, TV programs, and videos can harm young children.

- Volunteer at a local child abuse prevention program: For information about volunteer opportunities, call 1.800.CHILDREN.

- Report suspected abuse or neglect: If you have reason to believe a child has been or may be harmed, call your local department of children and family services or your local police department. The National Child Abuse Hotline is 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)



Every Delawarean has a role in fighting child abuse

by Karen Derasmo, Patricia Dailey Lewis, Tanis Culley and Randall Williams

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and on April 5, Gov. John Carney issued a proclamation declaring April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in Delaware.

The topic of child abuse is not something most of us like to discuss. But for those children who do experience abuse, it is life-changing.

Child abuse is not new. However, it is a problem that has been allowed to continue for far too long. The protection of our children is not only our moral duty, but it is the responsibility of every single adult. The time for change is now.

While it is generally only the most horrific cases of child abuse which grab the headlines — like the 2010 Earl Bradley case in Lewes , where Bradley was sentenced to 14 life terms plus 164 years of imprisonment for the rape and sexual assault of 86 children — incidents of child abuse continue to occur with alarming frequency every day and in all communities.

Consider these sobering statistics: A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds, and more than four children die every day in the United States due to child abuse.

The effects of child abuse are lifelong. Children who experience abuse are 59 percent more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28 percent more likely to be arrested as an adult, 30 percent more likely to commit a crime of violence and 14 percent of all men and 36 percent of all women in prison were abused as children.

In Delaware, the Division of Family Services received 21,305 reports of child abuse, neglect or dependency in fiscal year 2017. This was a 3 percent increase over the prior fiscal year and the largest number of reports ever received in a fiscal year by DFS.

Of those reports, DFS screened in 6,770 (32 percent) and substantiated 1,049 (15 percent) of the screened in cases, where a perpetrator was identified.

Over the last 30 years, substantial improvements have been made in the way child protection agencies respond to allegations of child abuse, from the adoption of a “multi-disciplinary” team response to the creation of Children's Advocacy Centers, where children are interviewed in a safe, child-friendly environment by trained and experienced forensic interviewers.

However, we cannot singularly focus our efforts on our “response” to child abuse. We must also focus on “prevention” so that our children never have to endure the devastating short and long-term effects of child abuse.

Prevention of child abuse must be part of our national conversation concerning children.

Everyone has a role to play in preventing child abuse. All adults need to get involved, be involved and stay involved with the children in their lives. Further, communities can support people who are parenting by forming play groups and providing parenting education classes and by developing mentoring programs.

Lastly, all people who are involved in raising children can prioritize the need to care for themselves and to manage the stress of parenting in positive ways.

We must come together as a community and talk about the things that are hardest to discuss. We must take notice of the things we have blinded ourselves to in the past, act on our nagging worries about the child who lives next door by calling the DFS Child Abuse & Neglect Report Line at (800) 292-9582. We must commit to becoming better informed about the signs of child abuse and learn what to do if we believe a child is being abused and, equally important, what us, as adults, can do to “prevent” child abuse from occurring in the first place.

Now is the time to come together as a community and decide that our children's lives are worth safeguarding from abuse. Now is the time! Here's how you can help:

•  Become a foster parent.

•  Become a Court Appointed Special Advocate.

•  Sign up for Stewards of Children Training.

•  Ask for Personal Safety Programs for kids in your schools.

•  Refer a first-time pregnant mom to Nurse Family Partnership.

•  Donate to Prevent Child Abuse Delaware, Beau Biden Foundation, Children's Advocacy Center of Delaware or Children and Families First.

•  Buy a license plate or check the tax return box –

•  Thank a child welfare worker for what they do every day!



Federal agency says it lost track of 1,475 migrant children

by the Associated Press

Federal officials lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children last year after a government agency placed the minors in the homes of adult sponsors in communities across the country, according to testimony before a Senate subcommittee Thursday.

The Health and Human Services Department has a limited budget to track the welfare of vulnerable unaccompanied minors, and realized that 1,475 children could not be found after making follow-up calls to check on their safety, an agency official said.

Federal officials came under fire two years ago after rolling back child protection policies meant for minors fleeing violence in Central America. In a follow-up hearing on Thursday, senators said that the agencies had failed to take full responsibility for their care and had delayed crucial reforms needed to keep them from falling into the hands of human traffickers.

"You are the worst foster parents in the world. You don't even know where they are," said Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. "We are failing. I don't think there is any doubt about it. And when we fail kids that makes me angry."

Since the dramatic surge of border crossings in 2013, the federal government has placed more than 180,000 unaccompanied minors with parents or other adult sponsors who are expected to care for the children and help them attend school while they seek legal status in immigration court.

An AP investigation found in 2016 that more than two dozen unaccompanied children had been sent to homes where they were sexually assaulted, starved or forced to work for little or no pay. At the time, many adult sponsors didn't undergo thorough background checks, government officials rarely visited homes and in some cases had no idea that sponsors had taken in several unrelated children, a possible sign of human trafficking.

Since then, the Health and Human Services Department has boosted outreach to at-risk children deemed to need extra protection, and last year offered post-placement services to about one-third of unaccompanied minors, according to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

But advocates say it is hard to know how many minors may be in dangerous conditions, in part because some disappear before social workers can follow up with them and never show up in court.

From October to December 2017, HHS called 7,635 children the agency had placed with sponsors, and found 6,075 of the children were still living with their sponsors, 28 had run away, five had been deported and 52 were living with someone else. The rest were missing, said Steven Wagner, acting assistant secretary at HHS.

Republican Sen. Rob Portman gave HHS and the Department of Homeland Security until Monday to deliver a time frame for improving monitoring.

"These kids, regardless of their immigration status, deserve to be treated properly, not abused or trafficked," said Portman, who chairs the subcommittee. "This is all about accountability."

Portman began investigating after a case in his home state of Ohio, where eight Guatemalan teens were placed with human traffickers and forced to work on egg farms under threats of death. Six people have been convicted and sentenced to federal prison for their participation in the trafficking scheme that began in 2013.

The hearing comes as the Trump administration has called for amending a law to allow the government to send more migrant children back to their home countries more quickly if they are not at risk of trafficking. The administration also is pushing to terminate the settlement of a class-action lawsuit that ensures unaccompanied minors are housed in the "least restrictive" setting, preferably with their parents or other adult relatives, while they await hearings in immigration court.

Last year, the administration announced it would begin arresting sponsors who had hired smugglers to bring their children into the U.S., a move that sent a shudder through immigrant communities nationwide.

HHS is re-examining its interpretation of existing laws to explore whether the agency is legally responsible for children after they have been released from its placement program, said Steven Wagner, an acting assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Homeland Security has coordinated the care, custody and removal of unaccompanied minors with its counterparts at HHS, according to an agency official's testimony.

"DHS has worked closely with the Trump administration and members of Congress to address existing 'loopholes' that allow individuals to exploit our immigration laws," said James McCament, a DHS deputy undersecretary.

Once migrant children turn 18, they are no longer eligible to be held in facilities run by HHS, and the agency is required to let DHS know whether the children should be detained or released into the community. But HHS only forwards those plans for one of every three children, the subcommittee found.

The number of children seeking refuge in the U.S. has not returned to the height of the surge starting in 2013, but spiraling gang and drug violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador continue to push children, teens and families to migrate northward.

The panel's top Democrat, Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, said the agencies need to do more to prevent abuse.

"Given all that we learned in 2015 and 2016, it's unacceptable that we can still be this bad at keeping track of these children," Carper said.


from Dept of Justice

Colorado Man Faces Federal Charges after Allegedly Driving 15-Year-Old Girl Through Multiple States and Producing Child Pornography

SANTA ANA, California – A previously convicted sex offender from Colorado has been indicted by a federal grand jury on a series of child exploitation charges after allegedly meeting a 15-year-old girl in Colorado, taking her on a 3½-month road trip that ended in Southern California, and producing child pornography that depicted sexual acts with the victim.

Kenneth Wayne Fisher, 42, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, was named in an eight-count indictment filed late Wednesday.

Fisher allegedly took the victim through multiple states on a trip that ended on November 16, 2015 after a high-speed police chase that concluded when Fisher ran out of gas on the 405 freeway near Seal Beach.

The indictment charges Fisher with:

· enticement to travel in interstate commerce to engage in criminal sexual activity;

· transportation of a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity;

· production of child pornography;

· transportation of child pornography;

· possession of child pornography; and

· three counts of commission of a felony offense involving a minor while required to register as a sex offender.

The indictment alleges that Fisher was convicted in an Alabama state court in 2000 of sexual abuse in the second degree, which is why he was required to register as a sex offender.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

If he is convicted of the offenses alleged in the indictment, Fisher faces a potential sentence of life without parole in federal prison. In Fisher's case, because of his prior conviction and requirement to register as a sex offender, the charge of producing child pornography carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 35 years in prison.

Fisher is currently in federal custody in Kansas where he faces sentencing for robbing a bank during his trip with the victim.

This case is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Fountain Valley Police Department. The Colorado Springs Police Department conducted the missing persons investigation, and the California Highway Patrol assisted the Fountain Valley Police Department during the chase that culminated with Fisher's arrest.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Gregory S. Scally of the Santa Ana Branch Office.


Thom Mrozek, Public Affairs Officer
(213) 894-6947