It's time for a #ChildrenToo campaign
by Joyce Allan
It was 1955. I was 10 years old when my mother opened the bathroom door and saw me on my knees before my naked father.
Through the PTSD, depression, bulimia, and alcohol abuse that resulted, I believed that my abuse and the destruction of our family was my fault.
The silence I kept about my mother's discovery lasted 40 years. My father went on to sexually molest dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other children in his extended family, neighborhood, and workplace.
Not until the late 1970s, as the women's movement led to formation of grassroots rape crisis centers, did women start publicly sharing their stories of sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse. By 1985, the American Medical Association pronounced child sexual abuse to be a “silent, violent epidemic.”
By 1995, the Centers for Disease Control and the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study expanded our growing understanding of the lifetime medical and psychological effects of childhood abuse.
In a movement similar to today's headlines condemning workplace sexual harassment, celebrities disclosed their own painful stories of child sexual abuse and incest. Television and magazine messages called out for “Breaking the silence!”
In 1994, I began a seven-year investigation into my family's silence-keeping. Interviewing 17 victims of my father's pedophilia and over 150 people who knew him throughout his life, I traced the devastation of what I call “the silent shadow” of child sexual abuse. Sexual abuse damaged children, their parents, their families, and their communities.
Back then, we did not have internet, cellphones, Facebook or Twitter. There was no website or hashtag about child sexual abuse and incest. No way to alert the entire culture that American children would be abused at estimated an estimated rate of 1.2 per 1,000 and, most importantly, that most sexual abuse is committed not by strangers but by parents and other family members.
Urie Bronfenbrenner's “The Ecology of Human Development” and Riane Eisler's “The Chalice and the Blade” helped shape my understanding that child sexual abuse is inextricably connected to social systems and human ecology systems. In 2005, I began presenting workshops titled “The Ecology of Sexual Abuse,” calling for a public health approach to prevention of the epidemic rather than one merely identifying and treating victims and adult survivors.
Our country was ostensibly founded on individual freedom and justice. But it also began with exploitation, oppression, and division. Sexual abuse, gun violence, racism, climate change all occur in the cultural and political context of patriarchy and capitalism.
These systems propose solutions based on values of obedience, punishment and revenge. They do not acknowledge the central contradiction that perpetrators are the people we love and respect: parents, clergy, teachers, coaches, physicians, and politicians. None of us can easily disclose abuse by someone we trust and whom we need for our own care and safety.
In today's connected world we link #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, #NeverAgain, climate, gender and poverty issues in a single intersectional network. I believe it is critical that this process starts now to include our children.
An individual child, without fame and fortune and broad social support, cannot disclose the sexual abuse he or she is enduring. It is adults who must break the silence-keeping that allows abuse to continue and spread.
Child sexual abuse is an issue of power and privilege and profit. We need to change our laws, institutions, and social customs, our “blueprint” for the organization of the culture,” to include understanding of children's rights, knowledge about child development, and open discussion of human sexuality.
We must recognize the intersection of childhood, sexuality and power.
In 1998, foreshadowing this urgent need, Oprah Winfrey declared: “The existence of child sexual abuse is going to change when we all decide we want it to change, when we realize that every person's child is our own child.”
Now is our moment to clarify that child sexual abuse is an epidemic. Using present-day rapid-response social media will allow survivors of abuse to call out, to demand change.
As child sexual abuse survivor Oprah Winfrey states, "I know what it's like, and I also know how freeing it is to recognize you are not the only one."
#ChildrenToo encourages adult survivors of child sexual abuse to share their age at time of abuse and their perpetrator-relationship.
In my own case I will tweet, “I was age three to ten. He was my father.”
What happened to you? Speak out at #ChildrenToo. Together we can break the silence.
Local resident Joyce Allan is a retired psychiatric nurse and clinician, and the author of "Because I Love You: The Silent Shadow of Child Sexual Abuse.”
Children often unseen, unheard, but always hurt by domestic violence
by Sandra Sully
Do you have fond memories of your childhood? Mine was filled with hanging out with friends, playing football or cricket in the backyard and riding our bikes around the streets while planning a quick trip to the shops to buy some lollies.
But what if, instead of mucking around, you had to help “patch up” your mother after a violent fight?
What if the bruises and scrapes on your knees weren't from games, but because you got in the way?
What if sleepovers weren't just fun, they were an escape?
What if instead of watching police arrest bad guys on TV, you watched them do it in your home?
In Australia, domestic violence statistics continue to reflect a national crisis and children are so often a voiceless, powerless bystander. According to Our Watch, one in four Australian women have experienced physical violence by a partner. Domestic and family violence is the principle cause of homelessness for women and their children. An ABS study found that of women who had experienced partner violence and had children in their care during the relationship, 59 per cent reported that the violence had been witnessed by children.
Not every act of domestic violence will end in injury or death, but every act of domestic violence will have a traumatic impact on the children who bear witness to it.
These children live in an environment that is unpredictable, filled with tension and anxiety and dominated by fear. Instead of enjoying their childhood years, they're forced to worry about the future; to predict what will trigger the next bout of violence and walk on eggshells to avoid it. They have all the stresses of an adult, but only the capabilities of a child to navigate them.
With all this going on, what time is left to just enjoy being a kid?
Research has shown that children who witness violence in the home display similar behavioural and emotional problems to physically abused children. Being exposed to domestic violence has been increasingly recognised as a form of child abuse.
We know that children are sponges; they are vehicles of learning. They model what they see and hear.
Aggression, hyperactivity, depression and low self-esteem are just some of the impacts for child survivors of domestic and family violence. If not addressed early and holistically they can become issues that change a person forever.
In my role as a journalist and broadcaster, I am well aware of the continuous reporting of abhorrent domestic abuse.
Collaborating with BaptistCare on the Halo Ball, which raises funds for women and children experiencing domestic and family violence, has made me realise just how vital early intervention programs for children will be in eradicating family violence.
If we want to break the heinous cycle of abuse that sees child survivors grow up to be victims and perpetrators as adults, we need programs to help children move beyond trauma.
Frontline services and support groups like the ones BaptistCare provides, and so many other worthy organisations such as 1800Respect, Lifeline, Kids Help Line and Relationships Australia, need to be easily accessible and front-of-mind for not only those women, men, and children experiencing domestic and family violence, but also for the wider community, so that no suspicion is left unreported and no child is dealt a lifetime of trauma to navigate without support.
Children, who are so often voiceless in the family violence equation, deserve more.
Let's give them more.
Adverse childhood experiences have impacts across lifespan
by Peter Timmerman
Childhood traumatic experiences can have lasting health impacts later in life. Studies have shown that traumatic events experienced as a child may contribute to poor health outcomes such as chronic disease, mental illness and substance abuse. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) is the term given to describe all types of stressful events experienced during childhood, such as witnessing domestic violence or being raised with family members who have abused substances, such as alcohol or other drugs.
The ACE Study developed by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was one of the first and largest research efforts to examine the impact of childhood trauma on health. The study looked at three categories of adverse experience: childhood abuse, neglect and household challenges. Respondents were given an ACE score between 0-10 based on how much exposure they had on these adversities.
How do ACEs affect us?
The ACE study follows the cumulative negative impact that certain experiences or trauma – for example, violence in the home, household substance abuse, household mental illness – had on a person's health outcomes. The study found that a child who experiences emotional, physical or sexual abuse has an increased risk of developing depression later in adulthood and an increased risk of attempted suicide. ACEs are also associated with chronic health problems such as an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes which are the most common causes of premature death and disability in the United States.
According to the study, almost two-thirds of adults surveyed reported at least one ACE. The higher one's ACE score is, the more likely the risk for health problems later in life. On average, people with six or more ACEs died nearly 20 years earlier than those without ACEs.
What can be done about ACEs?
These serious health consequences highlight the need to prevent ACEs before they happen. Having safe, stable and nurturing relationships can have a lasting impact on a child's well-being and act as a buffer against the effects of toxic stress and childhood trauma. To create such an environment, communities come together to assure protective factors are present in the home, school and community. Parents need information about child development and how to encourage healthy behaviors in their children. Families need access to resources that teach healthy relationship skills and increase social support for parents to help reduce domestic violence.
Solano Public Health offers several parenting programs, such as Nurse-Family Partnership, Black Infant Health and Healthy Families Solano, that support families by educating parents on how to raise healthy children while overcoming their own trauma, working on ways to reduce their stress and setting their children up for future success.
Countywide, the Solano Kids Thrive and Healthy Solano Collaborative are bringing together the health department, First 5 Solano, schools and service providers to form a coordinated approach in building resilient children, families and communities.
We all have a role to play in promoting great childhoods that children deserve. For more information on local activities to ACEs awareness and growing resilient community, visit:
Child-welfare officials keep a list of people they say are a danger to kids. Even when they're not.
by Mary Jo Pitzl
There are 81,000 names on an internal document at the Arizona Department of Child Safety.
These are people who, in theory, you don't want around children.
The confidential list — known as the Central Registry — is intended to catalog people with proven reports of child maltreatment.
Before Arizonans can foster or adopt a child, or get a job that provides direct services to children or vulnerable adults, DCS checks the applicant against the list.
Last year, DCS added about 4,700 names to the Central Registry.
A Republic investigation of the little-known registry found shortcomings in the process for the accused and those it is intended to protect.
The agency doesn't check its list to vet people who apply to work in schools and health-care professions. These are areas that have yielded disturbing accounts of child abuse in recent months, ranging from the USA Gymnastics scandal to teachers being prosecuted for sexual relations with students.
At the same time, some who are listed see the process as unfair:
There's no way to guarantee people find out they're being listed.
People on the list can appeal to be removed, but the agency can overturn that appeal.
But perhaps most important, the agency lists people even when they haven't abused or neglected a child.
People's names are added to the Central Registry when DCS determines a complaint of child abuse or neglect is accurate — even if a follow-up investigation concludes the action being reported wasn't actually abuse or neglect.
What does that mean in real life? Consider an example:
A mother posts a photo of her child online. Someone else sees the photo and believes it depicts child abuse. That person files a complaint.
Child-welfare workers investigate and determine the picture isn't actually a case of child abuse. That's where the case ends.
But later, the mother's name is referred to the Central Registry, because the original complaint of abuse or neglect was deemed factual.
It's now up to the mother to object to being blacklisted, and she must hire her own attorney.
If that example seems confounding, imagine how Heather Whitten felt. Because that is what happened to her.
A photo goes viral, problems spiral
Whitten is a professional photographer. In 2016, while she was living in the small Arizona town of Sahuarita, she posted on her Facebook page a picture she had taken of her husband and son.
It was an eye-catcher: a naked 11-month-old boy resting in his father's arms in the family shower, water cascading around them.
The boy was sick. The father was comforting him. Whitten thought the picture captured the tender care her husband was providing. Judging by comments on her post, which rapidly spread on social media, many people agreed.
Shot from the side, the photo did not reveal any private body parts. But someone who saw the photograph thought it was overtly sexual and exploitative.
That unidentified person complained to DCS, probably by calling the state's child-abuse hotline. DCS has to investigate any legitimate complaint.
But police in Sahuarita visited Whitten's home, and didn't see anything to pursue. DCS apparently didn't either, because the agency soon closed its case, Whitten said.
But months later, Whitten got notice that DCS was adding her to the agency's Central Registry for child neglect.
"It was horrifying, terrible," Whitten said. "There's a millisecond where you think, 'Do I deserve this?' Then common sense kicks in."
She considered the long-term consequences, and got increasingly angry: A listing would be a black mark on her record.
The registry would likely block Whitten, a former foster-care parent, from ever fostering again. And forget trying to work at a social-service agency or a nursing home, she said.
She knew she would lodge an appeal. So she started scrambling to raise the money to hire an attorney.
How the registry is supposed to work
For adults caught up with DCS, the registry is largely an unknown.
Notices informing parents or caregivers that they're being proposed for listing arrive months after their case has closed. The notice isn't sent by registered mail, so there's no way for DCS to ensure anyone received the notice unless they appeal it.
There is an appeal process, but few pursue it even though inclusion on the registry can, for some jobs, be the equivalent of a no-hire list. Even those who appeal and prevail can still lose, because finding they should not be listed can be overturned by the agency.
Once on the registry, a name remains for 25 years.
“People get into the (child-welfare) system and they're confused, they're scared, their kids have been taken away from them,” said attorney Alane Ortega.
Many of these parents deny the allegation of abuse or neglect but agree to give DCS control of their children, she said. That consent can make them candidates for the registry, even as they think their denial clears them, she said.
"I think the process, like many of DCS' processes, is broken," Ortega said, echoing other attorneys who have tangled with the registry.
A helpful tool?
There's a good reason for the registry.
Federal law requires it, for one.
It also warehouses substantiated reports of child abuse and neglect. It lets DCS know if there have been prior complaints to the hotline about a child's safety. And it's a resource for entities that work with children to screen job applicants.
People who work in child welfare say it's a valuable resource.
“I see it as a safeguard,” said Suzanne Schunk, vice president of family-support services with Southwest Human Development, a private agency that provides counseling and instruction to families in the child-welfare system.
“I certainly want to know they haven't had any problems with child abuse or neglect,” she said of job applicants.
"It's helpful for us to know if someone has a history of abuse or neglect," said Lauren Lowe, DCS' attorney.
DCS can't say how often it accesses the registry database, or what happens after that. But a listing isn't necessarily a "don't hire" order, Lowe said.
There's a ranking, effectively, of the level of offense within the registry. That can be persuasive to a would-be employer if an applicant chooses to share their records with the employer.
But those who have challenged registry listings say they can't understand why they should be on the list — branding them with a scarlet letter when it comes to job opportunities — if DCS investigated and found no problem with abuse or neglect.
A deal comes with no listing
Whitten opened a GoFundMe account, included the photo of her son and husband, and in eight hours raised $5,000 for her defense.
She said the agency had been urging her to just agree to the listing, noting her family was moving to Florida anyway.
"They try to get you to take the substantiation, saying 'It's no big deal,' " she recalled.
She refused. With an attorney at her side, she fought the listing.
The night before her appeal hearing, she reached a deal with DCS: The agency agreed to not place her on the registry. In exchange, she promised she would not publicly display any image "in which any of her children are engaged in exploitive exhibition or other sexual conduct," according to her settlement.
And she had to confirm that she does not currently do such things. Because, Whitten said, she never did.
DCS only sees its own evidence
The internal process DCS uses to refer someone to the registry is problematic, says attorney Jennifer Kupiszewski.
DCS only relies on its own documents in deciding to add someone to the registry, she said. That means accused individuals can't submit evidence that contradicts DCS' evidence.
“There's no way for the family to say, ‘You should look at this,' ” she said.
To be heard, a family must appeal to a judge. And that process is fraught with its own problems.
For example, anyone getting a registry notice has 20 days to respond. But there's no guarantee the recipient gets the letter. DCS does not use registered mail to send notices, so the only way the agency knows if a parent or caregiver receives the notice is if they appeal.
“It can take them (DCS) more than a year to send out the letter,” Kupiszewski said. If a family has moved in the meantime, even if they filed a forwarding address, it would have expired, she said.
Lowe said DCS does its best to locate parents. If someone finds out years later they are listed, they can still appeal, she said.
Once on the list, it's rare that people try to have their names removed. It's even more rare to succeed: In 2017, 40 people won registry exceptions, state records show. Only 51 people even sought to be taken off the list.
A listing can have lasting effects beyond job prospects.
Attorney Gregg Woodnick said he has seen the registry used as a cudgel in custody battles. Although registry records are confidential, parents can obtain them from DCS, and attorneys can argue the information is relevant in family court.
A finding of “substantiated” neglect or abuse can be alarming when fighting over who gets the kids, Woodnick said.
Appeals are rare
State records show few appeal their proposed inclusion on the registry. For those who do, the costs can be enormous.
Unlike a Juvenile Court proceeding, there is no right to a court-appointed attorney for low-income families.
“Contesting the DCS registry is a benefit afforded to those with shekels in their pocket,” said Woodnick, who has represented clients in appeals proceedings.
That's one reason appeals are rare: In 2017, there were 195 appeals filed with the Office of Administrative Hearings, records show, representing just 4 percent of the 4,695 names DCS added to the registry last year.
And even if an individual wins the appeal, DCS can overrule or amend the administrative judge's finding. It happened in 28 percent of the cases in 2017, records show. The year before, it was 41 percent.
That's standard procedure for administrative appeals across state government. But it leads attorneys like Woodnick to conclude the agency director is "judge, jury and executioner."
"If you had a judge sit for three hours, why should a director be able to overrule?" he asked.
After that, the only recourse is to go to a county superior court, a process that can add another year, as well as more legal costs.
A long, costly fight
For one Avondale couple, their registry fight lasted nearly three years and cost more than $21,000. They maxed out credit cards, tapped relatives for loans and considered selling their house.
It was worth it, they said, because the father, who is a nurse, feared he would have been listed as having neglected his child.
“I would have lost my livelihood,” he said. He asked that his name not be used over concerns it could affect his employment.
“We could have been debt free if this had not happened,” the father said of that day in July 2013 when his 6-month-old daughter rolled off the bed as he was fixing her a bottle.
She appeared unharmed. But later that day, while mom was bouncing the baby on her tummy, the couple noticed the baby favoring her leg.
They went to the hospital, which triggered a mandatory report to the child-abuse hotline.
DCS and the court closed their case after the family did a few weeks of parenting lessons. Life returned to normal.
Worth the fight?
But nine months later, they got a letter stating the father would be listed on the registry.
He won the appeal to the state Office of Administrative Hearings, but DCS Director Greg McKay rejected it, records provided by the family show.
The family didn't stop there, appealing that decision to Maricopa County Superior Court, where a judge overturned McKay's finding.
“AzDCS has come to the conclusion that (the father) somehow neglected (the baby) by placing her in a situation that did not cause her any injuries,” Judge Crane McClellen concluded in his 2015 ruling.
McClellen reinstated the initial appeals judge's finding, reversed McKay's finding and awarded $5,000 in attorneys' fees and costs to the father.
The entire ordeal lasted nearly three years. It was worth the fight, the father said, but it has left him feeling paranoid.
“I get worried about sending her to school,” he said of his daughter, now age 5 and in preschool. He's worried someone will misconstrue a bump or a bruise and the whole process could start again.
Are teachers checked against the list?
There is no national standard for how registries operate. Federal law gives states flexibility, and requirements vary widely.
For example, while a listing on Arizona's registry remains for 25 years, in California it's 10. Several states don't specify a term.
In Arizona, state law limits the registry for screens of potential DCS staffers, child-care centers and private firms that provide social services to children and vulnerable adults. It also is a required check for prospective foster and adoptive parents.
Registries in other states, such as Delaware, have a more expansive reach. Schools and health-care facilities must use the Delaware registry to check their hires, said Joseph Smack, spokesman for that state's Division of Family Services.
Alabama uses it to check out potential teacher hires. Arizona does not, unless a request comes in from a state, such as Alabama or Delaware, that mandates a registry screening.
State education officials say they are confident the registry is used to screen teachers seeking state certification, since all applicants must produce a clean fingerprint clearance card from the state Department of Public Safety.
But the state police agency confirmed it can't, and doesn't, tap into the registry. Lowe, the DCS attorney, said it's a "very, very common myth" that DPS can use the database.
"If I could dispel one myth, it would be that one," she said. DCS can make checks on behalf of schools, but such requests are rare, she said.
People familiar with the registry were surprised to learn the registry is off-limits to schools.
It also surprised attorneys who have tangled with the registry. While they fault the registry process, they argue something intended to protect kids should at the very least be used to check out people who deal with large numbers of kids every day: specifically, schools.
"It's intellectually dishonest," said attorney Markus Risinger, who has represented clients who have contested registry listings. "If you're using it (the registry) to protect kids but you're not using it for schools, what's the point?"
Woodnick, the attorney, said he wants to know that the attendant in his child's school lunch room doesn't have a problem with abuse or neglect. But at the same time, the system's problems might subject more people to an incorrect listing, as he sees it.
"I'm torn because I know how unreliable the data is," he said.
More changes coming?
Arizona lawmakers have amended the laws governing the registry many times over its four-decade history. In January, state Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, proposed legislation that would have allowed listings only if there was a court finding of abuse or neglect.
She was motivated by the case of Brian and Janna Bentley, a Mesa family ensnared in a widely publicized case involving their then-7-year-old son .
The child disappeared one night in late March 2016 after he protested having to do his chores.
His parents searched for hours, but fell asleep before finding him. They continued their search early the next morning, then called police when they still could not locate the boy. Before police arrived, a neighbor spotted the child hiding in a bush in her front yard.
Both Mesa police and DCS investigated the couple for neglecting their son. DCS closed its case three weeks later, but Mesa city prosecutors brought misdemeanor child-neglect charges against the couple. Last August, a jury found the family not guilty.
Three months later, the Bentleys got a notice from DCS, proposing to list them on the registry for neglect. With an entourage of friends and family, they showed up at the administrative appeal hearing.
In late January, the hearing judge concluded DCS did not prove its case, according to an exhibit filed with the Bentleys' federal civil-rights lawsuit against DCS. That exhibit showed DCS upheld the judge's finding, so the Bentleys were not included on the list.
The Bentleys have declined to comment on their case.
Townsend was outraged the family was forced to appeal.
She later withdrew her bill, saying she needed to learn more about the process before suggesting changes, but still sees an injustice in the Bentleys' case.
“It's like saying you're on the no-fly list because someone made an erroneous report on you,” she said. “You shouldn't be on the list.”
One-fifth of homeless youth are victims of human trafficking
The Field Center for Children's Policy, Practice & Research at the University of Pennsylvania released a major study today on the prevalence of human trafficking among homeless youth.
by Penn Today
The Field Center for Children's Policy, Practice & Research at the University of Pennsylvania released a major study today on the prevalence of human trafficking among homeless youth. This groundbreaking research also examined child welfare-related factors, including history of child abuse and out-of-home placement among those who identified as victims of sex trafficking or who engaged in commercial sex.
Commissioned by Covenant House International , the research focused on Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Phoenix as part of the largest study to date on human trafficking among homeless youth. Researchers from the Field Center found that:
20 percent of those interviewed were victims of human trafficking. This includes 17 percent who were sex trafficked and 6 percent who trafficked for other labor.
14 percent engaged in “survival sex,” to meet basic needs such as food or housing.
Among sex trafficking survivors, 41 percent were approached on their first night of homelessness.
95 percent of sex trafficking victims reported a history of child abuse or neglect.
“The findings from this study are both alarming and enlightening,” said Debra Schilling Wolfe , executive director of the Field Center, which brings together Penn's School of Social Policy & Practice , Law School , School of Nursing , and Perelman School of Medicine and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia , in order to bring critical change to the child welfare system by shaping policy through research and legislative reform. “As we learn more about who is at risk for sex trafficking, we can create policies and implement practices to actually prevent young people from being victimized and stem the pipeline to predators,” Wolfe said.
The research also highlights the connection between sex trafficking and online advertising, including Backpage.com, which has recently been shut down by the FBI with federal indictments against the online marketplace. Researchers found that 44 percent of the sex trafficking victims were subjects of an online ad, with half of them reporting that they were advertised on Backpage.
“Hundreds of courageous young people who have suffered through human trafficking described their desperation, many singling out Backpage as the platform that sold them,” said Covenant House President Kevin Ryan . “These findings are shining a white-hot spotlight and revealing the gravity of sex trafficking to the world. I am grateful to the researchers at Penn for bringing about real reform by giving our young people a voice that is being heard in Washington and all across the country.”
Field Center researchers identified risk factors for exploitation, including experiencing maltreatment early in life.
Of those who reported that they were victims of sex trafficking, 49 percent had a history of sexual abuse as children. Only 69 percent who experienced abuse or neglect reported getting any help or services. The researchers also found:
When sex trafficking victims told adults about their childhood maltreatment, only 36 percent saw action on their behalf.
41 percent of those who were sex trafficked had at least one out-of-home placement in their lives.
More than half of those surveyed did not have a place to live at some point in their lives before their 18th birthdays.
67 percent of sex trafficking victims in the study did not graduate from high school.
A disproportionate number of youth who were sex trafficked identified as LGBTQ.
“This research tells us that sex trafficking is not the first victimization for most of these young people,” said Wolfe. “Not only were they exploited as victims of child abuse and neglect, but they learned early on that adults in their lives would not protect them.”
The study also yielded information regarding resilience factors that helped young people. Youth who reported the presence of a supportive adult in their lives and those who completed high school were less likely to be trafficked, the Field Center found.
Between February 2014 and March 2017, researchers from Covenant House, the Field Center, and Loyola University's Modern Slavery Research Project interviewed nearly 1,000 homeless youth in 13 cities. They compiled their data as part of a larger, national study.
For the Field Center's portion of the collaborative project, Wolfe and co-principal investigator Johanna Greeson , an assistant professor at Penn's School of Social Policy & Practice , and Postdoctoral Fellow Dan Treglia, along with Sarah Wasch, the program manager at the Center, examined the perspectives of homeless youth who were seeking assistance at the Covenant House shelters in Philadelphia and Washington, and Tumbleweed, one•n•ten , and Native American Connections in Phoenix.
How to recognize signs of child abuse, grooming cycle
by Kim Fischer
SYRACUSE, Utah (News4Utah) - One in five Utah children will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. Ninety percent of the time those kids are abused by someone they know and trust.
Ashley Workman, a survivor of child abuse and current advocate, is bonding with her unborn child through literature. She's excited to start this next chapter of life, now that she is in a really good place.
“It's pretty amazing to kind of be healing myself. I look forward to protecting my child, and educating her,” says Ashley of her unborn baby. The protection she is speaking of: protecting her child from the trauma she experienced for six years, starting at just 7 years old.
“When my dad came in to tuck me into bed, he had done that many times before in my life, but this time he proceeded to molest, sexually molest me,” Ashley explains.
She was able to push those memories to the back of her mind, until the day she took an online course by Prevent Child Abuse Utah.
“I learned that I was part of many statistics that aren't fortunate at all, they're terrible.”
Ashley says this is when she realized what was happening to her was abuse, “I learned about the grooming cycle, I had never heard that word even before.”
Ashley knew right away she wanted to help end that cycle. She now works at Prevent Child Abuse Utah, or PCAU. This organization teaches families and schools the warning signs of abuse.
According to PCAU, every parent should understand and be able to identify the grooming cycle. It has five stages. The first is selection.
“Selection is when a perpetrator will select a child that they want to target for abuse,” explains Gwen Knight, School and Community Outreach Administrator for PCAU.
Next is engagement.
“That's where they will build trust with the child, but not only with the child, often they'll build it with the child's parents. What we're teaching parents--be aware of any adult who wants to spend alone time with your child,” Knight continues.
Then the grooming begins.
“This is where the perpetrator tests boundaries with the child,” Knight says.
Once those boundaries are pushed, the assault begins.
“That's just so confusing for a child, we want to shut this down before it even goes there,” Knight asserts.
Once the assault has happened, the abuser moves to concealment. This is when the perpetrator intimidates the child into keeping this secret.
When a child is abused it can lead to depression, anxiety, and other serious problems later in life.
“If we want a healthy society, we need to prevent this abuse from occurring, or if it does, get children help just as quickly as we can,” Knight explains.
“If we ever want our children to be protected from this, we have to know what we're facing, and what it is, and what is happening. It is happening in our state,” Ashley says.
Recognizing abuse, protecting kids to foster a happy, healthy environment from the moment they arrive. Ashley says that's her goal for her baby girl.
Ashley adds, “She can know what's out there, and still live her life and enjoy it, rather than having to worry about what I had to go through.”
Ashley ended up pressing charges against her father. He was sentenced to a California prison for 12 years, and will be a registered sex offender for life. There are free resources, including courses for parents and children, and more information about the various stages of grooming available here .
Utah's rate of sexual abuse is 28 percent, three times the national average.
If you suspect abuse, report immediately. Call the Division of Child and Family Services at 855-323-3237, or call 911.
Law enforcement working to stop child abuse
by Michaela Leung
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - It's important that we protect children from abuse. Law enforcement in Jefferson County and the city of Rigby are coming together to put a stop to it.
"We had in 2017, more cases filed than any of our surrounding counties excluding Bonneville, I don't know what their numbers are, but we were significantly higher than Teton, Fremont, and Madison," says Paul Butikofer, Prosecutor for Jefferson County.
They say there are a lot of reasons for this.
"To me, child abuse cases are the top priority for the prosecutor's office in Jefferson County. We take them very seriously because we want to protect our children they're our most valuable asset and if you're not protecting your children you're not doing your job," says Butikofer.
"Our children are our most vulnerable people in the community. They don't have the ability to defend themselves like many adults do. They generally don't have the ability to leave the situation. So it's of utmost importance that as the representatives of the community we do what we can to take care of them," says Mike Winchester, Deputy Prosecutor for Jefferson County.
"These things are cyclic in nature. These kids grow up in situations where they may become abused and we see the rates with abused children that are victims, those behaviors repeat themselves. And just like with domestic violence and other cyclic crimes, we want to break that cycle as soon as possible," says Chief Sam Tower, Rigby Police Department.
They say it's hard dealing with these cases.
"In these cases, nobody wins, we feel good when we can put a stop to it but at the end of the day they're still injured and they're still hurt," says Winchester.
But it's a good feeling to bring justice.
"You don't get up and say 'I hope I catch a child abuser today. I hope that comes across my desk' nobody wants that. But when we do get these cases we do the things we're supposed to do and we get good results from them. We're able to file those reports, file those charges with the prosecution, or in the case where we make an immediate arrest. We get that child out of that situation, we stop that cycle. It feels good," says Chief Tower.
They also want to point out there are resources available.
Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center - 1050 Memorial Dr. (208)-259-4352
Family Crisis Center - 16 E Main St. (208)-356-0065
Family Safety Network - 120 N First St. (208) 354-8057
Bright Tomorrow Child Advocacy Center - 409 Washington Ave. (208) 234-2646
Family Services Alliance - 355 S Arthur Ave. (208) 232-0742
Community Safety Network - (307 )733-3711
National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)
Cardinal George Pell pleads 'not guilty' to child sexual abuse charges but must stand trial, court rules
Most senior Vatican official to be embroiled in scandal will face jury after four-week preliminary hearing in Melbourne, Australia, assesses case against him
by Rod McGuirk
Australian Cardinal George Pell , the most senior Vatican official to be charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis , must stand trial on charges alleging he sexually abused multiple victims decades ago, a magistrate ruled on Tuesday.
Magistrate Belinda Wallington dismissed around half the charges that had been heard in the four-week preliminary hearing in Melbourne but decided the prosecution's case was strong enough for the remainder to warrant a trial by jury. The number of charges has not been made public
When she asked Pell how he pleaded, the cardinal said in a firm voice, “Not guilty.” Wallington gave the 76-year-old permission not to stand, which is customary.
When the magistrate left the room at the end of the hearing, many people in the packed public gallery broke into applause.
Pell's plea marked the only words he spoke in public. Wearing a cleric's collar, white shirt and dark suit, he was silent as he entered and left the downtown courthouse with his lawyer Robert Richter. More than 40 uniformed police officers maintained order on the crowded sidewalk outside.
Lawyers for Australia's highest-ranking Catholic had argued that all the accusations were untrue, could not be proved and should be dismissed.
Wallington dismissed one charge because the alleged victim was an “unsatisfactory witness” during the first two weeks of the preliminary hearing, when complainants testified via a video link from a remote location to a courtroom closed to the public and media.
“It is difficult to see how a jury could convict on the evidence of man who has said on his affirmation that he cannot recall what he said a minute ago,” Wallington said.
“In my view, this is one of those rare cases where the witness demonstrated such a cavalier attitude toward giving his evidence that a jury couldn't rely upon it,” he added.
She described her job in the preliminary hearing as “sifting the wheat from the chaff.”
“Unless the credibility of a witness is effectively destroyed, credibility and reliability are matters for a jury,” she said. “Where the evidence is so weak that the prospect of conviction is minimal, it is not of sufficient weight to commit” a defendant to stand trial.
She said she did not dismiss charges “merely because there is a reasonable hypothesis consistent with innocence.”
Pell, Pope Francis' former finance minister, was charged last June with sexually abusing multiple people in his Australian home state of Victoria. The details of the allegations against the cleric have yet to be released to the public, though police have described the charges as “historical” sexual assault offences - meaning the crimes allegedly occurred decades ago.
Richter, Pell's lawyer, told Wallington in his final submissions two weeks ago that the complainants might have testified against one of the church's most powerful men to punish him for failing to act against abuse by clerics.
But prosecutor Mark Gibson told the magistrate there was no evidence to back Richter's theory that Pell had been targeted over the church's failings.
Since Pell returned to Australia from the Vatican in July, he has lived in Sydney and flown to Melbourne for his court hearings. His circumstances are far removed from the years he spent as the high-profile and polarising archbishop of Melbourne and later Sydney before his promotion to Rome in 2014.
The case places both the cardinal and the pope in potentially perilous territory. For Pell, the charges are a threat to his freedom, his reputation and his career. For Francis, they are a threat to his credibility, given he famously promised a “zero tolerance” policy for sex abuse in the church.
Advocates for abuse victims have long railed against Francis' decision to appoint Pell to the high-ranking position in the first place. At the time of his promotion, Pell was already facing allegations that he had mishandled cases of clergy abuse during his time leading the church in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia's largest cities.
So far, Francis has withheld judgment of Pell, saying he wants to wait for justice to run its course. And he did not force the cardinal to resign, though Pell took an immediate leave of absence so he could return to Australia to fight the charges. Pell said he intends to continue his work as a prefect of the church's economy ministry once the case is resolved.
In recent years, Pell's actions as archbishop came under particular scrutiny by a government-authorised investigation into how the Catholic Church and other institutions have responded to the sexual abuse of children.
Australia's Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse - the nation's highest form of inquiry - revealed last year that seven per cent of Catholic priests were accused of sexually abusing children in Australia over the past several decades.
In testimony to the commission in 2016, Pell conceded that he had made mistakes by often believing priests over people who said they had been abused. And he vowed to help end a rash of suicides that has plagued abuse victims in his hometown of Ballarat.
Pell testified to the inquiry in a video link from the Vatican about his time as a priest and bishop in Australia. He did not attend in person because of a heart condition and other medical problems.
Police said at the preliminary hearing that they had planned to arrest Pell for questioning had he returned to Australia in early 2016 to testify.
His lawyers argued in court that Pell was targeted for “special treatment” by detectives from a police task force that investigated historical sex abuse. Police witnesses denied that accusation.
The investigation of Pell began in 2013 before any complainant had come forward to police, whom Richter accused of running “a get Pell operation.”
Pell's lawyers told the court in February that the first complainant approached police in 2015, 40 years after the alleged crimes, in response to media reports about the royal commission.
Pell was charged by summons in Rome and agreed to return to Australia to face the allegations.
Times's Up Demands Investigation Into R. Kelly Sexual Abuse Accusations
The organization sent out a statement Monday Morning calling on social media users to #MuteRKelly.
by Alanna Vagianos
Time's Up, the anti-sexual violence initiative created by women in hollywood in the wake of the Me Too movement, is calling on people to #MuteRKelly.
The organization sent out a statement Monday morning condemning R&B artist R. Kelly over the dozens of sexual misconduct allegations made against him, such as child sexual abuse and sex slavery . Time's Up demanded “appropriate investigations and inquiries” into the allegations of sexual abuse, made primarily by black women and their families .
“To Our Fellow Women of Color: We see you. We hear you. Because we are you,” the Time's Up statement reads. “For too long, our community has ignored our pain. The pain we bear is a burden that too many women of color have had to bear for centuries. The wounds run deep.”
The organization called on people to join the campaign by tweeting their support using the hashtag #MuteRKelly , and urged companies such as Ticketmaster, Spotify and Apple Music to cut ties with Kelly.
“We intend to shine a bright light on our WOC sisters in need. It is our hope that we will never feel ignored or silenced ever again,” the statement reads.
Kelly, who has repeatedly denied all allegations against him, responded to the Time's Up announcement in a statement provided to BuzzFeed :
“R. Kelly supports the pro-women goals of the Time's Up movement. We understand criticizing a famous artist is a good way to draw attention to those goals — and in this case, it is unjust and off-target,” his representative said in a statement to BuzzFeed News, calling the criticism of him an “attempted public lynching of a black man who has made extraordinary contributions to our culture.”
“We fully support the rights of women to be empowered to make their own choices,” the statement added. “Time's Up has neglected to speak with any of the women who welcome R. Kelly's support, and it has rushed to judgment without the facts.” The statement said he is a victim of a “greedy, conscious and malicious conspiracy to demean him.”
“R. Kelly supports the pro-women goals of the Time's Up movement. We understand criticizing a famous artist is a good way to draw attention to those goals?-and in this case, it is unjust and off-target.”
Kelly's most recent concert at the University of Illinois at Chicago was canceled Friday after students and staff protested.
Me Too movement founder Tarana Burke reacted to the statement on Twitter, writing: “This has been a long, hard, fought journey that SO MANY sisters have been on for more than a decade. This man is a predator and 100% of his victims have been Black and Brown girls. At times it felt like screaming into a well, but thank God for this reckoning coming.”
Kelly's stardom has been marked by dozens of sexual misconduct allegations dating back to 1994, when he allegedly married R&B singer Aaliyah when she was 15 and he was 27. In 2008, Kelly was acquitted of child pornography charges after a video showed him allegedly having sex with and urinating on a 14-year-old girl. He has agreed to multiple out-of-court settlements with women who accused him of sexual assault, including one who said Kelly had sex with her when she was 15 .
Last year, a BuzzFeed report alleged the singer holds multiple young women against their will in an abusive sex cult. Rolling Stone also reported that Kelly's ex-girlfriend, radio DJ Kitti Jones, said he abused, sexually assaulted and starved her throughout their two-year relationship.
Kelly has sold nearly 60 million albums and continues to book concerts and receive big-name endorsements , despite the decades of allegations.
As the Me Too movement took off this past fall, people wondered why it seemed to have glossed over the plethora of allegations against Kelly. Many believe it had to do with the fact that most of his alleged victims are young black women.
“Black girls exist at America's most damned intersection: They are black. They are girls. And as R. Kelly abuses them, we too abuse in our silence,” HuffPost's Ja'han Jones wrote last year.
“We call on people everywhere to join with us to insist on a world in which women of all kinds can pursue their dreams free from sexual assault, abuse and predatory behavior,” The Time's Up statement reads.
Celebrities and other Twitter users tweeted their support for the #MuteRKelly campaign.
Read the Time's Up letter below in full:
To Our Fellow Women of Color:
We see you. We hear you. Because we are you.
For too long, our community has ignored our pain. The pain we bear is a burden that too many women of color have had to bear for centuries. The wounds run deep.
As Women of Color within TIME'S UP we recognize that we have a responsibility to help right this wrong. We intend to shine a bright light on our WOC sisters in need. It is our hope that wewill never feel ignored or silenced ever again.
The recent court decision against Bill Cosby is one step towards addressing these ills but it is just a start. We call on people everywhere to join with us to insist on a world in which women of all kinds can pursue their dreams free from sexual assault, abuse and predatory behavior.
To this end, today we join an existing online campaign called #MuteRKelly.
Over the past 25 years, the man known publicly as R. Kelly has sold 60 million albums, toured the globe repeatedly, and accumulated hundreds of millions of plays on radio and streaming services.
During this time, he also...
Married a girl under 18 years of age;
Was sued by at least 4 women for sexual misconduct, statutory rape, aggravated assault, unlawful restraint, and furnishing illegal drugs to a minor;
Was indicted on 21 counts of child pornography;
Has faced allegations of sexual abuse and imprisonment of women under threats of violence and familial harm;
Together, we call on the following corporations and venues with ties to R. Kelly to join us and insist on safety and dignity for women of all kinds:
RCA Records - The venerable music label currently produces and distributes R. Kelly's music;
Ticketmaster - The popular ticketing system is currently issuing tickets for R. Kelly's show on May 11;
Spotify and Apple Music - The popular streaming platforms currently monetizing R. Kelly's music;
Greensboro Coliseum Complex - The venue is currently hosting an R. Kelly concert on May 11.
The scars of history make certain that we are not interested in persecuting anyone without just cause. With that said, we demand appropriate investigations and inquiries into the allegations of R. Kelly's abuse made by women of color and their families for over two decades now. And we declare with great vigilance and a united voice to anyone who wants to silence us - their time is up.
Together, We Are Strong,
WOC | TIME'S UP
Lubbock Child Abuse Rates Higher Than Texas Average
by Courtney Fromm
LUBBOCK, TX - New numbers released by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services stated that Lubbock's child abuse and neglect rates are higher than the state's average.
"They measure it per 1,000 children. So the state is about 8 children abused per 1,000, and Lubbock about 13 out of 1,000 children abused each year," Sasha Rasco, prevention and early intervention associate commissioner with DFPS, said.
Rasco said the department visited six other cities in Texas to hear how they are handling child abuse.
"We want to make sure we don't make assumptions in Austin about what's happening around the state because every community in Texas is different," Rasco said.
Several organizations in Lubbock are working together to tackle the child abuse problem. She said the numbers also may be higher because more cases are reported.
"Ninety-nine percent of parents when they have a baby, they want the best life for that baby – some more than others – and we want to help them as best we can," Rasco said.
Below is a press release from DFPS:
DFPS Statewide Listening Tour Visits Lubbock
Texas Department of Family & Protective Services (DFPS) Deputy Commissioner Trevor Woodruff and Associate Commissioner Sasha Rascowere in Lubbock today as part of a statewide Listening Tour. The purpose of this visit was to get an in-depth view of the Lubbock community and learn more about local family strengthening and child abuse prevention programs that receive state funding.
"Today we have an opportunity as a community to meet with the state agencies that have oversight of the many programs that impact our daily lives. It is a privilege to extend a South Plains welcome to the DFPS staff from Austin," said State Senator Charles Perry.
Woodruff, who was appointed DFPS Deputy Commissioner in 2016, and Rasco, who is the Associate Commissioner of Prevention and Early Intervention, were the featured guests at a community event held at 8:30 AM in the Community Room at Prosperity Bank this morning.
Information presented at the event will allow state level decision makers to better understand the unique needs and challenges the Lubbock community faces in regards to child abuse and neglect. Mayor Dan Pope, Senator Perry, and State Representative John Frullo each made presentations regarding the issues of child abuse and neglect in the Lubbock Community.
"Lubbock has a number of outstanding organizations like the Parenting Cottage, Voice of Hope, and Catholic Charities that provide services to victims of child abuse and neglect to start rebuilding their lives. I applaud DFPS for coming to Lubbock who has worked hard to reduce the number of victims in our area," said Representative Frullo.
Presentations were also made by Lubbock Area United Way, Parenting Cottage, Catholic Charities, and StarCare Specialty Systems. An audience Q & A followed the presentations.
"Funding for child abuse prevention is so vitally important to our community," said Ashley Ammons, Lubbock Area United Way's Community Impact Director. "The rate of child abuse and neglect in Lubbock County is almost double the state average. Prevention programs are not only better for children but are the most cost-effective way to tackle this issue."
United Way released the 2018 Community Status Report yesterday, which highlights some of these issues.
The report can be found online at: www.liveunitedlubbock.org/community-status-report
NAPA's Board of Supervisors told the stark facts of child abuse
by Barry Eberling
Children's advocates are urging community leaders to tackle such issues as affordable housing and a living wage as ways to help curb child abuse and neglect.
The county last year had 314 verified child abuse cases, according to the Napa County Child Abuse Prevention Council. Last week, the group presented its annual “Report on Children” to the Napa County Board of Supervisors.
Those 314 child abuse cases could cost the community a total of $94.2 million over the life of these people. Children suffering abuse are more likely during their lives to require mental health services, be arrested, require special education, require public assistance and lose earning potential, the report said.
Much of the report looks at easing stresses in family life.
“We know abuse and neglect is more likely to happen when parents are stressed and overwhelmed,” said Michele Grupe of the Child Abuse Prevention Council.
Housing cost is considered a financial burden if it takes 30 percent or more of a family's income. In Napa County, 40 percent of residents face this burden. In 2017, average apartment rents were $1,000 for a studio, $1,713 for one bedroom and $2,085 for two bedrooms, the report said.
Napa County should take every step necessary to bring affordable housing to its former Health and Human Services Agency property on Old Sonoma Road in the city of Napa, the report said. Also, the community should revisit 2013 joint city/county housing task force recommendations that have yet to be implemented, it said.
Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza was struck that 441 school-age children were homeless in 2015-16.
“Those are kids in Napa Valley going to school with the worry of whether they have a roof over their heads,” he said. “We're better than that.”
The report addressed wages. A family of three in Napa County needs to make $55,288 annually to afford basic needs. Twenty-seven percent of families that size earn below this amount and 10 percent are below the federal poverty level of $20,420, the report said.
“Until living wages are the norm, taxpayers will continue to subsidize employers who pay substandard wages, by paying for subsidy programs that serve poor, working families,” the report said.
The report didn't say what an hourly living wage might be in Napa County. The state minimum wage is $11 per hour for employers with at least 26 employees and $10.50 an hour for employers with 25 employees or fewer. This figure is to increase to $15 an hour by 2023.
County supervisors in 2015 and 2016 looked at the living wage issue without taking action, in part because the state raised the minimum wage. Some in the business community expressed concern that setting too high a living wage law for the county would cost jobs.
Supervisor Diane Dillon told Grupe that it would be difficult for the county to take action on a living wage without the cities involved. The county Board of Supervisors could pass such a law only for the unincorporated county, given it doesn't govern the cities.
The report said recent raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have traumatized children and their families. It urged the county to do such things as ensure mental health resources are available.
Grupe told the story of a local woman who is afraid to renew her daughter's health insurance or take her daughter to and from school. The daughter has trouble sleeping because she is afraid her parents will be deported.
“This is not acceptable,” Grupe said.
Supervisors praised the 2018 Report on Children and Grupe thanked the county for the support it has provided so far to children. Whether the county will take further steps in coming months remains to be seen.
“Engaging in the conversation of child abuse and neglect is difficult,” Grupe said. “But it is the most important conversation we can have, in my opinion.”
Gastonia police find children 4,5, and 7 drunk outside home
by Ken Lemon
GASTONIA, N.C. - A Gastonia mother is charged after police found her three children ages 4,5, and 7 outside their home drunk on vodka.
The Gaston Gazette reports emergency workers were called to the apartment on Hartford Drive just before 8:30 p.m. Monday about an overdose.
Police said the oldest child had defecated outside and was simulating sex acts on her brother. All three children were “heavily intoxicated” and were taken to the hospital for treatment.
Tyeisha Coneisha Streater, 26, is accused of leaving the children alone for at least seven hours. Police said they found multiple empty bottles of vodka in the apartment. Streater was jailed on charges of misdemeanor child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Bond was set at $25,000.
There are resources available for parents who may feel overwhelmed. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services says asking for help is a sign of strength. Call Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina at 1-800-CHILDREN. They can put you in touch with someone who can offer support and help. Or contact your:
Family Physician or Pediatrician
Mental Health Center
1-800-4-A-CHILD a National Child Abuse Hotline)
CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT CHILD ABUSE AND CHILD NEGLECT
The complicated reality of "Sex Trafficking"
by Livia Gershon
The recent passage of a bill targeting websites that allow sex-related advertising, and the government seizure of Backpage.com, are the latest victories for campaigners against sex trafficking. But some sex workers and former trafficking victims argue that these changes, and other efforts using the criminal justice system to fight exploitation, actually make them more vulnerable to harm.
A few years ago, anthropologist Jennifer Musto looked at how the rise in concern about sex trafficking , particularly in regard to the domestic trafficking of underage girls, actually plays out in policing.
Musto writes that widespread confusion over what counts as sex trafficking has led to an inflation of the numbers of victims often cited in the media. Many reports blur the lines between sex trafficking and other kinds of human trafficking, voluntary sex work, and irregular migration.
The amount of domestic trafficking of minors for sex—a crime that has received an enormous amount of media attention since the early twentieth century —is extremely hard to pin down. Musto writes that the U.S. Justice Department estimates of the number of victims ranges from 100,000 to three million, while a rigorous study in New York City turned up only “a handful” of such children.
Talking with law enforcement officers about trafficking and sex work, Musto found that they frequently focused the conversation on U.S.-born minors, even when the objects of their policing work were more often adults. Anti-trafficking efforts tend to portray all sex workers—child or adult, voluntary or forced, “as objects of pity rather than agents of political change,” she writes.
Although police now typically describe young sex workers not as juvenile delinquents but as victims of sex trafficking, a major tool in their work remains arrest and detention. Since these young people often don't see themselves as victims, they wouldn't cooperate otherwise.
“I don't necessarily like putting victims in jail,” one police officer told Musto. “I recognize that's what we're doing… [But] without that, I wouldn't have a legal reason to hold them in detention for their best interest.”
In many cases, police work closely with social service providers who support and advocate for minors arrested for sex work. But Musto notes that it's hard for the young people to trust these advocates when the threat of punishment is constantly hanging over their interactions—and when the advocates may be pushing for them to testify against traffickers whom they're afraid of.
Musto's work suggests that, even in cases where people involved in the sex trade really are “victims”—people too young to legally consent to sex—the criminal justice system isn't equipped to help them in the ways they want or need.
Assembly passes Child Victims Act; Senate could follow suit
by Richard Moody
ALBANY — For the second straight year, the state Assembly passed a bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations for sexual crimes committed against children.
The bill's main local advocate, a Greene County man, said it is hopeful the Senate will follow suit before the end of session.
The Child Victims Act is a bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations in both criminal and civil cases of sexual crimes against children with a one-year look-back period for adult survivors to get compensation from their attackers and institutions that covered up the abuse.
The Assembly passed the Child Victims Act on Tuesday with a 130-10 vote. Last June, the Assembly passed the bill, 137-7.
New Baltimore native and child sexual assault survivor Gary Greenberg leads the fight for the passage of the bill, said hopes are high that the state Senate will also pass some form of the bill before the legislative session ends June 20.
“I think since the Assembly passed the bill with the majority of Republican assembly members, that sends a message to the Senate that they need to come to some kind of agreement,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg tried to push the legislature to pass the Child Victims Act as part of the 2018 state budget and came close to achieving it.
The governor included the bill in his budget proposal and the Assembly included its version of the bill in its proposal. The Republican-led Senate promised to consider the bill, but it was cut out of the budget during negotiations.
Greenberg took his fight to the campaign trail this year by using his political action committee, Fighting for Children, to influence the April 24 special election for the 37th Senate District. Democratic state Sen. Shelley Mayer defeated her Republican opponent, former Rye Councilwoman Julie Killian, for a Westchester seat that had traditionally been held by Republicans.
“The special election results surprised us all,” Greenberg said. “I think Republicans realized they need to put something on the table and vote for it. I would not want to be a Senate Republican running for re-election after this special election.”
State Senate Republicans have yet to take any action on the Child Victims Act due to the provision in the bill that allows for a one-year look-back window, Greenberg said, but he remains hopeful the Senate will put that aside and pass an unadulterated version of the bill.
“I am 99 percent sure the Senate will pass a version of the Child Victims Act that includes some kind of compensation for victims,” Greenberg said. “There has to be a recourse for victims to get compensation from the perpetrators and their enablers. They need to be held accountable.”
The Senate has a bill that does not include the one-year look-back period.
Greenberg met with state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, R-2, and state Sen. George Amedore Jr., R-46, who represents all of Greene County, Greenberg said.
“I anticipate the Senate will act before the conclusion of session so victims can get the justice they deserve,” Amedore said Wednesday.
Program seeks to reduce child sexual abuse in Somerset, Cambria counties
by Stephen Huba
A grant-funded program will teach adults and second-graders in Somerset and Cambria counties how to recognize and respond to — and ultimately reduce — the incidence of child sexual abuse.
The Safe and Healthy Communities Initiative will hold a kickoff breakfast at 8 a.m. Friday at the Community Service Room of Allegheny Unlimited Care Providers, 119 Jari Drive, Johnstown.
The three-year program, funded by a $370,000, three-year state grant to Somerset County commissioners, will seek to reduce the rates of child sexual abuse by training the general public, all second-graders in Somerset and Cambria counties, and “at-risk” parents identified by both counties' Departments of Children and Youth Services, according to a news release.
“Somerset County is happy to join forces with Cambria County in this important initiative,” said Somerset County Commissioner Gerald Walker. “Children and families in both counties experience child sexual abuse as a personal issue, and the time has come for us to be proactive and deliberate in our efforts to keep our most valuable asset, our children, as safe as possible.”
The program will include age-appropriate child abuse education in every second-grade classroom in Somerset and Cambria counties. The in-school component will focus on appropriate touching, identifying trusted adults and other simple topics, the news release said.
Every school district in Somerset and Cambria counties has signed on to the Safe and Healthy Communities Initiative, and Victim Services Inc. educators will visit every district over the course of the program.
Businesses and organizations can sign up to host free, in-person workshops, and the program will also offer individual online training.
“Child sexual abuse is a chronic, underreported crime. One in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday,” said Shiryl Barto, initiative coordinator. “Our region is not spared these horrific events, and we must move forward taking action to protect children and adolescents.”
Barto noted that most victims are abused by a family member or a person the family trusts. She said community participation is critical if the program is to succeed.
The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network at Penn State University, using part of the $60 million settlement the university reached with the NCAA after the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal.
For more information, to get a link to the online training or to schedule a workshop, contact Barto via email at SHCI@co.somerset.pa.us or by calling 814-445-1676 or 814-243-2981.
Pedophiles are exploiting social media for kids' photos
Some parents may want to go back through their social media history to delete photos that might make their children vulnerable.
by David Lippman
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Child safety advocates say a parent's instinct to document and share the precious moments in their child's life might make them targets for pedophiles.
According to the Child Rescue Coalition , some predators and pedophiles use hashtags of potentially-innocuous moments to find pictures of children they can download, manipulate, or exploit.
In response, the organization began a campaign to preserve the privacy of children online.
Leia Smith said some social media users do not know how they can protect themselves by utilizing a social media network's security settings. She said it scares her that predators take advantage of the things parents do not understand.
“And I think the fact that we're having this conversation right now is indicative of change,” she stated, “and indicative of us taking an initiative to say, hey, we need to talk about this as a community.”
Smith works for the Children's Advocacy Alliance , a Conway agency that investigates child abuse and provides physical and emotional care for child victims. She said she has lots of friends and relatives who post photos of their children on Instagram.
“Whenever it comes to photos of kiddos, I'm pretty sensitive to it, just given where I work,” she explained. “So, I am known to call someone privately, and be like, ‘Hey, saw your kid on Facebook,' or Instagram, or wherever, ‘and that's a really cute picture, but you don't know who's watching that? Have you thought about that?' And always the answer is, ‘no, only my friends can see it.' And it's like, well, but your hashtags that are on there.”
The Child Rescue Coalition created a list of more than 100 hashtags that pedophiles might search to find photos, including #bathtime, #nakedtoddler, and #bikinikids, each of which have thousands or millions of associated pictures.
“It's not surprising to me that someone is going to exploit a child as much as they possibly can,” Smith said, “and the best thing that we can do is have a conversation about the preventative measures that we can put into place, because no one intends for this to happen!”
The #KidsForPrivacy campaign asks users to use those hashtags as they post photos of signs that say, “privacy please.” The goal is to get enough people to post those pictures that a search of that hashtag will discourage predators, since it would take too much effort to find the images they were looking for.
“It's disturbing but it's something that we can solve. And that's through awareness. And that awareness is the best thing we can do in this advocacy,” Smith said.
She liked the idea, but thought users should post a photo of something more symbolic. She suggested either a pinwheel, which is an emblem of child abuse prevention, or a blue rubber ducky, since blue is the color of Child Abuse Prevention Month. But more important, in her eyes, is to talk with parents who may be putting their children at risk through their desire to share online.
“Go have a conversation with someone about it,” she stated. “Don't be scared to start a conversation if you're concerned for the wellbeing of a child. It's always worth it.”
Smith said some parents may want to go back through their social media history to delete posted photos that might make their children vulnerable. She also said parents should check their privacy settings, and either make their pages private, or specify which of their friends are able to see their photos.
Complaint: Beloit mother charged with child neglect had been reported to CPS 40 times before
by Jenna Middaugh
BELOIT, Wis. - A Beloit couple is facing charges for neglecting eight children after officials found the children underfed with various scratches and bruises, living inside a home full of rat droppings, flies and garbage.
The Beloit Police Department said 40-year-old Heather McCoy and 39-year-old Lakeidric McCoy were arrested on one charge of child neglect resulting in bodily harm and five counts of child neglect.
According to the criminal complaint, Heather McCoy's daughter reported to the Beloit Police Department that she stayed at her mom's house for one night in March and the house was filthy.
“She stated that in the kitchen area there were garbage bags full of clothes and trash all over the kitchen table; rat feces on the floor and on the refrigerator,” the criminal complaint stated. “She stated that there was trash in bags outside the back door and clothes in the garage and that when she offered to help her mother clean the house, her mother told her to leave it alone.”
The daughter reported to police that six children under the age of five were living in the home, along with two older children and four dogs. Two of those children, ages 3 and 4, were not related to Heather McCoy. They were staying with her while their mother was in a drug treatment facility in Racine, according to the complaint.
On March 14, Beloit police officers and Child Protective Service workers went to the home in the 1200 block of Randall Street, according to the complaint.
“Officer Hoefs reports that upon entering the residence he smelled a strong odor of mold, garbage, dirty diapers and pet odor in the house,” the complaint stated. “The floors and carpet of the residence were dirty and cluttered with items ... There were no toothbrushes for children or adults anywhere in the house, the floors in the bathroom were dirty, the shower appeared to have dirt in it and there were rodent feces on the kitchen table.”
The eight children were taken into protective custody. The two children who were staying with the McCoys were taken to their grandmother's house. The other six children were put into foster homes, the criminal complaint stated.
The grandmother of the two children who had been staying with the McCoys said she “honestly did not recognize” one of the children “because he was so thin.” She also said she found bite marks and multiple scars on the children, which they stated were from the older children biting them and hitting them with a belt.
While inspecting the home, a CPS worker determined seven children shared one bedroom, sleeping in two queen-sized beds that had been pushed next to each other. The eighth child, a 1-year-old, did not share that room, according to the complaint. The CPS worker said the mattresses had new bedding but underneath, they were “extremely stained and had black spots on them.” The worker also found a large pile of dirty clothes in the bedroom with flies swarming around it.
“In the kitchen was a large puddle or urine and numerous spots that appeared to be dirt or dried feces as well as rodent feces on the floor and on the kitchen table,” the criminal complaint stated. “One refrigerator in the kitchen, which was not working, was full of old food and containers.”
According to the complaint, the 1-year-old was lying on his stomach in a pack-and-play and when Lakeidric McCoy picked the infant up, “fruit flies began swarming around him which had been under the spot where he had been laying.”
The two older children told CPS workers that the family had been cleaning the house for the past few days and said it looked much better than it had before, according to the complaint.
While in foster care, many of the children stated they were very hungry, the criminal complaint said. The grandmother said she found one child in the refrigerator trying to hide food in his pajamas because he wanted to make sure he had food for the next morning, according to the complaint.
According to doctors, many of the children were underfed. One doctor said it had been more than two years since a 3-year-old child had had a checkup. At that time, the child's weight was in the 40th percentile, but now it is in the first percentile, according to the criminal complaint.
Another doctor was concerned that a 2-year-old child had dry skin because of dehydration and another doctor told CPS a 4-year-old child was throwing up because he was not used to eating so much food. The doctor placed him on a liquid diet, according to the criminal complaint.
According to another doctor, the 1-year-old child had not been to the doctor since he was 1 month old and is behind on his immunizations. The doctor said the infant's growth appeared to be normal because he had been given formula, but the doctor said he did not believe the child had been given any solid food because he did not know how to chew, according to the complaint.
According to CPS records, Heather McCoy had been reported to CPS 40 times since 1998. Sixteen of those reports were screened in and three of them were substantiated, according to the criminal complaint. In 2010, six of her children were removed from her home.
Heather and Lakeidric McCoy appeared in court on Tuesday. A court official set their signature bond at $6,000 and ordered them not to contact any of the victims in the complaint or their biological children without CPS consent.
They are scheduled to be in court again on May 16 at 1 p.m.
Democratic Rep. Tony Cardenas denies allegation he sexually assaulted 16-year-old girl in 2007
by Sara Sidner and Maeve Reston
Democratic Rep. Tony Cardenas of California is vehemently denying accusations that he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl in 2007.
Cardenas, 55, the Democratic assistant whip who represents California's 29th Congressional District, identified himself through an attorney as the subject of a complaint filed last Friday by Los Angeles attorney Lisa Bloom. The civil suit filed by Bloom, which due to a California law did not name the accuser or the alleged assailant, alleges that in 2007, an "elected politician" sexually battered and assaulted a 16-year-old girl.
"My client is sickened and distraught by these horrific allegations, which are 100%, categorically untrue," said Cardenas' attorney Patricia Glaser. "We respect victims who have found the strength to come forward and call out misconduct when it has actually occurred, but the type of baseless and reckless allegations that are contained in the complaint against my client can ruin the lives and careers of innocent people."
She continued, "Congressman Cardenas has had an exemplary record in more than 20 years of public service, having worked with countless staff members, community leaders, and constituents who fully support and stand by him. To reiterate, these claims against the Congressman are absolutely false and are utterly inconsistent with who he is — in the workplace, in the community, and at home.
"We ask that his constituents, the public generally, and his Congressional colleagues do the right thing and appropriately withhold judgment until there has been a full vetting of the facts. The Congressman expects complete exoneration, as he is 100% innocent."
The alleged assailant was identified in the complaint only as John Doe, a "public figure" in his early 40s. Cardenas was a city council member in his early 40s at the time of the incident.
Under California law, the attorney for an alleged victim of childhood sexual assault that has passed the statute of limitations must present evidence outlining the merits of the case in a private hearing with a judge. Until a judge rules that there is justification to file the case, the name of the alleged assailant is listed as John Doe.
Cardenas did not respond to CNN's request for comment or to a note left by CNN at his home.
Earlier this week, the attorney for the victim, Lisa Bloom, would not comment on who her client was or whether Cardenas was the alleged assailant. She is barred from doing so until the judge grants permission to reveal the name of the alleged assailant.
But Bloom did tell CNN, "This is the only option my client has to try to get some justice at this point. It is an unusual law that requires us to jump through some hoops, so that is what we are doing."
Bloom did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Cardenas coming forward with his denial.
The lawsuit said the girl was a "star teenage athlete" who met the politician at a golf tournament when she was 14, and that he became "an integral part" of her and her family's lives.
In January of 2007 while playing golf with the politician at the Hillcrest Country Club, the 16-year-old collapsed. The lawsuit alleges that the man who she had come to trust fondled her as he drove her to the hospital, touching her vagina and rubbing her breasts.
Court documents state that the young woman said the politician handed her water with an unusual taste before the incident. She played a round of golf with him, and four or five hours into her round she "suddenly collapsed to the ground but did not lose consciousness," according to the suit.
During the ride to the emergency room, the suit alleges, the politician reached into her shirt, rubbing her breasts, and also reached down her shorts "intermittently throughout the drive." The alleged abuse went on for 30 to 45 minutes during the drive, according to the court filing.
At the time of the assault, the suit says, the victim was awake in the passenger seat of the car with her eyes closed and her head resting on the window. Startled by the assault, she pretended to be asleep.
The 16-year-old victim said she was "frozen from shock" and didn't move or speak during the incident, fearful of what the politician might do if he realized she was not sleeping.
Once at the hospital the man dropped her off and left.
The court papers filed Friday said the victim never confronted the politician about the abuse or reported it to police because of fear of retaliation.
The lawsuit says that after the incident, the victim avoided the politician, but she found herself alone with him at her father's office. He made a joke, but when she did not laugh, the politician responded: "Remember where your dad works." She perceived that as a threat, the suit said.
It is unclear from the court filing exactly when the alleged threat occurred.
Campaign filings reviewed by CNN show that the victim's father worked for Cardenas at various points throughout his political career. The statement released by Cardenas' attorney claimed the "complainant is the daughter of a disgruntled former employee and may be the victim of manipulation."
The victim's father did not return requests for comment. CNN does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault, unless they choose to publicly identify themselves.
The victim came forward because of the #MeToo movement. She is now married and "wants to be a strong role model for her daughter," the filing said.
Cardenas, an avid golfer who represents much of the San Fernando Valley in Congress, was elected to the House of Representatives in 2013.
He has often noted that he made history by becoming the first Latino to represent the San Fernando Valley in Congress. As a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, he became a seasoned surrogate for other Democratic officials. He campaigned extensively for Hillary Clinton during the presidential race in 2016, and photos on his Facebook page show him sitting next to former Vice President Joe Biden during one campaign trip.
Throughout his political career, Cardenas, has focused extensively on juvenile justice issues and gun control, which were also major interests for him while he served in the California State Assembly, beginning in 1996, and later on the Los Angeles City Council.
He served on the LA City Council from 2003 until January of 2013, meaning that he would have been an elected officeholder at the time of the alleged assault.
The 29th District is a solid Democratic district where Clinton beat Trump 77.7% to 16.8%. But the June 5 California primary ballot is now set, and the top two candidates -- regardless of party -- will advance to the November ballot.
Four other virtually unknown candidates -- one Democrat, one Republican, one Green Party member and one candidate who did not select a party preference — have been certified to run in the 29th District in addition to Cardenas.
They are Joseph "Joe" Shammas, a Democratic retired military officer; Benito Benny Bernal, a Republican educational transportation supervisor; Angelica Maria Duenas, a Sun Valley Neighborhood Councilmember who is part of the Green Party; and Juan Rey, a mechanic with no party preference.
Cardenas won his third term with 75% of the vote.
Oklahoma Senate approves bill which would require 'immediate' reporting of child abuse
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma Senate on Thursday approved a bill Thursday which would modify the requirements for reporting child abuse.
House Bill 2259 which would require individuals, especially educators, to report suspected child abuse or neglect of those 17 years old and younger "immediately" to the DHS Child Abuse Hotline and those 18 years or older to law enforcement.
The bill modifies the current law, which says suspected abuse must be reported "promptly."
“Current law advises people to reports suspected abuse and neglect ‘promptly' but this term is obviously getting misinterpreted as many cases aren't being reported for several days or weeks after it's discovered,” said Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee. “As a former educator, I'm glad that the bill specifically requires teachers to report suspected abuse and neglect as these are the people who spend the most time with these kids and can recognize changes in behavior or see evidence of abuse. For most kids, schools are safe zones and they trust their teachers and often open up about violence in their home. Hopefully, this change will help protect more of Oklahomans children and get them away from bad situations.”
HB 2259 now goes to Gov. Mary Fallin.
2 Altoona Franciscan friars enter pleas in child sex abuse case
by Stephen Huba
Two Altoona Franciscan friars will serve five years' probation for their part in covering up the child sexual abuse committed by Brother Stephen Baker in the 1990s, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said.
The friars, Robert D'Aversa, 70, and Anthony Criscitelli, 63, entered no-contest pleas Friday to endangering the welfare of children, a first-degree misdemeanor, Shapiro said.
They are among the first religious leaders in the United States, and the first members of a Pennsylvania religious order, to be held criminally liable for covering up sexual abuse of children by other clergy.
“These defendants knew the abuser was a serious threat to children, but they allowed him to engage with children and have access to them as part of his job within their order,” Shapiro said. “They chose time and time again to prioritize their institution's reputation over the safety of victims.”
D'Aversa and Criscitelli oversaw operations of the Franciscan Friars, Third Order Regular, and thus were the superiors of Baker when he worked at Bishop McCort Catholic High School in Johnstown from 1992 to 2001.
Baker was found dead of apparent suicide at the St. Bernardine Monastery in Hollidaysburg on Jan. 26, 2013, days after the announcement of a multimillion-dollar settlement with his accusers. He was first accused of sexual abuse in 1988, but his superiors never reported allegations to police.
Three Franciscan friars, including D'Aversa and Criscitelli, were indicted in 2016 for failing to properly supervise Baker. The third defendant, Anthony Schinelli, was dismissed from the case last year on statute of limitations grounds.
On Friday, Blair County Judge Jolene G. Kopriva sentenced the two men to five years' probation, the maximum allowed, and fined them $1,000 and costs.
“The criminal sanction handed down by the court today is less significant than the convictions for covering up sexual abuse of children by a member of their order for many years,” Shapiro said.
State Rep. Mark Rozzi, a Berks County Democrat who is working to extend the statute of limitations, said in April that the special grand jury investigation of clergy sexual abuse in six Roman Catholic dioceses across the state is nearing completion.
He said he expects the attorney general's office to release the findings sometime later this month or in June.
Child sex abuse: How long do the statutes of limitations run in the EU?
Victims of secual abuse during childhood often face a race against time to come forward and report their offenders. DW looks at how statutes of limitations for such crimes vary across the European Union
by David Martin
Chile was left in a state of shock this week following the brutal rape and death of a 20-month-old toddler. With its citizens in uproar, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera on Thursday said he would back legislation to lift the statute of limitations (SOL) on sex crimes against minors.
Under current law, there is a five- to 10-year SOL on cases concerning sexual abuse against minors. This effectively means that a victim can no longer pursue charges against the abuser more than 10 years after the incident took place.
Pinera's decision went further than expected, with initial reports suggesting that he would seek to impose a 30-year time limit.
"Our children who have been sexually abused have the right to a defense in order to obtain justice and prevent the passing of time... becoming a real accessory in favor of impunity," the Chilean president said.
By scrapping the SOL on child sex abuse cases, Chile would follow in the footsteps of some, although not all European Union countries. DW looks at how the statutes of limitations vary across different EU member states.
Differences in the heart Europe
In Germany the most severe instances of child sex crimes have an SOL of up to 20 years. However, recent revisions to Germany's criminal code mean that the limitation period does not begin before the victim turns 30.
In effect, this means that a victim has until the age of 50 to report any instances of abuse experienced during childhood.
France also imposes a 20-year statute of limitations for rape against a minor, although the period begins from the time of the incident. Such a policy is controversial and has been decried by several rights groups, since it means the limitation period begins before the victim of is old enough to even launch legal proceedings.
However, France also currently finds itself the midst of a judicial firestorm over the legal definition of rape. In March, two men were initially acquitted of rape charges after having sex with 11-year-old girls because the acts were found to be consensual. While one of the offenders still received a five-year prison term, the sentence was markedly shorter than it would have been in other EU states.
The case attracted global attention to France's lack of a legal age for consenting to sex. The country's equality minister, Marlene Schiappa, has since said the government now intends to set a legal age of consent at 15 , while the case is subject to review.
The UK keeps it simpler by not imposing an SOL on persecuting any crimes before a criminal court. This includes sex crimes against anyone, whether it is an adult or minor. As a result, several high profile personalities have in recent years been convicted for acts of child abuse committed during the 1970s and 1980s.
The Netherlands in 2013 similarly scrapped all limitation periods for serious sexual offenses that carry a minimum sentence of eight years, including those against children.
Little cohesion in Eastern Europe
Further east in Europe, there appears to be just as much disparity between EU countries. Hungary, for example, does not impose any SOL on child abuse cases and Poland has looked to follow suit by toughening laws prosecuting sex offenders.
Upon coming into power in 2015, the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party sought to overhaul its SOL for child sex offenses, which at the time only imposed a five-year limit to press charges after the victim's 18th birthday. A proposed new bill would scrap the SOL for child sex cases and also increase the maximum prison sentence to 30 years. "I believe that the Polish state should be ruthless and brutal towards perpetrators of violent crimes, extreme cruelty, rape, pedophilia and sexually motivated murders," PiS Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro was quoted as saying.
Romania, in 2014, however, appeared to move in the opposite by actually shortening the SOL down to seven years for young victims. Lawmakers in Bucharest were reported as saying that the country was struggling to support the social security and penitentiary system so it was easier to reduce the punishment.
What you can do to prevent child sexual abuse
by the Children's Bureau DHHS
To prevent child sexual abuse, it is important to keep the focus on adult responsibility while teaching children skills to help them protect themselves. Consider the following tips:
• Take an active role in your children's lives. Learn about their activities and people with whom they are involved. Stay alert for possible problems.
• Watch for “grooming” behaviors in adults who spend time with your child. Warning signs may include frequently finding ways to be alone with your child, ignoring your child's need for privacy (e.g., in the bathroom) or giving gifts or money for no particular occasion.
• Ensure that organizations, groups, and teams that your children are involved with minimize one-on-one time between children and adults. Ask how staff and volunteers are screened and supervised.
• Make sure your children know that they can talk to you about anything that bothers or confuses them.
• Teach children accurate names of private body parts and the difference between touches that are “okay” and “not okay.”
• Empower children to make decisions about their bodies by allowing them age-appropriate privacy and encouraging them to say “no” when they do not want to touch or be touched by others —even in nonsexual ways.
• Teach children to take care of their own bodies (e.g., bathing or using the bathroom) so they do not have to rely on adults or older children for help.
• Educate children about the difference between good secrets (such as birthday surprises) and bad secrets (those that make the child feel unsafe or uncomfortable).
• Monitor children's use of technology, including cell phones, social networking sites, and messaging. Review contact lists regularly and ask about any people you don't recognize.
• Trust your instincts! If you feel uneasy about leaving your child with someone, don't do it. If you are concerned about possible sexual abuse, ask questions.
• If your child tells you that he or she has been abused, stay calm, listen carefully, and never blame the child. Thank your child for telling you. Report the abuse right away.