The door-knock that brought back years of abuse
by Andrew Bomford
A knock on the door by two detectives changed everything for Mark, bringing back the horrors of sexual abuse he had suffered as a child. Like other survivors of child abuse, he says he found it hard to get any support afterwards.
The black and white photo of Mark was taken in December 1980 on his first day at Grafton Close, a council-run children's home in south-west London. Weighing just 5st 8lb and measuring just 5ft 2in tall, he looks younger than his 14 years.
His young life was already troubled and it was about to get a lot worse.
Now, 38 years later, Mark is still dealing with the consequences.
"When I was a kid, I was as kind-hearted a child as you can possibly imagine," he says.
"What happened to that child is so horrendously wrong, and it's horrendously wrong that it should just be allowed to continue."
Mark was sexually abused by a manager at the children's home. Other children were abused there too and some were taken elsewhere to be abused.
Although he was small and vulnerable, Mark was a very bright and articulate boy, who managed to cope by outsmarting people. "I used language as a weapon," he says.
He had few qualifications but in his 20s and 30s made a successful career for himself working in commercial radio sales.
He explains his coping strategy as managing to lock away his terrible childhood traumas in a box marked: "Do not open ever."
But it all came crashing to a halt in January 2013 when the police came knocking on his door.
At the time, the UK was going through a collective panic over child abuse.
It was not long after the revelations about Jimmy Savile, and the police were investigating a series of allegations about high-profile paedophiles operating in Westminster during the 1970s and 1980s.
The visit, by two officers from the Metropolitan Police, to Mark's house in the Manchester area came out of the blue. During the visit - and in a subsequent formal interview - they asked about the abuse he suffered.
Mark said his carefully constructed mental box was now in ruins - its dark secrets scattered over the floor for everyone to see. He says the police left him to deal with the consequences, and offered no support.
"I went through 18 months to two years of deep, deep depression," he says. "It's like you're gradually walking through a tunnel, and your friends become further away - they visit less.
"You've got a choice - a choice to either fight to get back to the light, or let it drift away. I fought to get back to the light."
Mark says he suffered from suicidal thoughts, and became very anxious. He suffered panic attacks in public places, and was terrified of people even walking past his front door.
Shortly after the police visit he discovered to his horror that someone had posted the names of a list of child abuse victims online, and that his name was listed among them. Another post described him wrongly as a "rent boy".
Mark became embroiled in a long battle with the police to get them to force the websites to remove the postings, but the police failed to act. He eventually managed to get them removed himself.
The man who abused him was charged with sexual offences, but he died shortly before the case came to court. Mark would have been a victim and witness at the trial but never got his day in court.
He has recently completed a 24-week course of Cognitive Analytic Therapy, delivered by clinical psychologist Vanessa Fay, of the Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.
"That knock on the door from the police changed everything for Mark. He couldn't push it down anymore, and how painful it is. He wasn't aware of how complicated and nuanced that impact can be on relationships, and how he related to himself," she says.
Mark has been diagnosed as suffering from Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD), also known as Complex Trauma. He says he managed to access a course of treatment only after a relentless struggle with his GP for support.
Complex Trauma is poorly understood, rarely recognised, and few psychologists are trained to treat it. The condition is not even officially recognised but is expected to be included as a distinct category of PTSD in an international classification system known as ICD-11, published by the World Health Organization.
Bryony Farrant, chief psychologist to the independent Child Abuse Inquiry, said official recognition will make a big difference to survivors of abuse and therapists.
"It would mean professionals will need to be trained and have an understanding of complex trauma - what it looks like, what causes it, and identified treatments and support. But for victims and survivors it would be particularly important because often with the abuse they have experienced, part of it is about secrecy, about that person being silenced, and disempowered."
Mark blames the police for "re-traumatising" him and failing to offer support. He is most upset with their failure to deal with the online postings naming him publicly as a child abuse victim.
He made a series of complaints to the police and the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and the Metropolitan Police eventually apologised. They admitted their systems were at fault and he should have had more support. But they said no individual officer was at fault and there was no police misconduct.
The Met said in a statement to the BBC that officers are trained to be sensitive to victims, and they are directed to support agencies.
Napac - the National Association for People Abused in Childhood - says there are more than 11 million adult survivors of child abuse in the UK, and they deserve much better specialist support.
Research by the NSPCC in 2011 found that 25% of 18-24 year olds suffered severe maltreatment including sexual abuse as children.
Mark Samaru believes his therapy has helped him process the ordeal he went through. He is also very aware that most survivors get nowhere near the support he has fought to get.
"It's a measure of our society how we treat the most vulnerable," he says. "Nobody who's been abused in childhood deserves it, and yet they all deserve as much support as society can give them. And they're not getting it."
Manufacture of child sex robots moves BBC investigative journalist to tears
by Doug Mainwaring
While touring an “adult toy” factory in Japan that manufactures “sexbots” – life-size, lifelike robots created for the purpose of sexual gratification – a young BBC journalist stumbled upon a section of the building where childlike “sexbots” were being assembled.
BBC journalist James Young was “visibly shaken,” according to a Daily Star report , and said afterward that “the encounter was ‘horrific.' I just had to get out of there.”
“Mr Young, who is also a biological scientist with a prosthetic arm and leg, traveled across the globe to meet the makers of sex robots for the documentary,” the report continued. “During the show, he noted how it seemed “like they have the potential to bring out the worst things in us.”
While some assert that increasingly lifelike child sex dolls and “sexbots” will serve as a deterrent to criminal sexual acts against children by pedophiles, many experts believe the nascent, burgeoning industry will encourage sexual predation, leading to an increase, not a decrease, in the sexual exploitation of children.
Some of these dolls resemble children as young as three years old and can be customized to feature lifelike facial expressions, including sadness and fear.
Even more troubling, customers can customize their doll order to resemble children they actually know by providing photographs to the manufacturer. In the case of child “sexbots” currently under development, pedophilic customers will also have the option of providing sample voice recordings to further create the illusion of obtaining sexual gratification with a specific, real-life child known to the customer.
“Such dolls that have been confiscated at the borders in … the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, to name a few … contain anatomically correct body parts and orifices (mouth, vagina, and anus) which can be used to accommodate an adult male penis,” according to thecrimereport.org .
YouTube, Instagram, Twitter & Pinterest tangentially complicit
Social media giants –– which are often quick to censor Christian and conservative messaging as “offensive” or as “violating community standards” – have not been so alert when it comes to censoring the promotion of these child sex dolls and sexbots on their platforms.
“From YouTube to Instagram, and Twitter to Pinterest, videos and links to online markets for child sex dolls are being posted on the biggest social media sites,” NBC's New York affiliate reported this weekend.
“On one YouTube channel called Pretty Dolls, which has since been removed, videos about life-sized dolls that look like children and are sold for a dark purpose have been watched more than 100,000 times,” the report continued. “In addition to the social media listings, Google Shopping also offered child sex dolls -- and there were listings even on Amazon.”
While YouTube and Twitter quickly removed offending links and sites in response to the NBC investigation, other child sex doll promotions popped up, revealing how pervasive the problem is and how determined both suppliers and customers are to do business.
Legislation to prohibit the sale and distribution of child sexbots in the United States
The Curbing Realistic Exploitative Electronic Pedophilic Robots (CREEPER) Act, which aims to ban importation and distribution of child sex dolls, was introduced by New York Congressman Dan Donovan along with a bipartisan coalition 32 co-sponsors.
“It's a uniquely vile person who preys on children to fulfill horrific pedophilic urges,” Rep. Donovan said. “During my 20 years as a prosecutor, I put away animals who played out their disgusting fantasies on innocent children. What I saw and heard was enough to make anybody sick. Now, as a legislator in Congress, I'm introducing a bill to ban the newest outlet for pedophiles: child sex dolls. They don't belong in our communities.”
Imported from China, Hong Kong, and Japan, the dolls are purposely mislabeled as mannequins or models to avoid detection by postal authorities.
Law enforcement agents note a correlation between the purchases of child sex dolls by individuals who have history of offenses against children. “(O)f the 128 dolls seized in the UK, 85 percent of the men who imported them were also found in possession of child pornography,” noted a press release from Rep. Donovan's office. “Additionally, psychologists and researchers believe that these dolls reinforce, normalize, and encourage pedophilic behavior, potentially putting more children at risk to harm.”
“In fact, emerging psychology on the topic says these obscene dolls encourage abuse of real children,” Rep. Donovan said in an op-ed in The Hill. “Peter Fagan from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine recently told The Atlantic that child sex dolls likely have a ‘reinforcing effect' on pedophiles, and “in many instances cause (the urge) to be acted upon with greater urgency.”
A coalition of robotics experts, ethicists and child protection advocates have joined together to support the proposed legislation.
“Child sexual abuse is a heinous crime, one that no child should ever have to suffer,” said Michael Polenberg, VP of government affairs of Safe Horizon, a leading victim assistance organization. “How, then, to reconcile civil society's abhorrence of child abuse with the production and import of life-sized, life-like dolls of children to be used for sexual purposes? This is deeply concerning on many levels.”
“There is currently a dramatic rise in the development of talking sex robots powered by Artificial Intelligence,” explained Noel Sharkey, co-director of the Foundation for Responsible Robotics. “The possibility of making anatomically detailed moving robot replicas of specific children for sexual gratification is now here and is surely a step too far. Such devices will, at the very least, have a pernicious impact on our society and create a threat to the sexual safety of our children.”
“The seizures of child sex dolls illustrates that sex offenders and pedophiles will stop at nothing to reach children,” said Stacie Rumenap, president of Stop Child Predators. “There is no doubt these dolls will be used to lure and groom children, and will ultimately lead to more sexual abuse and exploitation of real children.”
Melanie Blow, COO of the Stop Abuse Campaign, said, “Child sexual abuse is an epidemic in our society, affecting one-fifth of our nation's children. An epidemic with massive human and financial costs. Anything that normalizes adult sexual attraction towards children will only worsen this epidemic. Child sex dolls and robots that do this are perfectly legal, and that's a problem.”
Kathleen Richardson, founder of the Campaign Against Sex Robots and De Montfort University Professor of Ethics and Culture of Robots and AI, said, “I have listened to the stories of childhood sexual abuse survivors firsthand, and we must do everything to prevent future incidents. Giving child sex dolls and robots to pedophiles will do nothing but encourage harmful acts towards innocent children. A child's safety should never be put below a predators desire or commercial companies profits.”
Would child sex robots stop pedophilia?
Some suggest that the “child sexbots” (CSBs) will provide a safe outlet for individuals who are sexually attracted to children.
“They envision a future in which pedophiles are prescribed CSBs so they can act out their urges without victimizing anyone,” according to an NBC report .
“There's wide agreement among experts that neither child sex dolls nor CSBs should be freely available for purchase,” the report continued. “But some experts say the time has come to conduct scientific research to gauge their possible use as a deterrent for pedophilia , a psychiatric disorder that causes sexual attraction to prepubescent children and that is now treated with psychotherapy or, in some cases, libido-curbing drugs .”
CSBs likely to lead to the normalization of sex with children
While proponents of the manufacture and use of these child sex dolls and robots assert they may have clinical value in curtailing criminal sexual acts against real children, science and medicine suggest that is wishful thinking.
According to a r eport published at Harvard Health , society has good reason to be pessimistic about pedophilia, which “remains a vexing challenge for clinicians and public officials.” The report continued, “Pedophilia is a sexual orientation and unlikely to change.”
There is a “fear that CSBs could normalize deviant behavior — and lead pedophiles to cross the line with real victims. According to the U.K.-based nonprofit Campaign Against Sex Robots , there's no evidence that adult sex dolls or sexbots have curbed demand for prostitutes,” the NBC report continued.
Director of the campaign, Dr. Kathleen Richardson, a professor of ethics and culture of robots at De Montfort University in Leicester, noted, “I've spoken to adults who were abused as children, and they don't support the use of CSBs. They say that pedophiles who offend are so cut off from their own humanity that giving them a machine wouldn't address the underlying problem.”
“For the sake of our country's children,” Rep. Donovan said, “we absolutely cannot allow child sex dolls in our communities.”
Surprising PSA reveals hidden truth about sexual abuse
by Rebecca Ruiz
When picturing a survivor of sexual abuse, you might immediately imagine a girl or woman, especially now in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
An emotional new PSA, however, wants to broaden your perceptions about survivors to include boys and men.
The 5-minute spot was produced by 1in6 , a nonprofit organization that helps men who've had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences. It begins with five actresses reading heartbreaking accounts of sexual abuse and assault. When they finish, the director asks how the women would respond to the story if they had the chance.
Like many of us might, each actress assumes the author is a woman.
"I just feel like, I would just, like, hug her," says one of the actresses.
"You were a little girl. It's not your fault, honey," says another.
What they can't see behind the scenes are the men to whom those stories belong. Some of them are crying. Soon enough, the male survivors walk out to meet the women who read their accounts.
The profound moment, in which some of the women look surprised, reveals how men are too often invisible in our conversations about sexual assault, even though the rates of abuse are similar between sexes; historically, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys have been victims of child sexual abuse by age 18.
"When you think about sexual abuse, you always think of it as women. You never think about men being abused," Mark Godoy Jr., one of the survivors, said in an interview with Mashable. "For most men, that's kind of how we carry our abuse. We're never the center of attention, and most people don't care."
Godoy first shared his story a few years ago through The Bristlecone Project , a 1in6 photo series that features the stories of male survivors. He participated in the new PSA with the hope that it would help other survivors know it's OK to be vulnerable and seek help. Godoy, who is black, particularly wants black men to see a survivor who looks like them.
1in6 began developing the concept for the PSA two years ago, and the NFL provided the funding for the spot. Though the league has previously underwritten PSAs for the No More campaign, which aims to end domestic violence and sexual assault, this is the first time it's helping to put the focus on male sexual abuse.
"I think it's really important that they're involved," said Tracy DeTomasi, executive director of No More, which partnered with 1in6 to promote the PSA. She feels the NFL wields valuable influence that can help men rethink stereotypes about masculinity that might prevent them from talking about sexual abuse.
"When you destroy some of those myths of masculinity and get away from toxic masculinity, you allow men to process the abuse they may have experienced," DeTomasi said.
Each of the men in the PSA display their own sense of grief, anger, and resilience, while the women listen compassionately. Ashley Lauren Bell, the actress who said she'd hug the story's author, sees Godoy walk from behind a curtain and eventually opens her arms wide to embrace him.
"Because I'm a woman, I just related it to being a little girl," she told Mashable. "It didn't cross my mind that [the author] could be a male. I was so overcome with emotion reading his story, and then actually seeing him ... my natural instinct was just to hug him."
Bell, who isn't a survivor and doesn't have close friends or family who've said they experienced abuse, hadn't thought too much about sexual assault prior to the PSA. Now when she walks into a room with several men, she thinks about the 1 in 6 statistic and remembers that anyone can be a victim of sexual abuse.
That's exactly the kind of awareness Godoy wants viewers to gain by seeing the PSA.
And as for the hug he shared with Bell, it remains special.
"It was a heart-to-heart moment," he said. "We both cried. It's something you don't see very often: people who are complete strangers that have that level of connection over a serious thing."
If you have experienced sexual assault, you can contact the nonprofit organization 1in6 , which maintains a helpline for male survivors. You can also call the free, confidential National Sexual Assault hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), or access 24-7 help online by visiting hotline.rainn.org .
PSA available to watch here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCO5-UcTSn-iVimWwp2ty9gg
What Every Incest Survivor Needs to Know
Healing can take different forms.
by Alisa Zipursky
Incest sucks. And it happens all the time.
Those eight simple words raise issues that are never talked about, but need to be. Incest — specifically sexual abuse of a child at the hands of a parental figure — is unfortunately remarkably common.
Incest is generally only brought up in “polite company” after watching Cersi and Jamie Lannister on Game of Thrones, but it's time it was talked about as a fact of real life. The conversation we desperately need to be having is about the 1 in 9 girls and the 1 in 53 boys that are sexually abused before they're 18 years old — 80% of whom are sexually abused by a parent , according to RAINN.
The silence that surrounds incest can make survivors feel isolated, even though it is a very common experience. Sam*, an incest survivor, says that it wasn't until they started sharing their own story that they realized they have actually been surrounded by other survivors their whole life.
“I began sharing my story of survivorship, and through that, I have found that the feelings of shame have, over time, melted away. I realized that incest happens all the time, and we are not alone,” they tell Teen Vogue .
This piece is about and for survivors, but it is also for people who may not have experienced incest themselves, but know someone who has. Survivors are in our classrooms, houses of worship, and even our homes, and we may not even know. The taboo around the topic can make it hard to understand how this form of sexual violence exists in our communities, access information, and get support.
Here are 6 things every incest survivor, and their loved ones, need to know.
1. Incest happens all the time, everywhere, and there are so many ways it can look.
Incest is hard to talk about, partially because of all the different forms it can take. The way it manifests is different for everyone and this can make it difficult to identify. Incest can include rape, molestation or unwanted touching; the adult exposing their genitalia, masturbating in front of a child or forcing the child to masturbate. It can also be emotional , which involves the parent treating their child like their romantic partner and relying on the child for all their emotional needs.
What is shared among survivors is that feeling of being unsafe and violated by the actions of the trusted parental figure. Licensed professional counselor Paul Dunion explains that a common experience is a feeling of “icky-ness.”
“Survivors know in their bodies somebody physically, sexually or emotionally came too close,” he tells Teen Vogue .
2. You are not alone and there are people here to support you.
Surviving incest can be isolating, but it is important to know you are not alone. Many survivors don't talk about what they experienced because they feel afraid, ashamed, and confused, but talking can be an important part of the healing process. Often survivors find it helpful to identify a trusted person in their life, like a friend or family member, who makes them feel safe and with whom they can share their experiences and feelings.
However, for many survivors, talking about it with someone they know feels daunting, in which case confidential support can be a helpful option. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) is a national organization that offers free, confidential services for survivors through the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE) and confidential web chat where survivors can connect with trained advocates to get support and information.The folks at RAINN are there to help survivors figure out how to heal in a way that works for them.
3. Incest can affect the health of a survivor's mind and body and that is totally normal.
Surviving incest is traumatic and trauma can affect both bodies and minds. According to Dr. Elizabeth Miller, the Director of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, there is no “one,” “normal,” or “right,” way to cope with that trauma. Every survivor handles what happened differently, and that's okay.
“Trauma impacts our bodies and health in really diverse ways,” she tells Teen Vogue . “It's everything from having difficulty focusing at school, being uncomfortable in loud places, feeling anxious, and out of control of our own emotions, and experiencing nightmares.”
Survivors also may not have clear memories of exact instances of trauma; It's normal to have vague memories and to remember more as time passes. Dr. Miller said that memory loss is a way for the brain to protect survivors from the pain of their trauma. Because they lack of clear memory, survivors sometimes have to rely on a gut feeling that they know something happened to them that wasn't okay.
“It is like the memory is shattered glass, and over time, a few little pieces of that glass come back together, but it isn't a whole and complete memory,” Miller said.
It is also normal for survivors to experience a range of conflicting emotions— from anger, sadness and anxiety to feelings of guilt and a sense of needing to protect their perpetrator and their family. Incest can be wrapped up in messages of love and family obligation from the parental figure, which can feel confusing.
4. Healing can take different forms too.
Just as trauma can take many different forms, so can healing. Part of the healing process is identifying coping mechanisms, resources, and self-care practices that work.
“Trust yourself and the way you feel,” said Diane Dahm, a social worker and expert in trauma counseling, “There are no wrong feelings and there are professionals all across the country ready to help you.”
Examples of strategies for dealing with trauma include breathing exercises, journaling, exercise, music, and meditating to help feel present in the body and manage emotions. And as mentioned above, talking can be an important step, particularly with a professional. Visit RAINN's Center Locator to find a trauma counselor near you.
5. Choosing whether or not to report to the police is a personal decision.
Whether a survivor chooses to report their incest as a crime to the police or not, each survivor must do what is right for them. The decision to report can be complicated for survivors. Some of the concerns survivors weigh when choosing whether or not to report can include: uncertainty of what will happen to their families, fear that their memory isn't clear enough, and the risk of possible re-traumatization by the police. RAINN's hotline trained advocates can help survivors talk through all the considerations of reporting.
It is important for survivors to know that many adult professionals, such as teachers, coaches and doctors, are legally required to report to state authorities if they learn of a person under the age of 18-years-old is being abused, including sexual abuse and molestation.
To learn about the mandatory reporting laws in your state, check out RAINN's online State Law Database.
6. Most important of all, survivors are entitled to live full and healthy lives.
The most important thing for a survivor to know is that they are worthy of a full and vibrant life filled with love. Survivorship is a part of the complex fabric of a person's identity, but does not mean anyone is fated to a certain kind of life.
“Survivors can hold their trauma as one of the truths of their life, along with their ambition, brilliance, their love for others and a deep love for themselves,” Sam said.
Survivors are deserving and capable of lives filled with hope, resiliency and love, and while healing can be hard and exhausting work, there are people ready to support and stand beside them every step of the way.
*Name has been changed.
If you need help or support, call the [National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE) or use their confidential web chat . To find a trained trauma counselor near you, visit RAINN's Center Locator .
What Is Sexual Grooming? 7 Things to Know About This Abuse Tactic
by Emma Sarran Webster
R. Kelly is once again at the center of sexual abuse allegations : In a BuzzFeed News report published this week, several parents of young women accused the musician of holding their daughters against their will, while former members of Kelly's entourage shared disturbing reports of his alleged verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse of these young women and others. One of the big issues is that the women reportedly believe they're in consenting relationships with the singer.
As some have pointed out, that may be because Kelly "groomed" them to accept the allegedly abusive relationships. “Grooming is the slow, methodical, and intentional process of manipulating a person to a point where they can be victimized,” Eric Marlowe Garrison , a sex counselor and author, tells Allure. “After [the perpetrators] find their targets, they then gain trust and move in from there.”
Here's what you need to know about grooming.
1. Anyone can be a victim.
No one is immune to grooming, though some are more susceptible than others — including minors, "because of their naiveté,” Marlowe Garrison says. “[Grooming] can occur at any age, and it has a great deal to do with gullibility, insecurity, religion, and culture. [...] It starts by targeting a vulnerable person, then building trust."
2. It often starts with friendship.
Groomers don't jump right into abuse, which is often sexual; they begin with building a friendship. “It'll be in a way where they get to know the [victim] well enough where they find out what they like,” Dawn Michael , PhD, a sexuality counselor, tells Allure. “Let's say somebody is on Snapchat or...Instagram — [the offender] can pick up some of the things that [the victim] is posting. That's why, especially for young teens or even young adults, they have to be aware of the information they're putting out there, because someone can get this information and use it to befriend them; and that's kind of how it starts.”
Michael notes that the groomer will look for various ways to get in the victim's favor, which could be bringing up interests they express on their social media channels, name-dropping mutual — or supposedly mutual — acquaintances, or emphasizing their own influence or power.
3. Perpetrators use favors and promises to build trust.
Initial friendliness typically encourages the victim to let down their guard and think of the perpetrator as a mentor, benefactor, romantic interest, or friend. And then, “once [the victim's] guard is down, the [perpetrator] will do them a favor,” Michael says. “They'll do something for [the victim] so that the person feels indebted to them to a certain extent.”
Marlowe Garrison says those favors are often small and unassuming to start. “It can be as simple as keeping a promise,” he says. “[Like], ‘I heard you like beach glass. I have three pieces I can give you. I'll leave them on my porch tomorrow, and you can get them after I go to work,'” Marlowe Garrison says. Offenders also, Marlowe Garrison notes, “insert themselves into the daily life of the victim,” for example by attending events that the victim's own family or friends aren't able to attend because of other commitments.
Once the offender has fulfilled promises and put on a show of trustworthiness, they'll start asking for things back — but again, moving very slowly. “It usually starts with a [non-sexual] favor,” Michael says. “So the [victim] doesn't really know what's going on, but then it slowly turns into more of a sexual exchange. It can start out with a simple kiss; it can start out with a touch. The whole idea of the grooming is it's a slow process and that's why, psychologically, [it] can be so damaging — especially if the [victim] is young because they don't always know what they're falling into.”
4. Secrecy is a common characteristic of grooming.
Typically, groomers try to keep relationships with victims extremely private from the very beginning, Marlowe Garrison says. “Secrecy is developed early on for non-sexual aspects of the relationships,” he says. In his beach glass example, for instance, he says the groomer might say, “Let's not tell anyone where you got the beach glass, because I only have but so much. If others find out about it, there won't be any left for your growing collection!” Excuses for keeping interactions private can make victims feel flattered and special, and therefore inclined to keep these interactions secret.
As the relationship continues, Marlowe Garrison says the groomer will actively try to separate the victim, both physically and emotionally, from people who may be “watchful [or] helpful” to the victim. “After the physical relationship is established, there is more secrecy and even shame, threats, [or] force to control the relationship from there,” he says. Isolating the victim from their support networks makes it easier for the groomer to maintain control, a tactic that Michael says is common in any cult-like situation: “The more they can cut off other people [who] are close [with the victim], the more power they have over that person, because they're not going to have as much outside influence.”
5. Grooming can be difficult to distinguish from romance.
The slow process of building trust and establishing secrecy as normal can make it hard for both victims and victims' acquaintances to recognize grooming for what it is. If you feel you may be that victim, or that someone you know is, “one thing to look out for is [an] insistence to meet” on the part of the groomer, Marlowe Garrison says. “Groomers are spending a lot of time and money on building that relationship, and they can see their progress [through meetings].” Groomers' desire to see their victim exceeds the excitement that might be expected of someone in a new romantic relationship and crosses over into guilting and threats.
And even if they're unsure about a groomer's intentions, a victim will often "have this instinctual feeling that something's not right,” Michael says. “[With] romance, you're not going to have a feeling that you've been taken advantage of, or you're doing something to pay back someone. [Romance is] a mutual feeling; and in a grooming circumstance, it's not really a mutual feeling."
Marlowe Garrison says to look out for certain signs if you're concerned someone you know might be a victim, including alcohol or drug use, nightmares, changes in diet or exercise patterns, insomnia, disordered eating, anxiety, a withdrawn nature, bedwetting (in kids), risk-taking, acting inappropriately sexual for their age, and self-harm or suicidal tendencies.
6. Victims can get out.
If you do find yourself in an abusive and controlling relationship at the hands of a groomer, you can get out. It starts, Michael says, with recognizing that something isn't right. When you have that feeling, find a third party to talk to, ideally a professional who doesn't know you or the perpetrator. (“You don't want anything to get back [to the groomer],” Michael says.) If you can, take advantage of any technology you can find to get online or call a hotline, like the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233) or the Victim Connect Resource Center (855-484-2846). Services like these confidentially connect you with a professional who can help you determine your next steps.
7. Family members and friends can help, but it's important for them to tread carefully.
Hotlines and resource centers aren't reserved only for victims. If you think a loved one may be the victim of grooming or abuse (even if he or she says otherwise), it's a great idea to seek the guidance of a professional as well.
Victims, however, often don't feel like they need help. That can make police or legal action difficult, as parents of Kelly's alleged victims have found . “Unless you have hard evidence [of abuse], it's hard to go to somebody else and say, 'This is going on,' because [the victim] is just going to deny it,” Michael says. “The only thing you can do as a friend is build that trust [with the victim] and listen to what they have to say." Express that you're concerned about them and gently share some of the reasons why (for example by saying, "I haven't seen much of you lately, and I'm worried"). Ask how they're doing and if there is anything you can do to support them.
"That's the best a friend can really do in a situation like this, because if [you] try to pull [the victim] out [of the situation] or go behind their back, sometimes it just explodes and it gets worse for the [victim],” Michael says. (If an abuser senses a threat to their control over their victim, they may become more abusive.) Michael notes that if the victim is a child or vulnerable adult, it is up to an authorized adult to step in. (For more information on reporting observed or suspected child abuse, check out Stop It Now! .)
It can be a scary situation when you believe someone you love is in danger, and more so if they don't realize it. But, “do not blame the [victim],” Marlowe Garrison says. “Believe them. Support them. Get help (for them and for you).”
Program targets abuse of special-needs children
by Sherri Welch
The Autism Alliance of Michigan is launching a new program to educate people who interact with special-needs children on recognizing signs of abuse in people who sometimes aren't able to tell anyone it's happening.
It plans to take the program to everyone from caregivers and teachers to first responders and child protective services and criminal justice professionals.
The program is among the first of its kind in the country.
For parents of autistic children, abuse is their biggest nightmare, said Tammy Morris, chief program officer for the Bingham Farms-based alliance.
"They have to put their children on a bus and send them away for eight hours, and they can't hear about their day," since many children on the spectrum struggle to communicate verbally or are unable to tell a parent about their day because of physical, intellectual or communication barriers, she said.
National statistics support those parents' biggest fears.
According to the 2012 National Survey of Abuse of People With Disabilities conducted by the Disability and Abuse Project of Spectrum Institute:
70 percent of people with disabilities reported being victims of abuse in their lifetime.
63 percent of parents reported that their child or family member had been abused.
90 percent of victims reported being abused over multiple occasions; 57 percent reported that they had been abused more than 20 times.
40 percent of victims of physical abuse and 41 percent of victims of sexual abuse reported that they did not report their abuse.
The study included reports for both adults and children, Morris said.
It's just a glimpse of the abuse happening, she said, since some people with special needs such as those in institutional care are unable to report the abuse themselves and/or do not have caregivers who can report on their behalf.
The issue came to light locally in recent years with reports of repeated bullying, sexual abuse and harassment of a 13-year-old autistic boy at Novi Middle School by another student during the 2013-14 school year. A December 2014 lawsuit alleging that Novi Community School District employees failed to properly train employees in identifying sexual abuse and failed to act on reports of the abuse against the boy was settled out of court in February.
With a $1 million gift from Karen Colina Wilson Smithbauer, former CEO of Romulus-based Central Distributors of Beer, the Autism Alliance is launching AWARE: Alliance Working on Abuse Responsive Education program.
Prevention is the first goal, Morris said, and education on the issues autistic children face and how they can be exploited helps prevent abuse.
The alliance is also looking to give care providers tools they can use to recognize abuse early on. It's creating a task force to develop training materials for abuse prevention and recognition — such as the presence of bilateral bruising on a limb where it wouldn't happen from typical play — and surveys to monitor its impact.
The alliance will then take that information to hundreds of first responders, educators, therapists and mental health employees, child protective services and foster care workers, criminal justice system professionals and all 45 domestic abuse shelters across the state.
It will build on awareness training for first responders launched by the alliance in 2011 to ensure they recognized people with special needs.
"I really feel it's our responsibility when unspeakable acts are happening to those who can't speak for themselves, we need to do something about it," Smithbauer, 73, said.
"This is a group of people who have not had a voice. We need to give a voice to them, and I think this (program) can do it."
Smithbauer was a teacher for 10 years before she joined the Anheuser-Busch beer distributorship her grandfather had started. She worked at the company for 26 years, serving as CEO for 13 years, up until the company's sale in 2007.
She launched the Karen Colina Wilson Foundation in 2006 to support the health, welfare and safety of women and children.
Among other gifts, Smithbauer provided just under $1 million to First Step, which provides services for victims of domestic and sexual violence in Wayne County. She has also donated $7.5 million to Oakwood Healthcare Beaumont and made gifts to other organizations including Cleveland Clinic, Michigan State University, Starfish Family Services and The Guidance Center.
The new program her gift is funding at the Autism Alliance of Michigan is among the first of its type in the country, according to the National Autism Association.
Statistics show a huge number of autistic children and adults will be abused at some point in their lives, so the new program in Michigan will be important, said Wendy Fournier, president of the Portsmouth, R.I.-based association.
"You have to be able to recognize signs of abuse in someone who is unable to verbally communicate, and that can be really challenging."
But all behavior is a form of communication, said Fournier, who has an 18-year-old daughter with autism.
Even nonverbal children are always saying something, she said. "It's a matter of: Are we listening, are we hearing them?"
South Australia signs up to national redress scheme for institutional child sexual abuse
by Leah Maclennan
After years of uncertainty for victims, the South Australian Government has announced it will sign up to the national redress scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.
The Labor Government repeatedly refused to sign up to the scheme, saying it didn't take into account the state's existing scheme that was set up in the wake of the Mullighan Inquiry.
But newly elected Liberal Premier Steven Marshall said the Government had signed off on the scheme, with victims to get compensation as soon as possible.
The national scheme was a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, with South Australia's existing scheme offering a maximum of $50,000 compensation to victims, and the national scheme capped at $150,000.
Less heartache for survivors
Care Leavers Australasia Network (CLAN) executive officer Leonie Sheedy welcomed the announcement, saying it would mean less heartache for survivors of abuse.
"[The state scheme] was paltry amounts of money and it didn't really reflect the criminality that was done to South Australian children in orphanages, children's homes, missions and foster care," Ms Sheedy said.
Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said people who had already been paid out under the state scheme would be eligible for more compensation under the national scheme.
"Those whose cases that are pending will be advised of the opportunity to transfer to the federal system, and those that have received funds will also be advised so that they may have an opportunity to have a top up," she said.
The State Government will set aside $146 million from the Victims of Crime fund to cover the liability, and will act as a provider of last resort in cases where institutions can't pay.
Western Australia is now the only state not to sign up to the scheme, but Ms Chapman said she's confident it will eventually join.
"Western Australia as best I know are considering it and I've had a meeting in Sydney already with the other attorney-generals and they're certainly considering it," she said.
A need to go further
Law firm Maurice Blackburn welcomed the move, with its head of abuse law Michelle James saying the South Australian Government also needed to remove time limits on victims taking direct legal action against perpetrators and institutions.
"There are people who want to see something more of an adversarial process and who want to access their full entitlements under the law," Ms James said.
In South Australia, adults have just three years to take legal action over abuse, while children have until they are 21 years old.
The State Government said removing the time limits is part of its plan for its first 100 days in office.
6 Important Facts About Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN)
by Jonice Webb PhD
Few of life's challenges are more poorly understood than Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN).
Yet CEN has so much influence in today's world that it's difficult to convey its true depth and reach.
Childhood Emotional Neglect happens when your parents fail to respond enough to your emotional needs as they raise you. It dwells in the everyday life of a child, lurking unnoticeably in the shadows, hiding in plain sight. It happens when your parents simply fail to address, notice or respond enough to your emotions.
As CEN quietly drains the color and verve from countless lives, it takes refuge in its own invisibility. All the while, unsuspecting parents follow the pattern set up by their own parents, quietly delivering the “family ban” on emotions to their own children.
Childhood Emotional Neglect is incredibly contradictory. It is simple, ordinary and ubiquitous but also powerfully destructive.
CEN dwells in moments of nothing. Yet it is, most decidedly, something .
6 Important Facts About Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN)
CEN is invisible for good reasons
Much of CEN's power comes from its invisibility. It happens in many small moments of a child's growing-up years — unremarkable moments that seem like nothing — moments in which the child goes unseen, unheard, or unknown. Moments in which no one says, “Are you OK?” “Are you sad?” “What's wrong?” “Did something happen that you're upset about?” These moments seem like nothing because they are nothing . They are non-events; things that don't happen. Our brains are not designed to see, note and remember things that do not happen.
Childhood Emotional Neglect is different from childhood emotional abuse
It never ceases to amaze me the number of people who refer to CEN as a form of abuse. It is, in fact, in some very important ways, the exact opposite of abuse. Abuse is an event. It's something that your parent does to you. CEN, in contrast, is something your parent fails to do for you. Abuse of any kind causes you direct harm, like an impact. Emotional Neglect, on the other hand, is more like a very gradual failure to offer you something you need to have in order to thrive. It's more like a gradual emotional wasting away.
CEN affects your emotions as an adult
When your parents under-respond to your emotions as they raise you, they are programming you to continue to do the same thing to yourself. Children who grow up this way invariably ignore, suppress, or wall off their own emotions all through their adulthood. Emotions become a burden rather than the source of energy, connection, motivation and direction they were meant to be.
CEN affects your relationships in a very profound way
Emotions are the energy that attracts others to you and the glue that holds them there. In order to have resilient, rewarding and meaningful relationships, it is vital to have full access to all of your feelings both positive and negative. You must be able to feel hurt, sad, warmed, angry, frustrated or overjoyed. It's also vital to know what you are feeling and to be able to share it.
If you are motivated, you can heal your own CEN
As a psychologist for over 20 years, I have helped countless people who are depressed, anxious, stressed, or having problems at work or with their spouses or families. I have not found a single diagnosis or emotional struggle more responsive to treatment than Childhood Emotional Neglect. Once you see what's wrong, and see how CEN has affected your life, you can change the way you treat yourself. You can give yourself the emotional attention you should have always had. You can learn the emotion skills that you missed learning as a child. You can begin to treat your feelings and needs as if they matter. And when you do, your world will change.
Repairing your CEN will change your relationships for the better
When you begin to treat yourself as if you matter, a funny thing happens: the people in your life begin to see you differently and respond to you differently. They start to see your personality, your emotions, and your needs. And they start to respond to what they can finally see. The more comfortable you get with feeling, thinking and talking about emotions, the closer your partner and other people in your life will feel to you; the more they will trust you, and the better they will want to know you.
I have seen intelligent, capable, caring people live their lives thinking they are none of those things. I have also watched these invisible people become visible, and I have seen gray lives fill with vivid color.
One final important fact about Childhood Emotional Neglect. You can change your life on the outside by beginning to know and value yourself on the inside. As you begin to feel your feelings and share them with others, you will become the best version of yourself.
Finally, after giving yourself what you never got, you can finally live your life as if you matter.
Childhood Emotional Neglect is often invisible and unmemorable so it can be hard to know if you have it. To find out, Take The Emotional Neglect Questionnaire . It's free.
To learn how to heal the effects of Emotional Neglect in your relationships, see my new book, Running on Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships With Your Partner, Your Parents & Your Children .
Harvey Weinstein is the exception: Most accused of rape aren't charged
by Anne Godlasky
The bombshell Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse report that kickstarted the Me Too movement was published by the New York Times on Oct. 5. On May 25, he was formally charged with rape and criminal sex acts involving two women.
Many survivors, including actresses Rose McGowan and Asia Argento , celebrated on Twitter. Handcuffs on one of Hollywood's (formerly) most powerful men is an image many never expected to see.
"Up until very recently very few, if any, of these men have faced any criminal consequences," said Roberta Kaplan, a prominent lawyer and co-founder of the Times Up Legal Defense Fund. "That seems to be changing, both with the conviction of Bill Cosby and the indictment of Harvey Weinstein."
Since October, more than 150 high-profile men have been accused of sexual misconduct , yet even as #MeToo critics say it's gone too far in taking men's reputations and careers, only a fraction of those men face lawsuits of any kind, let alone criminal charges.
The relative lack of legal consequences reflects what many in the U.S. experience when it comes to sexual assault. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network , out of every 1,000 rapes:
Only 310 are reported to police
57 lead to arrest
11 are referred to prosecutors
Seven lead to felony conviction
Six rapists are incarcerated
A myriad of factors contribute to low reporting and conviction, one of which has been brought up in the examples of Weinstein, Cosby and others: statute of limitations.
A statute of limitation is essentially a time limit for victims to file charges, and they vary by state. In California, for instance, the statute of limitations on non-aggravated rape is six years (McGowan says Weinstein raped her more than 10 years ago). Cosby was accused of sexual misconduct by 60 women, but all of the accusations were too old to prosecute except Andrea Constand's. Cosby was charged just weeks before Pennsylvania's unusually lengthy statute of limitations on sex crimes was about to expire. This charge ultimately led to his conviction.
Statute of limitations "combined with ingrained sexist attitudes about what consent means ... has been the single greatest inhibitor to criminal cases being brought," Kaplan said. Both of those inhibitors, however, are changing.
Several states have passed laws "easing the statute of limitations for sexual assault and abuse, particularly in cases of child abuse when … there's often a delay of many, many years before they, as an adult, are able to talk about what happened to them as a child," Kaplan said.
Kaplan also notes that jurors' attitudes are changing, stating that a Georgia jury's decision Thursday to award $1 billion to a woman who was raped by a security guard "wouldn't have happened a year ago."
"I think what we're seeing again with the prosecution of Cosby is that Me Too has brought about a revolution not only on the Internet, but in jurors' perceptions as well," Kaplan said. "In the past people would either consciously or unconsciously believe women were to blame if they were raped. I think we're getting away from that now, and people believe it's not the women's fault — it's the rapists' fault."
Of American women who didn't report their sexual assault, 20% feared retaliation and 13% believed reporting it to the police wouldn't help, according to the Department of Justice. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center notes a number of emotional reasons for choosing not to come forward, as well, including:
psychological responses to the assault, such as PTSD
fearing they won't be believed
worrying about how it will affect friends and family
difficulties surrounding rape kits , which require an invasive exam after a traumatic experience – and without which later prosecution is difficult due to lack of physical evidence
Many of these concerns, however, from the reactions of friends and family to the fear of being doubted, are changing with Me Too, advocates say.
"I think the real live question right now is whether we're going through a period of dramatic change. A depressingly low percentage of accused rapists are convicted. But often what we see is not changes in facts, but what's crucial is how people – jurors and juries – perceive that fact, and I think what we're seeing is a revolutionary change in how people think about sexual abuse and assault," Kaplan said. "I think we're going to see higher conviction rates going forward."
Harvey Weinstein has become a symbol of the Me Too movement not only because of that bombshell report and the sheer volume of women who have come out against him, but because many women who never see their rapists do a perp walk recognized the stories of aggression, arrogance, power, entitlement – and the ability to get away with it. Now getting away with it seems less of a given.
City's toughest neighborhoods also plagued with high instances of child abuse
by Lisa Robinson
BALTIMORE — Some of the city's toughest communities, those plagued by crime and drugs, are also notorious for another adverse distinction: having a high number of children who have been abused.
Park Heights in northwest Baltimore has long had the reputation of being crime-ridden, failing in housing and booming with liquor and corner stores. It's part of the 21215 ZIP code.
"That ZIP code has a disproportionate high number of child victims of abuse and other traumas there," said Adam Rosenberg, executive director of the Baltimore Child Abuse Center.
For the last five years, the center has been tracking where children who have been abused live. Following 21215, is 21216 -- the Walbrook/Mondawmin area, and 21217, which includes Sandtown-Winchester.
"(ZIP codes) 21215, 21216 and 21217 are certainly communities that have struggled for a long time with a lot of crime, with a lot of opioid dependency, with a lot of just Baltimore's worst problems that have been difficult to address," Rosenberg said.
Living in that kind of environment makes it difficult for victims of abuse to recover. Stephanie Hill, 53, grew up in Walbrook, where she witnessed all kinds of drug activity she regarded as normal.
"Coming outside at 3 in the afternoon and watching someone overdose on the corner," Hill said.
A friend of the family sexually abused her when she was 6 years old. The only person she told was her mother.
"My mother kind of like, blew it off because it was a family friend," Hill said.
Hill blamed herself and constantly wondered what she had done wrong.
"I remember, at that age, writing letters to my mother because I was reaching out. I would write letters and ask, 'Do you love me?' And I would put a 'yes' and 'no' box," Hill said.
Hill said she was angry for a long time and did things to keep people away from her. When she was 16, she started misusing drugs. Heroin and cocaine became her drugs of choice for the next 30 years.
Hill said all the bad things that happened to her went into a lock box in her mind.
"So, to keep it locked, so it would not unlatch, so I wouldn't have to think about what was going to come out of it, I used," Hill said.
"These deep red zones also mirror some of the highest crime areas of the city," Rosenberg said. "When you have children who have been impacted by multiple adverse childhood experiences -- witness to violence, been victim of sexual abuse, living in a house with substance abuse -- the propensity, the likelihood of a child becoming a victim is mathematically increased there."
Rosenberg said that in order to change outcomes, communities serving children, schools, recreation centers and churches have to be able to recognize trauma and respond to it.
#MeToo, earlier scandals mean pending clergy sex abuse report can't be a 'small problem'
by Ivey DeJesus
In the mid-2000s, when then-Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham launched an investigation into clergy sex abuse and cover-up in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, she was assailed for waging a campaign against the Roman Catholic Church.
It was a virtual repeat of what had played out just a few years prior in 2002 in Boston. That year, officials at the Archdiocese of Boston accused The Boston Globe of mounting an anti-Catholic agenda after the paper published a series of scathing reports detailing decades of molestation of thousands of children by priests and its systemic cover up by church officials.
At times, both in Philadelphia and Boston, Catholics rallied behind the church and defended their faith as legions came to terms with revelations of the assaults.
Nearly a decade later, a pending grand jury investigation report into clergy sex abuse allegations and cover-up across six dioceses in Pennsylvania stands against a markedly changed landscape.
In the intervening years, the 1.2 billion-strong church has been rocked by a string of equally scathing reports of child sex abuse, which regardless of their origins - archdioceses in Europe, Australia and Latin America - have at times implicated the Vatican.
Pennsylvania itself in 2016 reeled in the aftermath of a grand jury investigation by the state Office of Attorney General that substantiated nearly identical patterns of decades-long sexual abuse of children and cover-up by church officials.
Subsequently, the public has less tolerance for the church's response and handling of the systemic and escalating scandal. Add to that the mounting outrage in this country in response to a string of sexual misconduct and sexual assault cases - which have engendered the #MeToo and Time'sUp movements - and you have a vastly different backdrop to the pending grand jury report in Pennsylvania.
"The net result is that no diocese can expect anymore to be able to say it's just a small problem," said Marci Hamilton, a constitutional law professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the nation's leading advocates for reform to child sex crime laws. "Everyone is now well aware it's a systemic problem in the church and that it's not just a problem from the past."
In September 2016, the state Office of Attorney General launched the investigation into allegations of child sex abuse across the six dioceses: Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Scranton, Erie, Allentown and Greensburg.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro last week indicated he would release the report by the end of June.
In the past, in the wake of scathing reports bishops qualified the abuse as something from the past, pointing to new policies that were put in place in the mid-2000s to protect minors and hand over to law enforcement known predators.
But already that posturing has been challenged.
Ahead of the release of the findings of the latest grand jury investigation, authorities have indicted two priests as a result of the investigation: Father David Poulson in the Diocese of Erie and John Sweeney in the Diocese of Greensburg.
Hamilton said the arrests - the charges within the timeframe allowed by law - serve as reminders that the abuse remains systemic and ongoing.
"The standard operating procedure for bishops in response to any revelations of abuse was to say that this was decades ago. That we now have a gold standard for child protection and therefore if you are investigating now it's just an anti-Catholic bias....but that line has lost all of its force."
What's more, amid mounting sex assault scandals, victims have been empowered to come forth - not just from within the Catholic community but as seen by the voices of victims allegedly abused by some of the most powerful people in the country, including lawmakers, politicians, religious leaders, Hollywood powerhouses and sports figures.
"What is occurring is that the public is becoming aware that you have to keep children safe even in the presence of priests," said Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney who specializes in sexual abuse cases and has represented hundreds of victims in lawsuits against the Catholic Church.
"That is important. You have to think of the Catholic Church in terms of centuries. It's not going to change its ways easily given its power and financial influence but, again, because of what is happening and what has happened in Boston and Philadelphia and the aggressiveness of states such as Pennsylvania in pursuing clergy sex abuse and other predators...the unified effort, whether it be states, countries or individuals in pursuing the crimes committed have raised public awareness."
Garabedian, who was prominently played by Stanley Tucci in the film "Spotlight," adds that grand jury investigations provide a measure of transparency for victims that allows them an opportunity to heal, as well as gain a sense of empowerment in their numbers.
"Many victims - because of grand jury investigations - now realize they are not the only ones who were sexually abused and they are united and can be an effective force in confronting clergy sex abuse."
The pending grand jury report marks the latest chapter in a scandal that has taken a toll on the church. It has dealt a financial fallout to the church in billions in settlements as well as dwindling charitable donations. And it has shrunk the ranks of a historically steadfast flock.
"I think we've come to the point where the church realizes this cannot go on," said Nick Ingala, spokesman for Voice of the Faithful, a worldwide movement of Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse and the integrity of the church and its clergy.
"I'm not saying they are totally transparent. You still have cases where they have not come forward with complete lists of priests."
No doubt thousands of victims struggle decades after their abuse to deal with the trauma of the abuse. Studies have estimated that more than 10,000 people have been abused by a Catholic priest or Catholic Church official or staff.
The fallout from the scandal has also been felt among the pews on Sunday: In the years since the reports from The Boston Globe and out of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, attendance at Mass has continued to dwindle.
The most recent data from a Gallup survey finds that attendance at Catholic Mass is down to a 39 percent weekly average over the past 10 years.
From 2005-2008, Catholics reported attending Mass on a 45 percent average within seven days, but it has since dropped 6 percent from 2014-2017.
Some analysts point to generational trends in Mass attendance, but others correlate the historic drop to the ongoing clergy sex abuse scandal.
To be sure, the church has endeavored to overhaul itself and has put in place incremental changes and a degree of transparency. Some dioceses have been quick to take action in the face of recent incidents or allegations of priests abusing children.
The Diocese of Erie, for instance, recently released the names of 57 individuals - clergy and staff - that have been credibly accused of child sexual molestation.
"I think it's fair to say that the historic abuse definitely occurred and it definitely was very bad but I think these types of public reports have engendered these incremental changes," Ingala said.
The one lingering area of pushback from the church, he adds, is in the area of justice for survivors - whether compensation or the reform of laws that continue to impede victims from pursuing their legal recourse. Most child victims of abuse have become adults long before they are prepared to come forward with reports of their abuse. For most, the statute of limitations have expired - meaning they have no legal recourse to bring predators to justice.
"The treatment of survivors has not come as far as child protection," Ingala said. "We certainly want total child protection and we want to see justice and healing for all survivors."
Ingala, whose organization Voice of the Faithful is headquartered in Boston, where it was launched, says the Catholic community in that city has come a long way from the devastation of 2002. He credits Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley in helping to shepherd a rehabilitation for the Catholic Community in Boston, but warns that the archdiocese still has a long way to go to restore the culture of faith among its parishioners it once had.
Jason Berry, an acclaimed author and reporter who investigated sexual abuse in the priesthood in New Orleans and the worldwide church, said the current pulse in the country leans in favor of children and victims and not towards protecting a cherished church.
"People today are worried about the kids. They are not knee jerk about the institution but feel justice needs to be done," Berry said.
He notes that the one thing arguably most feared by the church is the one thing prosecutors - and victims - need most to impart a different impact out of the pending grand jury report: a change in the law.
"The only real weapon that government has beyond prosecutors who are willing to go in and do the excavation work to hold someone in hierarchy responsible.....in the final measure is really changing the statutes of limitation - the law that forces the church to bargain, to negotiate and to get into some sort of posture where they won't do this anymore."
To date few priests or bishops have been prosecuted in this country, particularly considering the number of estimated victims.
Berry, author of Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church , is amazed by what he says is a passivity from among Catholics towards the church.
"It struck me when doing the last book how people do not expect a great deal of accountability from the church," he said. "I think what they want is to believe that bishops and priests are able custodians of the belief system...People are appalled. They don't want it to happen again. They want justice to take its course but ....there is such a degree of passivity."
Ultimately, Berry agrees with other experts: that htis time around the onus is on lawmakers. The idea that once prosecutors and lawmakers were afraid of offending Catholic voters no longer holds sway.
"I don't think people see it that way anymore," he said. "I think there are prosecutors and officers of the law who see this happening and they see it happening in other institutions and when the questions mount and they don't get enough answers, they decide to take stronger steps."
Iowa's horrific child deaths and drug use have helped spur a huge spike in confirmed abuse cases
by Lee Rood
Confirmed child abuse in Iowa skyrocketed 26 percent from 2016 to 2017, the most dramatic one-year spike in at least a generation.
“We've just never had an increase like this. I don't know how you absorb that,” said Stephen Scott, a consultant and former Prevent Child Abuse Iowa director who analyzes state abuse data annually. "These figures are beyond what I expected."
The explosive upturn in abuse findings has widespread implications for Iowa families, social workers, juvenile court workers, drug treatment providers and state leaders wrestling with a major budget shortfall.
In March, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed legislation cutting $35.5 million from the state budget. That included slashing $4.3 million from the budget of the Department of Human Services, which oversees child protection .
“I do not see how DHS can keep up with this demand with such limited resources,” Scott said.
Legislators on both sides of the aisle said recently they believe a major cause of the increase was much greater public attention on suspected child abuse after the intense media coverage of the starvation deaths of West Des Moines teen Natalie Finn in October 2016 and Sabrina Ray, also 16, of Perry in May 2017.
Both girls were adopted from state care and home-schooled.
Calls to the state's centralized child abuse hotline increased dramatically after media coverage of their deaths. Human Services workers and supervisors began to review and formally investigate more allegations.
Wilton Republican Bobby Kaufmann, who oversaw oversight hearings on child protection last year, said the higher abuse numbers, released this month, were incredibly disturbing and "indicate a clear need for more resources."
State Sen. Matt McCoy, a Des Moines Democrat who sharply criticized the state's response to alleged abuse before both girls died, said: “I knew it was up. I didn't know it was that much."
DHS plagued by low morale
For child abuse allegations to be accepted as cases by the Department of Human Services, the reported victim must be younger than 18, the alleged perpetrator must be a caretaker and the maltreatment must fit several categories of abuse.
From 2016 to 2017, child protection workers confirmed more sexual abuse, more physical abuse and much more neglect — 2,062 cases. They also found more abuse related to the presence of illegal drugs in infants than in 2016.
Human Services Chief Jerry Foxhoven vowed after the starvation deaths to address low morale among state social workers and other problems.
But Foxhoven has said little publicly about how investigators and case managers are managing with a dramatically increased workload.
Human Services failed to respond to multiple requests last week for interviews about the spike.
A consultant's review of child welfare practices in Iowa released last December found child abuse investigations in Iowa had increased by 43 percent.
The Child Welfare Group report, initiated after the deaths of Finn and Ray, found mandatory reporters of abuse, which include educators, were unhappy with the state's failure to investigate their reports.
They also found poor morale, an antiquated data system that made it difficult to get needed reports, and high turnover of child protective workers in Polk and Linn counties, where social worker caseloads were particularly high.
The consultant's report was critical of state policies and spending priorities: "Child welfare intervention should not be viewed as a substitute for universally available basic health, mental health and supportive community services that can help families, especially those in poverty … keep their needs from escalating to the point that they result in a report of abuse or neglect,” the report said.
Staff also raised concerns about the kinds of homes available for Iowa's foster kids.
"Some of those interviewed expressed the belief that there are many families who are unable or unwilling to provide the quality of care that children require,” the report said.
Colin Witt, a Polk County juvenile judge, said as reports have escalated, more cases are requiring formal court intervention. Most of those cases in Polk County involve drug use by parents and caregivers, he said.
But the system is plagued with high turnover among caseworkers who manage those cases, Witt said.
“We need people who are experienced, who understand the complexity and the engagement needed to work with these families,” he said.
More drug-affected kids discovered
Human Services anticipated increases in child abuse investigations last year when legislators expanded the legal definition of what kind of drug-related allegations can trigger formal investigations by social workers.
The legislation required Human Services to investigate more allegations of children exposed to illegal hard drugs. Accusations of any adult in a home who reportedly was using, possessing, making or distributing methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin or opiates in the presence of a child became criteria for accepted abuse reports.
Before that change, the agency only had to accept drug-exposure allegations involving parents and guardians involved with meth.
The legislation mandated that health practitioners report to child protection workers the discovery of prenatal drug exposure or fetal alcohol.
It meant Iowa parents accused of drug-related abuse were at much greater risk of having children placed in foster care or having their parental rights terminated.
Last year, 2,179 parents had their parental rights terminated — a 9 percent increase from the year before, according to Iowa's judicial branch.
Workers managed more cases of drug-affected children afterward, but most of the increases in the past year still centered on allegations of neglect, physical or sexual abuse.
Abuse findings shot up from 8,892 in 2016 to 11,236 by the end of 2017.
“They are clearly accepting cases they were not accepting before,” Scott said.
The escalation in cases also comes as record numbers of Iowans are seeking treatment for methamphetamine.
Last year, 20 percent of the 46,429 Iowans screened for treatment across the state — about 9,200 people — sought help primarily for meth, more than for any other drug besides and marijuana.
The hike in abuse investigations and confirmed cases in Iowa doesn't necessarily mean an escalation of abuse against Iowa children, only that more cases are being investigated by the state.
Advocates for children say even more would be discovered if Human Services would accept even more lower-priority cases instead of referring them for voluntary services.
"Particularly in the area of domestic violence in the home," said Mike Sorci, who heads the Youth Law Center in Des Moines. "Right now, if the child isn't harmed, they just do a family assessment. … But if you look, you find out things by investigating."
Child abuse: By the numbers
Most child abuse allegations are never confirmed. But a kind of neglect called “denial of critical care” is by far the most common allegation, accounting for 65 percent of all claims in Iowa last year.
A law change last year made allegations surrounding drug-affected children that next greatest category of abuse, accounting for 20 percent of confirmed abuse.
The state has seen higher numbers of abused kids in the past; a record 13,445 were recorded in 2006.
But Human Services accepted for investigation almost 10,000 more cases in 2017 than in 2014.
At least 295 more children last year were found to be abused in Polk County alone, a 250 percent increase over 2016.
Other huge leaps occurred in Woodbury, Linn, Black Hawk, Scott, Marshall, Pottawattamie, Johnson, Story and Des Moines counties.
That's when agency leaders decided to refer thousands more families involved in low-priority cases to voluntary services instead of initiating more formal inquiries by child protection workers.
Human Services spends more now on social workers than it did then — $6.4 million more — and more on subsidies used to assist with costs related to adopting special needs children.
Sex abuse-there has been a shift in power
by Tarnya Davis
My first job as a psychologist was with the Lower Hunter Sexual Assault Service. It was the 1990s and the public perception of the prevalence of sexual abuse was vastly out of step with the reality. A visiting politician asked how two sexual assault counsellors managed to keep themselves busy, while the fact was we were overwhelmed.
We carried pagers at night and weekends and too often would find ourselves at the John Hunter Hospital, supporting someone who had just been sexually assaulted. It was an exhausting but incredibly fulfilling role.
In the early 2000s many of the people I saw in my private practice were the adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by those from the church. I sat with brave men and women as they told their devastating stories, made statements to the police and as they waited years until they could give evidence in court. The legal process was harrowing and mostly disappointing. At that time experts estimated only one in 10 people would report abuse to the police and of those only one in 10 would progress to charges and a trial. Only a third of those would see a conviction.
I also saw the hostile reception victims received in some communities, including some from within their churches. How could they believe that the men who were God's representative committed these terrible crimes against children? Even recently, one supporter of a convicted paedophile called the victims “rotten sods”.
Another 10 years on, and only because of these brave men and women – and journalists like Joanne McCarthy who were able to listen – more and more evidence was uncovered that the church had covered up abuse.
Today we have no doubt that prolific clergy abuse was prevalent in the Hunter. We also know that some of those who could have stopped offenders chose not to. These inactions exposed children to abuse over several decades.
Last week Archbishop Philip Wilson was convicted for not reporting a child's disclosure to him of his sexual abuse in the 1970s. Had he reported at this time, the perpetrator would not have had access to other boys.
We know there are a number of factors that influence the impact of child sexual abuse. Was the child protected after their disclosure? Were they believed? Did they have access to counselling? The benefits of counselling are predominately for the child to be heard, to be believed and to be sent the unambiguous message that the abuse was in no way their fault.
When Peter Creigh disclosed to a priest as a boy, was he protected, believed and given the support he needed? It is through his and other victims' courage as adults that our society has begun to change. It is through their bravery that we now acknowledge risk and ensure institutions offer greater protection for all children. Many of the adult survivors of clergy abuse tell me that they could not tell their parents of the abuse because of their parents' reverence for priests. Last week's verdict was also about developing a culture where adults no longer blindly trust in the goodness of an organisation.
Sexual abuse is about the exploitation of power – and now we have seen this power shift. I want to tell all of the victims of sexual abuse – we believe you, we support you and it was not your fault. We and the generations of children to come are deeply sorry we that didn't make institutions safe for you. We are sorry for your suffering and we are forever grateful for the changes you have led.
Child sex abuse is not increasing in Lafayette (But here's how authorities deal with it)
by Jeong Park
LAFAYETTE — Greater Lafayette has gone through what has felt like a steady drip of reports about sexual misconduct against children.
A fourth-grade teacher at Amelia Earhart Elementary School fired after being charged with counts of sexual misconduct, including child exploitation. A 48-year-old West Lafayette man accused of having sex with children younger than 13. A 38-year-old man sentenced to 45 years in prison for molesting a 6-year-old girl. And many , many more within the last couple of months.
But perception is different than reality, albeit with a caveat.
Sexual misconduct against children: Has it increased?
All three law enforcement agencies in the area – Lafayette Police, West Lafayette Police and Tippecanoe County Sheriff – have reported a slight decrease or no change in the number of arrests made for sexual misconduct against children.
Those agencies combined have had nine arrests from January 1 to May 24, compared to nine arrests in the same time period last year and 15 in 2016.
County prosecutor Pat Harrington said his office's number hasn't changed significantly either.
Indiana Department of Child Services has substantiated 13 cases of sexual abuse against children from January to March, compared to 11 in the same time frame last year.
There are two caveats: The sheriff's office said it has seen an increase in how much it has had to deal with those cases.
"It seems like that's all we do," Sgt. Thad Miller said.
Heartford House, which conducts forensic interviews with children who have been a victim or witness to crimes, said it has seen a spike in how many interviews it has done in the last four months. The house conducts interviews on crimes beyond sexual misconduct cases, however.
But the Heartford House and the sheriff's office said they can only speculate on why their numbers have changed. They list possible factors ranging from outreach to the role of the internet.
They also said increases in the numbers are not necessarily troublesome. Social media and cultural changes may have let children share their experiences more freely, Lt. Robert Goldsmith said.
"They don't have to look somebody in the eye," he said.
But the authorities said things have not changed when it comes to who commits those acts – only one out of more than 680 interviews conducted last year at the Heartford House involved a stranger.
"It's not a random guy," Goldsmith said.
How law enforcement works on sexual misconduct against children
Tips come from everywhere: Parents, relatives, siblings, teachers, counselors, Department of Child Services' hotline (800-800-5556) and even emergency rooms.
"That's what we want," Lafayette Police Lt. Jim Taul said.
Reporting those crimes is required by state law in many cases .
If those crimes allegedly happened recently, children typically go to Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis for a forensic exam. But less than 5 percent of the cases have physical evidence, said Jennifer Bushore-Barry, executive director of the Heartford House.
"It's normal to be normal," Bushore-Barry said.
It's why the Heartford House is such a key in investigating those types of cases. The house has three full-time staff trained to conduct interviews with children, with the prosecutor's office having two as well. The house's three staff conducted 400 interviews last year, with the prosecutor's staff conducting 284.
The house moved to a new facility on 703 N. 36th St last year, giving it an additional room to conduct interviews as more children from neighboring counties have also started coming to the facility.
The two rooms are furnished with comfortable couches and toys. A white noise machine blocks the sound coming out of the rooms.
A multi-disciplinary team – a DCS staff member, a Heartford House staff member and a staff member from the prosecutor's office and other relevant law enforcement agencies – watch the interviews in a separate room.
Bushore-Barry said the goal is to hear the children. Questions are directed to be non-leading, non-suggestive and not re-victimizing, and the staff seeks to do an interview only once, if possible.
"They are not forced into anything," Goldsmith said.
Just about half of the interviews lead to "disclosure," in which children reveal some information about what they had experienced. While further interviews and investigations are conducted, a safety plan for the children is developed as soon as abuses are suspected.
The Heartford House added a victim advocate a year and a half ago who follows up with every family member and provides money to them for therapy and other support programs.
The prosecutor's office's victim assistance staff also schedules meetings with the children and their relatives. Building relationships is the key before the children go through trials, Harrington said.
The goal, the authorities said, is to protect the children and prevent them from being re-victimized by the criminal justice system. Often times, the best way is to let the children know that there are people around them who can help, Bushore-Barry said.
"We are all advocates for children," Miller said.
Michigan to give sexual abuse victims more time to sue
by David Eggert
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to sign into law bills inspired by the Larry Nassar scandal, including one approved Tuesday that would give childhood sexual abuse victims more time to sue.
The current cutoff to file a lawsuit in Michigan is generally a minor victim's 19th birthday, which critics say is out of step with the laws in other states and does not account for how many victims are afraid to report abuse or have suppressed it.
On a 34-2 vote, the Republican-led state Senate gave final approval to a measure that would allow people who were sexually abused as children to sue until their 28th birthdays or three years from when they realized they had been abused. Nassar victims would get a 90-day window to sue retroactively, leading some state senators from both parties to reluctantly vote for the legislation after the state House scaled backed the retroactively provision to not include other victims abused as children since 1997.
"These bills have been whittled down to only provide justice for certain survivors. We owe every single survivor access to justice," said Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., an East Lansing Democrat whose district includes Michigan State University.
As part of a $500 million settlement with Michigan State , the imprisoned sports doctor's former employer, his hundreds of accusers agreed to withdraw their support for measures that would have eliminated the immunity defense in lawsuits for entities that are negligent in the hiring, supervision or training of employees, or if the governmental agencies knew or should have known and failed to report sexual misconduct to law enforcement. The Catholic Church, universities, governments, businesses and nonprofits had pushed back against some bills, citing concerns about being unfairly able to defend themselves against decades-old claims.
"A real opportunity was missed to walk the talk," said Sen. Margaret O'Brien, a Portage Republican who joined with Nassar victims in unveiling the measures months ago. "Legislators say we care about kids, yet this package limits their ability to address their predator. And if it's a kid in government care, there's even less ability to correct that harm."
Snyder is also expected to sign legislation that was passed unanimously Tuesday that would give prosecutors 15 years or until a victim's 28th birthday to file charges in second- and third-degree sexual conduct cases if the victim was younger than 18. The deadline currently is 10 years or a victim's 21st birthday, whichever is later.
Charges could be filed at any time if there were DNA evidence.
There already is no statute of limitations for first-degree sexual misconduct, which can result in life imprisonment and for which Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison after pleading guilty to molesting nine girls in the Lansing area under the guise of treatment.
More than two dozen other Nassar-related bills that first won passage in the House last week will be referred to a Senate committee, whose chairman plans to hold two hearings and vote next week. State Sen. Rick Jones, a Grand Ledge Republican, again expressed disappointment that a measure to expand the state's list of mandatory reporters of child abuse would not include paid coaches after some Nassar victims said nothing happened when they told coaches of his inappropriate touching years ago.
He said he may amend the bill to add coaches in, as was initially proposed by the Senate.
"I can understand some objection to the volunteers for T-ball. But when it comes to paid coaches, most of them very highly paid coaches, my goodness. They should report like everybody else," he said.
In 2017, 40 kids in Pennsylvania died from abuse and neglect
by Ron Routhwick
Pennsylvania's child protection system is broken and more needs to be done to protect children, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Thursday.
In 2017, 40 children died from neglect and abuse and 88 kids nearly died, according to the 2017 Annual Child Protective Service Report . Most of those children - 64 percent - were already known to the child welfare system, DePasquale noted.
In 2016, 46 kids died from abuse and neglect in Pennsylvania, so the 2017 figures represent an improvement.
"That's six fewer child deaths than in 2016, but we are talking about children's lives here," DePasquale said in a statement. "If even one child dies, it's too many."
"What's terrifying to me is that although more children were identified as victims and brought into the system in 2017, more children also nearly died," DePasquale continued. "If that's not the definition of broken, I don't know what is."
Statewide, substantiated reports of child abuse rose from 1.6 per thousand children in 2016 to 1.8 per thousand children in 2017, according to the report published this week by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.
The report revealed more reports of abuse and neglect. More children are at risk due to parental battles with substance abuse, the report suggests.
Overall reports of abuse and neglect rose 8 percent from 2016-17.
The report said there were 163,852 General Protective Service reports (those that do not directly allege abuse) in 2017. About half of those were found to be credible.
Among the credible reports, 26 percent of the cases involved parental substance abuse, up from 21 percent in 2016.
"It's obvious the opioid crisis and potential coming meth epidemic are taking a toll on families," DePasquale said.
ChildLine , the state's child abuse hotline, handled 178,583 calls, an increase of 7 percent over 2016. About 3.5 percent of those calls weren't answered.
DePasquale noted that fewer calls are going unanswered. In 2015, his office found that 22 percent of calls weren't answered.
"That number still must be closer to zero," DePasquale said in a statement. "Even one unanswered phone call means a child could be left in a life-threatening situation, and that's unacceptable."
Sixty of the 88 children who nearly died were known to the child welfare system. Angela M. Liddle, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, said she hoped Gov. Tom Wolf's administration would use federal funds to strentghten protections for kids.
Liddle noted "particularly haunting" aspects of the report involved babies and small children. Among the 40 who died, the vast majority were under five years old. Thirteen of the children killed were under a year old, while 19 of those killed were between the ages of 1 and 4.
"Early childhood can be a dangerous time for some children in Pennsylvania," Liddle said in a statement. "We must address the stresses on parents during those earliest years of their children's lives and we must be vigilant to look for signs of maltreatment in young children."
To report a case of suspected child abuse, call ChildLine at 800-932-0313.
Congressional Candidate In Virginia Admits He's A Pedophile
Nathan Larson also ran online forums for pedophiles and misogynists
by Jesselyn Cook and Andy Campbell
Nathan Larson, a 37-year-old accountant from Charlottesville, Virginia, is running for Congress as an independent candidate in his native state. He is also a pedophile, as he admitted to HuffPost on Thursday, who has bragged in website posts about raping his late ex-wife.
In a phone call, Larson confirmed that he created the now-defunct websites suiped.org and incelocalypse.today ? chat rooms that served as gathering places for pedophiles and violence-minded misogynists like himself. HuffPost contacted Larson after confirming that his campaign website shared an IP address with these forums, among others. His sites were terminated by their domain host on Tuesday.
On the phone, he was open about his pedophilia and seemingly unfazed about his long odds of attaining government office.
“A lot of people are tired of political correctness and being constrained by it,” he said. “People prefer when there's an outsider who doesn't have anything to lose and is willing to say what's on a lot of people's minds.”
When asked whether he's a pedophile or just writes about pedophilia, he said, “It's a mix of both. When people go over the top there's a grain of truth to what they say.”
Asked whether there was a “grain of truth” in his essay about father-daughter incest and another about raping his ex-wife repeatedly, he said yes, offering that plenty of women have rape fantasies.
According to Larson's campaign manifesto , his platform as a “quasi-neoreactionary libertarian” candidate includes protecting gun ownership rights, establishing free trade and protecting “benevolent white supremacy,” as well as legalizing incestuous marriage and child pornography.
In the manifesto, Larson called Nazi leader Adolf Hitler a “white supremacist hero.” He urged Congress to repeal the Violence Against Women Act, adding, “We need to switch to a system that classifies women as property, initially of their fathers and later of their husbands.” He also showed sympathy for men who identify as involuntary celibates, or incels, suggesting it is unfair that they “are forced to pay taxes for schools, welfare, and other support for other men's children.”
Using the pseudonyms Leucosticte and Lysander, Larson frequently participated in conversations on his own message boards, he confirmed to HuffPost.
As Lysander on suiped.org, a forum for “suicidal pedophiles,” Larson wrote numerous posts endorsing child rape and other forms of sexual abuse.
“Why doesn't every pedo just focus on making money so they can get a pedo-wife and then either impregnate her with some fucktoys or adopt some fucktoys?” he wrote on the platform in October. “That would accommodate both those who are and aren't into incest. And of course, the adoption process lets you pick a boy or a girl.”
Larson has a 3-year-old daughter who lives with relatives. He told HuffPost that he relinquished his parental rights during a custody battle. His ex-wife got a court-ordered restraining order against him in 2015 before committing suicide. He has since remarried, he says, and is now living in Catlett, Virginia.
Larson used the moniker “Leucosticte” on incelocalypse.today ? a forum for incels who are pedophiles that was removed this week after the website Babe contacted the domain host. There, he identified as a “hebephilic rapist,” noting that he's not a typical incel because he'd had sex by raping his ex-wife.
According to the site, which HuffPost viewed before it was taken down, “incelocalypse” refers to “the day we make the jailbaits our rape-slaves.” (The term “jailbait” is slang for a person who is under the legal age of consent for sex.)
HuffPost did not view any posts explicitly stating that he has engaged in sexual activity with minors, although he repeatedly expressed a desire to have sex with infants and children, including his own daughter. In the phone call, Larson said that the word “pedophile” is “vague” and “just a label,” adding that it's “normal” for men to be attracted to underage women. He said he did not commit any crimes.
In a 3,300-word essay on incelocalypse.today, titled “Here's How to Psyche Yourself Up to Feel Entitled to Rape,” Larson tells other members: “Don't forget: feminism is the problem, and rape is the solution.” On the platform, he also advocated for father-daughter marriage, killing women and raping virgins.
Larson is less worried about his run for Congress than about his sites coming down. He told HuffPost that the termination of his websites is an affront to his freedom of speech and that he's going to try to get them hosted elsewhere. Not that it'll matter ? there are still plenty of forums where incels and other such communities can congregate. The removal of Larson's sites caused an uproar on incels.me, a separate, much larger forum for incels.
Larson's political ambitions span more than a decade. He first ran for Congress in Virginia's 1st District in 2008 on what he described as an “anarcho-capitalist” platform. That same year, he sent a letter to the Secret Service threatening to kill the president, which landed him in federal prison for 14 months and barred him from seeking public office.
But in 2016, then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) restored voting and other civil rights to thousands of felons, allowing Larson to campaign yet again. In 2017 he ran in Virginia's House of Delegates District 31 and secured less than 2 percent of the vote. Now he is gunning for a seat in Virginia's 10th Congressional District.
Until it was pulled down, Larson's site Nathania.org, a wiki page with details about his latest candidacy, featured posts titled “A Man Should Be Allowed to Choke His Wife to Death as Punishment for Cutting Her Hair Short Without Permission, or Other Acts of Gross Insubordination,” “Advantages of Father-Daughter Incest” and “The Justifiability of an Incel's Kidnapping a Girl and Keeping Her as His Rape-Slave for Sex and Babymaking.” Wiki pages can be edited by other people, but Larson confirmed he wrote these posts as well as several other disturbing entries.
In “Let's Define What Rape Is,” a 3,000-word essay posted on Nathania.org as well as other incel sites, Larson wrote: “Women are objects, to be taken care of by men like any other property, and for powerful men to insert themselves into as it pleases them, and as they believe will be in women's own interests. In most cases, their interests are aligned, as long as the man is strong. Female sex-slaves actually get a much better deal than animals, because in most cases, they are allowed to reproduce, unlike animals raised for meat or companionship.”
When asked what his constituents would think about his pedophiliac writings, he said, “People are open-minded.”
He continued, “A lot of people who disagreed with someone like Trump … might vote for them anyway just because the establishment doesn't like them.”
Iowa sees spike in confirmed child abuse cases
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Officials say publicity around high-profile child abuse cases in Iowa has caused a surge in such reports.
The Des Moines Register reports that confirmed child abuse cases in Iowa increased 26 percent, from almost 8,900 in 2016 to more than 11,200 last year. Child protection workers found more cases of sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect and drug-affected children.
Lawmakers say they believe media coverage of the starvation deaths of Natalie Finn in 2016 and Sabrina Ray in 2017 increased public awareness of the issue. The state's child abuse hotline received more calls following media coverage of the deaths.
Republican Rep. Bobby Kaufmann says the higher abuse numbers released this month indicate a need for more resources.
Gov. Kim Reynolds cut $4.3 million in March from the Department of Human Services, which oversees child protection.
Child abuse reports continue rising in Bucks and Montgomery counties
by Jo Ciavaglia
Since 2015, Bucks and Montgomery counties have experienced a roughly 20 percent and 32 percent increase, respectively, in child abuse reports, according to state data. The percentage of reports that are founded in both counties, though, remains at roughly 4 percent and 7 percent respectively.
Fewer Pennsylvania children died as a result of abuse and neglect last year, according to the 2017 Pennsylvania Child Protective Services report.
However, more children nearly died as a result of abuse than a year earlier, 80 percent of the children who died were age 4 or younger, and parental substance abuse continued to be the most common allegation among reports where child welfare intervention was necessary to prevent serious harm to children, according to the report released Wednesday.
The state's latest report shows a continuing upward trend for child abuse reporting, though the number of cases where abuse is found remains low.
Over the last five years the number of child abuse reports in the state nearly doubled, from 27,182 in 2013 to 47,485 last year. Also up were the number of calls answered by the state's child-abuse reporting hotline, ChildLine — 172,163 calls were answered last year, up 11 percent from 2016.
Tips about suspected child abuse topped 47,000 in 2017
by John Finnerty
HARRISBURG — The number of children across the state killed from abuse dropped from 46 in 2016 to 40 in 2017. But both the number of reports of suspected child abuse and the number of cases of abuse substantiated by caseworkers continued to climb.
Child protective services received a total of 47,485 allegations of child abuse in 2017 and caseworkers substantiated that 4,836 of those cases seemed to qualify as child abuse, according to data released Wednesday by the Department of Human Services. In Crawford County, there were 562 allegations of child abuse and 61 that seemed to qualify as child abuse.
Advocates like Angela Liddle, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, said there's little to cheer in the new findings.
For one thing, sexual abuse remains the most common form of abuse, she said.
And while the number of children who died from abuse dropped, the number of children so seriously injured that their injuries were considered “nearly fatal” increased from 79 in 2016 to 88 in 2017.
The manner in which some of those children were nearly killed, Liddle said, is “concerning.” There were increased numbers of children who nearly perished from ingesting drugs, from malnutrition or the failure of adults to seek medical care for them, she said.
“That begs the question of what's going on with these families,” she said.
Liddle added that 60 of the 88 of those nearly fatal abuse victims were previously known to child welfare agencies.
“A particularly haunting aspect of the report that cries out for attention is the fact that 13 of the children killed last year were under age 1 and 19 were between the ages of 1 and 4. Early childhood can be a dangerous time for some children in Pennsylvania,” she said.
The number of tips passed along to county caseworkers increased 7 percent over 2016. But the increase comes on top of a spike in tips that follow child protection law revisions passed in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State. The number of tips passed along to child protective services staff was 60 percent more than they'd gotten in 2014, state data show.
The flood of new tips had overwhelmed the state's child abuse hotline in 2014 when state officials estimated that 4-in-10 callers never got to an operator. But even as the tips continued to increase, the new report finds that in 2017 operators were able to largely keep pace — almost 97 percent of calls were answered.
“Governor Wolf has worked to improve our ChildLine system and make state government even more responsive to the needs of children at risk,” Wolf's spokesman J.J. Abbott said. “The Department of Human Services has worked to ensure more awareness of ChildLine with the goal of protecting more kids by having less abuse go unreported.”
The number of cases substantiated as abuse grew 11 percent from 2016 to 2017 and it's up 57 percent since 2014, the report finds.
Chelsea's hope offers resources to child victims of sexual assault
She said the most important thing to do if your child comes to you and says they've been abused is to tell them you believe them, and stress that whatever happened was not their fault
A Beaumont man has been indicted for multiple counts continuous Sexual Abuse of a child.
Charles Grant Jr., 49, was accused by three girls, ages 7 to 10-years-old, of molesting them at a storage unit he was renting, according to the affidavit.
The girls claimed that he would take one at a time into the storage unit and have the other two keep watch while he molested each girl.
Grant would then pay each girl and take them shopping with the money he had given them.
The attacks happened between 2015 and 2017 before the girls made an outcry.
Prosecutor Kim Pipkin has been trying cases like these for about two years. She said this one stands out as one of the most horrific.
"On a scale of my cases where even the most minimal thing somebody can be charged with is still terrible because it involves a child, this is certainly one of the worst ones because you have the continual sexual abuse," said Pipkin.
She explained continuous sexual abuse of a child was passed into law in 2007. It's intended to differentiate from aggravated sexual assault or indecency with a child. Pipkin says continuous sexual abuse of a child carries a heavier punishment than aggravated sexual assault or indecency with a child, with a minimum of 25 years and no parole.
Pipkin explained the abuse was discovered after the mother of the victims started asking questions when things started to not sit quite right with her. After the first child made an outcry, the other children followed with similar stories.
Grant was court appointed an attorney and is being held on a $60,000 bond. He's been in jail since May 7th, and his first court date in July.
Sexual assault is a topic Donna Ledit and her husband are all too familiar with, after losing their daughter. Chelsea, Ledit's daughter, was sexually abused by a relative at 14 years old.
Ledit said Chelsea went from being active in school, an honors student, and a dancer to totally shutting down after the abuse took place.
As a nurse, Ledit noticed something was wrong, but she wasn't sure what, so she reached out to a councilor. They said Chelsea had all the signs of being abused, but she denied it.
It wasn't until her abuser was no longer a part of their family that she felt safe to tell her mom what happened to her.
After 11 years of battling post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety from the abuse, Chelsea passed away.
Although Chelsea lost her battle, Ledit and her husband continue to fight the war through their non-profit resale shop in Vidor.
After her passing, Ledit learned Chelsea had been reaching out to victims and giving them strength to continue on. The night of her visitation, Ledit said she received a Facebook message from one of the victims.
"Just to paraphrase the letter, it said 'Chelsea saved me, she gave me hope that I could go on with my life,'" recalled Ledit.
Ledit and her husband decided to continues Chelsea's work through the store.
"We run strictly on donations, and we give back to abused children, and that was Chelsea's heart, to do that, so we're just doing it in a different way to help give them hope," said Ledit.
However, it's not just a store that offers monetary donations. Ledit went on to explain that it's a safe space for both victims and their families to seek resources and counseling.
She said part of what they do is educate parents.
"Someone that pays that extra attention to that child, you as a parent think 'my child is going to be safe,' but their the ones usually doing it because that's part of the grooming process," explained Ledit.
She said the most important thing to do if your child comes to you and says they've been abused is to tell them you believe them, and stress that whatever happened was not their fault.
Ledit said one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
One resource she promotes is the Garth House, a children's advocacy program.
The Garth House "Stewards of Children" trains individuals, organizations, and community groups to help reduce child sexual abuse in our community. It's offered the third Tuesday of each month from 5:30-7:30 p.m. They're located at 1855 McFaddin in Beaumont. The cost is $10 per person/family, and a certificate is provided upon completion of the program.
To RSVP call (409) 838-9084
Lawmakers wrestle with troubling topic: Sexual abuse at school
by John Mooney
Joint session responds to videotape of union leaders dismissing claims of teacher misconduct, but struggles to determine what's missing from current regulations.
It was an unusual hearing by nearly all accounts, a hastily called joint session of two state Senate committees to hear startling accusations that too many of the state's educators — and their unions — might look the other way on child sexual abuse within their own ranks.
But after more than three hours of testimony before the Senate education and labor committees, what concrete measures will come out of the session was hard to discern.
What was obvious, however, was the catalyst for the noontime gathering, a widely circulated videotape by conservative provocateur James O'Keefe, who has had the unions — specifically the New Jersey Education Association — in his crosshairs for years.
Released last month, the hidden-camera video showed two local NJEA leaders, one from Hamilton, the other from Union City, dismissing — if not covering up — claims of sexual abuse made against their teachers.
In the aftermath, the two union leaders each forced to resign from their positions, but lawmakers from both sides of the aisle jumped on the scandal, calling for greater accountability and reforms statewide.
Those calls came to the fore yesterday. State Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz, the Democratic chair of the Senate Education Committee, opened the hearing by calling the videos “disturbing” and “alarming,” and demanded that reforms be enacted to prevent such negligence in the future.
The NJEA responded to questions for close to an hour, balancing on a tightrope between the defensive and the diplomatic.
On one hand, it decried what it called O'Keefe's “gotcha” tactics. On the other, conceded it was hard to argue with the video evidence that its members did wrong.
“We recognize that despite the dishonest tactics used to obtain and edit the videos, some of what was said on them appeared to fall far short of our values and the standards we set for our union, its leaders, and its members,” said Edward Richardson, executive director of the NJEA and the top union officer to testify.
NJEA plans full investigation
Richardson announced that the union had enlisted its counsel to conduct a full investigation of its field offices and local affiliates to ensure such practices are not widespread or repeated.
“Specifically, we want to ensure every NJEA affiliate leader and every NJEA staff member understands the obligation to report suspected child abuse and knows how to make that report,” Richardson said.
But there already is a wide array of statutes and regulations in place that — at least on paper — require immediate reporting of abuse to child protection services. The question is how strictly those regulations are enforced and what are the repercussions for those who fail to report such suspicions.
Parsing the language of the law
State Sen. Fred Madden, chair of the labor committee, pressed whether a teacher “shall” be brought up on tenure charges for failing to report an abuse suspicion or “may” be brought up on charges.
Yesterday, Madden questioned Gov. Phil Murphy's new education commissioner, Lamont Repollet, about tightening the rules or at least ensuring they are being closely enforced and monitored.
The state has made significant strides in just the past few months, Madden said, enacting a new law to prevent teachers accused of misconduct from transferring to other districts. But he said more needed to be done.
“Why would that be not be that [certification] shall be revoked?” Madden asked. “Otherwise, it indicates to me that these people could be found guilty of these violations, and still retain their certificate.”
Repollet responded that the state acts aggressively when teachers are found guilty of misconduct. He said that in 2016 – 2017, three teachers lost their certification for child endangerment, 28 for sexual misconduct. So far this school year, he said, four had been revoked for endangerment and 16 for sexual misconduct.
“This department is vigilant about its obligation to protect students from any educator misconduct,” Repollet said to the committees.
What else can be done?
Nonetheless, the question remained about what specific measures could be put in place that didn't exist already. One testimony that grabbed lawmakers' attention came from Shelley Skinner of Better Education for Kids, one of the groups that initially called for the hearings.
She pointed to rules in states like Pennsylvania and Nevada, which require teachers be trained in identifying and reporting sexual abuse before they are licensed.
“Given the amount of sacred trust we place in our school personnel, breaking that trust should come with stiffer consequences for the few who do,” Skinner said.
Ruiz said several of the recommendations would be taken under consideration. “I think out of these committees will be a package of bills that will seek to ameliorate these issues,” she said after the hearing.
When asked what specific measures, Ruiz said required training would be included as well as measures to provide families and educators more options and awareness for reporting abuse.
“The more parents and children are aware on how to report abuse, the better the outcomes will be,” she said.
Actor Ashton Kutcher's non-profit identified close to 6K victims of sex abuse last year
by Emily Jones
Ashton Kutcher's non-profit organization which helps fight child sex abuse and human trafficking, says it identified almost 6,000 victims last year.
Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children is an organization that uses software to end slavery by providing law enforcement with information on suspected human trafficking networks and their victims.
"With the help of Thorn's tools, law enforcement and investigators have been able to identify 5,791 child sex trafficking victims and rescue 103 children from situations where their sexual abuse was recorded and distributed. We're building tools to stand up the toughest environments and empowering the frontlines to stop abuse before it happens," the organization said in its 2017 impact report .
That's just the beginning. Thorn isn't just working to defend victims of sex abuse. It also is providing resources to change the behavior of the perpetrators.
"We communicate directly with people searching for child sexual abuse material, disrupting their sense of anonymity, aiming to change their behavior and increase their accountability. Our child sexual abuse deterrence program has seen over 2.6 million visitors and 140,000+ instances where individuals went on to actively seek further help," the report says.
The organization also works directly with law enforcement to investigate sex trafficking and abuse globally. Thorn says it has helped speed up investigation time by as much as 65%.
Last year Kutcher testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the impact his work is having.
"As part of my anti-trafficking work, I've met victims in Russia. I've met victims in India, I've met victims that have been trafficked from Mexico. Victims from New York and New Jersey and all across our country. I've been on FBI raids where I've seen things that no person should ever see," Kutcher explained.
He told the CBS News crime series "48 Hours" last month that his organization is getting bigger and better.
"You can roll up your sleeve and go try to be like a hero and save one person, or your can build a tool that allows one person to save a lot of people," he said in the episode. "And our algorithms are gettign better. We're getting smarter. We're getting the tool in more people's hands."
How child sexual abuse affects survivors throughout their lives & why help is important
Survivors of these traumatic events will be able to get the help that they need better when their loved ones stand behind them
By Anna Chandy
In the recent wake of the many horrific cases of child sexual abuse that have been exposed in the Indian media, there has been a widespread push to seek justice and see the perpetrators punished by law.
However, it is crucial to understand that these events have a profound psychological impact on the survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Research indicates a strong link between sexual abuse in childhood and a variety of mental illnesses such as depression , post-traumatic stress disorder , drug and alcohol dependence , bulimia and panic disorder.
Additionally, children who have been sexually abused are likely to have problems with regulating negative emotions such as hostility and helplessness which puts them at a greater risk for difficulties in subsequent romantic intimacy .
In some cases of childhood sexual abuse, the act of sex is associated with revulsion, fear and other negative emotions, which may result in an aversion to all sex and intimacy.
Let me explain this with an example. One of my clients, a man in his mid-thirties, came to me because his wife claimed that she was moving out of their home. Having believed himself to be happily married at the time, he was shocked and was further perplexed when his wife accused him of being constantly argumentative, over-controlling and emotionally distant. He told me that he believed his marriage to have the regular ups and downs, but he didn't realise that his wife was so unhappy.
As we talked further, he told me about his controlling father, his own naughtiness as a child, and his love of food. He spoke of a specific neighbour who would sneak him food every day, and later, started giving him toys and little gifts. In return, the five-year-old child was made to perform oral sex on his neighbour. By discussing this incident, and doing some further work with me, my client realised that his initial sexual experiences had left him afraid of intimacy.
Even as an adult, he never initiated sex because to him, that meant that he had to perform. With additional counselling and psychotherapy, he was able to see that it was okay to have sexual needs and that these needs could be met healthily.
He re-learnt touches and understood about the different kinds of touch. Now, he has acknowledged the impact of his childhood sexual abuse on his life and plays an important part in his own marriage.
Now, in India, there is often an additional societal component that accompanies the act of child sexual abuse, which is why these crimes are severely under-reported. In most cases of childhood sexual abuse, the abuser is someone who is known to the family. Often a close friend or family member, the perpetrator takes advantage of the child's vulnerability to gain sexual gratification.
In several instances, the child does not understand that they are being abused, because the act is committed by a person that they trust. However, in some families, even when the survivor's parents or other family members come to know about the incident(s) of abuse, it is hushed up and swept under the rug.
Sometimes, the cases of sexual abuse are even blamed on the victim, who is ostracised for ‘tempting' the perpetrator, or ‘inventing' a story of abuse in their mind in order to gain attention.
This situation is something that I have some experience with.
When I was very young, I was sexually abused by some family friends. As a young child who yearned for company and friendship, having the much older teenage siblings slip into my allotted room at night and physically touch me was something that I didn't categorise as abuse.
The boy of the house began to drop into my room very often, and in my loneliness, despite my feelings of guilt, hurt and fear, I even looked forward to it because he told me that he loved me.
This abuse continued for seven long years. Once he moved out of his parents' house, the abuse stopped, as did the romance. Looking back upon those years, I realised how he never mentioned the supposed love he had for me after he left.
I knew, later, that it had never existed, except as an excuse to win over my trust and take advantage of my childhood vulnerability. I didn't tell anyone about these experiences, and it was only after I began to work on myself psychologically, by seeking support through counselling, that I was able to confront my hidden secret.
As I worked through it, I was able to tell my husband, daughters and brother-in-law about it, and their invaluable support and strength helped me immensely. It took me several more years to tell my mother. When I did, she reacted in exactly the way that I thought she would. She refused to believe me, laughed away my abuse, and belittled my experiences as naive.
While I'd expected her to deny it, it still hurt to know that my own mother would not choose to believe me. She made excuses for her friends and their children and said that they were just having some childhood fun.
However, I stood my ground. I told her that she had to believe me, and explained when it happened, how it happened and who did it. My mother responded by asking me why I never told her about it and that she would have confronted them then. To this I suggested we go confront them at that moment.
She was silent, and then expressed anger, and I didn't hear back from her in weeks.
This attitude is a common reaction seen in family members to their child's experience of abuse. Along with the trauma of the abuse, these responses can have a tremendous impact on the survivor's mental health, and affect their behaviour in a myriad of ways.
It is, therefore, crucial to learn to recognise signs of childhood sexual abuse and ensure that any survivor get professional support.
Survivors of these traumatic events will be able to get the help that they need better when their loved ones stand behind them. If you or a loved one has been impacted by sexual violence, please find here a list of mental health professionals across India, who will be able to further guide your treatment and recovery.
Who is required to speak up about child abuse?
More than 44,000 children were abused or neglected in the state of Pennsylvania in 2016, according to the P ennsylvania Department of Human Services (PA-DHS) . Seventy-nine of those children had a near-fatal experience, and 46 of them died.
What's going on in Pennsylvania?
The safety and well-being of Pennsylvania's children is a top priority. Twenty-three new laws and regulations brought about by the PA Task Force on Child Protection have focused on reporting child abuse, how it is reported, and the consequences of failure to report any suspected abuse. Mandated reporters list grew over the years increasing the number of people required by law to report suspicions of abuse and neglect.
Who is a mandated reporter?
A person licensed or certified to practice in any health-related field under the jurisdiction of the Department of State.
A medical examiner, coroner or funeral director.
An employee of a health care facility or provider licensed by the Department of Health.
A school or child-care service employee.
A spiritual leader of any regularly established church or other religious organization.
Any person (paid or unpaid) responsible for the child's welfare or has direct contact with children.
An employee of a social services agency who has direct contact with children in the course of employment.
A law enforcement official.
An emergency medical services provider certified by the Department of Health.
An employee of a public library who has direct contact with children in the course of employment.
An independent contractor who has direct contact with children.
An attorney affiliated with an agency, institution, organization or other entity.
An individual supervised or managed by a person listed above.
A foster parent.
An adult family member who is a person responsible for the child's welfare.
However, whether required by law or not, PA DHS encourages anyone who has reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or neglect to make a report.
What counts as reasonable cause?
In physical abuse cases:
Frequent injuries the child has a hard time explaining
Burns or bruises in unusual patterns
Unseasonal clothing to hide injuries
Withdrawal or passiveness
Fear of going home or seeing family members
In neglect cases:
Sudden changes in appetite, behavior or school performance
Complaints about pain in urinating
Difficulty sitting or walking
Sexually suggestive talk
How do I file a report?
You can make a report any time you suspect a child is the victim of child abuse or neglect. Trained specialists are available 24/7 to receive referrals of alleged child abuse and general child well-being concerns. If you've suspected child abuse or neglect, make the call to ChildLine at 800-932-0313 or file a report online at keepkidssafe.pa.gov .
Mandated reporters in the state of Pennsylvania can also file a report online, at Pennsylvania's Child Welfare Portal . Visit keepkidssafe.pa.gov for additional information on keeping Pennsylvania's children safe.
Child autopsy closure bill vetoed
by Mike Wiggins
Gov. John Hickenlooper on Friday vetoed a bill that would have sealed the autopsy reports of children, saying while the legislation had a "laudable goal" of protecting those children's families from additional pain, it was outweighed by the benefit such disclosure can provide to the public and other children.
Senate Bill 223 would have kept confidential the autopsy report prepared for the death of any minor in Colorado and allowed county coroners to release that information under only limited circumstances.
Proponents of the bill, which had broad bipartisan support, argued that keeping the reports out of public view would help protect family privacy and deter copycat youth suicides.
Opponents, though, contended it would hamper efforts by journalists and others to spot trends in youth deaths, report on the state's child protection programs and hold county coroners accountable.
In his veto letter, Hickenlooper wrote that history demonstrates that bringing tragedies to the public's attention is the "greatest catalyst" for public policy change and said there were many examples in which public disclosure and the work of the media led to positive changes to prevent tragedies, particularly in the areas of child neglect and abuse.
The governor wrote that while the bill had good intentions by trying to protect families, he was concerned about keeping such information from the public, calling out specifically the fact that all deaths of minors — not just suicides — would be shielded from the public.
"Few circumstances can ever match the trauma of losing a child, and we commend the sponsors for their desire to protect families of deceased children from continued pain. For these reasons, we do not issue this veto lightly," Hickenlooper wrote.
"We remain persuaded, however, that sunshine on uncomfortable and painful topics such as youth deaths can lead to more positive outcomes for other youths, stemming from how we collectively react to the knowledge of youth deaths. An informed public has societal benefits for all at-risk children, present and future."
A group of media associations — the Colorado Press Association, the Colorado Broadcasters Association, the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition and the Colorado Springs Press Association — submitted letters requesting the governor veto the bill.
"We would never want to minimize the feelings of any parent who has lost a child, but this bill was a solution looking for a problem," said Jerry Raehal, chief executive officer of the Colorado Press Association. "The coroners presented emotional arguments but could not present one single case in which the problems they cited actually existed."
The Overprotected American Child
Why not let them walk to school alone? Parents and communities are figuring out ways to give their children more independence-and it just may help them to become less anxious, more self-reliant adults
by Andrea Petersen
A few weeks ago I left my 9-year-old daughter home alone for the first time. It did not go as planned.
That's because I had no plan. My daughter was sick. My husband was out of town. And I needed to head to the drugstore—a five-minute walk away—to get some medicine for her. So I made sure my daughter knew where to find our rarely used landline phone, quizzed her on my cellphone number and instructed her not to open the front door for anyone. Then I left. Twenty minutes later I was back home. Both of us were a bit rattled by the experience—her first time completely alone, with no supervising adult!—but we were fine.
I had been postponing this moment of independence for my daughter for months, held back by worry over the potential catastrophes. But I know that this way of thinking is part of a larger social problem. Many have lamented the fact that children have less independence and autonomy today than they did a few generations ago. Fewer children are walking to school on their own , riding their bicycles around neighborhoods or going on errands for their parents. There have been several high-profile cases of parents actually being charged with neglect for allowing their children to walk or play unsupervised. We're now seeing a backlash to all this pressure for parental oversight: Earlier this year, the state of Utah enacted a new “free-range” parenting law that redefined neglect to specifically exclude things like letting a child play in a park or walk to a nearby store alone.
Overzealous parenting can do real harm. Psychologists and educators see it as one factor fueling a surge in the number of children and young adults being diagnosed with anxiety disorders. According to a study published this year in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, the number of children ages 6 to 17 whose parents said they were currently diagnosed with anxiety grew from 3.5% in 2007 to 4.1% in 2012. And in a 2017 survey of more than 31,000 college students by the American College Health Association, 21.6% reported that they had been diagnosed with or treated for anxiety problems during the previous year. That is up from 10.4% in a 2008 survey .
A big 2007 study , published in Clinical Psychology Review, surveyed the scientific literature on how much parenting influences the development of anxiety in kids. The parenting behavior that had the strongest impact of any kind was “granting autonomy”—defined as “parental encouragement of children's opinions and choices, acknowledgment of children's independent perspectives on issues, and solicitation of children's input on decisions and solutions of problems.” More autonomy was associated with less childhood anxiety. (Genes play an even bigger role, however, in individual differences in anxiety.)
For children who are already anxious, overprotecting them can make it worse. “It reinforces to the child that there is something they should be scared of and the world is a dangerous place and ‘I can't do that for myself,' ” says Rebecca Rialon Berry, a clinical psychologist at the NYU Langone Child Study Center.
A lack of autonomy and independence can also stymie the development of self-confidence and may cause children to remain dependent on parents and others to make decisions for them when they become adults, says Jack Levine, a developmental pediatrician in New York. And because children naturally want more independence as they grow, thwarting that desire can cause them to become angry and act out, notes Brad Sachs, a family psychologist in Columbia, Md.
Like a lot of Generation Xers, I have my own memories of a carefree childhood riding bicycles and playing tag with other neighborhood children, my parents nowhere in sight. They seemed to trust their instincts. But today, how do you go with your gut when you're bombarded by hyperventilating social media posts, shrill parenting advice books and a neurotic cultural tide? And what about disapproving neighbors—and spouses? My own husband wasn't thrilled when I told him that I'd left our daughter home alone. “She could have hit her head. Or choked,” he said. (To be fair to him, both things have actually happened to her—and this is when we've been around.)
A handful of states have laws that specify minimum ages when it is legal, typically, for children to be left home alone . In Maryland, for example, it is 8; in Illinois, children under 14 can't be left alone for a vague “unreasonable” amount of time. Other states give more general guidelines. But for many big independence milestones—such as taking public transportation alone or caring for younger siblings—there are few hard age recommendations.
“Children mature and develop skills at different rates,” says Phyllis F. Agran, a pediatric gastroenterologist in Irvine, Calif., and the co-author of several of the American Academy of Pediatrics' injury prevention policies. She notes that children with special needs, such as those with ADHD or developmental delays, may take longer to develop the impulse control and skills necessary to do some things independently.
Many financially struggling families may have no choice but to leave their children home alone while they work. And in high-crime neighborhoods, it may not be safe to send even older children out to play.
One independence milestone that has been studied extensively is crossing the street. Research has found that young children walking to school often don't look for traffic or stop at the curb before stepping into the street. Some studies have found that parents are likely to overestimate their children's ability to safely cross the street. A paper published in 2000 in the British Journal of Educational Psychology found that, in general, 10- and 11-year-old children were much better than 7- and 8-year-olds at identifying safe places to cross and at detecting traffic and road dangers. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to wait until age 10 to allow children to walk to school, or anywhere else, without an adult.
Alan E. Kazdin, a professor emeritus of psychology and child psychiatry at Yale University, recommends that parents repeatedly encourage independence in small, lower-stakes situations, like having children start homework on their own, do the dishes or choose a gift for a friend. While dishes and other chores may just seem like duties, they are also moves toward independence: Children need these skills, and the sense of mastery they engender, to become self-sufficient adults. These are “practice trials,” Dr. Kazdin says. He suggests that when children make these efforts, parents offer enthusiastic and specific praise, along with a pat on the back or a high-five. Issuing a good-natured challenge—“I bet you can't make your sandwich all by yourself”—can also make it more likely that a child will follow through. What doesn't work is nagging, issuing reprimands or punishing a child for not being more independent, he says.
Dr. Sachs encourages parents to involve their children in making decisions about their own path toward independence. When you ask children what they think about, say, staying home by themselves and then ask them to weigh risks and benefits, “it facilitates their self awareness,” says Dr. Sachs. “They automatically start to make better decisions because they are thinking rather than just acting.” This will serve them well when they face decisions about things with more serious consequences, like sex and alcohol.
It's also never too early to start encouraging independence, says NYU Langone's Dr. Berry. Children as young as 2 or 3 can start helping with chores, such as carrying a plate to the table and putting clothes in the hamper. Most 8-year-olds should be able to make scrambled eggs “with some gentle eyes on them,” while most 10-year-olds can handle a chef's knife, she says. Parents first need to teach safe techniques, repeatedly, then assist with and monitor the activity before gradually “fading out.”
Giving children more independence outside of the house can be more of a challenge—especially if you live in a neighborhood of worrywarts and you're the only parent letting your kid bike to the park alone. That's why Lenore Skenazy, a former journalist and mother of two now-grown sons, is trying to convince entire communities to give their kids independence with her nonprofit Let Grow. “It takes away the stigma of being a daredevil parent,” she says.
Ten years ago, Ms. Skenazy started a blog entitled “Free Range Kids” after she faced a backlash over a newspaper column she wrote about letting her 9-year-old son ride the subway home alone in New York City. Ms. Skenazy says that having an entire community commit to children's independence can solve another potential problem, too: A dearth of other unaccompanied kids to play with. Otherwise, “everyone is in lacrosse or in the after-school chess club or some other structured activity,” she says.
Michael J. Hynes, superintendent of the Patchogue-Medford Schools on Long Island in New York, launched a Let Grow project last fall because he was seeing “kids more and more bubble wrapped as the years go on,” he says. “I've noticed they are averse to risk-taking.”
The children in five of the district's seven elementary schools now have one day when their only homework is to do something new. (Some classes also write about the experience.) Project suggestions, to do alone or with a friend, include walking the dog, exploring the woods and “playing night tag.” Let Grow also helps schools to launch Play Clubs in which children can play freely in the playground or gym before or after school. The organization suggests that schools enlist one adult to act as a “lifeguard” but otherwise let youngsters alone to figure out what and how to play—and to solve their own problems.
After nearly a year of the effort, Mr. Hynes says that he's seen positive results in the district. “I can't say test scores went up, but I believe the kids are better behaved and more self-confident. Students are taking risks in the classroom. Normally shy kids are now raising their hands.”
When Jodi Della Femina Kim felt that her daughter, then age 10, was ready to get a cellphone and walk to school without an adult, she and her husband made the decision jointly with several other families in their Brooklyn neighborhood. For several weeks, Ms. Della Femina Kim walked a few steps behind her daughter. There were also rules: The phone had to be in the girl's pocket (no texting while walking) and she couldn't wear headphones (too distracting). Next, Ms. Della Femina Kim walked her daughter to a corner where they would meet the child's friend. The kids would walk the rest of the way to school together. After several months, the children were allowed to walk the entire way—about four blocks—without an adult.
Her daughter, Annabel Kim, now 15, says that she was “very excited to get to walk to school myself. I felt like it meant you were finally growing up.” She continues to build her own independence by babysitting her 9-year-old sister and making dinner.
Anne Marie Albano, director of the Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders in New York, reminds parents that the ultimate goal is to have their children be self-sufficient by the time they leave home for college or the workplace. She and her colleagues have come up with a list of milestones that adolescents should achieve before high-school graduation, including being able to advocate for themselves with teachers and other authority figures, seeing a doctor without a parent and waking themselves up in the morning on their own. “We have parents who call their college student at Harvard or Michigan and wake them up every morning,” she says. You do not want to be that parent.
Even when children are thrilled to gain some independence, parents often have to learn to cope with their own anxiety. Heidi Thompson, lives with her husband and two children in Calais, Vt., a town where children often run around unsupervised. Still, Ms. Thompson, a psychotherapist, was nervous when her daughter wanted to participate in a ritual for neighborhood kids the summer before seventh grade: camping overnight without adults on an island in the nearby lake. Ms. Thompson reluctantly gave her OK. “I was up all night,” she said. In the morning, however, her daughter, “came home so excited. We want them to feel that the world overall is a safe place,” says Ms. Thompson.
Of course, when children try something on their own, it doesn't always go smoothly. They may take the wrong bus or choose not to study for a test—and then bomb it.
Such outcomes point to the one autonomy milestone that parents find particularly difficult, says Joseph F. Hagan Jr., clinical professor in pediatrics at the University of Vermont and the co-editor of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Bright Futures guidelines for health professionals. “Part of independence is to make your own decisions,” he says—including “the right to make a wrong decision.”
from Dept of Justice
Santa Barbara County Man Sentenced to More than Twenty Years in Federal Prison for Distribution of Child Pornography
LOS ANGELES – A federal judge yesterday sentenced a Santa Barbara County man to 246 months’ incarceration for distribution of child pornography.
Christopher Robin Coates, 43, of Carpinteria, met minors in online chat rooms dedicated to youths seeking father figures and manipulated them into sending him child pornography images of themselves. According to court records, Coates would also share the minors’ online “handles” with other persons seeking to exploit children.
When law enforcement officers searched his digital devices, they found more than 1,000 images and 128 videos depicting child pornography. According to court documents, Coates used the Kik Messenger app to distribute child pornography to underage victims. Coates had several prior convictions for possessing child pornography in addition to a conviction for sexual battery on a disabled adult.
In July, 2015, based on a tip to the Postal Inspection Service by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, law enforcement officers conducted a parole search of Coates’ residence. During the search, authorities recovered a Samsung tablet under a mattress that contained hundreds of images and videos of child pornography.
Coates was originally arrested and charged with multiple child exploitation crimes in Santa Barbara County by Santa Barbara District Attorney Joyce Dudley. The District Attorney’s Office subsequently dismissed the state charges when the federal indictment was filed.
The case was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Los Angeles Joint Regional Intelligence Center provided substantial assistance.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Devon Myers of the Violent and Organized Crime Section.
Nicola T. Hanna
United States Attorney
Central District of California
Tracy Webb, Director of External Affairs
from Dept of Justice
Burbank Elementary School Teacher Indicted for Producing Child Pornography and Enticement for Engaging in Sexual Conduct with Former Student
LOS ANGELES – A federal grand jury yesterday named a Burbank teacher in a criminal indictment that accuses him of sexually exploiting a fifteen-year-old former student for purposes of producing child pornography images of the minor.
Sean David Sigler, 53, of Burbank – who previously taught fifth-grade students at Bret Harte Elementary School in Burbank and at Gardner Street Elementary School in Los Angeles – was indicted Thursday on eleven counts including obtaining custody and control of a minor with intent to produce child pornography, production of child pornography, enticement of a minor, and possession of child pornography. The United States Attorney’s Office previously filed a criminal complaint against Sigler charging him with production of child pornography.
According to the complaint, Sigler inserted himself into the victim’s life shortly after the child left Sigler’s classroom and used his position as former teacher, mentor, and father-figure to gain the trust of the victim and her parent. Sigler then exploited that trust to gain sexual access to the minor victim. Over the course of 15 months, Sigler regularly transported the victim to his home, where he would give her alcohol and pills and then photograph and film his sexual activity with her. Sigler began having sex with the minor victim when she was just fifteen.
Sigler’s digital devices contained numerous images and videos of his sexual acts with the victim, as well as thousands of images of child pornography depicting unknown pre-pubescent minors, non-pornographic images of minor female students in Sigler’s classroom, and images copied and saved from the social media accounts of former students.
The violation of obtaining custody and control of a minor with intent to produce child pornography carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 30 years and a maximum of life imprisonment.
The charges of producing child pornography each carry a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 15 years and a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison. The charge of enticement carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years and a maximum of life imprisonment. The charges of possessing child pornography each carry a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
A complaint and indictment contain allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
Sigler is currently in federal custody and will be arraigned on the indictment in the coming weeks.
The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and the Burbank Police Department.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Damaris Diaz and Devon Myers of the Violent and Organized Crime Section.
Nicola T. Hanna, United States Attorney
Central District of California
Tracy Webb, Director of External Affairs