Texas cop accused of molesting 4-year-old girl, threatening to deport her mom if she told
Bexar County Sheriff's Deputy Jose Nunez has been charged super aggravated sexual assault of a child.
by Haley Miller
A Texas sheriff's deputy has been accused of sexually assaulting a 4-year-old girl and threatening to deport her undocumented mother if she reported it.
Jose Nunez, a 10-year Bexar County Sheriff's Office veteran who served as a detention officer, has been charged with super aggravated sexual assault of a child, Sheriff Javier Salazar said Sunday at a news conference.
“The details of the case are, quite frankly, heartbreaking, disturbing, disgusting and infuriating all at the same time,” Salazar said.
The child, a female relative of Nunez, cried out for help to her mother on Saturday, officials said. The mother took the child to a local fire station to file a report.
Nunez, 47, is accused of touching the girl's genital area, causing pain and minor injury, over a period of at least several months and possibly years, according to officials.
He told the girl's mother, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, that he would have her deported if she spoke up about the molestation, authorities said.
“That's always a concern in the undocumented community,” Salazar said. “We are filling out paperwork with this witness in question to make sure that she is given protected status pending the outcome of this case. It's just important that [undocumented immigrants] feel comfortable enough to give us a call and report the crime.”
Authorities said they suspect Nunez may have had inappropriate contact with other children and encouraged anyone with information to contact the sheriff's office.
Nunez has been placed on administrative leave while the sheriff's office conducts an internal investigation. He faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison if convicted.
“When one person or persons individually demonstrate, as has happened in this case, that they're not worthy to be a part of this agency, then we're going to, quite frankly, get them out of here,” Salazar said. “We're going to cut them out like cancer.”
Twenty year limit on prosecution of sexual offences lifted
Victims of sexual abuse will now be able to lay charges against perpetrators even after 20 years of the crime being committed.
by Gugu Myeni
THE Constitutional Court on Thursday lifted a 20 year limit on the prosecution of sexual offences.
This landmark judgment means victims of sexual abuse will now be able to lay criminal charges against their perpetrators even after 20 years of the the crime being committed.
The ConCourt ruled that the limit is ‘inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid to the extent that it bars, in all circumstances, the right to institute a criminal prosecution for all sexual offences other than rape or compelled rape, trafficking of persons for sexual purposes and using a child or person who is mentally disabled for pornographic purposes.
The unanimous judgment has been referred to as the ‘Frankel 8' case, in reference to a group of women who sought to lay criminal charges against now late stockbroker Sidney Frankel, who they accused of being a paedophile.
Parliament has been given 24 months to ‘cure the constitutional defect' in the Criminal Procedure Act.
‘During the period of suspension, section 18(f) of the Criminal Procedure Act is to be read as though the words ‘and all other sexual offences whether in terms of common law or statute' appear after the words ‘the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act‚ 2007‚ respectively'.
‘Should Parliament fail to enact remedial legislation within the period of suspension‚ the interim reading-in remedy shall become final‚' the judgment reads.
Non-Profit Organisation Women and Men Against Child Abuse (WMACA) says this judgment is ‘a huge victory for children and adult survivors of child sexual abuse as no one should be forced to disclose their sexual abuse within a time frame in order to open a criminal case against their abuser.
‘There are many factors why children who have been sexually abused do not disclose their abuse for many decades.
‘The law acknowledged rape survivors' rights to come forward after 20 years, but not survivors of other sexual offences. But now this judgment has changed the landscape for other survivors,' WMACA said.
More experts, including for parent education, needed to prevent child abuse
The government decided to implement emergency measures to prevent child abuse at a recent meeting of Cabinet ministers concerned. The decision was in response to the case of Yua Funato, a 5-year-old girl who died after her stepfather punched her and refused to provide her with proper food.
In fiscal 2015 alone, 52 children died due to abuse. Many of them, like Yua, could not be saved despite the involvement of child consultation centers, whose main task is to protect abused and neglected children. We must introduce fundamental measures to change this situation.
Yua was placed under protective custody twice by the local child consultation center in Kagawa Prefecture in western Japan, where she had lived until January of this year. Following her move to Tokyo and a notice from the Kagawa center, a case worker from an equivalent facility in the capital's Shinagawa Ward visited her home, but could not reach the girl.
It is not rare for abusive parents to move to other areas to avoid intervention by child consultation centers. The importance of cooperation among different local bodies, child consultation centers and local police departments has long been called for to prevent continued abuse. In the case of Yua, Kagawa child protection officials said they requested their Shinagawa counterparts take due care of the girl, as she was a "high priority case." The Shinagawa officials, however, denied that they had received such information.
The number of child abuse cases handled by some 210 child consultation centers nationwide topped 120,000 in fiscal 2016 -- more than tripling over the past decade. Both the central government and local governments have tried to increase the number of child welfare officers, but the number remained at around 3,000 in fiscal 2016. This is only a 50 percent increase from 10 years ago.
The central government plans to raise that number by 550 by fiscal 2019. These personnel increases, however, lag behind the spike in child abuse cases. The staff members involved are exhausted, and cannot respond properly to referrals from other local bodies.
The child consultation center in Kagawa returned Yua to her stepfather, although it had placed her under protective custody twice. It is understandable that the centers see importance in rebuilding family ties, but for such a move to be effective, abusive parents must also receive proper education and go through rehabilitation programs. Expert assistance must be extended continuously not only to children, but to the parents who cannot get rid of abusive habits -- especially after children are released from protective custody by consultation centers.
We need experienced case workers who can support such families, but 40 percent of the officials at child consultation centers are said to have less than three years on the job.
The current child protection system is not sufficient to counter the ever-increasing number of child abuse cases. We must expand it substantially and train expert case workers in order to bring about significant change.
APD officers training to use CYFD database to investigate child abuse cases
by Shellye Leggett
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — APD is changing its policies, after KOAT demanded answers in the case involving a 7-year-old possibly sold for sex. We're finding out APD now has access to a CYFD database that would help officers investigate cases like this, but we're learning it's not that simple.
Not everyone has access to it yet, which could cause some problems moving forward.
CYFD and the Albuquerque Police Department have one of the most critical relationships when it comes to helping children.
"Giving law enforcement access to our files," said Monique Jacobson with CYFD. "Our trainings for that are really filling up quickly now."
She said they're trying to make that relationship stronger.
"We continue to roll out our law enforcement portal," she said.
But APD said there are only six field officers trained to use the portal. It's supposed to give officers access to information on CYFD cases.
They can track how many times CYFD has gone to a certain house to investigate potential child abuse, and see the names of people involved, but to gain access to that, officers first have to be trained and then get a username for the portal.
"We have rolled it out to 230 officers over the state, that includes NMSP, BCSO, APD, Dona Ana, and AG's office," said Jacobson.
APD said they are working on it, but adds that it's usually easier for officers to call a supervisor to check the portal as they're responding to a call.
The good news, it seems those who are trained are taking advantage of it. CYFD said officers have already used the site more than 8,000 times.
CYFD said they have talked to APD about having portal training for new officers, but it will be up to APD to turn it into a part of their process.
ICE HSI seeks information about possible victims in Washington child exploitation case
SEATTLE – New information has prompted special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in conjunction with the King County Prosecutor's Office and the Mercer Island Police Department, to seek the public's help in identifying potential victims in a child pornography investigation involving a local cheerleading coach.
In March 2018, 32-year-old Leonard Lewis was charged with state violations of possession of child pornography. He has been employed as a coach at Tech Gymnastics and All Star Cheer in Woodinville, Washington. On previous occasions, Lewis also traveled internationally for employment as a cheerleading coach.
Lewis is a registered sex offender with convictions from 2012 for attempted possession of child pornography.
HSI's Operation Predator is an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 16,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2016, more than 2,600 child predators were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 800 victims identified or rescued.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form . Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199 . Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196 .
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST .
For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page . HSI is a founding member of the Virtual Global Taskforce , an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.
Should Statutes of Limitations for Rape Be Abolished?
Across the country, time-limiting laws prevent scores of sexual assault cases from being prosecuted, in spite of persuasive evidence or a confession.
by Ruth Padawer
A round 1 a.m. on a Saturday in 1993, a man sneaked into Donna and John Palomba's house in Waterbury, Conn. John was away for a long weekend, and Donna and her two young children were asleep when she awoke to the sound of heavy footsteps. She remembers seeing a masked man and screaming. An instant later, he was on her, threatening to hurt her if she didn't comply. He covered her head with a pillowcase, wrapped nylon stockings around her mouth and eyes, bound her hands behind her back, cut open her underpants and raped her. Right before he fled, she recalls him saying: “If you call the pigs, I'll come back and kill you.”
Once he was gone, Palomba, who was 36, wriggled free. She ran to her children's bedrooms to make sure her 5-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter were unharmed; they were fast asleep. She grabbed the phone to call the police, but it was dead, as was the other house phone, though they had worked fine hours earlier. Like most people at the time, she had no cellphone. Panicked, she pulled on her bathrobe, checked her kids again, locked the front door behind her and searched for the nearest house with a light on, figuring someone already awake would more quickly answer the door. A few houses down, where her husband's third cousin lived, a light shone. He answered the door and immediately dialed 911. After talking to the dispatcher, Palomba ran home to be with her children. Then she went to the hospital to have forensic evidence collected and receive treatment for her wounds, among them a scratched cornea and abraded wrists.
The police officers who responded did not call a forensic team to the house, according to the case file. For days, they collected no fingerprints and took no photos or videos of the crime scene. Nor did they cordon off the area to preserve any evidence: As family and friends streamed in to console Palomba that morning, officers allowed them to move about the house freely, potentially contaminating whatever evidence the assailant may have left behind. The police did not interview neighbors to learn if they saw a suspicious vehicle or person in the area that night. They examined the phone lines that were cut — but only after the phone company had already repaired them.
A few weeks later, Doug Moran, the lieutenant in charge of the Sex Crimes Unit, met with Palomba at the police station in Waterbury. Palomba, who helped run a small marketing agency, had lived most of her life in Waterbury, and she was at ease there, grateful for the sense of community she felt in her neighborhood and her church and with the people she ran into in town. But the meeting at the police station was anything but comfortable.
Moran started out by reading Palomba her Miranda rights, and then implied that the police had evidence that she concocted the rape claim to cover up an affair. He found it suspicious that a stranger would know to choose the one weekend in the Palombas' 12-year marriage that her husband had been away. The police would later point out that there was no indication of forced entry, and note that Palomba left the pantyhose wrapped around her wrists even after officers arrived, as if it were, in the words of an officer on the scene, “a stage prop.” In addition, the police claimed that a rapist wouldn't say “pigs” for cops, and that if she really thought a dangerous man was roaming about, she would not have left her small children alone to go in search of a phone. They added that a rapist would not have cut her underpants — he would have ripped them or pulled them off. Moran insinuated that she should be arrested for reporting a fake crime.
She left the police station terrified and furious. Soon after, Palomba and her husband requested a meeting with higher-ups in the department, and when that went nowhere, she sought counsel from her priest and relatives, all of whom encouraged her to hire a lawyer to press the department to properly investigate the rape. The lawyer, a friend of Palomba's, requested an internal-affairs inquiry. The lawyer also contacted the state's attorney, who would eventually conclude that the officers bungled the case, and would order the department to assign two new, competent detectives to pursue a serious investigation of the crime. But by that time, more than six months had passed since the rape, and most clues were long gone.
Palomba eventually sued the police. The city's lawyer argued that the rape was a hoax and therefore that the police acted appropriately. But the forensic report from her hospital exam confirmed elements of her story, and experts testified about the shoddiness of the investigation. The jury found Moran and his supervisor, who happened to be Moran's brother, negligent for not investigating Palomba's rape claim properly, and awarded her $190,000. But Moran and his brother suffered no serious consequences, and despite the best efforts of the new detectives, Palomba's case went cold.
Then one day in 2004, 11 years after the rape, the newly appointed police chief of Waterbury, Neil O'Leary, invited Donna and John to his office. The Palombas knew O'Leary — he was one of the two detectives the state's attorney assigned to investigate Palomba's claims more than a decade earlier. Once they settled in, O'Leary, who had been dogged by her case all that time, told them about a local man who had just been arrested. A 21-year-old woman had reported that the man, her boss, had attacked her, groping her breasts, shoving his hands down her pants and holding her down until she managed to break free. This man's DNA, the police learned, matched the DNA the hospital had collected during Palomba's forensic exam all those years before.
It was a huge breakthrough, but there was one very big problem. Though officials were confident they now knew who Palomba's attacker was — and even had reason to think he was a serial assailant — Connecticut's statute of limitations prohibited them from charging him for her rape.
Statutes of limitations are as old as Roman law, and their goal, now as then, is to help balance two competing interests: maintaining public safety and protecting defendants from wrongful charges. After all, with the passage of time, memories fade, evidence is lost or destroyed and witnesses become unreliable or difficult to locate. Limiting how much time can elapse between a crime and its prosecution has been standard practice in America since its founding. Until the last few decades, state legislatures set the limitation period for most felonies at five years or less, though murder, considered the most heinous crime, usually had no deadline. The F.B.I. lists felony sexual assault as the second-most-serious offense, but for decades, little changed in statutes of limitations for those crimes.
That shifted significantly as child-sexual-abuse accusations against church leaders spilled into public view, especially after The Boston Globe's explosive revelations in 2002. The articles made clear that most of those victims didn't reveal the abuse until decades later, typically when they were in their 40s. Society began to reckon with the stigma, shame, intimidation and trauma that kept those victims from coming forward. They and their advocates argued that short statutes of limitations placed an overwhelming burden on victims and allowed sexual predators to evade punishment.
Since 2002, at least 29 states have amended their prosecution deadlines so victims of child sexual abuse have more time to pursue criminal cases as adults — including 15 states that now have no cutoff for prosecuting any felony sexual assault of a minor, according to Marci Hamilton, a lawyer and professor at the University of Pennsylvania who founded Child U.S.A., which researches and proposes policies to address child sexual abuse. Victims of earlier assaults can't benefit from the updated laws; the Supreme Court has ruled that it's unconstitutional to retroactively apply an updated criminal statute of limitations to resuscitate a case that already legally expired. Doing so, it said, would charge someone who had effectively been granted amnesty under the previous statute. (States are, however, allowed to retroactively apply extensions in civil cases.)
The drawbacks of statutes of limitations returned to public view in 2014 and 2015, when dozens of women came forward, after years of silence, to accuse Bill Cosby of sexual assault, only to discover how quickly the prosecution window had slammed shut. Once again, activists fought to lengthen or abolish time limits, regardless of the victim's age. Among the scores of Cosby's accusers, Andrea Constand was the only one able to bring a case against him — and it was filed just weeks before Pennsylvania's 12-year statute of limitations would have barred prosecution. In April, Cosby was found to have assaulted Constand after drugging her and was convicted of multiple charges of sexual assault; he faces up to 30 years in prison. Sentencing is set for the fall. Statutes of limitations have also shielded Harvey Weinstein from some of the allegations against him.
In the last year, the avalanche of #MeToo accounts has made clear just how pervasive sexual assault is and how few offenders are held accountable. In part that's because these crimes are very hard to prosecute: In 88 percent of rape cases, the accused and accuser know each other, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and legal battles often come down to a dispute over whether sex between them was consensual. Only six out of every 1,000 who are accused end up in prison, according to Rainn, the nation's largest anti-sexual-violence group. This is, presumably, both a cause and effect of the fact that sexual assault is the most underreported crime in the nation, federal data shows, with less than a quarter of assaults brought to the attention of the police.
Victims' reluctance to report is an understandable response: They are often blamed, punished, ignored or dismissed by the assailant, the community or the police. Investigations by federal officials and academics have revealed chronic, systemic bias in law enforcement's response to sexual violence. In the last few years, the Justice Department has issued harsh reports citing “gender-biased policing” in New Orleans, Baltimore, Puerto Rico and Missoula, Mont. They found that police officers and prosecutors were hostile toward sexual-assault victims and that their investigations of sexual-assault claims were often “grossly inadequate.” These and other reports indicate that the police too often conclude that victims are responsible for the assault because of what they wore or said or did — or that they lied about the rape, even though research indicates that only 1 to 10 percent of rape reports to the police are false.
That dismissive attitude has also contributed to the systematic neglect of evidence. Over decades, hundreds of thousands of rape kits throughout the country have never been tested. Instead they've been lost, abandoned or ignored in police storage units and crime labs. Some were destroyed or discarded even before the statute of limitations expired, as the police sought to free up space in their evidence rooms, or because no statute or protocol required Police Departments or hospitals to test or keep the kits. Besides denying victims a chance to see their cases through, this cavalier approach to rape kits has also undercut the search for repeat sexual offenders. In 2009, for example, Detroit officials discovered 11,341 untested rape kits in police storage; subsequent testing revealed that 2,616 of them matched profiles in the F.B.I.'s forensic DNA database, and identified more than 850 potential serial rapists in Michigan and around the country.
Advocates have pressed hard for the abolishment of statutes of limitations for felony sexual assaults. They argue that the statutes are archaic, built on outdated notions about sex crimes and the effects of trauma. Washington State, for example, has a 10-year statute of limitations for rape, but if the victim doesn't report the incident within a year of the crime, prosecution is barred three years after it. But 10 states — California, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming — now have no time limit for filing charges for all or nearly all felony sexual assaults, no matter the victim's age.
When activists can't persuade lawmakers to abolish statutes of limitations, they often lobby for exceptions to the law when DNA evidence, which wasn't accessible when many statutes were written, is present. DNA, if stored properly, doesn't erode the way memories do. In the last decade and a half, the technology for testing DNA has advanced markedly, allowing law enforcement to better identify suspects — and also clear innocent defendants. DNA testing, while unable to reveal whether a sexual encounter was consensual, can clarify if sex occurred and identify the participants. Advocates have successfully persuaded more than two dozen states to keep the prosecution window open — at the very least, in instances of first-degree sexual assault — when there is DNA evidence.
But for many activists, any limit at all threatens to create a second injustice after the original crime. California had a DNA exception to its statute, but in 2016, under pressure from activists, it abolished the prosecution limit for nearly every felony sexual assault. The author of the bill, State Senator Connie M. Leyva, credited those advocates, adding that the bill “tells every rape and sexual-assault victim in California that they matter and that, regardless of when they are ready to come forward, they will always have an opportunity to seek justice in a court of law.” Rapists, she said, “should never be able to evade legal consequences simply because an arbitrary time limit has expired.”
In October 2004, when Waterbury's police chief, O'Leary, told the Palombas about the DNA match, he had a second piece of stunning news. The suspect was a man named John Regan — a good friend of John Palomba's ever since they were in kindergarten together in Waterbury. They grew up in one of the historic parts of town, with pretty houses that date back to the early 20th century, when the city was the thriving center of the nation's brass industry. It was a neighborhood where everybody knew one another, and where the kids, once grown, moved into homes near their parents, their siblings, their cousins.
Regan and John attended Waterbury's Holy Cross High School, then all-boys, where they were on the same football and wrestling teams and were part of a tight group of a dozen or so school friends who stayed close for decades. They and the other guys from their neighborhood went to one another's weddings, joined the same local men's softball league, played weekly basketball together and gathered for poker every couple of months. Most of them remain tight today.
But though Regan and John were close, their families were not, so Donna Palomba rarely spent time with Regan. When she did see him — at the neighborhood New Year's Eve party, for instance — he never struck her as creepy or inappropriate.
As O'Leary's news sank in, Palomba began to hyperventilate, and everything in her head felt jumbled. She saw the color drain from her husband's face and his hands and body tremble as fury and disbelief collided. In the months that followed, John Palomba couldn't understand how a man he thought he knew so well could be capable of committing such an evil act and betraying a friend so ruthlessly. “I had a lot of rage, a lot of rage,” John told me. “A lot of thoughts went through my mind, including killing him. He had everybody fooled.”
Yet the notion that Regan could be the perpetrator did seem to jibe with certain facts. The night Donna was attacked, Regan's first cousin held a stag party for his friends. Regan was in attendance, as was one of John's brothers, and it was no secret that John was missing because he was in Colorado at a friend's wedding, and that his wife had stayed home with the kids. Regan — a branch manager at a building-and-roofing-supply company — had been a roofer, and on the evening of Palomba's rape, she left a second-floor window open to let in the balmy night air. Reaching that window from the outside required stepping on the stair rail by the back door, scrambling onto the portico, grabbing the vent pipe and then climbing into the second-floor window, something an officer was later able to do with relative ease. Not long before Palomba was attacked, Regan helped John put a new roof on the Palombas' garage. He'd also socialized in John's mother's house, where a key to John and Donna's house, labeled clearly, hung on the wall and went missing a few weeks before the assault. It later reappeared.
The state's attorney general told the Palombas that although he couldn't charge Regan for rape, he could charge him with kidnapping in the first degree, as the state had no statute of limitations for that crime. In Connecticut, as in some other states, the definition of kidnapping includes restraining someone with intent to inflict physical injury or sexual abuse, even if the assailant never moves the victim.
The day after Regan was charged, The Waterbury Republican-American ran his photo below a banner headline across the front page of its local section: “DNA Leads to Arrest in '93 Rape Case.” The article also revealed that he was arrested a month earlier for unlawful restraint when he reportedly tried to sexually assault the 21-year-old woman who worked for him.
“Every one of us were shocked when we opened up the newspaper that day and saw his picture,” said one of Regan and John Palomba's close school buddies, who asked not to be named because he is still friends with some of Regan's relatives. “It was like reading someone close to us had died — except it was worse than that. We were just blown away. We're still blown away.”
Regan, after all, was a churchgoing family man and a devoted father to his three sons. He was considered hardworking and affable, the kind of man who coached his kids' sports teams and helped out his elderly neighbors and others who needed him. He came from a prominent, very well liked family. A local school was named after his grandfather, who was a principal there for decades. Regan's father was a well-known dentist. Regan's wife, who was his high school sweetheart, was a local teacher.
Around Waterbury, people tried to make sense of the incomprehensible. Many people speculated that it was really an affair: One theory had it that the Palombas' young son or daughter had walked in as Regan and Palomba were having sex, and that to cover her tracks, Palomba screamed rape.
“People who knew the Regan family had a really hard time believing he could have done this, because that family was really admired in the community,” O'Leary, who is now mayor of Waterbury, told me. “Obviously, some people did believe Donna was the victim of sexual assault, but there were a lot of doubting Thomases who were sure it was consensual. From the beginning, a lot of rumors were going around. I'd be out in restaurants or at social events, and people would come up to me and say: ‘Oh, come on now. What really happened?'?”
Donna Palomba heard those rumors too and could feel the town's doubts as well. In the local Stop & Shop, she noticed that acquaintances would steal a glance at her, whisper and look away. A previously friendly neighbor a few doors down suddenly stopped talking to her.
“Instead of believing me,” she says, “people chose to believe that I concocted that rape — that I scratched my own cornea, cut my own phone lines, left my small children alone, ran to a neighbor in the middle of the night and banged on the door in a state of panic — all of that to cover an affair.”
Regan's family hired an eminent defense attorney, one who successfully appealed the murder conviction of Michael Skakel, Ethel Kennedy's nephew, and worked on the appeal of the rape conviction of Alex Kelly, the teenager from Darien, Conn., who fled to Europe after he was charged.
Regan maintained that he and Palomba did have sex but that it was consensual. The court freed him on $350,000 bail and issued a restraining order barring Regan from going near Palomba and Regan's co-worker. Even so, Palomba remained unnerved. Knowing he was free, she found herself startled by any unexpected sound. She frequently scanned her surroundings and had difficulty sleeping. “I never knew if I'd run into him in town, and I kept remembering his threat to kill me,” she said. “I also worried that he'd run into my husband and that my husband would actually kill him. John really, really, really struggled with that, and I was afraid he'd follow through. He became preoccupied with it, and though he took out a lot of aggression on his punching bag, his rage was huge and was always there.”
On Halloween 2005, while out on bail a year after being charged for the Connecticut attacks, Regan was once again arrested, this time in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., 140 miles from his home. He had waited in a high school parking lot and then grabbed a 17-year-old runner after her track practice. He tried to shove her into his van while restraining her and covering her mouth. She kicked and struggled and was able to free herself enough to scream. Her coaches, hearing her terror, ran over and chased Regan until the police arrived. Officers arrested him for attempted kidnapping. Inside the van, the police found a rope with slipknots, a pitchfork, a tarp, a syringe and a large dose of liquid antihistamine — a combination that the police said indicated he was prepared to “perpetrate unimaginable horror on his young victim.” In the van, the police also found hundreds of photos of apparently unsuspecting young women in miniskirts, shorts and athletic tops as they jogged, walked or biked, or got in or out of their cars — shots that zoomed in on their breasts, legs and backsides. Among them were photos of the 21-year-old co-worker, taken more than a year after she reported his assault, which Connecticut prosecutors considered evidence of stalking.
After learning of Regan's Connecticut arrests, New York State officials denied him bail. Once again, Regan's photo was in The Republican-American, this time accompanied by the headline, “Kidnap Suspect Nabbed Trying to Seize Teen Girl.”
“Once he was caught attacking that girl, that was the end of speculation and rumor in Waterbury,” O'Leary says. “That's when most of the naysayers said, ‘Oh, my God, Donna really was the victim of a sexual assault.' The Saratoga Springs case really jolted everyone.”
Still, some of Regan's relatives and family friends wrote to the Saratoga County judge and district attorney, asking for leniency for Regan. They referred to him as an “exemplary neighbor,” a “gentle man” and someone they could not imagine was “capable of any crime.” Regan pleaded guilty to second-degree kidnapping of the high school student, and New York sentenced him to 12 years.
Prosecuting his Connecticut crimes wasn't as straightforward. In theory, Regan was potentially facing a 35-year sentence — which did not include the 20 additional years he could have faced had the statute of limitations not barred rape prosecution. But without the ability to charge Regan with rape, the state's attorney, John Connelly, was reluctant to go to trial in Palomba's case and had limited leverage as he worked on the plea bargain. Sexual assault is hard enough to prove when the suspect says the encounter was consensual, and in this case, it would be even harder because there was no evidence of forced entry into Palomba's home. The other hurdle was trying first to persuade a jury that Palomba was raped and then explain that Regan couldn't actually be charged for that crime, even though the sexual assault was the very basis for the kidnapping charge. Plus, there was the challenge of persuading a jury that Palomba had been kidnapped (by Connecticut's definition), even though Regan never moved her from the bed.
“When you have a rape case and charge kidnapping but not rape, jurors — especially jurors who don't trust police or the state attorney's office — sometimes think you're overreaching, or that the prosecutor is trying to force a charge that doesn't apply,” says Maureen Norris Wilkas, Palomba's attorney, who served as her liaison to the state's attorney. Connelly, Wilkas says, “didn't want to roll the dice on this. He knew it would be a stretch. And he didn't want to risk Regan being found not guilty.” (Connelly has since died.)
And so the two sides settled on a plea deal for Regan's Connecticut crimes: Regan would plead under the Alford doctrine, which allows a defendant to assert his innocence while simultaneously pleading guilty and acknowledging that the state has enough evidence for conviction. The sentence would be five years for unlawful restraint of his co-worker, two years for stalking that co-worker and 15 years for kidnapping Palomba. But the three sentences would be served concurrently not only with one another but also with the 12 years for the New York case.
For Palomba, Regan's sentence was yet another devastating offense. How was it possible that the law allowed him to effectively serve only three years in prison for his violent attack on her?
Defense attorneys and civil liberties advocates understand the anger and resentment assault victims have about statutes of limitations, but they argue that those laws are an essential protection that reduces the likelihood of a wrongful conviction. Imagine a case of mistaken identity, in which you were accused of a crime from 20 years earlier that you didn't commit. Because you are innocent, that day long ago was most likely unremarkable, so how could you remember whom you were with, what you were doing, who might have seen you, what conversations you had? How could you obtain the evidence that once existed — including the ephemeral memories of witnesses regarding what they saw and heard — which you'd need to disprove the claims against you?
“Where you come down on statutes of limitations depends in large part on whose perspective you take,” says E.G. Morris, former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, who opposes abolishing statutes of limitations. “There's simply no way to come to a consensus on what resolution is just. We've had an evolution in society's thinking about sexual assault recently, and it's clear women were marginalized in the past, and sexual assault wasn't viewed as the serious offense it is. But there's no bright line we can draw where a policy can protect everybody — giving the defendant the fairest chance at defending himself and the victim's fairest chance for justice too.”
To the dismay of civil liberties advocates, prosecutors have sometimes managed to circumvent statutes of limitations when DNA has been collected in a rape case but there is no match in the forensic DNA database. Some states that lack a DNA exception allow district attorneys to issue a “John Doe” DNA indictment that identifies the presumed assailant simply by his genetic profile. If the DNA database eventually identifies a match, the warrant is amended with the suspect's name, even if that occurs far beyond the time the statute of limitations would otherwise permit. Those opposing John Doe warrants and DNA exceptions point out that DNA evidence isn't infallible. It must be collected, identified and analyzed precisely; safeguarded through the chain of custody; and kept free of contamination. Even with protocols now in place, environmental or human errors can still occur. Nevertheless, courts have generally upheld the tactic as a way to get around the statute of limitations until a DNA hit appears.
The battle over statutes of limitations for sexual assault is so fraught that it has upended traditional political alliances. Women's rights activists typically partner with progressives on political issues, including reducing aggressive policing and incarceration, particularly given the role played by race and class. But sexual assaults and domestic violence — both of which usually involve a female victim — have long had the opposite problem; their prosecution has been utterly anemic. And those activists focus more on justice for victims. Many progressive lawmakers have endorsed extending prosecution time limits somewhat for sex crimes, but support fades when it comes to long extensions or elimination. As a result, those who advocate abolishing the limits find their staunchest allies in conservative lawmakers.
Activists who strongly champion the rights of both women and defendants can find themselves caught in the middle when considering what length of time is fair. “Where to set the statute of limitations is a really complicated and very painful decision,” says Deborah Tuerkheimer, a former Manhattan prosecutor who is an author of a book on feminist jurisprudence and teaches at Northwestern University's law school. “You have to struggle with the question: How important is it to pull back from the carceral approach, and on the other hand, how important is it to see that women receive equal protection under the law, that they're treated as equal citizens and that their injuries matter? However you come out on that question, you should probably feel a little uneasy.”
Other feminists say the emphasis on statutes of limitations is misplaced, and that significantly lengthening time limits ignores deeper and more important problems. “The biggest barrier to victims' coming forward isn't the statute of limitations, but what victims face when they do report,” says Sandra Park, senior attorney with the national A.C.L.U. Women's Rights Project. Park is devoted to improving victims' access to justice, but not by eliminating criminal statutory limits. “On a daily basis, sexual-assault survivors are completely dismissed by law enforcement, especially if the survivors are low income or women of color.” If the police treated victims sensitively, Park says, more would be likely to report, and if the police pursued those claims more seriously, the conviction rate would be likely to increase — all without undercutting the point of the statutes: to discourage convictions based on faded memories and eroded evidence.
Pressed by the A.C.L.U. and others, the Department of Justice under Attorney General Loretta Lynch issued a guidance in 2015 urging law enforcement nationwide to identify and prevent gender bias in its response to sexual assault. Noting that bias can constitute unlawful discrimination, it called for changes in policy and practice — including respectfully interviewing victims and investigating sexual assault as vigorously as other crimes of similar significance. The department also provided grants for research and training on best practices and to increase accountability for meeting the Justice Department's guidelines. Additionally, federal funding has helped address the many untested rape kits and create protocols and teams to investigate and prosecute rape cases more sensitively and aggressively.
Because of the growing consciousness about the unjust handling of sexual-assault cases, some states are now addressing the complexity of statutes of limitations. In Oregon, for example, lawmakers moved by the challenge of balancing victims' and defendants' rights have finessed a compromise related to their 12-year statute of limitations for first-degree sexual assault. In 2016, the state added several pioneering exceptions. Charges can now be filed at any time if DNA evidence points to a suspect, and also under the following circumstances: if audio, video or other electronic recordings, text messages, phone recordings or photographs provide incriminating evidence; if the victim told or wrote to someone about the assault soon after it occurred; if the suspect confesses; or if the police receive a report from another victim of a similar crime by the same suspect.
“For a long time, the concerns about statutes of limitations in sexual-assault cases were not taken seriously,” says Suzanne B. Goldberg, who directs Columbia University's Center for Gender and Sexuality Law. But things are shifting now, and in this new reckoning with how we've dealt with sexual assault, culturally and legally, Goldberg says tensions are inevitable as states sort out the best legal framework for a troubling crime with a troubling history. She added, “We do better as a society when we engage in these questions instead of ignoring them.”
In 2006, Donna Palomba joined an effort to expand Connecticut's statute of limitations for rape. She met with legislator after legislator, telling her story and explaining why she felt the state's short time limit should have an exception: If police have DNA evidence of the suspected crime, she argued, prosecution should be permitted no matter how long it takes to find a DNA match. The next year, the legislature voted for that exception with the stipulation that it apply only if the victim reports the assault within five years.
Gov. Jodi Rell, a Republican, held the ceremonial bill signing at the Waterbury Police Department, the same place where Palomba was accused of fabricating her rape years earlier. Palomba stood nearby as Rell called sexual assault “violence of the most personal and devastating kind, as brutal in its own right as murder.” Rell continued: “It deserves not only harsh punishment but our very best — and unswerving — effort to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
In the years after Palomba helped win the DNA exception in Connecticut, other victims of sexual assault lobbied their own legislators. In Indiana, political change occurred after a strange series of events. In 2014, a 39-year-old molecular biologist walked into a sheriff's office in Indianapolis and confessed to raping a nursing-school student named Jenny Wendt nearly a decade earlier. He told a detective he had been haunted ever since and wanted to go to prison for what he did. The detective contacted Wendt and asked if she had been ever been sexually assaulted.
Wendt explained that she had briefly gone out with her former physiology-lab teaching assistant, who was also a martial-arts instructor. He seemed sweet and respectful throughout until after their third outing, when he suddenly pinned her arms behind her, raped her vaginally and anally and then wordlessly left. As a nursing student, Wendt had learned the importance of prompt forensic exams, but she didn't go to the police or a hospital, certain that no one would believe she was raped, because she and her assailant had dated.
The detective asked Wendt if she wanted to press charges, and Wendt said absolutely. But a few days later, the detective informed her that the case was closed; Indiana, like nearly half the states at that time, had a five-year statute of limitations for most rapes. Once that deadline passed, no one could be charged for the crime — even with an unsolicited confession, and even if the perpetrator begged for it.
Appalled, Wendt went on to lobby and persuade Indiana lawmakers to provide some exceptions to the state's narrow window, including if an assailant confesses or if DNA reveals an apparent match. Mike Pence, then Indiana's governor, signed the bill in 2015.
Inspired by Wendt's early efforts, a Florida woman, Danielle Sullivan, began lobbying that same year to extend her state's time limits. She was raped on a business trip to Orlando in 2010, and four years and 43 days after the incident, she mustered the courage to report it to the police. When she did, the police said she was 43 days too late. Florida legislators agreed to double the time frame for prosecuting first- and second-degree adult rape to eight years.
Wendt also testified in Oregon, where several victims of sexual assault were working to change the law. One of them, Brenda Tracy, had been gang-raped by several college football players, but authorities tossed out her rape kit even before the statute of limitations expired. Another woman, Danielle Tudor, reported her assault — by a serial rapist — after the six-year limit had run out. Although she was the only one of his victims to see his face, and the only one who could help the police compile the composite sketch that led to his arrest, he still could not be prosecuted for her rape. In 2015, Oregon legislators agreed to double the state's prosecution deadline to 12 years for first-degree sexual assaults.
Other assault victims were spurred by what has been called the Cosby effect: Several of Cosby's accusers, frustrated by the prosecution time limits, fought for statutory change. Lise-Lotte Lublin, who said Cosby sexually assaulted her in Las Vegas in 1989, helped persuade Nevada lawmakers in 2015 to increase the limit for adult rape prosecution to 20 years from four. Two other Cosby accusers, including Beth Ferrier, a former model, successfully pressed Colorado's Legislature to double its 10-year limit. And four Cosby accusers in California worked successfully to get their lawmakers to abolish the sexual-assault statute of limitations altogether.
In Connecticut, though, the prosecution time limit for most rapes, in the absence of DNA evidence, remains five years, even though most other states have extended their statutes beyond that. Last month, the State Senate (which is split evenly between Republicans and Democrats) overwhelmingly passed a bill to abolish the prosecution window for most sexual-assault felonies and to update the state's sexual-harassment laws, a win that one of the sponsors, Senator Mae Flexer, credited to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.
In the House, a supporter of Flexer's effort, Representative Liz Linehan, stood on the floor and for the first time told all her colleagues how she was sexually assaulted years ago at a radio station where she was an on-air personality. Though she told her boss what happened, Linehan was the one who was eventually fired, while the assailant's career continued to flourish. After she finished speaking on the House floor, she recalls, “Democrats and Republicans, friends and, honestly, foes, came up to me and said they hadn't really known anyone who'd gone through this, and that I put a face on the problem, and they understood it now. I thought that meant they'd help me fight for the bill, and some did.” But the state's Division of Public Defenders lobbied hard to fight it, and so did the chief state's attorney, Kevin T. Kane, who argued that such a law would require prosecutors to search for elusive evidence for old claims, only to be unable to prove them beyond a reasonable doubt. As a result, Kane wrote in a letter to lawmakers, “many victims of assaults that occurred decades ago would get little more than false hope.” And so, in Connecticut's Democrat-led House, the bill was never even brought up for a vote.
These days, Donna Palomba stays busy with her work at the nonprofit she started a decade ago, Jane Doe No More, which supports survivors of sexual violence and provides materials and presentations to Police Departments to sensitize emergency medical workers and press the police to investigate assaults fully. She and other survivors speak at high schools, colleges, businesses, civic meetings and community events to let others know they're not alone, that the rape isn't their fault and that receiving a post-rape forensic exam is critical.
The Palombas live in the home where they moved a year after the rape, to get away from the constant reminders of those painful times. Their children are grown now, and when John goes out of town, their daughter, Sarah, who lives nearby, invites Donna to stay over, so Donna doesn't have to sleep in the house alone.
Last summer, as Regan was approaching the end of his 12-year sentence in New York, Donna was heartened that he would still spend three more years behind bars, this time in a Connecticut prison, which meant she could put off her worrying a while longer. But in August, Maureen Platt, who replaced John Connelly as the state's attorney, called Donna and said she had terrible news: The Connecticut law in effect in 1993, when Regan assaulted her, provided felons “statutory good time,” a reduction in their sentence if they didn't misbehave. As a result, Platt told Palomba, Regan was able to shave more than four years off his 15-year Connecticut sentence. That meant that in late October, when Regan completed his 12-year sentence for New York, he would be a free man. It would be as if he had never even been convicted of his crimes in Connecticut.
The news shook Palomba deeply. She was sure there had been some terrible mistake. Her attorney was blindsided as well. “What John Connelly told us would happen and what happened were two different things,” Maureen Norris Wilkas says. “He knew how very important it was to Donna that Regan do time for her crime, and John Connelly insisted that after Regan did his time in New York, he would come back and do three years here.”
Palomba was devastated. “I was incredibly upset and felt incredibly betrayed,” she says. “We'd all been told he was going to come to Connecticut to finish his sentence for those three years, and though I certainly wasn't happy that it was so short, it was one of the few things I thought I could rely on, that wouldn't change, that was under control.” The Palombas installed a surveillance system around the house.
Regan was slated for release on Oct. 27, 2017, but authorities in New York had another plan. They hoped to hold Regan indefinitely using a legal maneuver called civil confinement, which allows the state to keep particularly dangerous defendants locked up even though they've completed their sentences. While the state has recommended civil confinement for less than 5 percent of sexual assailants in the past decade, it considered Regan a “dangerous” sexual offender who was likely to reoffend, and who should therefore be confined to a psychiatric center. A civil trial, which is unlikely to take place before this fall, will determine whether Regan meets the threshold for confinement. Until then, a New York civil court has ordered that he remain in custody. (Regan's court-appointed counsel declined to comment on his behalf.)
“I was a good friend of his,” John Palomba told me, still seemingly in shock nearly 14 years after Regan was arrested. “My good friends were good friends of his. He was doing stuff that none of us ever suspected. This guy was living a double life. At that trial, they ought to say to the jury, ‘If you guys let him out, whoever he harms next is on you.'”
Though the civil trial will be held in upstate New York, Regan's Connecticut crimes will play a significant role in the judge or jury's decision, which is why New York officials asked Donna Palomba and the former co-worker Regan had attacked if they would testify at the proceedings. Each readily agreed.
A few months ago, I sat with Palomba at her kitchen table. On that day, she was surrounded by boxes of court testimony and newspaper clippings, fading documentation of a yearslong, not-so-faded nightmare. Weeks earlier, I heard the recording of her 911 call from the night of the rape, but I had a small question about it, so she offered to play it for me; she had obtained a copy for her lawsuit against the police years earlier. As soon as the nine-minute recording started, Palomba fled the room. Once it ended, she returned and apologized, explaining that although she has told her story hundreds of times to audiences large and small, the one thing she still can't bear is hearing her petrified voice that night. “It just takes me back there — the hyperventilating, the indescribable panic,” she said.
And yet she is eager to testify for Regan's confinement, as New York makes its case that he has what the state calls a “mental abnormality” that strongly predisposes him not only to sexually assault others but also to be unable to control that urge. Mental-health professionals will do most of the testifying, but Palomba understands that she'll be asked to talk about how Regan presented himself all those years before the rape — pleasant, normal, harmless — and how he acted the night of her assault.
Palomba tries not to think about having to face Regan in court. Instead, she focuses on New York's determination to keep him locked up. She has long felt that her own state — because of statutes and attitudes — never took her rape seriously, and never took seriously Regan's capacity to do harm. “In Connecticut, I felt helpless, like I was speaking but no one was listening and nothing was happening,” she said. “But with this civil action in New York, I feel like, after all these years, I'm finally being heard.”
Former Trauma Victim Now Heads Foundation To End Child Abuse
by Kathy Walsh
DENVER (CBS4) – According to a new survey by Research!America, a majority of Americans view child abuse and neglect as a serious public health problem. Now, two Coloradans have created a foundation to support research, training and prevention.
One of the founders is Dr. Richard Krugman, former Dean of the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
The other is child and family therapist, Lori Poland. Nearly 35 years ago, she was kidnapped , sexually abused and left to die in an abandoned outhouse. Poland has dedicated her adult life to helping others who have suffered trauma.
“I am working on my healing all day every day and I have forever,” Poland told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.
That started on Aug. 22, 1983. Poland was three years old. A man in a car kidnapped her from her front yard in Sheridan.
“The gentleman inside leaned over and asked if I liked candy. Like any sugar-loving 3-year-old, I said ‘yes' and I eagerly got in the car and we were gone,” Poland said.
Her parents made a plea through the media to get her abductor to bring her back. While the community rallied, Poland's kidnapper sexually abused her and left her to die in the pit of an abandoned outhouse in a remote area near Genesee.
Three days later, birdwatchers heard her crying. She was reunited with her parents.
“People, first, are shocked that I'm not living on Colfax with needles hanging out of my arm,” Poland said.
Then, people are surprised to learn she became a child and family therapist.
“I feel like I'm unique, and it's shaped me into being as good and kind of a human being as I possibly can,” said the mother of three.
Now, Poland has teamed up with her former pediatrician, Krugman, to establish the National Foundation to End Child Abuse and Neglect (EndCAN).
“I knew I needed to do something to make a difference,” Poland told a crowd at the kickoff of the foundation at the state capitol. She is now the Executive Director of EndCAN.
EndCAN will support research, training and prevention and work to change the conversation around child abuse and neglect.
“It's fixable when we can talk about it,” said Poland.
The goal of EndCAN is to end child abuse and neglect in our lifetime. The founders hope to do so by changing the perception, making it a mental health and public health problem that can be treated.
To help fund EndCAN go to www.endcan.org .
LU to host conference on sex abuse against males
by Staff Reports
Lincoln University is to host a conference Thursday and Friday that is aimed at protecting male victims of abuse.
The Missouri Abuse Conference is to feature experts who will discuss why sexual abuse of males is often misunderstood and rarely discussed, according to a program flier. They will also discuss the emotional toll it takes on victims.
Participants are to obtain valuable tools to improve investigations, prosecute cases, serve survivors and prevent sexual abuse.
The seminar is 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday, and 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Friday at Richardson Auditorium. Snacks and drinks will be available. Register at eventbrite.com/e/show-me-a-helping-hand-tickets-42680685078 .
Speakers are to include Mic Hunter, a clinical psychologist who will discuss shame and the impact of gender roles. He will also discuss expectations of prosecutors, judges and juries.
David Lisak is a forensic consultant who will discuss changes in brain function affecting how people behave during and after trauma.
The conference is presented by the Task Force on Children's Justice, whose mission is to assist Missouri in developing, establishing and operating programs designed to improve child welfare. The task force focuses on the handling of child abuse and neglect cases, handling of child abuse-related fatalities, prosecution of child abuse cases and handling of cases involving children with disabilities.
NJ parents suing school after daughter commits suicide
by Michelle Charlesworth
ROCKAWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. -- The New Jersey parents of a 12-year-old girl who committed suicide are suing the school district for not doing enough to protect their daughter.
The family of Mallory Grossman say months of unrelenting bullying led the young girl to take her own life last year.
Her parents filed the wrongful death lawsuit against the Rockaway Township Board of Education and its staff on Tuesday, saying they should have done more to protect the 6th-grader.
Grossman attended Copeland Middle School and her parents say she was full of strength, promise, life and spirit. They said she was also very sensitive.
The lawsuit says Grossman was taunted relentlessly and repeatedly in the weeks leading up to her suicide on June 14, 2017.
Grossman was allegedly asked by her bullies when she was going to kill herself. Her parents say they have evidence of how she was relentlessly bullied by four classmates for months even though they continued to ask the school to discipline those responsible.
Grossman's mother says the bullies still haven't been punished.
"We know that the poor behavior and poor decisions these kids make has not changed," Dianne Grossman said. "They do not believe ultimately that they are responsible for it."
Mallory's parents are suing to change the way all schools confront bullies in class and on social media. They also want schools to empower good kids to stand up for what is right and to draw attention to awful behavior.
Grossman's parents are demanding change and say they want schools to wake up.
"I really want schools to understand the gravity of what has happened, Mallory is not a 2-minute news story, she is our daughter and she's forever gone," Dianne Grossman said. "Our family is forever changed because they chose not to put systems in place, they chose not to protect her, so I want other school systems to learn from this and to start making immediate changes within their buildings."
The Grossmans started a blog and foundation called Mallory's Army to help educate other parents, let other good kids know they are not alone and to jump start the change they want the lawsuit to bring.
Americans view child abuse and neglect as a serious public health problem
ARLINGTON, Va.--June 18, 2018--A strong majority of Americans view child abuse and neglect as a public health problem in the United States, a sentiment shared across populations with 81% of Hispanics, 76% of non-Hispanic whites, 74% of African-Americans and 67% of Asians in agreement, according to a new survey commissioned by Research!America and the National Foundation to End Child Abuse and Neglect (EndCAN).
Survey results indicate child abuse and neglect impact households across the country. A majority of respondents say child abuse and neglect is a problem in their local communities -- 65% of Hispanics, 60% of African-Americans, 56% of non-Hispanic whites and 54% of Asians. In addition, 44% of non-Hispanic whites, 42% of Hispanics and 40% of African-Americans say they know someone who has experienced child abuse and neglect compared to 27% of Asians.
"The survey reveals that child abuse and neglect is all too pervasive and must be addressed as a public health problem," said Mary Woolley, president and CEO, Research!America. "Robust funding for research and public health programs is essential in order to ensure evidence-based strategies are being deployed to protect children and families at risk."
Respondents are significantly more likely to identify child abuse and neglect as a more serious problem than they believe others view it. Fifty-four percent of African-Americans, 51% of Hispanics, 43% of non-Hispanic whites and 34% of Asians say they personally consider child abuse and neglect a 'serious problem' in terms of severity in the United States while only 39% of African-Americans, 38% of Hispanics, 29% of Asians and 27% of non-Hispanic whites think others view it as a serious problem.
"A significant percentage of respondents recognize the seriousness of child abuse and neglect but believe public awareness is lacking," added Woolley. "Raising awareness is often the first step in addressing public health challenges."
A large majority of all groups surveyed say it is important to increase federal funding for research on child abuse and neglect - 91% of Hispanics, 85% of African-Americans, 84% of Asians and 80% of non-Hispanic whites. In terms of areas to prioritize in research, finding ways to prevent each form of child abuse and neglect was ranked highest among Asians and non-Hispanic whites (65%).
Sixty-one percent of African-Americans said identifying causes of abusive behavior and treatment to stop it was most important, while 62% of Hispanics said best treatments for victims of abuse and neglect should be the top priority in research.
According to a majority of all groups surveyed, child and family services bear the responsibility for ending child abuse, followed by state and federal governments, and law enforcement. And across populations, majorities agree that state and federal governments should fund research to better understand, prevent and intervene in child abuse and neglect. Non-profit organizations, the private sector (industry) and academia should also play a role, respondents say.
"These results demonstrate that the American public know that child abuse and neglect are significant health and public health problems for them and their communities and reinforces our belief that the time is ripe for a national effort to support research, training and prevention," said Richard Krugman, MD, Chair of the Board of the National Foundation to End Child Abuse and Neglect.
Asians (35%) are less likely to say health professionals are not effective in intervening, preventing, or stopping abuse and appropriately treating victims than non-Hispanic whites (50%), African-Americans (47%) and Hispanics (42%). An overwhelming majority of respondents say it is important for health care providers to identity families at elevated risk of child abuse and neglect - 92% of Hispanics, 91% of non-Hispanic whites, 90% of Asians, 86% of African-Americans.
Child abuse and neglect contribute to depression, problems at school, violence, substance abuse and suicide according to respondents. Hispanics (67%), non-Hispanic whites (65%) and African-Americans (63%) say child abuse and neglect contribute 'a great deal' to depression than do Asians (54%). And more Hispanics (65%) say child abuse contribute 'a great deal' to problems at school than African-Americans (58%), non-Hispanic whites (57%) and Asians (50%).
Among other findings:
A strong majority of all groups say it is very important for national and local systems to share data such as reports of child abuse -- non-Hispanic Whites (74%), Hispanics and African-Americans (68%) and Asians (60%).
Many view early education and family support services as 'very important' to decreasing the likelihood of child abuse and neglect - Hispanics (74%), African-Americans (66%) non-Hispanic Whites (65%), and Asians (62%).
A large majority of respondents agree that people who are abused or neglected are likely to abuse or neglect their own children - non-Hispanic whites (73%), Hispanics (71%), Asians (70%), and African-Americans (68%).
When asked if they believe that in order to raise and educate children properly, they need to be physically punished, 69% of Asians, 65% of Hispanics, 61% of non-Hispanic whites and 57% of African-Americans said no.
The nationwide survey was conducted by Zogby Analytics for Research!America and EndCAN. The margin of error for the sample sizes range from +/- 3.1 to +/- 5.6 percentage points. To view the survey, visit: http://www.researchamerica.org/childabusesurvey .
About Research!America surveys
Research!America began commissioning surveys in 1992 in an effort to understand public support for medical, health and scientific research. The results of Research!America's surveys have proven invaluable to our alliance of member organizations and, in turn, to the fulfillment of our mission to make research to improve health a higher national priority. In response to growing usage and demand, Research!America has expanded its portfolio, which includes state, national and issue-specific surveys. http://www.researchamerica.org .
Research!America is the nation's largest nonprofit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority. Founded in 1989, Research!America is supported by member organizations representing 125 million Americans. Visit http://www.researchamerica.org .
About National Foundation to End Child Abuse and Neglect (EndCAN)
EndCAN is a new non-profit whose primary objective is to launch and sustain a new nationwide movement to support research, training, prevention, and advocacy, all designed to end child abuse and neglect in our lifetime. To do so, EndCAN will work with existing partners to change the conversation around child abuse and neglect as just a social and legal issue, to the significant health, mental health and public health issue it is.
DCS leaders want Indiana to be the 'gold standard for child welfare'
by Brian Francisco
WARSAW – Leaders of the Indiana Department of Child Services indicated today that they are eager to start implementing outside recommendations for improving the agency.
“Our mission is, our dream is – and we're going to accomplish this – that Indiana will be the gold standard for child welfare in the United States of America,” DCS Associate Director Todd Meyer said at Warsaw City Hall.
“And that will come as a result not just from what we're doing in Indianapolis but more so what's happening all over the place throughout the state of Indiana, like here in Kosciusko County,” Meyer said.
“Your feedback and input is critical to accomplishing this mission that we've set out to accomplish,” he told the audience, which included at several DCS employees, County Superior Court Judge David Cates, County Prosecutor Daniel Hampton, state Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Goshen, and employees of Bowen Center, a Warsaw-based provider of behavioral care services in 15 counties in northern Indiana.
Dan Carey, senior vice president for performance and compliance at Bowen Center, told DCS leaders: “Your goals are our goals in terms of serving children and families. ... Bowen Center would be very interested in being part of helping develop those services and part of those plans, maybe even being part of that advisory committee that you're going to set up because in the end, if we do well, you do well, and vice versa, and ultimately the children and families are better served.”
DCS Director Terry Stigdon replied: “Thank you. We're going to need that all over the state.”
Stigdon, Meyer and other DCS officials are touring Indiana to discuss the report released Monday by the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group. At Gov. Eric Holcomb's request, the private nonprofit organization based in Montgomery, Alabama, evaluated DCS and made 20 recommendations Monday that Holcomb said would be acted on.
Among other things, the 116-page review found that Indiana has among the nation's highest volumes of child neglect and abuse cases; that DCS had a 30.4 percent turnover rate among case managers for a recent 12-month period; and that the agency has too few supervisors for its case managers by national child welfare standards.
One recommendation is that DCS, which employs more than 4,000 people, should consider more narrowly defining its definition of child neglect to exclude neglect based solely on poverty or “limited, onetime lapses in parental judgment.”
Another recommendation is that DCS should consider restricting the definition of custodian to “one who is assigned consistent caregiving responsibility (e.g., a day care provider) by the child's legal parent.” DCS defines a custodian as “a person with whom a child resides,” a term that can include owners, employees and volunteers at foster homes and child care facilities and members of the household of a child's non-custodial parent.
“Indiana screens out fewer (child protection) referrals than most other states, and so consequently DCS is involved in doing more assessments than most other states,” Sue Steib said Tuesday in Warsaw. Steib, of Jackson, Louisiana, is a consultant to the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group.
“I think it's important to remember that even in doing all of those assessments, less than 15 percent of those assessments result in any substantiated finding at all, which suggests that there's perhaps some room for a less intrusive intervention to help some of those families,” she said.
“If there are ways that are a little more family friendly and more acceptable to families to give them what they need to do to keep their children safe, then I think most people would agree that's the direction we want to move,” Steib said.
The Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group found that in 2016, Indiana's referred 108.2 of every 1,000 children in the state to child protection. The national average was 55.6, and only Washington, D.C., Vermont and West Virginia posted higher referral rates than Indiana's.
The organization also recommended that DCS regularly analyze the “voluminous” data it collects and seek greater Medicaid funding, particularly in behavioral health cases. Medicaid is the federal and state health insurance program for low-income families.
Tess Ottenweller, director of addiction recovery and family services for Bowen Center, later told news media that mental health centers “are able to bill Medicaid for many of our behavioral health care services that we provide. So I really anticipate community mental health centers really partnering with DCS to make sure that care is affordable for our families.”
PA Supreme Court blocks release of report into dioceses child sex abuse
by Matthew Stevens
HARRISBURG, Pa. -- The state Supreme Court has blocked the release of grand jury report into child sex abuse allegations in six Catholic dioceses.
In an order released Wednesday, the Supreme Court justices said they granted an application for a stay that would halt Judge Norman Krumenacker III and the attorney general's office from releasing the first report of the grand jury "pending further order of this court."
No other documents were made available to the public, per the order.
“My legal team and I will continue fighting tirelessly to make sure the victims of this abuse are able to tell their stories and the findings of this investigation are made public to the people of Pennsylvania," said Attorney General Josh Shapiro moments after the decision was rendered.
Previous reports into dioceses in Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnstown were made made public.
Shapiro said he was planning to release the report later this month.
Previously, bishops from the dioceses of Harrisburg, Erie, Greensburg, Scranton, Allentown and Pittsburgh agreed to have the findings released.
Earlier this year, the Diocese of Erie released names of priests and clergy that have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse.
A former priest, David Poulson, was charged with sexually abusing two children in Jefferson County was charged in May and that case is awaiting to go to trial.
'We're Coming for Them': Survivors Demand Release of 884-Page Pennsylvania Clergy Sex Abuse Report
A court just muzzled the damaging findings on decades of Catholic clerical abuse. But it's not over. 'We're coming for them,' says a state rep who was raped by a priest at 13.
by Victorial Albert
Mark Rozzi thought he was days away from justice, or at least the beginning of it.
It started when he was 13, and a priest at his school in Hyde Park, Pennsylvania, started grooming him. For months, the Rev. Edward Graff talked with Rozzi about sex, gave him alcohol, and showed him pornography. Then, one fateful day, he raped him in a rectory shower.
Rozzi didn't report his abuse for 26 years. But he later learned that during that period, Graff was transferred multiple times between parishes, and allegedly abused children in Texas, too. In 2002, Graff was arrested on child-abuse charges after facing dozens of accusations, The Washington Post reports. He later died in jail.
Rozzi is now a Pennsylvania House representative and he campaigned on the promise of extending the statute of limitations for child sex abusers. After years of grappling with his traumatic past, he was expecting a major breakthrough this month: the release of a 884-page report detailing the findings of an 18-month grand jury investigation into child sexual abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses. The report, according to The Guardian , is expected to “detail decades of clerical sexual abuse and coverups by the Roman Catholic Church.”
Rozzi put it more bluntly: “This is going to be the worst grand jury report in the history of the United States, as it pertains to child sex abuse,” he told The Daily Beast. “We have nuns testifying, priests testifying for the first time. It's going to be very damaging for the church.”
But Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck a blow to Rozzi and other abuse survivors by ordering a stay on the report. The order, according to Penn Live , prohibits Judge Norman A. Krumenacker III and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro from publishing the grand jury's findings, and postpones the report's release indefinitely.
Rozzi was on the House floor when his assistant texted him the news. He was devastated. “My jaw just dropped. I was in my seat, and the only thing I could do was just walk right off the floor because I could feel myself starting to get very emotional,” the Berks County Democrat told The Daily Beast. “It just felt like I'd been punched in the gut.”
“It's like the M.O. of the church,” he added. “The only thing they're concerned about is protecting themselves and their own image. They're not concerned about protecting the victims. They've done what they've always done to us. Put us out on the curb, and hope we go away, or we die.”
Shapiro allowed the six bishops from the dioceses under investigation to review and comment on the report prior to publication. But after the report was passed around, an unidentified group of individuals who were “named but not indicted in the report” sought evidentiary hearings that would delay its release. They claimed that “the reputation interest of the non-indicted named persons will be harmed by the release of the report,” Penn Live reported, and that due-process hearings are required.
Judge Krumenacker originally denied their motion, arguing that “the Commonwealth's substantial interests to prevent child abuse, to provide justice to those abused children, and to protect abused children from further abuse by identifying abusers and those individuals and institutions that enable the abusers to continue abusing children” served as an overriding interest, according to another report from Penn Live . But following Krumenacker's decision, an unknown party appealed to Pennsylvania's Supreme Court. It was likely the same group that filed the original motion, although if Krumenacker denied other motions, those groups could also have appealed; state grand jury secrecy laws have hidden the details of the filings.
Bishops from all six dioceses have denied filing the motion or doing anything to inhibit the report's release.
The Allentown, Harrisburg, Erie, and Scranton dioceses told The Daily Beast they have not made any efforts to delay the release of the report. The Pittsburgh, and Greenburg dioceses could not immediately be reached for comment, but the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes that all six dioceses agreed in May to support the report's release, and all have since denied obstructing it. The Pittsburgh Diocese told Penn Live that “There is no pending motion by the Diocese of Pittsburgh to stay the release of the grand jury report. We made that promise several weeks ago and are honoring that promise.”
Rozzi said he believes someone in the church is responsible, given its history of mobilizing to shield abusers from punishment. For years, Rozzi has been fighting the church to pass a bill that would extend the statute of limitations for child sex-abuse crimes across Pennsylvania. Under current state law, a victim can report their abuse until age 30; Rozzi wants to extend that to 50.
Rozzi claims that when his bill passed the House, the church hired 39 lobbyists to pressure the state's 50 senators to vote against the bill. And after Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput sent an email shaming a Republican representative for supporting the bill and threatening “consequences,” The Guardian reports, legislators condemned the church for its “mafia-like” lobbying tactics. Many speculate that Chaput was brought to Pennsylvania after quashing similar proposed legislation in Colorado. As The Guardian notes, this is illegal: According to tax law, churches are largely forbidden from participating in political activity.
So far, only two church officials have been arrested as a result of the grand jury's investigation. The charges against both men are gruesome. On July 24, 2017, Rev. John Sweeney of the Greenburg diocese was charged with “involuntary deviate sexual intercourse” for allegedly forcing a fourth-grade boy to perform oral sex on him during the 1991-92 school year, Penn Live reports. In a press release , the Attorney General's office stated that it would have pursued more charges against Sweeney if the statute of limitations had not expired.
On May 8, 2018, Father David Poulson of the Diocese of Erie was charged with indecent assault, endangering the welfare of children, and corruption of minors in relation to his alleged abuse of two boys, ages 8 and 15 years old, another Penn Live article reports.
Poulson allegedly took the boys to a rural cabin in the woods, where he would make them watch horror movies on his laptop and sexually assault them, according to Penn Live. The priest is also accused of forcing one of his victims to speak about the assault during Confession with him. One of the two alleged victims claims he was assaulted biweekly for eight years, between 2002 and 2010.
When he announced the arrest, Shapiro claimed the diocese knew about Poulson's behavior for six years before reporting him to authorities, and only did so after a subpoena from a grand jury. He cited a secret memorandum that showed church leaders knew that complaints had been made about Poulson, Penn Live adds, and that “Poulson admits being ‘aroused' by a boy, and sharing sexually suggestive texts with numerous other boys.”
A similar investigation, conducted in another Pennsylvania diocese two years ago, may provide additional clues as to what the new report might contain. The 2016 investigation explored abuse allegations in the Altoona-Johnstown diocese, and the explosive resulting report found as many as 50 priests and religious leaders guilty of child sexual abuse—and many others guilty of participating in a nearly 50-year coverup.
“Over many years, hundreds of children have fallen victim to child predators wrapped in the authority and integrity of an honorable faith,” the report said. “As wolves disguised as the shepherds themselves—these men stole the innocence of children by sexually preying upon the most innocent and vulnerable members of our society and of the Catholic faith.”
“Priests were returned to ministry with full knowledge they were child predators,” the report added.
“This failure was colossal. It was nothing less than organized crime,” Rep. Mike Vereb told The New York Times . “There was no chance, if you were a victim, that you were going to get justice.”
After the 2016 report was released, the Times reports, more than 250 alleged victims and informants called into a special phone line established by Pennsylvania's attorney general to report instances of abuse.
When the Thursday announcement was made, Rozzi's thoughts immediately turned to other survivors of abuse. Three of his childhood friends, who had also been abused at the hands of a priest, had previously committed suicide.
“I know a lot of them have been hanging on by threads, waiting for this report to come out,” he said. “I wanted to make sure they know: Stay safe, stay protected, that I'm not going anywhere. That we're going to continue this fight, that we're going to get this done, it'll just be a bump in the road, or a wall that they put in front of us. But we're gonna climb that wall. We're coming for them.”
Surviving a sociopath; one woman's story
by Mallory Diefenbach
BATAVIA — Dr. Sabrina Brown lived through the very violence she was studying.
An associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Kentucky focusing on violence prevention, Brown is also a Western New York native. She spoke Wednesday during RESTORE's first conference celebrating its 45th anniversary, conducted at Genesee Community College.
Brown serves as a principal investigator for the Kentucky Violent Death Reporting System, which focuses on violence prevention — including suicide, homicide, intimate partner violence, alcohol- and drug-related death, infant and child death — while developing and evaluating surveillance systems.
And something which really influenced people were adverse childhood experiences also known as “ACEs.” They can include physical, sexual and emotional abuse; physical and emotional neglect; domestic violence; having an abused mother; drug use; household mental illness; parents divorcing; or an incarcerated relative.
“My ACEs I estimate to be about nine,” Brown said.
A child who experiences ACEs will see violent situations as normalized and learn to devalue themselves. This can translate into adolescence and adulthood which continue to devalue the person.
It can also have lasting negative effects on health, behavior and life expectancy. ACEs are also different from trauma because they can affect a person's very DNA and can be passed on to future generations.
Issues such as a helicopter parent wouldn't cause red flags to be raised for a helicopter partner. So people saying to cut themselves off from friends would seem normal because they're used to being controlled.
Millennials have been exposed to more violence, Brown said, equivalent to that of a surgeon or a person in the military who has experienced a combat operation.
In Brown's research, she said looked into suicide and read the narratives from police and coroners' reports to see if they can pick up any violence, because violence is different from problems. And they found it.
“If we are talking about suicide we think, ‘OK was there a moment of intervention? Could we have done something? Was there a sign, was there something that was an indication in that much desperation?'” Brown explained. “Well when someone is threatening suicide or intent, well that's a sign that something that we need to be aware of to say, ‘Hey let's take some action with this.'
“But what we found is a manipulative threat,” she continued. “So here is an example: ‘If you leave me, I will kill myself. If you leave me, I will kill your children. If you leave me, I will kill you and your children.'”
One of the first questions people ask is, “Why don't people leave?”
Brown said leaving is difficult and just the beginning of the trauma. Even after the divorce, perpetrators find new ways to abuse their victims.
A personal experience
That's why Brown wrote her book, “I Married A Sociopath” which tells of her surviving adverse childhood experiences, a 20-year abusive marriage and her uphill climb when she finally tried to leave.
Changes, she said, need to start at police intervention and the courts. Everyone who interviewed the family needs to be communicating and child advocates need to be properly trained in how to interview children. Brown said to people who wonder why victims have poor coping mechanisms, take their children away and leave them with the abuser on a regular basis — how are they going to cope with that?
Highly contested divorces should be a red flag there is domestic violence. Brown said different psychologies such as psychopaths, sociopathy, narcissism and personality disorders need to be understood, but court officials only go with the routine.
“I was a typical victim and nobody around me knew what was going on, which is a real shame because I was working in violence,” she said. “These are people who are reading the scientific literature and know the red flags. They know the representatives and the people at risk.
“Not one person I worked with made a comment or ever was concerned,” she continued. “The only thing that happened to be was as soon as I became more vulnerable and had to be in court every Friday, people tried to steal my grant from me.”
Brown said what damaged her the most wasn't her childhood abuse, but her marriage to a sociopath by the name of Peter.
She met Peter at 15 years old, and he introduced her to how she believed relationships are supposed to be. Leaving New York for Michigan in college, she began to thrive away from the abuse, and had a boyfriend who treated her well. However, Peter followed her to Michigan and immediately isolated her and made her throw away her makeup.
“By taking my makeup, by criticizing me for dressing up, he was making me feel ugly,” Brown said. “He was immediately beginning to break down my self-esteem.”
Peter got her pregnant at age 19, coercing her into the situation. On their honeymoon, following a shotgun wedding, to his cabin in the Adirondacks, he told her about all his infidelities when she was isolated.
“I didn't know how to process this information,” Brown said. “I was scared. So I ran out the cabin in my lingerie. It had been raining all week and I started running up this hill. Of course it was muddy, and I was slipping and falling, covered in mud. I didn't know where I was going, I was just trying to get away. It was very serial-killerish where I was located. There wasn't anyone around, so I think I was just trying to get to someone else to take me home.”
However, Peter caught up with her and dragged her back to the cabin, not apologizing or comforting her but only telling her she was “crazy.” This then set in a fear of unpredictably and a fear of who Peter was.
Defending her assertion Peter is a sociopath, Brown said sociopaths are people who do not want much of anything, with the only really ambition being to not exert themselves to get by. They do not want to work with anyone else and without a conscience, they can nap, pursue hobbies or watch television.
And their partner doesn't need to be rich — just a financier who is reliably conscience-bound. Brown was the breadwinner of the couple, and in the 20 years they were married, Peter worked for a total of six years and, in 2006, their 15-year-old daughter made more at her part-time job than he did.
“Peter did not look for ways to make my life easier,” she said. “Peter only looked for ways to make his life easier.”
Peter also cut her off from everyone, even convincing her that her brother — who would have known something was wrong — was an abuser and would abuse their two daughters. He then started planting ideas in her head that her family abused her and she had to cut off from them to please him.
After 10 years, she began to fight back and called the police. However, he restrained her and told their oldest daughter Brown was out of control, that he had no choice but to restrain her mother in order to protect himself.
When the police came, he forced their daughter to repeat what he told her to say to the officers. When he returned the next morning, he told Brown she would pay for calling it domestic violence — that if she ever called the police again, he would take her children and everything from her — that she would pay him child support and he would destroy her publicly and at her workplace, and it would be easy.
“What he had been doing over the year is documenting me,” Brown said. “He had a journal which I found after he left the house. He documented dates and times, what was on my phone, e-mails I was receiving, the way my clothes smelled and the way I was interacting with people. (He said) I was having affairs with everyone I came in contact with — men, women, I didn't even know some of the names in the book.”
Brown said in his journal, Peter said she had multiple personalities, a total of 15, and Brown said one of the personalities he said she had was a teenage personality by the way she drove. And as her daughters grew, he began turning them against her and they began to abuse her like their father did.
When Brown miscarried and started having complications from it, that's when she learned of Peter's continued infidelity. After that, she kicked him out of the house and had all the locks changed.
Then she went to New York and while she was gone, Peter pursued her and started acting the way she always wanted him to.
“I came back from New York, and I let him back,” she said. “That was probably the worst mistake I ever made.”
The “change” in Peter's behavior lasted for two weeks, Brown said.
He physically abused her, and two days later she had the sense to take photos of herself, which would later become the cover of her book. Not knowing her rights as a homeowner, even after all this time, she kicked him out again and filed an emergency order of protection.
In retaliation, he served her with a 35-page motion and an emergency protective order “protecting” her abuser and children from her. It would take a year of litigation and $75,000 before the judge would even see pictures of her beaten face and understand what was really going on.
The rest of her story can be found in her book, “I Married a Sociopath: Taken to the Edge of Insanity, My Survival Unexpected” which is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Abusers need to be accountable for their actions
by Susan Stagg
The recent #metoo movement has shone a bright light on abuse, and rightly so.
Abusers need to be held accountable for their actions, society needs to become better at supporting victims, and those who have experienced abuse need to have a safe environment to heal and move forward. People in positions of power, those that live under suspicion in the shadows, and every kind of predator in between need to be dragged into the light and exposed for the sake of their victims, past and potential.
How can we, as a society, become more effective at responding to abuse? We first need to become familiar with the different kinds of abuse.
Sexual abuse is unwanted sexual behaviour forced on the victim. It can include anything from unwanted touching to forced sexual contact.
Emotional abuse, also called psychological or mental abuse, happens when a person exposes another to behaviour that may result in trauma that includes anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Examples are gaslighting, threatening, manipulating, guilt-tripping, controlling, and intimidating. The most common places for emotional abuse to occur are at home and in the workplace.
Verbal abuse is a type of emotional abuse that uses words and body language to attack another person. It includes name-calling, yelling, shaming, rude gestures, and hurtful criticisms.
Financial abuse is restricting someone's access to money by limiting their access to bank accounts, controlling their choice of employment, and monitoring their spending. It keeps the victim dependent on the abuser so the abuse can continue.
Physical abuse is any hurtful physical act against another person. It includes hitting, slapping, punching, kicking, shoving, and hair-pulling. There may not necessarily be bruises or physical evidence. When physical abuse happens within a relationship or at home, it is called domestic violence.
The signs of abuse are not always physical. Behavioural changes, shame, guilt, anxiety, anger, and self harm are possible indicators that a person has been abused, but every person is unique and reacts differently. These symptoms may also signal other issues.
The best approach is to build trust by listening and validating, encouraging an adult victim to connect with people who can help, or telling a trusted professional (such as a doctor, social worker, teacher, or law enforcement officer) about abuse of a child or elder. Always assure the victim that they are not to blame, and that they did the right thing by telling someone.
If Your Mom Ever Says These 10 Things, She Might Be Toxic
by Eva Taylor Grant
A toxic relationship is a two-way street. But in a mother-child relationship, the parent does wield an amazing amount of emotional power. So, yes, there are certain things that she can do or say that cross a line beyond your control. If you're looking for signs your mom is toxic, experts agree that you can identify this kind of relationship by what your mom is saying.
Luckily, although it walks a fine line, a toxic relationship doesn't always mean emotional abuse . "A toxic relationship is a dynamic between two or more people where emotional needs generally go unmet because of issues that have nothing to do with the other person," Dr. Danielle Forshee, doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker , tells Bustle. " It becomes emotional abuse when there is character assassination and put-downs that continue despite your attempts at communicating how it affects you." Still, this kind of relationship is uncomfortable and requires boundaries to be drawn — and fast.
The mother-child relationship only gets more complicated as you grow up. So you can spot a toxic mom by looking at how she tends to adjust to that. "A toxic mother-child relationship involves the mother being dependent on the child for her own emotional needs, or for needs not typically met within a mother-child relationship," Julie Williamson, therapist at Abundant Life Counseling St. Louis , LLC, tells Bustle. And this emotional dependency can be quite clear from the way she talks to you.
Here are 10 things your mom might say if she's toxic, according to experts.
1"It's Your Fault I ..."
Blame is up there with the most signature toxic behaviors. And it's all the more tricky in a mother-child relationship.
"[It's toxic if a mother is] blaming a ... child for their own personal problems," licensed marriage and family therapist, Sara Stanizai , tells Bustle. "This puts the child in the position of being responsible for their parent, when really it's the other way around!" So if you have heard your mother actively blame you for something that she did, all signs point to toxicity . It is up to you how you proceed with this relationship, but if you feel like this toxicity is impacting you , a professional like a therapist can help.
2"Don't Tell Your Father"
Another major red flag is having your mom ask you to keep secrets for her. This, Stanizai says, is not a component of a healthy mother-child relationship.
"People have their own relationships, and just like between friends, they should be able to be honest and open with each other. If a parent has a child keep something from their parent ("Don't tell your father,") this makes the child the protector of the parent," Stanizai says. So if your mom asks you to do something like this for her, maybe point it out. Hopefully she'll realize that it's not appropriate.
3"Why Didn't You Do Better?"
Your mom should be your biggest cheerleader, not your biggest critic. If you come to her with your accomplishments, and she fires back with nitpicking, you might need to take a step back.
This is still true if her reactions are simply inconsistent. If sometimes she's proud, but sometimes inexplicably rude, that's a sign of toxicity too. "Some days [toxic moms] are happy for their child's success, other days they are minimizing it," Stanizai says. "They might say, 'Why didn't you do better?' or worse, not respond at all. When children don't know what to expect from their parents, it can make the relationship unhealthy." And while your self-worth should not be reliant on your mother's praise, it can still feel awful to have someone that close throw you around emotionally like that.
4"Where Were You Last Night?"
You're an adult. You don't need your mom still on your case about where you are, all the time. "A toxic mother-child toxic relationship is one where the mother believes they have the right and the ability to manage their adult child's life," Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show , tells Bustle.
For both you and your mother, having healthy boundaries are necessary. You both deserve to have a sense of self outside of your relationship with one another. Dr. Forshee calls this "helicopter parenting." "Helicopter Parenting is when the mother has significant anxieties with regard to separation from her child, and it manifests itself in overbearing ways at times when the child is trying to figure themselves or do their own thing ... This does not help facilitate a healthy separation for individuals to figure out [their] own sense of confidence," Dr. Forshee explains. So if your mom is always on your case, talk to her, or a professional, about how to create better distance between you.
5"Why Are You Spending So Much Time With Them And Not Me?"
While on the subject of boundaries, it's important to unpack other ways your mom might showcase these toxic traits. If she wants your social life to include her, or for her to be prioritized over your other relationships, that's a major red flag.
There's a word for this too: enmeshment. "Enmeshment is when your mom has difficulty allowing you to have your own life outside of her," Dr. Forshee says. Regardless of how close the two of you are, you need to have your own life, and your own social space. If she can't accept that, that's a bad sign.
6"You're My Best Friend"
Experts repeat this time and time again when it comes to identifying toxic mother-child relationships: she's not your friend, she's your mother. It may seem like a positive thing to be super-close to your mom, but really this sort of blurred relationship could be paving the way to other major types of boundary crossing.
"Instead of a mom developing her own friends and support network, the mother relies on the child to fulfill these needs — for example — [a toxic mom has] no friends of her own and [refers] to her child as her 'best friend,'" Williamson says. This is particularly tricky if your mom calls you her best friend, but you definitely don't feel the same way. But even if you do feel like she's your best friend, it's important to unpack that, too. "If a mother and daughter are codependent on each other, the young woman may have trouble developing and maintaining successful relationships with others," Dr. Forshee says. So, for a bit, spend some time focusing your energy on other adult relationships. It'll be refreshing.
7"So Last Night In Bed..."
Another major sign of the mom-as-bff conundrum is a mother who overshares. While everyone has different relationships with their parents, if you find that your mother is way more of an open book than your other friends' mothers, that might not necessarily just mean she's sex-positive.
"[A toxic mother] mother shares information that is not typically shared between a parent or child, such as ... sharing details of her sex life with her child," Williamson says. Especially if she asks for advice or a reaction, this type of behavior is indicative that she wants more from you than you should be providing as a child. Even if from the outside she seems like a "cool mom" (hey, Amy Poehler), you don't have to put up with it.
8"You Should Break Up With Them"
Once again: your mom does not have a right to control your adult life. And while, yes, parents are allowed opinions on your partner to some degree, a mom who consistently dictates your dating choices is bad news.
"[The child of a toxic mother often] risks their own friendships, and romantic interests frequently to appease their parent," Dr. Klapow says. And you absolutely don't need to concede happiness for this type of behavior. So if you're mom, and other people in your life, are giving you concrete reasons why your partner or friend is bad news, listen. But if your mom continues to rattle off disapprovals of everyone who comes into your life, take a step back.
9"Your Father Doesn't Know This, But"
Your relationship with your mother can be close, but it probably shouldn't be the primary relationship in which your mom unloads her feelings. Especially if your mom has a life partner or a group of close friends.
"[Be careful of] the mother sharing more with her child than with her husband or partner — for example: the child may know the mom is struggling with depression, but the ... partner doesn't know," Williamson says. This puts you in a really uncomfortable position, and also indicates that she's valuing the relationship in a way that goes beyond regular mother-child dynamics. Talking it out with her, or bringing it up to a professional, might help.
10"You're So Dumb"
This one might seem obvious reading it on it's own, but for a lot of people, it can be hard to notice that insults are actually harmful, not just playful fun. "The parent who scolds or verbally berates an adult child on a regular basis [is toxic]," Dr. Klapow says. Most likely, no amount of "just kidding" or laughter afterwords can make up for the fact that your mother is using her power dynamic with you to make you feel down on yourself. So if your mom is berating you or picking on you well into your adult life, it's important that you know that you deserve better.
A toxic relationship doesn't have to mean you should cut your mom out of your life. But recognizing any of these behaviors in your relationship with your mother might be an indicator that you should take a step back and take a look at things. Boundary setting, open communication, and even family therapy can help. You deserve to do what's right for you, and not have your mother breathing down your back years after you've left home.
Expanded resources, protections for victims of sex trafficking proposed in Michigan House
by Justin A. Hinkley
LANSING - Those who are forced into prostitution would get more help and legal protections under a bipartisan package of bills introduced Wednesday in the state House.
Under the proposed legislation , people who are forced into selling their bodies for sex could be safe from prosecution for other, often related crimes such as petty theft or minor drug charges. Being a "common prostitute" would no longer be a "crime of disorderly conduct" under Michigan law.
The legislation would also create a new Human Trafficking Victim Fund to provide resources to victims and fund efforts to raise awareness about the issue. Those seeking a state cosmetology license would be required to undergo training in how to spot signs of human trafficking (pimps often take victims to salons as part of a grooming process.) And notices providing information about sex trafficking would be required to be posted in hotels and schools.
Between 2007 and 2017, the National Human Trafficking Hotline has reported 1,111 cases of human trafficking in Michigan, the majority of them cases of sex trafficking.
Sex trafficking was forced into the spotlight in the Lansing area two years ago when longtime Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III was arrested on several prostitution-related crimes . That included a felony pandering charge for using the power of his office to force a woman who was not a prostitute to let him pay her for sex.
Subsequent investigations by the State Journal identified numerous cases — including one in which a 14-year-old girl was forced to advertise herself online — showing sex trafficking is widespread in the Lansing region and beyond.
As part of a plea deal, Dunnings served nine months in the Clinton County Jail and was released in September . He is now on probation.
The 26 bills introduced Wednesday were referred to the state House Law & Justice Committee .
New website launched to help Washington sex trafficking victims
by Natalie Brand
Attorney General Bob Ferguson has launched a new website to help victims of sex trafficking in Washington state.
The site is among the first-of-its-kind in America — intended to help victims get out of a life they never imagined.
“When I tried to access resources, and even the education around this, the stigma was so high that I didn't even realize I was a victim for a very, very long time,” said Kyra Doubek.
Like so many other survivors, Doubek was first trafficked as a young teenager and became trapped in a life of commercial sexual exploitation for around seven years.
“When you do get stuck, and you've been given the message that you are nothing but a prostitute, you don't think there are any resources out there for you.”
But in fact, there are an array of resources in Washington state, now compiled on one website, so information is readily available when a victim needs to escape.
The new site, watraffickinghelp.org , was modeled after a site created by Arizona State University sextraffickinghelp.com to connect victims with help.
“We want to make sure if and when they take that step, the resources are there at a couple clicks of the mouse to be in touch with someone who can help,” said Attorney General Ferguson.
It seems like a simple step, but Ferguson says the state identified a need for one central location, with information about services ranging from housing to treatment. The state's website links to more than 70 service providers, not including law enforcement.
“We're hoping to make a difference in people's lives and when they're at the point where they're trying to leave a really difficult situation, they can find the resources easily,” said Ferguson who notes an uptick in trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation cases.
“The numbers are showing it is increasing, which means we need to redouble our efforts,” he continued.
The rise has also coincided with increased awareness about the issue and increased support for the victims.
“I've been able to see an incredible shift, and this is one of the incredible shifts,” said Doubek. “Getting support from our elected officials and getting sites like these put up, so we can start breaking that stigma.”
Doubek, who now helps other survivors and co-founded the Survivor Impact Group, wants victims to know there is hope and light on the other side.
“I've found that it's incredibly possible to rebuild your life, and I've been able to heal in ways I never thought I would be able to, and do things I never thought possible,” she said.
“Don't give up on having dreams,” she continued. “Don't give up, anything is possible. Stick to it. It's hard to stay out, but keep staying out one day at a time."
A survivor's story: How to spot child abuse
One Virginia Beach child abuse survivor is sharing her story to encourage people to report abuse-and save lives.
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va., (WVEC) -- School is out and that means kids are no longer under the watchful eye of their teachers. Teachers are mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect.
One Virginia Beach child abuse survivor is sharing her story to encourage people to report abuse — and save lives.
"I was physically, sexually and emotionally abused," said Debbie.
She said the abuse was at the hands of her father, a prominent member of the community.
"If you looked at him you would never know what was going on behind closed doors at home, the violence, the torture," she said.
Decades later, she is now a child advocate.
"When I grew up I didn't think anybody cared. I was convinced people did not really care, and I'm here to tell you that is not true," said Debbie.
Melynda Ciccotti, of Champions for Children: Prevent Child Abuse Hampton Roads, and Debbie want parenting classes to be considered the norm.
"We must start getting in front of child abuse," said Ciccotti. "Education about child development, about development of the brain of a child, about how experiences impact the child's well-being."
On recognizing signs of child abuse, Debbie says to ask yourself does a physical injury match the story given? Do you hear domestic violence coming from a home?
Trust your gut, ask questions.
She also said don't be a bystander and rely on somebody else to report an incident. Kids must be taught what is considered abuse and that it's OK for them or a friend to speak up.
For adult survivors, Debbie says seek treatment.
"There wasn't enough drugs to push down the pain, and the hurt. So I was either going to commit suicide, or I was going to get help. And I chose to get help," she said.
For more on child abuse you can visit http://www.championsforchildrenhr.org/champions-today.
America's highest-ranking Catholic official suspended for alleged child sex abuse
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington, has been suspended from ministry.
by Tara Isabella Burton
The former archbishop of Washington, DC, has been suspended from ministry after allegations that he sexually abused a minor almost half a century ago.
According to a statement by the New York archdiocese , an investigation found credible a report that Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, then a parish priest in New York, had molested a minor 45 years ago.
”The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, at the direction of Pope Francis, has instructed Cardinal McCarrick that he is no longer to exercise publicly his priestly ministry,” the report said, adding that McCarrick, while maintaining his innocence, accepted Parolin's decision. Since his 2006 retirement as archbishop, McCarrick, now 87, has nevertheless maintained an active profile as a Catholic voice in global policy debate.
The statement continued: “This archdiocese, while saddened and shocked, asks prayers for all involved, and renews its apology to all victims abused by priests. We also thank the victim for courage in coming forward and participating in our Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, as we hope this can bring a sense of resolution and fairness.”
McCarrick is the highest-ranking American, and only American archbishop, to be accused of child sex abuse. According to the Washington Post , he has previously been accused of sexual misconduct in other archdioceses, but these charges exclusively concerned other adults. Due to the statute of limitation in New York, it is unlikely that McCarrick will face criminal charges.
In 1993, an accusation was made against the then-archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Josephine Bernardin, but it was later retracted . Overall, at least 3,000 priests have been accused of abuse worldwide.
The clerical sex abuse scandal has rocked the Catholic Church worldwide. Recently, the entire senior church hierarchy of Chile resigned en masse after Francis condemned the seeming cover-up of abuse by a Chilean bishop, Rev. Fernando Karadima, by other ecclesiastical officials. In Australia, the Vatican's third-highest-ranking official, Cardinal George Pell, currently awaits trial on the charge of numerous “historic sexual offenses” — the full details of which have not been shared publicly.
Pope Francis's approach to the child sex abuse scandal has maddened some of his critics. Earlier this year, for example, Francis appeared to defend those Chilean bishops accused of covering up Karadima's abuses, dismissing charges against them as “calumny” (he later walked back his comments ).
The Vatican has not provided further comment on McCarrick's case.
New Jersey bans child marriages. New law raises minimum age to 18
by Susan K. Livio
Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday signed a law that would set the minimum age for marriage in New Jersey at 18, in what became a fight over human rights versus religious freedom.
New Jersey is the second state behind Delaware to enact a law requiring youth to wait until they are 18 to get married.
State law had permitted 16- and 17-year-olds to obtain marriage licenses with parental consent. Those under 16 needed both parental consent and approval from a judge.
The new law would require people to wait until age 18 to get a marriage license.
Unchained At Last, a non-profit organization that helps young women and girls leave forced marriages, has testified at committee hearings that teenage marriage associated with some conservative religions is more widespread than people think.
Fraidy Reiss, founder of Unchained At Last , called the new law "a huge victory for girls and women across New Jersey."
"This is such a personal victory for me -- because I'm a forced-marriage survivor, and because I wrote this bill, and because I worked for three years to turn this bill into law," Reiss wrote in an email. "We ended a human-rights abuse that destroys girls' lives."
State Health Department data says 3,628 minors got married in New Jersey from 1995 and 2015, and 95 percent of them were in the 16-to-17-year-old age bracket.
"Marriage is a loving bond between two people," state Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, R-Union, one of the bill's prime sponsors, said in an announcement. "Forcing young girls into arranged marriages is harmful and a violation of their basic human rights. Getting this law passed was a long fight, but well worth it. I appreciate my colleagues support in helping this legislation became law."
State Sen. Nellie Pou, D-Passaic, who also sponsored the measure, said the law was necessary. "We have a responsibility to protect our residents and a moral obligation to safeguard children and preventing them from being forced into marriages is a social obligation we will now meet in New Jersey," she said.
The National Organization for Women of New Jersey and Human Rights Watch backed the legislation. Chelsea Clinton also tweeted her congratulations.
Numerous times, it appeared the legislation was in trouble.
Last month, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin , D-Middlesex, abruptly pulled the bill from the voting agenda at the request of Assemblyman Gary Schaer, D-Passaic. Schaer said he had been approached by members of the orthodox Jewish community requesting the legislation allow for religious exceptions.
The bill, ( A865 ) was not amended. The Assembly passed it June 7, sending it to Murphy's desk.
"In New Jersey, we are dedicated to protecting children by putting an end to child marriages by raising the minimum age to 18," Murphy, a Democrat, said in a statement, which included a photo of the bill signing he held privately with Reiss and other advocates.
"Studies have consistently showed that minors who enter into marriage -- particularly young women -- are less likely to graduate from high school and college and more likely to suffer domestic abuse and live in poverty," according to Murphy's statement. "I am proud to join with the Legislature to make New Jersey a national leader on this important human rights issue."
Gov. Chris Christie , a Republican, vetoed the bill last May, saying it created a "does not comport with the sensibilities and, in some cases, the religious customs, of the people of this state."
Pa. bill to encourage child-abuse reporting sent to governor
by Myles Snyder
HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) - Legislation that would require Pennsylvania's schools to prominently display the phone number for reporting suspected child abuse is headed to Gov. Tom Wolf for his signature.
House Bill 1232 would require all public and non-public school to display a poster, 11x17 inches or larger, containing the statewide toll-free number.
The poster design would be approved by the departments of Education and Human Services.
Rep. Thomas Murt (R-Montgomery/Philadelphia) said his measure also requires the poster to be displayed in a high-traffic, public area that is widely used by students.
“Posting this critical information in schools would let students know that they have somewhere to turn if they need to report abuse or neglect that they've suffered or if they suspect another child is being abused or neglected,” Murt said in a statement. “Such a poster also reinforces to students the fact that abuse should be reported and that the school supports them.”
Murt said Texas was the first state to require schools to post such information. He said that after two years of displaying the information, the Texas Department of Family Protective Services reported it received 19,562 calls from students.
The poster also would include the address of the DHS website that provides information and resources related to child protection, www.keepkidssafe.pa.gov .
Pennsylvania's statewide toll-free hotline number to report suspected child abuse, known as Childline, is 1-800-932-0313.
How Child Abuse Affects the Brain
"If a child is experiencing danger in a chronic way...their stress response system is on high alert all the time."
by Gaby Del Valle
Each year, child protection agencies receive more than 3.6 million referrals involving more than 6.6 million children who may be experiencing abuse, according to the advocacy group Childhelp . In some cases, that abuse turns deadly: On average, between four and seven American children die each day because of abuse and neglect. Most of them — approximately 70% — were two years old or younger. But even when children survive abuse, the psychological and cognitive effects of growing up with trauma can last a lifetime.
Adam Brown, PsyD, a child psychologist at the NYU Child Study Center , told Teen Vogue that child abuse can take many forms, ranging from neglect to physical and sexual abuse. In cases of neglect, a child's development may be stunted as a result, Brown said. In order to understand how abuse affects the brain, Brown said, it's helpful to understand what kinds of environments children need to thrive.
“The structures of the brain continue to grow throughout childhood, with a lot of growth happening in the first year,” Brown said. “Neurons in the brain grow in result to experience, so that's why it's so important to have nurturing, stimulating, and safe experiences in the first year of life. In the absence of that, kids are not going to grow in an optimal way.”
One of the biggest issues in cases of neglect, according to Brown, is that children won't learn to “regulate their emotions,” since they may learn to do so from their caregivers.
Dr. Kim Schrier , a pediatrician who's running for Congress in Washington state's eighth district, explained how parents should teach children to regulate their emotions. “When you put a child in stress, they don't know how to self-calm,” Schrier told Teen Vogue . “That's why when you see babies cry, parents hug, we sing lullabies, we do deep breathing, we blow bubbles. These are all things we do to help kids control and adapt to stress."
But, as Brown and Schrier explained, the absence of these stress-management lessons can have an adverse effect on young brains. “If kids don't have the ability to develop these adaptations [to stress], then it becomes what we call toxic stress,” Schrier said. “You're flooding the developing brain with cortisol and adrenaline.
Nearly 15% of respondents to a questionnaire for a joint study on adverse childhood experiences by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the health organization Kaiser Permanente mentioned emotional neglect during their first 18 years of life, while an additional 10% mentioned physical neglect. Even more spoke to physical abuse (28.3%), sexual abuse (20.7%), or emotional abuse (10.6%), all of which Brown says are experiences that can lead to increased aggression and psychological issues in children.
“Neglect can have such a negative impact,” Brown said, “but then imagine if the people who are supposed to keep you safe are actually harming you.” Much like in cases of neglect, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse can “trigger the stress response system in the brain,” leading to that “flight/fight/freeze” response in children, Brown said.
Everyone has the flight or flight response — it's why your heart races when you're scared, why some people are able to fend off attackers, or why sometimes you freeze up in times of danger. But when this response is being constantly triggered in a child's brain, the effects can be seriously detrimental, according to Brown.
“If a child is experiencing danger in a chronic way, like when they're being abused, then their stress response system is on high alert all the time,” Brown said.
Being forcibly removed from one's parents at a young age could trigger that stress response.
"You certainly could imagine a very young child being suddenly and forcibly removed from their parents, and being made to live somewhere where they don't know anyone, is going to have a very serious stress response," Brown said.
“We know that adults who have a history of child abuse or other negative effects in childhood are at a much higher likelihood for psychiatric problems, for medical problems, to be unemployed, and to have problems with the juvenile or adult justice systems,” Brown continued.
Some issues can be addressed through psychological treatment and counseling — and, most importantly, by removing the child from an abusive situation — but child abuse can also lead to medical issues down the line. According to the CDC/Kaiser study, “adverse childhood experiences” like abuse and neglect can increase risk of heart disease, liver disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as well as conditions like depression.
“You take these children who don't know how to adapt and put them in these toxic stressors, and you're basically setting them up for academic struggles, for emotional struggles, not knowing how to bond, for not knowing how to seek help,” Schrier said. “These are lifelong impacts.”
Flipping The Switch to End Child Sexual Abuse
by McKenna Ehrmantraut
Sexual abuse of current and former athletes has made headlines throughout the swimming world recently. While the media has focused primarily on the horrific nature of the stories these brave individuals are sharing about their past ordeals, very little focus has been on how we can stop the abuse before it starts or recognize it if it's happening to someone we know.
Nearly one in ten children suffer from sexual abuse before age 18, yet most are terrified to tell anyone about it for fear that the abuser may threaten them or someone they love. They may be ashamed of what has happened to them, they may be too young to understand what is happening, or they may believe they somehow deserve to be treated this way by an authoritative figure in their lives. There are dozens of reasons children don't come forward about their abusers, but there are signs that everyone can learn to spot and prevent a child from being hurt.
One of the campaigns available to teach people about sexual abuse prevention is Flip The Switch . Flip The Switch is a program that two time Olympic gymnast, Aly Raisman , started to provide everyone in youth sports with free training to spot and prevent sexual abuse in children. They partner with Darkness Into Light, which is currently the nation's leading advocate in training for the prevention of child sexual abuse.
Raisman struggled with sexual abuse from her athletic doctor, and she is determined to stop all sexual abuse within the athletic community by teaching athletes, coaches, trainers, etc. to spot warning signs in children that could indicate sexual abuse. She believes if everyone in the community is able to spot these warning signs, we would be able to prevent any and all children from being hurt.
“To address this terrible problem, we all need to be willing to confront it head-on,” Raisman told Sports Illustrated. “Sexual abuse is something that needs to be discussed openly — especially now — given the challenges our sport is facing, and all adults should become educated as to how to prevent it. Ignoring the issue in hopes that it goes away is unacceptable. Athlete safety must be the highest priority.”
The program is a series of videos combined with written descriptions and a few short questions that focuses on the “five steps to protecting our children”.
The five steps are as follows:
Learn the Facts
Talk About It
Recognize The Signs
During the training, you see videos of past victims tell, in painstaking detail, how it felt to be sexually abused as a young child. We also hear from a few of their family members and professionals involved in education, youth sports, mentoring, the faith community, child advocacy and law enforcement.
One of the victims in the video was Olympian, Margaret Hoelzer . Hoelzer competed in Athens and Beijing, setting a world record during the 2008 Olympic Trials in the 200 backstroke. However, behind all of the fame and glory, she was still struggling to prove herself as worthy to everyone, including herself. She grew up thinking she wasn't good enough, so she strove for perfection in every aspect of her life; however, the horrors of being sexually abused by the father of one of her friends would continuously stay with her.
Many swim coaches across the nation are stepping up to help end sexual abuse within our sport by adding the Flip The Switch training program to their already intensive training via USA Swimming's Safe Sport . USA Swimming was one of the first sports programs to mandate a program for coaches to learn about spotting and preventing sexual abuse.
While continuing to develop and improve their program, USA Swimming is focusing on making sure that adults within the swimming community are becoming educated to help protect young swimmers. If you would like more information about how the USA Swimming coaches are trained, go to https://www.usaswimming.org/Home/safe-sport .
While the swimming community is striving to reach the goal of no child being sexually abused, it still remains a problem. That is why Raisman, along with Hoelzer and other athletes such as Michael Phelps , are raising awareness regarding sexual abuse through the Flip The Switch campaign.
If you want to learn more and be part of the solution to stopping sexual abuse within the swimming world, go to https://www.fliptheswitchcampaign.org . The program takes approximately two hours to complete and is free for all athletes, coaches, parents, etc. when you enter the coupon code FlipTheSwitch during checkout.