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Free rock concert aims to raise awareness of child abuse
by David Singer
WEIRTON, W. Va. — A free rock concert later this month is being promoted to help raise awareness of child abuse.
One of the bands, "Descendsion," is hoping for a crowd that becomes part of a coalition speaking out about child abuse.
ROCKING 4 KIDS
"We need people to get here. The more people that's at the event center -- if we could fill that up -- the bigger the message, then we can get this rolling with the state,” said lead singer James Keller. “We're trying to change things. There's so many loopholes in the system and these kids are getting lost. We cannot have a better tomorrow without a better today, and we have to fix it today."
Desendsion is one of four bands playing on July 28 at Weirton Event Center, as part of child abuse awareness campaign.
Three other hard rock groups, After The Fall, 3 Fold and The Sound Below, will band together on Saturday, July 28 at the Weirton Event Center.
Admission is free. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. The show starts at 7:00.
Child Abuse Bill Attracts Attacks Amid Legislative Uncertainty
by Katie Meyer
A proposal to retroactively extend the statute of limitations in child abuse cases in Pennsylvania is getting renewed blowback from national Catholic organizations.
Rick Hinshaw, a spokesman for the national Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said his group is always tracking bills that aim to make it harder to sue the church for old abuse cases beyond the statute of limitations.
The one they've had on their radar for a while in Pennsylvania is championed by Democratic Representative Mark Rozzi of Berks County.
It would give abuse victims 20 additional years to sue retroactively, and abolish the statute of limitations going forward.
Now, they've released a statement bashing the bill--prompted by whispers that it's encountering difficulties passing the legislature.
“In principle, we oppose an endless lookback,” Hinshaw said, “but it's made even more offensive by the fact that it just singles out private institutions, and particularly the Catholic Church.”
Rozzi didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
But he recently told the Allentown Morning Call, House Speaker Mike Turzai has informed him he's not supporting the retroactive proposal anymore, after seeing it through the House two years ago.
Turzai's office has also not responded.
Hinshaw said the Catholic League would support an alternative bill to rid of the statute of limitations going forward, but not retroactively.
Australian archbishop faces year in detention for hiding child abuse
by Sommer Brokaw
A magistrate sentenced an Australian archbishop to a year in detention Tuesday based on his conviction in May of failing to report decades-old child abuse allegations.
Magistrate Robert Stone sentenced Adelaide's Catholic Archbishop Philip Wilson, 67, to 12 months detention at Tuesday's sentencing hearing, but postponed sentencing details to Aug. 14 so Wilson can be assessed for home detention, ABC News Australia reported.
"There is no remorse or contrition showed by the offender," Stone said.
"I am of the opinion the sentence should not be suspended. It does not support the terms of general deterrence," Stone continued. "On that basis, the only available remaining option is full-time imprisonment or home detention."
According to the Australian news website news.com.au, Stone said Wilson failed to act because "he wanted to protect the church and its image."
Wilson was placed on bail. Child sex abuse survivors confronted him following his sentencing, with one anonymous bystander yelling, "Can I spit on him?"
Wilson, the most senior Catholic leader to be convicted related to sex abuse claims in the church, was found guilty on May 22 of concealing child sex abuse.
In particular, Wilson was accused of concealing the abuse of pedophile James Fletcher during the 1970s. Fletcher was convicted in 2004 and died in prison.
In response to the May conviction, Wilson said he would step aside from his duties, but wouldn't resign.
"If the archbishop does not resign, then the Catholic Church becomes a bigger laughing stock than it already is," one of Fletcher's victims, Peter Gogarty told Australian news reporters.
Training provided for child abuse investigations
Clearfield County District Attorney, William A. Shaw, Jr., announced Monday that the District Attorney's Office and the Child Advocacy Center of Clearfield County (CAC-CC) recently conducted training to aid in the prosecution of child abuse cases.
Shaw explained that members of the Clearfield County Multi-Disciplinary Team received Unmasking the Sexual Offender training from Veronique N. Valliere, Psy.D., a nationally recognized expert within the field.
Training topics included victim selection, identifying vulnerability, grooming behavior, and victim selection to meet deviance needs.
Participants at the training included local law enforcement, prosecutors, Children, Youth, and Family Services, mental health providers, victim advocacy organizations, forensic interviewers, and medical professionals.
Shaw reported that this training was a success and over 70 people were trained on this vital topic throughout the day. Shaw thanked all those who took time out of their busy schedule to attend this training.
Anyone with knowledge or information about a crime is asked to call Clearfield County Crime Stoppers at (800)-376-4700. All calls to Crime Stoppers are confidential.
Anonymous tips can also be submitted by visiting the Clearfield County District Attorney web site at www.ClearfieldDA.org and selecting “Report A Crime.”
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Experts, child abuse case studies provide training for Cenla agencies
by Melissa Gregory
The video was disturbing, so much so that at least one woman had to turn her head. But that couldn't stop her from hearing the tortured cries of the infant being mercilessly beaten.
It was footage shot with a "nanny cam" that showed a man snatching a baby from a playpen and repeatedly punching the child in the abdomen. The beating continued off camera before the man throws the child back into the playpen.
But the beating still continued, with the man slamming the child head first and backward on the playpen's bed.
The community room at the Alexandria Public Safety Complex was silent when it finished, but Dr. Barbara Knox continued with her presentation.
Knox was one of three experts brought to Central Louisiana by the Children's Advocacy Network. The group was in Leesville earlier last week before wrapping up Thursday and Friday in Alexandria.
Training was held earlier in June in Vidalia.
The goal, said the center's Executive Director Wade Bond, is to educate and train local law enforcement and those from the Department of Children and Family Services and parish district attorneys offices "to not only be able to identify but also understand the process of child abuse investigations."
Bond said one of the benefits of bringing in people who worked such cases is to see all the elements, investigative techniques and specific evidence that helped to prosecute child abusers.
"By learning from people who have already gone through the process and have successfully prosecuted cases, as well as found safe and permanent homes for children, is a tremendous benefit to all of us," he said. "Because we can sit here, ask questions and learn from people who have been successful."
Knox is a child abuse pediatrics specialist who is on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin's School of Medicine and Public Health. She talked about neglect and abusive abdominal injuries Thursday morning, reviewing cases she's handled.
As she discussed the injuries suffered by the children in these cases, she provided insight for investigators on what to ask or look for as they handle similar cases. And, in the cases of medical neglect, she countered the often-used argument that poverty keeps families from getting treatment for children.
Poverty, she said, is the greatest contributor to a child's failure to thrive. But she noted that states have a variety of programs to help meet a families' needs.
Law enforcement agencies from as far away as Winn Parish were at the training. The Avoyelles Parish Sheriff's Office had four people attending, as well as a member of the parish's district attorney's office.
They also heard from Edward Chase and Sgt. Harrison Daniel.
Chase is a senior attorney with the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. He's a former chief senior assistant district attorney with the Fulton County District Attorney's Office in Atlanta, where he prosecuted cases child abuse and sexual abuse against children and adults.
Daniel is the supervisor of the Athens-Clarke County (Georgia) Police Department's sex crimes division.
"Our goal was to provide all entities that we work directly with the opportunity to learn and advance their investigative skills, as well as to continue to encompass and enlarge our network of individuals and organizations that are willing and able to work with child abuse victims and help prevent child abuse," said Bond.
He said the network is "looking forward" to bringing in more training opportunities this year.
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Communities get involved to prevent child abuse
by Katie Keleher
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Preventing child abuse is something everyone can find important and agree on. And local communities are now getting involved.
One in ten children will experience abuse or sexual abuse by the time they turn 18 according to Shannon Fox. She is with "Stewards of Children" and is hoping to stop that. She says 90 percent of the time, the abuser is someone the child and their family knows.
"It's not the stranger dangers," Fox said. "We have to start being aware that this is prevalent in our community. Talking about it. Understanding signs and how to act on those signs. Or, you know, how to react responsibly. Those are all very, very important things that we don't normally learn."
There are both physical and behavioral signs to look for. Physical signs include bruising, redness, and sores. Some behavioral signs are acting out, withdrawing, bullying, mental health issues, and drug abuse. Fox says to be careful when approaching a child you suspect is being abused.
"You don't want to ask targeted questions," she said. "You want to ask open ended questions. The training teaches you how to do that. It teaches you how to make the reports if there's a discovery, if there's a disclosure and how to handle that disclosure, or if you're just suspicious."
Fremont County EMS recently took part in the prevention training. They now hope to get the community involved and work together to stop abuse.
"This is something that can help them," Fox said. "It can help their child, it can help their community beyond just stopping this abuse. We have a lot of community and public health issues that might stem from an issue like this. So it's very important."
There are a couple training dates coming up that are free for the public to attend. One will be held July 17th in Ashton, and another July 25th in St. Anthony.
She abused her own son, then showed police her healthy nephew
by Joe Szydlowski
A woman used her nephew in an attempt to hide her abused child from Salinas police, but officers caught on, leading to her sentence of almost four years in prison last week, prosecutors say.
Patricia Guajardo, 40, of Salinas, used her sister's son as a stand-in for her own abused 9-month-old son during a visit by Child Protective Services and Salinas Police, Deputy District Attorney Lana Nassoura said in a press release.
Guajardo was convicted of child abuse and making criminal threats and was sentenced Thursday, Nassoura said.
The investigation began when Salinas police and CPS were called out to Guajardo's home at the Adams Motel, 2086 N. Main St., on Nov. 7, 2016, Nassoura said.
They'd received reports of a 9-month-old boy with burn marks to his neck and foot, she said.
When police and CPS arrived, Guajardo showed officers a child who didn't have any injuries, Nassoura said.
But it wasn't her son.
Three days later, police returned to Guajardo's address and found her boy with burns on the back of his neck and left foot, Nassoura said. They also found the living space "unsanitary and filthy," she said.
Police searched Guajardo's phone and discovered she'd messaged her sister in an attempt to hide the abuse: Guajardo would use her sister's child as a stand-in when police arrived, Nassoura said.
When police found Guajardo's real son, they tested his hair for drugs and found he was positive for cocaine, Nassoura said.
"Guajardo admitted to a detective that she uses cocaine daily," Nassoura said in the press release.
She also admitted to trying to trick officers with her nephew, Nassoura said.
Guajardo threatened to kill her roommate if she reported the abuse, Nassoura said.
Guajardo has been handed over to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation after being sentenced to three years and eight months in prison June 28 by Monterey County Superior Court Judge Carrie Panetta.
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Birthday card could spell trouble for child abuse suspects
by Marian Camacho
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The parents accused in a horrific case of child abuse are back in the center of controversy again, this time due to a birthday card.
The state has filed a motion for violations of conditions of release in the case of Teri Sanchez and James Stewart. Court documents show the District Attorney's Office received a voicemail from an unidentified caller saying that Sanchez's attorney, Douglas Wilber, had attempted to give Sanchez a birthday card from Stewart.
In the voicemail, the tipster stated that transport officers would not allow Wilber to give Sanchez the card, so he read it to her and then "explained what the message meant. I guess the co-Defendant's gonna take care of everything for her or whatever."
Per the conditions of release, Sanchez and Stewart are not allowed to have any contact.
In May, a judge ordered the couple to remain in custody pending trial finding that "Defendant Sanchez is very vulnerable to manipulation and coercion."
First comprehensive study on child abuse in Madagascar points to alarming level of violence
by Andry R. Razafimbahoaka
Since the Convention on the Rights of the Child was signed in 1991, Madagascar has been multiplying its efforts to implement policies that protect child rights and created more than 750 child protection networks within the country since 2004. Despite this progress, abuse, violence, sexual exploitation and forced labor are still a tragic reality which silently occurs behind closed doors. According to a report released by the Malagasy State and UNICEF, every second young Malagasy claims to have been the victim of violence at school, and nine kids out of ten have been beaten by their family.
An alarming report by UNICEF
Following a request by the Malagasy government, UNICEF carried out a study on violence perpetrated against children in the country. The result of the study is beyond alarming:
89% of children report having suffered from physical domestic abuse at least once. Nonetheless, 72% of them say they feel safe at home.
Globally, the report highlights that violence is very often rooted in traditional practices which are very difficult to challenge. Rajae Sbihi, a child psychiatrist who partook to the study, explains:
Violence is considered as a means of education, whether it is at home or at school.
According to Sbihi, children in rural communities are even more at risk to violence, explaining that almost 20% of Malagasy children are not registered at birth – particularly in remote districts – which increases their vulnerability. Public powers are indeed often one of the only safeguards for child victims of violence, even more if it happens at home. This type of violence leads to severe wounds, trauma, physical and emotional development troubles, risky behaviors or even dropping out of school altogether.
Different types of violence
Besides physical violence, there are a range of scenarios which hinders children development. In fact, 40% of young Malagasy's report having worked before the age of 18. Laureate Rasolofoniainarison, national administrator of projects at the office of the OIT (in English ILO: International Labour Organization) in Antananarivo, explains how this perpetuates the cycle of poverty:
Parents often say that they send them to work instead of going to school because they are poor. In reality, making their children work is what makes them poor, by perpetuating a cycle in which education and the possibility of rising socially have no place.
Young girls are even more vulnerable to this violence. Early marriage is part of the Malagasy tradition, and is a problem for minors. More than one third of girls between the ages of 15 and 19-years-old are already married or in a relationship. Very few teenagers use contraceptive methods (less than 8%) which considerably increases the number of unwanted pregnancies. In fact, 30% of the minors in the island have a child , as reported by a rating from the World Atlas 2015. This number reaches up to 50% in some areas of the capital. Another alarming statistic is the rising rate of sexual exploitation of girls for commercial purposes, particularly near petroleum and mining sites.
A new tool to better fight violence
Before this report, children's needs and rights were unknown in Madagascar. This latest report is seen as a tool which allows child protection advocates to better understand, prevent and respond to these risky situations. It is also a first step towards a more comprehensive national policy which aims to reduce violence. Some also see the information as a way to convince some people It can also be used as an argumentative tool to convince people to let go of traditional practices which can be detrimental to children. In total, UNICEF has deployed 240 social volunteers on the island to provide psycho-social support, communal dialogue and social mobilisation.
UNICEF has also established partnerships in order to develop a code of conduct for all mining employees and sub-contractors in Madagascar, in an effort to end young women's sexual exploitation. This practical approach should hopefully have a progressive impact on their protection in the next few years.
Children Advocacy Center for Denton County sees growth in child abuse cases
by Victoria Atterberry
As the Denton County population grows, so does the number of children facing abuse in the area.
As one of the main responders to child abuse in the county, the Children's Advocacy Center for Denton County has seen that increase first hand.
According to Kristen Howell, the center's chief executive officer, in 2016 the advocacy center responded to about 648 child abuse cases. In 2017, the center had 836 cases, and this year the number of cases is expected to increase to about 1,000. For the city of Carrollton numbers the number of victims and their families served jumped 121 in 2016 to 180 in 2017.
“It's one of the ‘of course' factors, but at the same time it's surprising,” she said.
Howell also said in addition to the population increase, the law was recently changed to have more cases go through the advocacy center, therefore the number of child protective services referrals the center receives has increased.
The center works closely with city law enforcement agencies. Howell said police departments and the center's other partners are working with more child abuse victims as well.
“Often when there's a growth in our business, there's a growth in our partners,” she said.
A large part of helping an abused child is through conducting a forensic interview, which is mandated through state law. According the advocacy center, the interview provides children a safe, friendly environment to tell their story of abuse. Howell said this is an important process for the victim, and it begins the path to healing. The center also provides therapy for each child.
Howell said early therapy is crucial, and no child needs to wait to receive therapy. As the number of cases increases, the center wants to ensure that every child can be interviewed and get the therapy they need in a timely fashion.
The center has a four-year plan that includes doubling its physical footprint by increasing staff and building two new locations within Denton County.
Howell said the community can help the advocacy center in its efforts, and there are “a lot of ways to jump right in.” Volunteers are welcome, and anyone can make a donation. People are encouraged to also participate in the center's upcoming back-to-school drive, which provides school supplies to children who need them.
Separating immigrant children from their parents is child abuse
by Dr. Rebekah Diamond
Like so many, we as pediatricians continue to be horrified and heartbroken by headlines of children separated from their families. While it seems impossible to keep up with policy statements and revisions that confuse and distract, one thing remains clear: Innocent children have been stripped senselessly from their parents, and the path to end this inhumanity remains tragically unclear.
The American Academy of Pediatrics continues to support all children and has issued a strong statement in opposition of the injustice that has and continues to occur. AAP leadership states that “Detention of children is not a solution to the forced separation of children from their parents at the U.S. border...The AAP urges the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice to immediately end the policy of family separation. Separating children from their parents contradicts everything we stand for as pediatricians — protecting and promoting children's health.
This sentiment cannot be reiterated strongly enough: Pediatricians stand unanimously in support of all children, and oppose any and all practices that result in the separation of families.
We know that the the trauma suffered from separation from one's parents is the greatest, longest lasting stressor possible for a child of any age. In fact, removing children from their parents, even into temporary custody, is considered so damaging that it is always viewed as a last resort even in cases of suspected abuse or neglect.
Furthermore, the psychological damage suffered from this toxic stress has been shown to have serious and long-lasting effects. In recent studies, data from tens of thousands of individuals revealed that exposure to adverse childhood events greatly increases the risk for long-term physical, mental and behavioral issues.
Pediatricians see this daily in our practice-children whose parents have passed away, who have had parents deported or incarcerated, or who have even had temporary separation from their parental support all face a devastating series of often permanent emotional and even physical impairments.
The reality of what these children go through, which we see daily in our hospitals and offices, is truly heartbreaking. While we work tirelessly to mitigate this trauma to the best of our abilities, we wish deeply that we could have done something to prevent this, and wonder how we can prevent this suffering for other children.
The federal government recognizes that children must be protected from physical and psychological harm and already has a framework provided by legislation to define what constitutes abuse towards children.
The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) defines child abuse and neglect as “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”
A lengthy debate on how geographic place of birth relates to citizenship is not needed to recognize that the current implementation of immigration policy lacks any grounding in basic humanistic standards.
In our current system, all health-care workers are considered mandated reporters and are required by law to report all suspected and confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect.
As a pediatrician, I write this to urge all fellow physicians and health-care workers to officially report the abuse of immigrant children at the border and demand the immediate reunification of all families. And as a mother, I implore all citizens to see beyond partisan lines and understand the simplicity of this issue: we cannot tolerate the abuse of innocent children.
Rebekah Diamond, MD, is a physician in pediatrics. She has written for the Slate, The Washington Examiner and The Detroit Free Press.
Community Newsletter: Stop Child Abuse and Neglect
by Karen Fetherston, SCAN program coordinator
The Stop Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) program of Lutheran Social Services provides child abuse prevention lessons to students in preschool, kindergarten, second, fourth and sixth grades in Racine and Kenosha county public, private and parochial schools.
SCAN teaches children to know what abuse is, what to do if it happens, and how to get help. SCAN also discusses stranger safety with younger children and older students get information about social media safety including cyberbullying, Internet predators and sexting. Above all, SCAN wants children to realize that abuse is never the fault of the child. SCAN programs have been in the community for more than 35 years and touched the lives of more than 12,000 children during the 2017-2018 school year. Chances are you, your children or grandchildren have participated in SCAN lessons at school.
Cones for Kids
There is a fun and delicious way the public can help. SCAN will hold its eighth annual fundraiser called SCAN's Cones For Kids from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 18, at Racine Masonic Center, 1012 Main St. Funds raised will help get SCAN into more classrooms so children can benefit from the important safety messages.
Those attending will sample mini-cones from some of the area's ice cream, custard and gelato shops. Culver's, Divino Gelato, Georgie Porgie's, Sugar Shack and Chocolate Shoppe have all donated unique flavors of their products that guests can taste and vote for their favorite to win the SCAN's Golden Scoop Award.
Celebrity scoopers who will be dishing out the treats include Rodney Prunty from the United Way of Racine County, Rep. Greta Neubauer, TV news personality Kimberly Kane and Mrs. Wisconsin Michelle Weisheim. Entertainment will be provided by Big Balloon Tycoon and Guardians of the Children. Crafts will be available with RAM on the Road.
Tickets cost $7.50 in advance or $10 at the door. There is no charge for children ages 2 and younger. This price includes a mini cone from each of the vendors, craft projects and balloon art for each child. There will also be dozens of silent auction prizes for children and families including festival tickets, sporting event tickets, and activity and attraction passes. Want more? There will also be gift cards and merchandise from local restaurants and businesses. For a complete list of the auction items, go to conesforkids.blogspot.com.
Bring your family! Bring your friends! Bring your appetite! Space is limited to 350 guests and advance tickets are recommended. Advance tickets are available at conesforkids.blogspot.com or contact Karen Fetherston at 262-619-1633 or via email at email@example.com .
Aurora Health Care, Educator's Credit Union, Carthage College, Thrivent, GardTec, Carpetland USA, MHS Health Wisconsin, Wells Brothers, and Rogan's Shoes are sponsors of this unique, family friendly event.
Want to support SCAN? You can mail charitable contributions to the SCAN office at 2000 Domanik Drive, 4th Floor, Racine, WI 53404.
For more information on SCAN and how to get involved, call the SCAN office at 262-619-1633.
SCAN is funded by the United Way of Racine County, the United Way of Kenosha County, Potawatomi Bingo Casino Heart of Canal Street, as well as through private donations from local churches, schools, individuals and businesses.
Guest commentary: Protect your child, thoughts from a sexual abuse survivor
by Christie Somes
I was sexually assaulted by an older neighbor boy when I was 4 and 5 years old. That is a challenging, difficult statement for most people to read, and even more challenging for me to write. But I am not alone.
Rarely a week goes by without a jarring newspaper headline detailing childhood sexual abuse: a coach, a schoolteacher, a church elder, a father. Childhood sexual abuse is a crime that is far more prevalent than most people believe because most children do not report if they are being abused.
"Childhood sexual abuse is one of the biggest public health problems that children and adults will face in their lifetimes, causing the most serious array of short- and long-term consequences," said Jenny Stith, executive director of the WINGS Foundation in Denver.
While many children are taught to be aware of "stranger danger," the sad fact is that someone they know is almost always the abuser. About 90 percent of children who are sexually abused suffer that harm from family members, someone close to the family or one of their classmates in school.
"Many people live lives with serious post-traumatic stress symptoms including anger, shame, guilt and a decreased sense of self-worth," said mental health therapist Meghan Hurley, River Bridge Regional Center in Glenwood Springs. "And the sad fact is that if we can reach them when the abuse is going on or shortly after we can greatly help their lives and decrease their suffering going forward."
While the subject of childhood sexual abuse can be troubling to talk about, there is good news. The recent #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns have made everyone more aware about the issue of sexual harassment, and multiple celebrities, both female and male, have disclosed that their sexual harm happened to them when they were children.
As more people tell their truth about their past trauma, and how it affected them over their lifetime, more survivors are encouraged to come forward and get the help with the long-term effects of that earlier trauma and how it has affected their behaviors and physiological changes in their body.
Recent increased media awareness also encourages more parents and teachers (the No. 1 profession that spots abuse) to look for ways in which they can best protect children.
These parents, teachers and caregivers look to organizations like Denver's Parenting Safe Children (who recently held a sold-out workshop in Carbondale) for information on what they can do to keep kids safe. Founder Feather Berkower teaches how knowledge can help protect your children. Children need to know about their bodies, the real names of intimate body parts instead of cute terms and what's appropriate afor other people to see and touch. They need to learn this information from you rather than from an uninformed childhood friend or worse. Who do you want to teach your children about sex, you or an abuser?
In addition to general information about their anatomy, you also can greatly increase the safety of your children by creating appropriate body safety rules and making sure teachers, coaches, church leaders, babysitters and any adult or older child who comes into contact with your children know about these rules.
I recently interviewed a 14-year-old accomplished gymnast from the Denver-metro area with soaring aspirations. But over a period of months, her 40-year-old coach used attention, praise and other classic grooming techniques to draw her closer to him until he inappropriately touched her, and there was no longer any question about his real intentions. Fortunately, the girl's mother had gone through a Parenting Safe Children's workshop, and she quickly recognized what was going on. The coach was fired from the gym where he worked, but Denver police have not prosecuted him, and he is once again working with another set of young, impressionable girls.
While I suffered from an array of behaviors and physical consequences for more than 40 years because of my early sexual abuse, I was able to get help, support and make my life better. Others who have been sexually abused can do the same.
Going forward, the patchwork of laws across our country can be more uniformly enforced. Survivors of early trauma should be encouraged to seek help through therapy and support groups. And perpetrators or organizations should be held accountable no matter how many years have passed. Over 20 states in our country have laws that limit a survivor from seeking justice from their abuser.
For more information about childhood sexual abuse, getting help and learning how to best protect your child, contact River Bridge Regional Center in Glenwood Springs (www.river bridgerc.org), WINGS Foundation in Denver (www.wingsfound.org) or Parenting Safe Children (parentingsafechildren.com) in Denver.
Christie Somes is currently collaborating with Steve Alldredge on "Meet Carey Jones," a book about her healing process from childhood sexual abuse and the latest information on the issue and prevention. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The General Synod hears from abuse survivors and pledges reform of safeguarding
by Hattie Williams
THE pain and harm experienced by survivors of abuse, and demands for independent scrutiny of the Church of England's safeguarding practices, were at the heart of a debate of the General Synod , meeting in York, on Saturday .
After presentation from the survivors' group MACSAS, and the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE), which drew a standing ovation, Synod members voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion to “take note” of a report from the House of Bishops committing the Church to improving its safeguarding practices ( News, 29 June ).
Introducing the report, the Bishop of Bath & Wells , the Rt Revd Peter Hancock , said: “Over the years, the Church and its leaders have singularly failed to see what was before our eyes. We did not give safeguarding the prominence it deserved. We failed to put preventative measures in place. We failed to listen to those who had come forward with powerful accounts. We failed to fund safeguarding at a senior level in the Church.”
He supported an amendment from Canon Simon Butler (Southwark) , which was later carried, which called on the House of Bishops to introduce, “as a matter of urgency, ways to improve relations between the Church and those survivors currently in dispute with National Church Institutions, including, where appropriate, by the use of mediation processes”.
Canon Butler also reminded the Synod that people who worked in safeguarding were the people employed to “get us out of the mess that we have made, not them”. Professional staff were “people, not heartless functionaries. If survivors have names, so do staff.”
He was sometimes ashamed of way in which members of the Synod, “claiming to speak for survivors”, spoke about these professionals. The anger and frustration were “palpable, particularly on social media”, and this was a “deteriorating and concerning state of affairs”.
He had been contacted by survivors who felt inhibited about sharing their stories publicly, because of the tone of the conversation.
In her presentation, Jo Kind , of MACSAS , said that she had been abused while working for the C of E as a young adult ( Comment, 15 July 2016 ), and that her presentation was the first time that the Synod had heard from a survivor of abuse within the Church.
“Many [survivors] feel, or are made to feel, like they are the problem,” she said. A change of culture was needed to ensure that the Church was a safe place, and “cultural change needs a radical reorientation of the process.”
She urged the Church keep its focus on the needs of people, not the reputation of church officers. “Instead of turning away from survivors, walk towards us.” This meant “starting with a blank piece of paper” rather than “tweaking” the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM), she said.
Synod members stood to applaud her presentation.
Dr Sheila Fish , of the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) , which is conducting a survey of the Church's response to clerical abuse and safeguarding concerns, said that about 40 people had responded so far. “When survivors come forward and disclose, they are providing a valuable service, often at great cost,” she said. The survey was asked: “Are we celebrating and rewarding them?”
Another theme had been recognising the long-term impact of abuse by those within the Church, Dr Fish said: mental illness, relationship breakdowns, self-harm, suicide, and secondary impacts on the children of survivors. It was sobering and shocking, she said. “No one chooses to be a survivor.”
Both presentations, and several speakers in the debate on the report, referred to a Synod fringe meeting for survivors of abuse, organised by MACSAS on Friday evening. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop Hancock, and the Bishop of London , the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally ,were among those who had attended it.
Bishop Mullally said, in a maiden speech, that, to date, survivors had not been involved effectively in the process. “We have come far. I believe I have seen change; but we have far to go.” She spoke on independence: of scrutiny, disclosure processes (particularly for those who had been abused by clergy), and redress, supported by an independent ombudsman.
“But the responsibility, I am clear, is mine to provide a safe environment. We should not lose our responsibility and hand over safeguarding completely independently.”
The Bishop of Durham , the Rt Revd Paul Butler , the former lead bishop on safeguarding, agreed with calls for an independent ombudsman. The hearings being conducted by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) showed that the country must come to terms with a “deeply, deeply shameful” past. Prevention of abuse remained “critical” for the Church, and “handling what happened in the past helps us be a better preventative organisation today.”
The Dean of St Paul's , the Very Revd David Ison (London) , disagreed. The complaints process needed to be delegated to an independent body, because of prejudicial interest. Speaking directly to the Bishops' bench, he said: “Stop trying to do everything: you cannot. Do it by delegating to independent authorities.” The Church should also be making millions of pounds available to people who had been hurt and marginalised by it.
Resourcing meant paying, the Archbi shop of Canterbury said. “Redress, mediation, psychological help and counselling – someone has to pay.” The debate happening at the Synod must happen in diocesan and deanery synods, and PCCs, he said, “so that those paying the bill know why it is being paid”.
A separate item on safeguarding estimated that the priorities for action listed in the report would cost between £60,000 and £100,000, including staff salaries. Some of these actions and costing were dependent on independently commissioned work, which was yet to be received by the NST, and therefore, it says, “some of the priorities for action could result in significant costs which are currently unbudgeted.”
Archbishop Welby continued: “I see the power of the argument for more independence, provided that we remain no less committed to our responsibility. Independence will give confidence to what we do.” He asked Bishop Hancock what this might look like. The Bishop said suggested than an ombudsman model would be most helpful.
Archbishop Welby echoed the Bishop of London's tribute to survivors, including those who were undeclared and undisclosed. “We need to care for them very deeply, and pay tribute to survivors who have disclosed, and who will pay for that in sleepless nights and deep psychological pain. We cannot say often enough about how appalled and sorry we are.”
At the fringe meeting, a survivor of clerical abuse, Gilo, told the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, that there was a “crisis of senior leadership” in the Church, which was compromising the response to survivors.
“MACSAS is aware that nearly a third of current diocesan bishops have responded to survivors dishonourably. This deepening crisis cannot be managed away or hidden. It is a crisis that can only change by being transformed.”
In his presidential address, before the presentation, the Archbishop of York , Dr Sentamu , asked what hope might look like for survivors of abuse. “Answer: ‘We are with you.' Total solidarity,” he said.
“A willingness to stand in their shoes — which will be very uncomfortable. Justice also demands that alleged abusers are presumed innocent until proven guilty. But they must tell of the truth and nothing but the truth.”
Feedback from the fringe event had been generally positive, Ms Kind said. One person who had attended it described a “deep, frank, and honest sharing from survivors and good listening from everyone. Perhaps this was a first step to genuine dialogue.” Another said: “I really want to feel that I am part of improving the Church on safeguarding. There is so much to do. Please can we keep up the impetus.”
The following motion (GS2092) was amended and carried by the Synod:
That this Synod, recognising that safeguarding is at the heart of Christian mission and the urgent need for the Church of England to continue to become a safer place for all and a refuge for those who suffer abuse in any context:
(a) endorse the priorities for action outlined in the report (GS 2092); and
(b) call on the House of Bishops and the Archbishops' Council to ensure that the plan of action is implemented as a matter of priority
(c) endorse as an additional priority the support of safeguarding at parish level to create a safer church for all
(d) call on the House of Bishops to introduce, as a matter of urgency, ways to improve relations between the Church and those survivors currently in dispute with National Church Institutions, including, where appropriate, by the use of mediation processes
National Redress Scheme starts for survivors of child sexual abuse
by Cheryl Hall
Doug Goulter has always hated shaking hands. Years of sexual abuse when he was in a Melbourne boy's home, and then Sydney's Long Bay jail at just 17, means he still shrinks from physical contact.
"Intimacy and stuff like that is out of the question because it reveals too much about yourself," he says.
"Even with the people you love you can't be too intimate, and you can't even talk to them about it because they don't want to feel your pain.
"They can't understand it, because if you haven't been in the institutions you can't understand it."
Mr Goulter is now 69 years old. He will be one of the first people to apply for compensation through the National Redress Scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse, which starts today.
But he is angry that he is likely to receive an average payout of $76,000.
"There is no other option for me. Civil action would be the best way to go but I don't have the time. My life expectancy is so short now that to take civil action would just take too long," he says.
Mr Goulter has Ischaemic cardiomyopathy with heart failure, and he says he may have only a few years to live.
"I need an outcome from the redress and I need it as soon as possible," he says.
"It's my last option of getting any justice or any sort of compensation to make life a bit easier. I can leave the heater on, or I can fill the car up with petrol with more than $10 at a time."
'It affects your whole life for the rest of your life'
Mr Goulter was sent to the Salvation Army's Bayswater Boys' Home in Melbourne's east from 1965 to 1968 where he was sexually abused multiple times by one of the Salvation Army's staff.
A psychologist's report in 1966 described his "mistrust" and "suspicious attitude towards society". It said "the lad increasingly tends to withdraw from social contacts, which are perceived by him as dangerous and harmful."
He ran away three times.
"It just led from one escape to another and the police every time I got recaptured, they just want to send me back to the same situation," he says.
"They'd never ask, you could never tell them, why the reasons are you're escaping.
"All you could do was commit more crime. You had no money, no clothes, nothing to eat or drink. What else were you going to do?"
At 17 years old, Mr Goulter was sentenced to two' years imprisonment in Sydney's Long Bay jail.
"'We can't control you. You're a menace to society'. That's what the three judges said to me in Sydney central court," he says.
"What do you think happens to a young boy when you're the smallest and most vulnerable?
"Do you want to know about the rapes in an adult prison in Long Bay when they force you to go from one cell to another without the screws knowing?
"It affects your whole life for the rest of your life. It doesn't go away. It never goes away. You never really forget it. It's part of everything you do, but you don't realise it half the time."
Doubts over whether redress scheme is best for survivors
More than 90 per cent of the estimated 60,000 survivors of child sexual abuse can now apply for redress. The maximum award has been capped at $150,000.
Minister for Social Services, Dan Tehan, says it is a momentous occasion for those who have been seeking compensation for years.
"Redress provides an easier mechanism to get monetary compensation, to get an apology and importantly to get counselling," he says.
"The average payout will be $76,000. That's our best estimate."
But Melbourne lawyer Vivian Waller says the redress scheme should be a last resort.
"Potentially they could have a common law claim worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and they need to be informed about the viability of any common law claim before applying for redress," she says.
"Because in order to receive any payment from the redress scheme they'll have to sign away all their rights to sue."
Ms Waller has represented hundreds of abuse victims and said in two recent cases the Supreme Court of Victoria awarded just over a million dollars in one case, and nearly $700,000 in another.
"The redress scheme doesn't make any accommodation for medical expenses beyond $5000 of counselling, it doesn't provide compensation for loss of wages, or the impact on a person's education or career. All of these things can be accommodated in a common law claim."
It is an option Mr Goulter does not believe he has.
He will apply for compensation under the national redress scheme by filling out a 43-page application form. But he is worried he will end up with only the average redress payment of $76,000,
He will not accept it.
"How do you define average? My life wasn't average. I want the maximum of whatever they have to offer. And if I can't speak to someone how do I ask for that?"
NSW releases long-awaited sexual assault strategy
by Alexandra Smith
Adult survivors of child sexual assault will be prioritised for social housing and the NSW school curriculum will include content related to sexual violence as part of a long-awaited strategy.
NSW's first sexual assault strategy, to be released on Friday, will focus on raising awareness about consent, as well as protecting victims and preventing sexual assault and harassment in universities and workplaces.
The state has unveiled its sexual assault strategy, which features more public education about sexual consent.
The current laws around consent will also be considered by the NSW Law Reform Commission.
The government referred the laws to the commission in May following the high-profile acquittal of Luke Lazarus, the son of a Kings Cross nightclub boss.
Saxon Mullins, who accused Mr Lazarus of raping her in an alleyway behind the Soho nightclub, spoke to the ABC's Four Corners to promote a discussion about NSW sexual consent law.
Other measures in the strategy include trauma training for frontline community services workers and a review by the Mental Health Commission into links between mental health and sexual abuse.
The government will also work with NSW universities and residential colleges to help implement the recommendations from the 2017 Australian Human Rights Commission report.
The 2017 report found one in five students experienced sexual harassment at university in 2016 and 1.6 per cent of students reported being sexually assaulted on at least one occasion in 2015 or 2016.
It made nine recommendations to universities and university colleges aimed at gaining a high-level commitment to prevention, response and support as well as ongoing monitoring.
The strategy says input will be provided into the NSW Education Standards Authority review of the K-12 curriculum to provide content related to sexual violence and future teacher training.
The government will also launch a community education campaign on social media.
"The campaign will identify the continuum of sexual harassment to sexual assault, consent and address the role the bystander and community can play in identifying sexual offending and speaking out," the strategy says.
"The campaign will highlight gender inequality as a driver of sexual assault and harassment."
The minister for the prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault, Pru Goward
said the strategy focused on protecting child victims and abuse survivors as well as prevention.
“The impact of sexual assault on victims is profound and long-lasting, and it requires a whole of community response if we are to reduce the number of incidents and the damage caused by this crime,” Ms Goward said.
“The NSW Government's Sexual Assault Strategy proposes an integrated response that is not just focused on the crisis point of the system, but also in the critical areas of prevention and early intervention.”
The strategy says that in the 12 months to March, 13,309 incidents of sexual offences were reported to NSW Police, with women and girls nearly four times more likely than males to be a victim.
Two-thirds of victims were children. Girls were victims of reported sexual offences at more than three times the rate of boys and males made up 97.5 per cent of alleged perpetrators.
Survivor's photographic display evokes Pieces of the Self journey
by Leanne Younes
Ballarat child abuse survivor and advocate Peter Blenkiron is somewhat detached about the opening of his personally documented exhibition in Melbourne.
The exhibition, Putting The Pieces Of The Self Together One Moment At A Time , features Peter's photography but Mr Blenkiron says all the tribute belongs to curator and advocate, Vanessa Beetham.
“She's the driving force behind it all, she has been phenomenal,” he said, describing how Vanessa has worked on the exhibition from California, where she lives.
Mr Blenkiron, who describes himself as “just the photographer”, says he is now prioritising his family and working on his recovery from the childhood abuse inflicted by a St Patrick's College Christian Brother.
A special event was held on Friday at the Dax Centre, attended by Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley and author advocate, Dr Judy Courtin to raise money for adult survivors of childhood trauma. Proceeds will go to the Blue Knot Foundation – National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma, and The Dax Centre, which both work to increase understanding of mental illness and psychological trauma.
Supported by Creative Victoria, the exhibition at the The Dax Centre, Kenneth Myer Building, 30 Royal Parade, Parkville, also features artwork by Doug Moran and Archibald Prize finalist, Daniel Butterworth. It is open Mon to Sat: 11am - 5pm and Sunday: 12pm - 4pm and runs until 21 July.
A former electrician, Mr Blenkiron has been a tireless advocate for Ballarat's child abuse survivors.
He documented his personal journey on a smartphone, and this photographic diary is said to offer “rare insight into the inner world of a child abuse survivor as he slowly learns to re-inhabit his body and mind.”
The exhibition includes video recorded in Rome that features Mr Blenkiron's personal reflections to the Royal Commission hearings in March 2016 and a short film by filmmaker Andrew Sully, about the exhibition.
Mental Health Today
Childhood sexual abuse and mental health: there are many more like Whitney
by Dawn Estefan
Dawn Estefan's work in the entertainment industry inspired her to retrain as a psychotherapist. Most of her clients have experienced some form of sexual violence. Access to a therapeutic relationship is the most important part of the healing process, she says.
“Whitney”, the latest expose documentary about the life and career of Whitney Houston, has finally arrived at UK cinemas. Publicity for Kevin Macdonald's film promised an investigative and intimate retrospective, featuring some rare never-been-seen performances as well as, it seems, some never-been-spoken discoveries about the star. One such discovery references that the singer was allegedly sexually abused as a child, and this has never been revealed or spoken about until now.
"Non-verbal communications, such as what is felt in the transference, often speak louder than words which are already difficult to express."
As a psychotherapist who specialises in working with trauma it would be all too easy to read the documentary reviews, piece together the tabloid stories and insightfully declare that “all the signs were there!” But back then as a childhood fan of Whitney and then latterly as someone who in a previous life worked in the entertainment business and was actually fortunate to have worked on productions which hosted the Houston and Warwick camp in the late 1990s – 2000s, I was none the wiser.
Thinking back, I don't ever recall hearing any rumours; it's true that an artist's PR machines can bury almost any unfavourable stories, but there's always a rumour and according to Macdonald's pre-publicity accounts the abuse was something which had been buried within the core of the family for many years. It was kept away from her (in the beginning) flawless career. Given the fundamental role that secrecy often plays in the 'success' of child abuse, the hidden or buried aspect of this particular narrative comes as no surprise.
In an industry which romanticises the conceptual tortured artist and perhaps in hindsight unconsciously disguises ill mental health as creative genius, there was no reason back then for me to think of Whitney as anything other than another industry casualty, who fuelled by drugs had burnt too bright, too fast and not, as a young woman who was unconsciously acting out her secret trauma. I would never have imagined that what we were watching in the media were the symptoms of the abuse and not the deep-rooted cause of her very public demise.
All too common
Childhood sexual abuse or CSA was formerly seldomly discussed or acknowledged. It has over the last several decades increasingly garnered attention both in the media and by professionals as being a “serious problem” and it is said to no longer be seen as a subject which is taboo; although the survivors and prevalence figures may suggest otherwise.
The prevalence of CSA is difficult to state accurately as it mostly goes unreported or undisclosed. However, despite the ambiguity around prevalence statistics various findings reveal that CSA affects a substantial percentage of the population (Brown and Tessier 2015).
CSA can be defined as any sexual contact with a child through the use of threat, force or deceit to secure a child's participation or any sexual contact with a child who is incapable of giving consent by virtue of power differential, age or disability. Although both genders are vulnerable, girls are considered to be at greater risk, however the long term psychological and social impact on both are similarly deleterious.
Working at a small but overstretched and underfunded Women's Psychotherapy service in North London, I would say that with very few exceptions all my cases feature various levels of Adult Sexual Violence and CSA in the narrative. Not entirely surprising as research shows that adult survivors of CSA have a considerably higher risk of developing long term mental health difficulties in contrast to the overall population.
Although each survivor's experience is personal and unique, there is a commonality which binds them together and this is the profound short and long term mental, social and physical effects that CSA has on its survivors as well as the clinical presentation of fundamental core difficulties found within the varied symptomology and associated Mental Health Disorders.
These core difficulties include, cognitive distortions e.g. feeling responsible, self – blame, feelings of being dirty, spoiled or even cursed. Substance disorders such as drug and or alcohol dependency, eating disorders, inter relational problems, depression and anxiety, low self - esteem, problems with social adjustment and emotional functioning, trust and intimacy difficulties and symptomology which suggest PTSD or Complex PTSD.
Many years, even decades, after the abuse has ended survivors still seek to make sense of their experiences and the damaging psychological effects that just don't seem to ease with the passing of time and this is what eventually leads them to seek therapy.
When working with survivors of CSA it is essential first to provide clearly set out boundaries which create the therapeutic frame and provide feelings of safety and containment. Boundaries are broken psychologically and physically in cases of CSA and are therefore of great importance when working therapeutically.
Within the work itself I work together with survivors to help them to reflect upon how the abuse has been incorporated into their sense of self, sense of others and the world they live in. As the work progresses the survivor gradually makes links between past events and current difficulties which help them to process and give meaning to their psychological and emotional pain.
Empowerment is an important part of the work, I encourage survivors to find their voices and to speak what has been previously unspeakable. I never push for details of the abuse. When working with survivors of CSA it is important to avoid re traumatising the survivor by insisting on evidence. Non-verbal communications, such as what is felt in the transference, often speak louder than words which are already difficult to express.
It is important for survivors to express internalised rage, to mourn their loss of innocence, of childhood and self. Therapy often for many, also provides a chance to be heard for the first time. This is the opportunity for them to both reframe and reclaim their personal narrative.
The most important aspect of the healing process, I believe, is the therapeutic relationship in itself. Survivors of CSA can often develop fearful relating patterns; the relationship between therapist and survivor should provide a reparative experience of relationships. I believe that this is the path to resolving that which overwhelms and help move towards a space of healing and recovery.
There are and will be more like Whitney. Changing attitudes around stigma, shame and judgement as well as recognising the powerful impact that CSA has on its survivors helps to encourage open dialogue and critical thought. This in turn can help survivors to regain control, develop better coping mechanisms, agency and access to parts of the self which have been hidden. There are thousands of survivors who won't have documentaries made about them, yet their stories must also be told and documented to help break the silence.
(VIDEO on site)
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.
Holly Christensen: Childhood abuse still echoes in survivors' adult lives
In a room recognizably located in a nursing home, a tiny lady with white hair speaks in a bird-like voice to her young nurse, “I must hide under my bed.”
“Why?” asks the nurse.
“He's coming!” says the old woman.
“Are we playing hide and seek?”
“No, my papa is coming, please don't let him find me!”
The Spanish short film at the Cleveland Film Festival several years ago breaks from the scene with a message: Childhood abuse lasts indefinitely.
This column demanded to be written, no matter what else I had in mind. Why? Because in the two weeks since my last column , many women have shared their stories with me.
Some have been strangers sharing the impact, if not all the details, of their decades-long struggle with the abuse they suffered as children.
Others are women I've known since childhood, like one who told me about her teen rapist. I first met him, too, in elementary school.
Many women who wrote were sexually assaulted, but equally as many were physically abused. “I was told that my dad loved me as he bashed me around. It's the loss of trust that is so damaging,” said one.
For any child abused, even if that child is now 30, 50, 70 years of age, I am deeply sorry other adults didn't intervene. If I could strip away the lingering pain and replace it with enduring safety for the child-self left inside these adults, I would. Just as I wish I could give the same to my own child-self.
What I can do is love and protect my own children. For though child abuse may never be 100 percent eradicated, we can do better.
Since my last column, Woody Allen told the media in Argentina he should be the poster boy for the #MeToo movement. Why? Because he's never had a complaint of assault from any of the hundreds of famous or just-starting-out actresses he's worked with over the decades.
Great. He kept his sexual assault limited to the children in his family and never took it to work. Based on his logic, my dad, too, could be a poster boy for the #MeToo movement. (Unless my doctor writes me an unlimited prescription for Zofran, I need to avoid reading anything Allen says.)
Days later, Bill Clinton went on the interview circuit. He has a new fiction book, co-written with author James Patterson, about a president battling a cyberterrorist. As a result, the topic of Clinton's affair 20 years ago with Monica Lewinsky has resurfaced. At the time, he was 49 and president of the United States. She was a 22-year-old college grad.
Clinton was defensive when asked about the affair on the Today show, claiming two-thirds of Americans sided with him at the time. He was comparative, wondering why he had to endure impeachment hearings when Kennedy and Johnson were never pressured to resign over their affairs. He touted his record of promoting women to high positions in government. And he attacked the reporter asking the questions.
Nothing he said conveyed an iota of contrition.
“Clinton's smart and can afford the best PR firms, I'm sure,” I said as we discussed his tone-deaf answers over dinner. “Why didn't his advisers better prepare him for these inevitable questions?”
“I'm sure they did,” said Max, “And he ignored them.”
When the Clinton impeachment hearings were going on, a friend of mine from a well-connected Democrat family wished Clinton would resign. I disagreed. I don't now.
No party should parse between the personal behavior of a politician and the political gain of his policies. As Frank Bruni wrote in a recent column in the New York Times, nominating the first women to serve as secretary of state and attorney general does not compensate for eviscerating the life of a 22-year-old.
Lewinsky, who has admitted her own mistakes in allowing the affair, has become a modern-day Hester Prynne. Meanwhile, Clinton has gone about his life, amassing fortunes and building a library to commemorate his life and time in the Oval Office.
The thing about men like Allen and Clinton is no matter what outrage they face, they will never see the error of their ways. Perhaps they are all narcissists. But also, when predatory violence against women continues, sometimes for decades, with impunity, it underscores a predator's notion that the rules don't apply to him. Everyone who witnesses such abuse and does nothing is culpable.
Complexity of abuse
Today is Father's Day. If you read my last column you might think I have nothing good to say about my father. But that is not true. The complexity of child abuse is that nobody is always evil, just as nobody is always perfect.
When I was an undergrad at OSU, I read a review of a British movie about an abusive family in the student paper. The college-age reviewer couldn't understand how the father could beat the children in one scene and have a joyous Christmas celebration with them in the next. Clearly that writer had an upbringing devoid of violence.
Just as all parent-child relationships are layered, if not complicated, reconciling the history of parental abuse can be fraught with conflicting emotions. Making this even more difficult, abusers, and sometimes other survivors, often claim the abuse never happened.
In 2013, Emily Yoffe, formerly slate.com 's Dear Prudence writer, wrote a column on what adult children owe the parents who abused them as children. Her answer? Nothing, absolutely nothing.
“Holy moly, you are right! I'm a horrible excuse for a human being and what I did to you can never be excused. I am truly sorry for the endless suffering I have caused you. Tell me what I can do to help.” These are words I don't expect Woody Allen and Bill Clinton (and Bill Cosby, Bill O'Reilly, Harvey Weinstein, etc., etc.) to say to their victims. Neither will most nonfamous parents who've abused their children.
“Make a list of all the persons you've harmed and become willing to make amends to them all.” That is step 8 in Alcoholics Anonymous' 12-step program. It is also the step too hard for many to make. More people stop at this step, I am told, than any other.
For those with whom my last column resonated, do not give control to the people who harmed you by waiting for them to understand your pain and make amends. Seek whatever help you need, surround yourself with kind people — for most people are truly good — and be kind to yourself.
Be the adult you deserved in your life when you were a child and you will find what was taken from you. For me, parenting my kids as I wished I'd been parented has been the best thing I've ever done for myself.
Confronting Childhood Abuse as an Adult Writer
by Chris Goudreau
When Lisa Zarcone was 11 or 12 years old, she came home to find her home a hot 90 degrees and her mother smoking on the sofa. She turned down the thermostat and her mother attacked her with a meat tenderizer, violently hitting her more than 20 times. She had bruises on her back that lasted for more than a month.
Now, Zarcone, a 52-year-old Springfield resident, is the Massachusetts national ambassador for the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (NAASCA) , a nonprofit that seeks to address childhood abuse and trauma and provide resources for intervention and recovery.
“I encourage people all the time to get help anywhere they can in a positive manner,” Zarcone said. “It starts by talking about it.”
She said the impacts of child abuse can manifest later in life as post traumatic stress disorder, mental illnesses as well as drug and alcohol addiction.
“As I became grown, married and having my own children, I started having these tremendous flashbacks and all that stuff that I suppressed and hid for so long; everything under the sun — shame, guilt … the pain of it. It was all seeping out with the nightmares,” Zarcone said. “I had to start to deal with it. It was very hard because I was juggling three young children and working and trying to deal with my mom who is mentally ill. I was always balancing between the past and present. For a while I thought I was losing my own mind.”
Her mother, Joanne, who passed away four years ago, suffered from bipolar disorder and a form of schizophrenia, which caused her to enter into sudden violent rages as well as depressive phases.
“I had to work really hard to seperate my mom from the illness and to see my mom as the real person and I love my mom … My mom and I as adults struggled with our relationship, but I did learn who the true Joanne was compared to my mom who was mentally ill. It took a lot of time to get there, but we did get there. My mom was a very kind hearted loving person. That was the true Joanne, but her illness unfortunately sucked her up whole.”
She first decided to speak openly about the physical and verbal child abuse inflicted upon her when she released her first book, a memoir called The Unspoken Truth in 2016. The book was written from the perspective of her childhood self.
“People come to me all the time and say that after reading my story they've gotten so much out of it,” Zarcone said. “It's helped them to raise their voice and start to heal and talk about their own personal issues … Some people are sharing for the first time ever. Now that's validation right there.”
It took her about six and a half years to write her memoir in which Zarcone returned to therapy as she returned to dark memories trying to write from the perspective of a child.
“I was about eight years old. I was always afraid. My house was unstable and I was a scared child. After my brother died, I was even more terrified because he was kind of my protector. My mom would come into my room at night and just stand next to my bed. Sometimes she would have scissors. Sometimes she would have a knife. And she would just stare at me. I would talk to her and she wouldn't respond,” Zarcone said.
As ambassador to NAASCA, Zarcone says she is able to advocate for adult survivors and provide resources and information to people who have suffered from child abuse.
“It's a great outlet for people who struggle, not only with child abuse and their past, but with mental health issues,” Zarcone said. “It all really connects together if you look at the big picture.”
For more information about Zarcone, you can visit her Twitter page at https://twitter.com/lzarcone11 . Her book is available at various locations in western Massachusetts.
Recognizing the effect of traumatic stress on children
by Kim Doleatto
While babies seem inert, their brains are the busiest they'll ever be, because from birth to 3 years old, they produce more than a million neural connections every second.
But this process isn't exclusively biological. As in the care for a garden from seed to bloom, external factors are key. Relationships, experiences and environment influence early brain development so much that a pair of twins never taken out of their crib during the first year of their lives had smaller brains than they should have had, Mimi Graham, director of the Florida State University Center for Prevention & Early Intervention Policy, said.
Such instances of neglect — defined as Adverse Child Experience, or ACE — can interrupt early brain growth and are proven predictors of lifelong outcomes such as adult well being, functioning and health.
ACEs include witnessing or experiencing sexual or emotional abuse, domestic violence, parental separation and neglect. They are pervasive and often cumulative.
“One in four school-aged children have had some kind of trauma or at least one adverse child experience,” Graham said.
Of those, 50 percent will experience an ACE three or four more times.
Simply put, ACEs cause toxic stress that set off a fight-or-flight response that replaces curiosity with cortisol and makes sitting down in a classroom to learn a skill like reading a herculean feat. Children may also have trouble trusting teachers and other adults.
“Many people think kids won't remember early trauma and aren't affected unless there's a visible three-inch scar,” Graham said, but a study by the Area Health Education Center of Washington State University found that students with at least three ACEs are three times as likely to experience failure at school and six times as likely to have behavioral problems.
“High quality child care can change that, particularly during the first five years of life when the brain is more flexible,” Graham said.
That's why trauma-informed care, the term given to strategies that address ACEs, are slowly but steadily getting folded into early intervention services.
Head Start — a federal organization that helps young children from low-income families with school readiness, health and family well-being — implemented Head Start Trauma Smart.
The program trains teachers, staff and parents to help children navigate the behavioral issues often associated with ACEs and comes with its own vocabulary and strategy. When a child is upset, a teacher recognizes, validates and seeks a solution, guiding them through calming techniques such as deep breathing or counting.
But Graham points out that while ACEs can lead to negative outcomes, they don't necessarily prescribe a child's future.
“The other side of ACEs is resilience. With a strong support system, grandparent, coach or teacher, they can be overcome. Even having hope and a good attitude can contribute,” Graham said.
Connection to trauma-informed services for families who have had these traumatic experiences may help young children achieve more positive developmental outcomes, as children learn to trust and form secure attachments and relationships with their caregivers and adults overall.
‘It never stops shaping you': the legacy of child sexual abuse – and how to survive it
Child sexual abuse is frighteningly common and hugely damaging. But a new project is collecting survivors' stories – and revealing what is needed to heal
The first thing Sabah Kaiser does after sitting down at the table when we meet, is to pick up a pen, and write her name on the nearest sheet of paper. She does it almost unthinkingly, and only later will it come to seem significant.
When she was a little girl, Kaiser wrote her name a lot. She scrawled it defiantly on the wall at home, balancing precariously on a banister four floors above the ground to reach the wallpaper: “Sabah is the best.” Later, she wrote it in foster homes: “I would find the hardest place that I could reach, or the most beautiful or lovely area, and write ‘Sabah is the best'.”
It was a coping mechanism she learned young, without really understanding why. But now, at 43, she recognises it as a way of fighting the feelings of worthlessness and shame so many child abuse survivors experience. “It was saying: ‘Look at me, I belong here; I can do the same as you, if not better.'”
The name she writes now is not, however, the same one she had then. Kaiser changed it by deed poll years ago, borrowing inspiration from Keyser Söze, the character in the film The Usual Suspects who has a double life. Kaiser, she explains, means king; above other men, but below God. It is a powerful name, and the one under which she approached the Truth Project .
Set up by the government's Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, the project gives individual victims and survivors a chance to be heard; to share stories in confidence, helping inform the inquiry's investigation into the widespread failure of institutions from churches to boarding schools to halt abuse. So far it has collected more than 1,000 stories (and remains keen to hear more ), and while the details are often harrowing, they are striking in what they reveal about the lifelong consequences. As one survivor says in the report published this week by the Truth Project, it's “like pebbles thrown into a pond; the ripples keep on getting bigger”.
Last week, the World Health Organisation formally recognised the existence of complex post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition from which it is thought many survivors of childhood abuse suffer. It differs from other forms of PTSD in that sufferers tend to have “a completely pervasive and rigid negative belief about themselves”, says the inquiry's chief psychologist Bryony Farrant. They may struggle with managing their feelings, trusting others, and with feelings of shame and inadequacy holding them back in school or working life. An analysis of Truth Project participants found that 85% had mental health problems in later life, including depression and anxiety, while almost half struggled with education or getting a job. Four in 10 had difficulties with relationships, with some avoiding sexual intimacy altogether, while others had multiple sexual partners; some suffered difficulty eating or sleeping, were dependent on alcohol, or were drawn into crime. One in five had tried to kill themselves.
Surprisingly, other research has shown survivors are at greater risk of illness, including heart disease and cancer, with years of chronic stress taking a physical toll on their bodies.
Farrant stresses that not every survivor's story ends badly, and that their fates are certainly not set in stone. “I feel very hopeful and positive that people can recover, and certainly in my clinical work I've seen that,” she says. “The brain is far more plastic than we've previously understood, which means there are far more opportunities for people to repair some of the impacts from childhood trauma.”
But if a new technology, drug or junk food were doing such damage, it would be classed as a public health emergency. It is striking, then, that the toxic legacy of child abuse gets less attention than theories about whether social media makes teenagers anxious or skinny models fuel anorexia. “For me, this is the most public secret we have,” says Sarah Champion, Labour MP for Rotherham, a town still grappling with the aftermath of the child sexual exploitation scandal uncovered seven years ago. “I think people recognise and understand it, we're just not prepared to confront it.” The Truth Project is trying to bring it out of the shadows.
Kaiser remembers clearly the bedroom where it all started; at the top of the four-storey house she shared with her mother and five siblings (her father died when she was a toddler). After an older sister ran away from home, the room was left empty – and supposedly out of bounds – but she would sneak up. “In the room, there was a glass cabinet that had two shelves in – probably 4ft high – and books behind the glass. One on the train robbery, and a book about Tutankhamun. I'd sit crosslegged and just stare at my father's books – never touch.” She was seven years old, she says, when a male visitor to the house first abused her there. Over the next six years, she told the Truth Project, she was assaulted by three other men, both in Britain and when visiting Pakistan. She always felt that to tell would put her mother in danger.
On the surface, Kaiser's was a strict upbringing; if anyone kissed in a film, an adult would instantly switch off the TV. “There were no relationships outside marriage, no boyfriends and girlfriends of any kind, no untoward touching. Those lines were not blurred at any time. That act of touching, there's so much onus on it – literally, the respect of the household is put on it,” she explains. “There were lines that were drawn, and then there were areas that were just ... no-go areas, and it was able to breed and occur as it did because there were no repercussions. Nobody saying stop.”
Years ago, in Pakistan, she heard a story that she didn't understand at the time about a man caught abusing his toddler granddaughter. When the child's mother confronted him, “she was beaten to a pulp. That was a no-go area. It was ‘you didn't have the authority or the right, how dare you have the audacity to bring that up with me'. It was as if there was a place for men, and those men have their reasons.”
Initially, she interpreted the abuse as some kind of punishment, “like I was a bad child, that I was doing something wrong”. As she got older, she drew on her experience as a British Asian straddling two cultures to separate herself from what was happening. The girl at home enduring unspeakable things – withdrawn and always frowning – became separate from the popular, more assertive girl at school. “When I'm in my own home, the colours, the smells, the sounds are completely different. But once I step out of my door into the street, I'm in England, and everything looks and smells and sounds different. It was about being one person inside the house and, as soon as I stepped outside, I'm not that person.”
It was a school sex education lesson at 13 that finally provided words for what was happening. She walked out in the middle of it, and not long afterwards summoned the courage to tell her mother. The only time her voice quavers is when she describes her mother's reaction.
“My mother was a seamstress, she sewed Asian women's clothes. At any point of the day or night you would find her at her sewing machine in her bedroom and that's where I went. I sat down on this little cushion by the gas fire and started to tell her. I didn't quite know how to explain. The words I used were: ‘What a man and wife does in their bedroom to have children, is what he's doing to me.'”
Her mother did confront the man, Kaiser says, asking if he had “touched” her. “He went into this tirade about how if I was raised in Pakistan, I wouldn't be saying these things; how living in England ruins girls.” She realised that her mother was not going to back her up, and that in effect the subject was closed.
So she started fighting at school, skipping lessons, waiting for someone to notice. Someone did, but she says the teacher appointed to counsel her then abused her all over again; she was eventually taken into care aged 15, after months of shuttling between foster families and home. If new acquaintances asked about her parents, she would say she was an orphan. At 19, Kaiser found herself pregnant by an older boyfriend who had no idea of her history.
She struggles to forgive the social worker who, on learning of her pregnancy, told her to get counselling or she might abuse her own child. (Perpetrators are disproportionately likely to have been abused as children, but the idea of the cycle repeating itself is a sensitive one, says Farrant: “The research doesn't support that abused people are highly likely to go on to abuse other people. Often it's such a harmful narrative, and it intensifies the sense of shame and guilt.”)
With that warning ringing in her ears, Kaiser suffered postnatal depression after her son was born. “I could barely touch him; I couldn't breastfeed him because I felt that every time I did, I was abusing him. I loved him so much, there was this fear that I was going to hurt him because there was something wrong with me.”
But she went on to have a second son, and this time it was easier, because she had learned that there were places not to go in her head. “If I didn't close those doors, I'm not sure who would be talking to you today, it would be a completely different story. That's what tends to happen to children like me. We become damaged goods, broken beyond repair.”
And yet she did not break. Kaiser now works as a translator, and volunteers for a survivors' charity; she is proud of her two grown sons and is on good terms with their father, from whom she later separated. However, she has had another relationship that she describes as highly abusive, but realised during counselling that she was unconsciously mirroring her childhood experience. Adult survivors are, she says, vulnerable to predators because of their desperation to be loved: “I don't think it ever stops shaping you. Just the impact is different.”
What saved her, Kaiser thinks, was being reconciled with her mother in her late 30s. She won't call it closure – “for me, it would be for my mum to say she believed me and that she was sorry, and she never said those words” – but it meant more to her than she can describe to be mother and daughter again. After years of anger, she now feels “love and respect” for her mother, wondering what experiences drove her response. “There was never a time when I didn't feel her love. Even though there were times – years – when I didn't feel it for her. I don't believe for a second that she didn't care.”
Two years after she got back in touch, her mother died, and when Kaiser subsequently saw adverts for the Truth Project, she felt ready to talk. “It was almost like I had chains around me, and it was her passing that made me feel I'd broken free.”
Survivors can choose how and where they talk to the Truth Inquiry as a way of returning the control that was brutally denied them as children (Kaiser deliberately picked a town four hours' drive from home). They are asked beforehand about objects that might trigger disturbing memories, and staff adapt accordingly; if an abuser carried rosary beads, nobody in the room can wear beaded jewellery. Some people can't ultimately go through with it and that's fine, says Farrant. It's no good rushing people who aren't ready, since the impact of a “bad” disclosure can be immense. The inquiry has heard over and over again from survivors saying that being disbelieved or rejected was “just as, or in some cases more, traumatising” than the abuse itself.
Support workers will call before and after survivors share their stories to see how they're coping and, if necessary, refer them on. Farrant is pleased that complex PTSD was officially recognised by the World Health Organisation, potentially leading to more research and better treatment for sufferers.
But beyond the auspices of the Truth Project, NHS mental health services remain overstretched, struggling with demand as historic abuse is brought to light. In Rotherham, Champion says there is a seven-month wait for the main specialist local abuse counselling service – and that's the tip of the iceberg. “A lot of survivors can't begin to unpick what happened to them. They're just very aware that they struggle to hold down jobs or relationships, that they might have drug or alcohol dependency. A package to deal with those issues is needed.”
Meanwhile, as survivors become parents themselves, some are coming into conflict with the very social services that failed them as children. “There's this assumption, particularly if they have been involved in gang grooming, that somehow they're going to be a bad mother, whereas if they'd been raped [in other circumstances] people wouldn't think that at all.” She wants a one-stop centre in Rotherham, bringing together multiple agencies under one roof to offer early support rather than “deal with the symptoms 10 or 20 years down the line”.
What she is talking about is essentially a public health approach, recognising the sexual abuse suffered by an estimated 7% of children as a significant hidden cause of mental and physical illness, just as tobacco is the underlying cause of many cancers.
If all forms of so-called Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) – both sexual and physical abuse, or neglect – could somehow be eliminated overnight, the results would be transformative. Public Health Wales estimates it could reduce high-risk drinking by a third and heroin and cocaine use by two thirds , plus almost halving unwanted teenage pregnancies and slashing prison populations.
“When we know these things underpin the problems so many people are suffering, we're really treating consequences, not causes,” says Dr Mark Bellis, director of policy research and international development at Public Health Wales and a leading expert on ACEs. “We don't think about what's driving people towards drugs; we might think about regulating access, when actually it's the consequences of something that happened to someone as a child.”
Abused children often become hyper-vigilant, Bellis explains, knowing survival may depend on seeing trouble coming; and that affects both neurological development and hormone levels. “If your experience of life is fear, it's not unusual to develop a more cautious approach to things. But there are physiological changes, too. The way I explain it is if you set any system on a high alert, it wears out more quickly. If it's permanently running on high alert, it's producing particular immunological responses or proteins which seem to be higher in people who are exposed to these traumas in early life.” Since these are also linked to higher rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, survivors' risk of physical illness increases.
But that chemical response may also help explain why abused children who had at least one adult they could trust and relax around – leaving behind that state of high alert – seem to have better prospects of recovering. Other protective factors, he says, include feeling connected to a wider community or “if you can see a way out of things, being able to set your own destiny; if you feel you've got a pathway out, maybe through school”. It is important for survivors to know, he says, that there is hope. “The more we understand about things like resilience, the more we know there are things in children's and in adult lives that can counteract this. You are not on a set course.” Children and adults do not have to be broken beyond repair. And it is not beyond society's means to mend them.
Share your experience with the Truth Project at truthproject.org.uk, call 0800 917 1000 or email email@example.com.