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August, 2018 - Week 5
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Want to help survivors of child sex trafficking? Stop using these terms

by Leif Coorlim, CNN

(CNN) When it comes to modern slavery, nearly everyone agrees it's important to treat those exploited or preyed on, with care and respect.

In recent years, that's meant a shift in how those in the media, law enforcement and advocacy fields refer to people impacted by slavery -- referring to them as survivors, instead of victims or slaves. The reason being that the term more adequately reflects the temporal nature of the crime and the feeling that those exploited should not be labeled or boxed-in by their horrific experience. Many child protection advocates are rethinking the words they use when lobbying lawmakers to strengthen or adopt new laws related to protection of child victims of sexual assault.

In 2016, an inter-agency working group of 18 international organizations, including ECPAT, UNICEF, Interpol and Save the Children released a report known as the Luxembourg Guidelines. Their aim? To find alternative terms that could be considered less harmful or stigmatizing to child victims of sexual abuse and exploitation. Recently, CNN spoke with one of the lead writers of those guidelines, Dr. Susanna Greijer, who mentioned three terms she would like to see everyone stop using immediately, and the reasoning behind it. (The conversation has been edited slightly for clarity and conciseness)

CNN: How did the terminology guidelines come about?

Dr. Greijer: It's a project that was developed by ECPAT International, but it really came from a concern within the international child protection community that the terms we were using actually sometimes harmed the children we're aiming to protect. We found legal instruments used to protect children were having a harmful effect on the victims, who felt stigmatized and ashamed by the way they were depicted in media, but also in our own reports as child protection professionals.

CNN: What are, say, three terms you would consider harmful to these survivors of child sexual abuse?

Dr. Greijer: So one, child pornography. There is no such thing as "child pornography." We realized that when we add the term "child" with the term "pornography," we come up with something that would somehow insinuate consent on behalf of the child to be part of a pornographic spectacle or performance. This turned out problematic from the point of view of the child victims, who did not at all see themselves as pornographic actors or prostitutes. So when we address what used to be called "child pornography," we're really talking about images that fit your registrations of crime scenes and of children being sexually abused. That's what it is. So let's call it for what it is. It's images, or material, of sexual abuse of children. So I would say use the term, "child sexual abuse material."

Number two: Child Prostitution. There is no such thing as "child prostitution" either. Children cannot consent to their own sexual exploitation. So they are not child prostitutes. They are victims of sexual exploitation. So we should call it the "exploitation of children for prostitution." Sexual exploitation can often take place in the framework of prostitution circles, but we should also always underline the fact that we are talking about exploitation, which is a crime. And number three: Child Sex Tourism. It's not just another form of tourism, it's sexual exploitation of children taking place in the context of tourism and travel. So that's what we should be talking about. I know it's a long and sometimes cumbersome term, especially for media to use. But we now use an abbreviation, SECTT, which stands for the "sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism."

CNN: Have you seen any changes in the field, since releasing the report?

Dr. Greijer: We're promoting this now and the terminology guidelines were published in June 2016. So it's still a relatively new document. But things are changing and we're seeing it have some impact. Interpol has indicated "child pornography" is a completely outdated term and shouldn't be used anymore, because it's harmful. And we're getting other law enforcement and also legal actors on this. Another recent example is earlier this year the mandate of what used to be the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography was renamed. It's now the Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children. And on a national level, we see laws are being adopted now that refrain from using, or actually remove from earlier laws, references to child prostitution and child pornography replacing them by sexual exploitation of children. So there is a shift.



Catholic bishops in Australia reject compulsory abuse reporting, defying new laws

by Byron Kaye, Colin Packham

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The Catholic church in Australia said on Friday it would oppose laws forcing priests to report child abuse when they learn about it in the confessional, setting the stage for a showdown between the country's biggest religion and the government.

Pope Francis, leader of the world's 1.3 billion Catholics, is facing sexual abuse crises in several countries and the stance taken by the Australian bishops reflected the abiding, powerful influence conservatives in the church.

Visiting Ireland earlier this week, Pope Francis begged forgiveness for the multitude of abuses suffered by victims in Ireland, and he has promised no more cover-ups.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC), the country's top Catholic body, said it did not accept a recommendation from an official inquiry which would force priests by law to report abuse to the police when they hear about it in confession.

Two of Australia's eight states and territories have since introduced laws making it a crime for priests to withhold information about abuse heard in the confessional, while the others have said they are considering their response.

“This proposed law is ill-conceived, and impracticable, it won't make children safer, and it will most likely undermine religious freedom,” ACBC President Mark Coleridge told reporters in Sydney, referring to the sanctity of the confessional.

The seal of confession was “a non-negotiable element of our religious life and embodies an understanding of the believer and God”, Coleridge added.

Twenty-two percent of Australians are catholic and the move sets up a rare schism between the church and the government, in a country that adheres to a secular constitution.

Andrew Singleton, professor of philosophy at Deakin University in the state of Victoria, said the bishops' response reflected a disconnect in Australia between religious and secular sensibilities.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference in Australia, speaks as Sister Monica Cavanagh, President of Catholic Religious Australia, listens during a media conference in Sydney, Australia, August 31, 2018. REUTERS/David Gray

“Their stance is the classic tension between canon law, and their sense that there is some sort of higher, transcendent entity, and common law,” Singleton said.

Last year, Australia ended a five-year government inquiry into child sex abuse in churches and other institutions, amid allegations worldwide that churches had protected pedophile priests by moving them from parish to parish.

The inquiry heard seven percent of Catholic priests in Australia between 1950 and 2010 had been accused of child sex crimes and nearly 1,100 people had filed child sexual assault claims against the Anglican Church over 35 years.

Accusations of cover-ups in the church have reverberated all the way to Pope Francis, who has been accused by a United States archbishop of knowing for years about sexual misconduct by an American cardinal and doing nothing about it.


The ACBC's opposition runs against laws which take effect in South Australia, the country's fifth-biggest state, in October, and in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) from April 2019.

Representatives of the attorneys general of South Australia and ACT were not immediately available for comment.

Larger New South Wales and Victoria states have said they are considering the recommendation, while Western Australia has promised a similar law. Queensland, the third-largest state, has never exempted priests from mandatory reporting of abuse.

The stance taken by the Australian bishops also runs against the position taken by their church's chief adviser on child abuse complaint handling, Francis Sullivan, who said in 2017 that “priests, like everybody else, will be expected to obey the law or suffer the consequences”.

Sullivan was unavailable for comment on Friday.

Clare Leaney, CEO of In Good Faith Foundation, a victim support group, described the bishops' decision as “more of the same”.

“I've spoken to a number of survivors ... who said they were actually quite disappointed,” Leaney said.

“We are aware of at least one instance where the confession has been misused.”

The ACBC report came two weeks after a former Australian archbishop became the most senior Catholic cleric in the world to be convicted of concealing abuse, and was ordered to serve a one-year prison sentence at home.

The convicted former archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, himself a former ACBC president, was found to have failed to report child abuse outside the confessional. He filed an appeal against his conviction on Thursday.

Australia's former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull had been scheduled to deliver a rare public apology to victims of sexual abuse on Oct. 22 but he was ousted by his party earlier this month.



Number of child abuse cases in Japan rose 9% in 2017 fiscal year: health ministry data


More than 130,000 child abuse cases were handled by consultation centers across the country in fiscal 2017, on the back of increasing reports of children suffering from psychological damage after witnessing instances of domestic violence, preliminary health ministry data showed Thursday.

The figure rose 9.1 percent from a year earlier to 133,778, marking a 27th straight year of increase since comparable data became available in 1990.

The ministry attributed the rising number of reports to increased awareness among the public that psychological mistreatment, such as witnessing acts of domestic violence, can also be counted as child abuse.

Although the reports included many less serious cases of child abuse, major incidents continued to occur and some lead to the deaths of children.

In March this year, Yua Funato, 5, died in Tokyo after being abused and neglected by her parents despite her desperate pleas for them to stop mistreating her. Her case shocked the public, particularly because of the messages left behind in her notebook, including one that said, “Please forgive me forgive me” and another that read, “I promise I will never ever do it again.”

Following her death the government compiled emergency measures to tackle child abuse, including a plan to boost the number of child welfare staff nationwide by about 2,000 by fiscal 2022 from 3,253 as of April last year. Welfare workers are increasingly expected to swiftly identify urgent cases among a huge number of reports.

“We want to create a system involving not just child consultation centers but also municipal governments to prevent abuse,” said an official at the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

In fiscal 2017 that ended in March, the number of psychological abuse cases stood at 72,197. The total includes children who were ignored, verbally abused or who witnessed acts of domestic violence.

A total of 33,223 cases of physical abuse, 26,818 cases of neglect and 1,540 sexual abuse cases were reported.

The ministry has not yet released the number of child abuse-related deaths for fiscal 2017.

In fiscal 2016, 77 children died due to abuse, including 33 who were under 1 year old. For a total of 28 kids, the parents also killed themselves. The number of child abuse deaths that year dropped by seven from the previous year. In 67.5 percent of the 77 cases, mothers were responsible for their children's deaths.

The ministry official noted one specific case, in which the mother killed her daughter and then killed herself. The mother was known to have had a mental disorder.

The official expressed an urgency to hire staffers who specialize in mental illness so that child consultation officials can seek their advice.

More than half of the mothers of children who died in cases other than those involving a murder-suicide gave birth to their children after an unexpected pregnancy, the ministry said, calling for support for both pregnant women and mothers.

The whereabouts of 28 children under 18 years old remained unknown as of June and at least four of them are feared to be subjected to abuse. Nine of them may have gone abroad, according to the ministry.

“We will continue to ask municipal governments to locate their whereabouts and call for their support if the children are in danger,” a ministry official said.



Judge on child abuse: 'We need to take it more seriously than we have in the past'

by Sara Berlinger

SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) - Child abuse...has become a growing concern among Kansans.

The county's presiding juvenile court judge telling KSN Thursday that he's seeing more child in need of care cases, and it's time for the system and community to do their part.

Judge Patrick Walters says he's just as frustrated as others after learning more about some of our notable child abuse cases. He says child in need of care filings are about five weeks ahead of what they were at this time last year, and this issue needs to be a priority.

"These are childrens' lives that are at stake, and we need to take it more seriously than we have in the past," said Presiding Judge Patrick Walters, Sedgwick County Juvenile Court.

That's Judge Patrick Walters' plea to members of our community on addressing child abuse. Walters says besides holding the system accountable, neighbors need to recognize root problems within many families.

"These individuals have gotten to the point whether they are not on their medication, or they are self-medicating, or they are taking in illegal substances, and not only can they not care for their child, but they can't care for themselves," said Walters.

He also expressed the need for more foster parents, especially in Sedgwick County.

Kevin Breshears is busy with a new restaurant, but he and his wife are passionate about foster care and have been foster parents. He says, there is always a need for more help.

"Just be there while whatever the situation is, gets figured out, the kids still need to be loved and cared for," said Kevin Breshears, former foster parent.

Breshears also has experience, fostering abused youth.

"We had abused kids in our house, and it just it just breaks your heart," said Breshears.

When we talked to Kansas Department of Children and Families Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel earlier this month, she said 'investigation calls' are continuous, and they have recognized problems to improve the system.

"We did pass the law, we want to be accountable to the people...we did pass the law to be able to share more information, because I think it's important for people to know what we've known in certain situations, what we've done in certain situations," said Gina Meier-Hummel, Kansas Department of Children and Families Secretary.

DCF encourages you to contact them or your local authorities if you suspect abuse. Their protection report number is 1-800-922-5330.



Maine lawmakers approve child welfare reforms


AUGUSTA (AP) – Maine lawmakers have approved reforms to the state child welfare system in a rare session late in the summer.

Lawmakers Thursday night gave final approval to a series of proposals, the biggest of which will provide $21 million to the Maine child welfare system.

Lawmakers also rejected a proposal to make it a crime for mandatory reporters like teachers to fail to report suspected abuse.

The 11th-hour bills came in response to the high-profile deaths of two girls. Republican Gov. Paul LePage and lawmakers say the bills are just the start of wider reform.

Lawmakers also voted to make changes to Maine's tax code in light of President Donald Trump's tax reform that has been tabled because of politics since June.


BuzzFeed Investigation Details Decades Of Systemic Child Abuse At Vermont Orphanage

NPR's Ari Shapiro talks with BuzzFeed contributor Christine Kenneally about her article investigating physical and sexual abuse by nuns at St. Joseph's Orphanage in Burlington, Vt.

Heard on NPR's All Things Considered


Over the last few years, the U.S. has come to terms with patterns of child abuse in the Catholic Church. In other countries, these investigations have extended to Catholic orphanages. Canada, Australia, the U.K. and other European countries have conducted government investigations that exposed patterns of horrific abuse at Catholic orphanages.

The U.S. has never had such a comprehensive accounting. And now a major investigation by BuzzFeed gives reason to believe that the same problems may have existed here in American orphanages. Christine Kenneally is an investigative reporter who spent years researching this story. Welcome to the program.

CHRISTINE KENNEALLY: Thank you, Ari. Thanks so much for having me.

SHAPIRO: Your reporting looks very closely at one orphanage in Burlington, Vt., called St. Joseph's. And one of the women at the center of the story is named Sally Dale. Tell us about her.

KENNEALLY: Sally Dale is important for a number of reasons, and one of them is that she went into this orphanage in the - around 1940, when she was 2 years old, and she didn't leave until more than 20 years later. So Sally Dale's entire childhood was really shaped by the orphanage.

Sally's also incredible because she was the first plaintiff who tried to take the Diocese of Burlington and the Sisters of Providence to court in the 1990s to get reparation and to get acknowledgement for what happened to children in the orphanage.

SHAPIRO: We're not going to describe the abuses in detail here. We will say that there was violence, torture, sexual abuse. And there are allegations that children died at the hands of nuns at the orphanage.

There was a lawsuit involving dozens of former residents, and none of their cases were successful. Some settled for a small amount of money. I wonder whether you think the outcome might've been different if a similar lawsuit had happened today instead.

KENNEALLY: I absolutely believe that the outcome would be very different. It was such a different world in the 1990s when this case first launched. People believe that these things can be possible in a way that they simply didn't believe in the 1990s.

That was one of the great tragedies of the litigation of Burlington. These plaintiffs came forward, and it took such courage and such bravery to tell those stories again. But there was this overwhelming sense for a number of them that people didn't even listen to their stories. They just couldn't believe that it might be possible.

SHAPIRO: You write that some-5 million children likely passed through orphanages in the U.S. in the 20th century alone. This orphanage in Vermont closed in the 1970s. But how likely do you think it is that the kind of abuse you documented at this one place happened at other orphanages in other parts of the country?

KENNEALLY: Yes, I know that it happened at other orphanages in other parts of the country. I talked to people across the country who had had similar experiences. And just 150 miles away in Albany in upstate New York in the 1990s, exactly the same kind of story erupted. People came forward and talked about what happened to them. Some people refused to believe them. In the Albany case, there was a police investigation. And there are similar stories and similar trials, or attempts to get a trial, across the country.

SHAPIRO: Your own country, Australia, has done a sweeping investigation of abuse at orphanages. So have many other countries, as we mentioned. Why do you think the U.S. has not done this kind of investigation?

KENNEALLY: You're absolutely right. There have been government inquiries all across the world. It's hard to say why, in the United States, these stories, for good and for bad, have ended up in the court system rather than as the subject of a government inquiry.

I actually think that maybe it's simply because now is the time for that to start happening. We've just seen this extraordinary grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania into the sexual abuse of children by parish priests. And I think that that marks the beginning of, perhaps, a greater kind of justice being delivered in the United States. I think people are ready to believe that the stories of the orphans could actually be true and to listen to them.

SHAPIRO: I know the Catholic Diocese gave you a very general statement expressing regret if anyone was abused, saying that nothing can be changed that happened in the past. More recently, the local station WCAX spoke with Bishop Christopher Coyne, who said scandalous abuses did take place at the orphanage. He apologized on behalf of the church.

But he described your reporting as sensational and said the accusations of murder are urban myth. He asked, if any of this occurred, why did no one come forward, and why was nothing done about it? How do you respond to that?

KENNEALLY: Well, I think, firstly, that that acknowledgement and apology is incredibly important. And I think it's a very important beginning, and I hope that there's a lot more of that to come.

But I will also encourage the bishop to read the article because it's literally about children either trying to report these awful events when they happened, or it explores, in a lot of detail, about the way that these children, who were essentially a captive population inside an orphanage, were unable to be heard in that system.

The story also actually references documents that the diocese is probably in possession of, which provide evidence that a number of priests who took the stand in the orphanage litigation in the 1990s and, you know, who professed great shock and disgust at the accusations were, in fact, themselves predators.

SHAPIRO: Christine Kenneally, thank you so much for talking with us about your reporting.

KENNEALLY: Thank you, Ari. I appreciate it.

SHAPIRO: Her investigation of abuse at St. Joseph's Orphanage in Burlington, Vt., appears in BuzzFeed.



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Community Newsletter: Stop Child Abuse and Neglect

by Karen Fetherston

Childhood trauma takes many forms: enduring divorce or family separation, experiencing household mental illness or substance abuse, witnessing violence, and being victimized by abuse.

The damaging effects to the physical, mental, and behavioral health of those who experience childhood trauma start in youth and affect students' ability to learn and teachers' ability to instruct and manage their classrooms. Trauma sensitive schools are needed to help kids feel safe so they can learn. There are ways educators can help.

Stop Child Abuse and Neglect offers these tips:

  • Create a safe space. When a child feels unsafe, he isn't capable of understanding, reason, or learning. If he is overwhelmed, it might help him to visit the restroom, sit in a private classroom corner sectioned off as a safe place, or pull up a hoodie and put his head on his desk until he decompresses.

  • Build connected relationships. Teachers often struggle to convince traumatized students that they care. Perhaps there has never been a trustworthy adult in the child's life, or she doesn't want to bond with her teacher because she dreads separation at the year's end. With time, most children can sense if compassion is sincere, and it can make all the difference in calming an overwhelmed student.

  • Help kids regulate their nervous systems. Traumatized children become quickly stressed into hyper-arousal (explosive, irritable) or hypo-arousal (depressed, withdrawn). There are many strategies to restore balance to the nervous system, but each child has to find what works for him. Sometimes it's as simple as a squeeze ball or being sent on an errand to the office. Help recognize and encourage what works.

  • Support development of a coherent narrative. When kids experience trauma, it causes chaos in their environments and their minds. Creating predictability through structure, routines, and reliability helps reduce the chaos a child may feel and allows her to start creating the kind of logical connections that support learning.

  • Practice “power-with” strategies. A traumatized child suffers a loss of power and control. If he finds himself back in a situation of helplessness, he may flashback to the original trauma. Instead of power-struggles, model ‘power-with' relationships with children to help nurture them into adults who treat others with dignity and respect.

  • Build social emotional skills. Trauma robs children of time spent developing social and emotional skills or adults to model them. When confronted with challenging classroom behaviors, a teacher's compassion, recognition of a child's potential, and example of a safe, stable, nurturing relationship, may be the difference between a child who hopes and knows love and a child with a negative view of himself and the world

  • Foster post-traumatic growth. A child might not be able to control the circumstances of her life, but she can learn to have some control over her reaction to them. Teachers can offer stories of how other people have dealt with trauma, teach problem solving, and encourage focus, self-control, and support seeking.

Responding to a child's behavior in a trauma-informed way takes a lot of empathy. As challenging as it may be, understand that the child is just trying the best they can to communicate the pain inside of them. Instead of asking “What is wrong with this child?” ask “What happened to this child?”



Penn State launches new child abuse prevention pilot programs

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A new initiative spearheaded by Penn State researchers is aiming to revolutionize how policymakers understand and prevent child sexual abuse.

The Safe and Healthy Communities Initiative officially kicked off Wednesday at the York County Children's Advocacy Center, which marks the beginning of a series of two-year pilot programs in five Pennsylvania counties to advance a comprehensive approach to sexual abuse prevention.

The initiative is a partnership between Penn State's Child Maltreatment Support Network and Center for Healthy Children, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, and the Pennsylvania Office of Children, Youth and Families.  These partners will work together to pilot three evidence-based, data-driven programs:

  • “Stewards of Children,” which educates community members about spotting signs of sexual abuse and how to act if they suspect abuse.

  • “Safe Touches,” which educates children about the difference between safe and non-safe touches and that abuse is not a child's fault.

  • A parent-focused program teaching parents about sexual abuse and healthy sexual development and how to recognize signs of abuse and potentially exploitative individuals.

The goal ultimately is to use the results from these pilot programs to develop a comprehensive and sustainable model for abuse prevention that can be adopted not just across Pennsylvanian counties, but across the nation.

“The programs that we're using have been shown to be evidence-based and effective in changing knowledge and attitudes about sexual abuse,” said Jennie Noll, a Penn State professor and director of the Child Maltreatment Support Network. “But this is the first time that they will be studied in the context of actually changing rates of sexual abuse. This is the first such trial to track actual rates of sexual abuse through county and state administrative data systems. It is the largest effort of its kind that we're aware of.”

Noll said this new initiative is unique in the field of child maltreatment research for several reasons: its comprehensive approach to data collection and review, its combination of proven evidence-based programs, and its partnerships between Penn State researchers and state government offices. She expects the programs to reach over 71,000 adults and 17,000 children over the next two years.

Noll said that the initiative grew out of the grant that helped establish the Center for Healthy Children and is funded through the Endowment Act to aid survivors of child sexual abuse in Pennsylvania. The pilots will be coordinated by Kate Guastaferro, a Penn State research professor with the Methodology Center, and Kathleen Zadzora, a Penn State research project manager with the College of Health and Human Development.

“Our goal is to not only demonstrate that these evidence-based programs work, but to create a sustainable approach to abuse prevention that we hope that the Commonwealth, and ultimately other states, will be able to adopt and put to use,” Noll said.



Darkness to Light reaches tipping point

by Jill Holloway

The Georgia Center for Child Advocacy is excited to announce Decatur County, Georgia has reached a huge milestone in child sexual abuse prevention. As of July, 25, 2018, Decatur County has reached tipping point.

Elizabeth Whaley and other volunteers for Darkness to Light Stewards of Children, a childhood sexual abuse prevention program, have worked tirelessly since June 2013 to train and educate five percent of the adult population about childhood sexual abuse. They met their goal in July, training approximately 1,028 adults. Now, their hope is to train 10  percent.

Stewards of Children really focused in on their efforts to train five percent of the population, because research shows that once five percent of an adult population in a community changes their behavior, a cultural shift is created and a momentum builds that, with continued work, will change societal norms.

Whaley has seen that happen in the Decatur County community. The number of reported cases at the Childhood Advocacy Center has gone up, which is considered a good thing. Whaley said this means people are reporting it instead of hiding it and that adults are recognizing the signs and picking up when something is wrong.

“The Decatur County School System has been especially involved in the trainings,” Whaley said. “Nearly 400 faculty members have been trained over the years.”

Whaley only expects the number to rise since the passing of Aaron's Law. Regional prevention manager, Katherine Jones explains that Aaraon's Law requires public school teachers to have training for prevention of sexual abuse, and Stewards of Children is the recommendation for Decatur County training.

The training teaches adults how to prevent and recognize. The class lays out a five-step plan on how to protect children. Trainees hear from survivors, and the hope is they go home and tell others what they learn and start a ripple effect in the community.

This advocacy for children is especially important to Whaley and reminds her of why she started this program. She mentored a child who was a victim of sexual abuse, so she sought out advice on how to help him. She was at a Family Connection Collaborative when Stewards of Children training was mentioned. She attended the training in Thomasville and brought the idea to Ronnie Burke about starting training in Bainbridge and that is how it all began.

She prayed about it with other community members and now has five other individuals who help train adults and pray over the children with her.

Whaley said she is truly so grateful for those who have joined her in advocating for the children in Decatur County and the Stewards of Children never would have reached the tipping point without them.

Ronnie Burke of Family Connection is also thankful for the donations made by United Way, because of those donations Family Connection is able to give money to Stewards of Children. This money allows Whaley and others to train people for free, otherwise some people may not have access to the information needed.

“We want people to understand we will not tolerate children being sexually abused,” Burke said. “We will protect them, we will set up a network for them to get what they need.” 

Whaley will be hosting another training session on Friday, September 21 at the library from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. People interested can register by emailing



Catholic Church fear ‘domino effect' if abuse scandal properly investigated, says survivor

Abuse victims ‘don't need a letter from the pope to know this is a reality', says survivor Marie Collins

by Simon Carswell

The fear of a “domino effect” and how deep and wide the clerical abuse scandal goes is behind the Catholic Church's reluctance to investigate it properly, Irish clerical abuse survivor Marie Collins has said.

Speaking to reporters at the World Meeting of Families pastoral congress in Dublin, the campaigner said: “Every report that we have seen, every investigation there's been has shown that the Church acted to protect itself, to protect the institution, to protect its reputation.

“I do believe it is absolutely a reluctance to look into things properly and to behave properly is the fear of how deep this goes, how far it goes and how wide it goes.”

Ms Collins said there was a “mistaken idea” within the Church that “if we don't look at it, it will all go away”.

“There is this fear of the domino effect, that if you start looking at bishops and they start being removed, how many more will it effect down the line. It shouldn't matter,” she said.

“Every rotten apple should be got rid of and it should happen now.”

Ms Collins said that the “denial is there; it is not imaginary.”

Deniers “go along with the myth” that abuse is down to homosexual priests or to media campaign or they think that campaigners like her are “enemies of the Church and want to destroy the Church,” she said.

“It is more comfortable to think that,” she said.

The panel told reporters afterwards that they did not know the names of the people within the Vatican who are resisting the investigations and disclosure of clerical sex abuse.

Prof Gabriel Dy-Liacco, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors from the Philippines, said there needed to be a change in culture in the Church.

“If it is not changed, this is going to continue,” he said.

Addressing the World Meeting of Families, Ms Collins, a former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors set up by Pope Francis, noted the Pope's letter to all Catholics earlier this week acknowledging the Church's failures to safeguard children from clerical abuse.

“Survivors and victims of abuse don't need a letter from the pope to know this is a reality - we have been speaking about it for decades,” she said.

“Sadly, still in the church among clergy and laity there are people who prefer to believe that all this is a media conspiracy, just survivors trying to destroy the church and they deny and they defend.”

In her presentation to a panel discussion entitled “Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adult” at the congress in the RDS, Ms Collins said she hoped that if Catholic clerical abuse deniers would not believe survivors, then they would at least believe the pope who wrote this week to every Catholic.

“I hope that they will take their energies from defending the indefensible, accept the truth, and instead of denial, put their energy into bringing changes that are needed,” she said.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston, was due to have chaired the panel discussion but withdrew from the Dublin conference after of allegations abuse emerged at a seminary in Boston.

He was the second US cardinal to withdraw from the World Meeting of Families after Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, pulled out of the Dublin after he was heavily criticised for his handling of child sexual abuse allegations in a Pennsylvania grand jury report.

Baroness Prof Sheila Hollins, a former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors England, who chaired the discussion in Cardinal O'Malley's absence, said that more clerical abuse victims were afraid of coming forward “because of a fear of not being believed”.

“It is time to turn words into action. We want to help turn your anger into action and hope. We hope you will be able to receive the support and help that you need now and into the future,” she told them.

Prof Hollins read out a letter from Cardinal O'Malley in which he said the Church in the United States again finds itself “confronted with the tragic history of child abuse and betrayal in our church”.

‘Penitence and conversion'

“Our response must always be one of contrition, penitence and conversion. Recent events only underscore the fact that the subject matter entrusted to this panel is the most crucial issue facing our church,” said Cardinal O'Malley in his letter.

“All endeavours and evangelisation and other kind works will be dependent upon our ability to own our tribe's failures and to make the protection of children and vulnerable adults our number one priority.

“The crucial role of the laity cannot be understated as we look for the path forward.”

Addressing the Catholic conference that champions the importance of family, Ms Collins called on all Catholic families to “raise their voices and call for the church to protect children, the heart of the family.”

“It is a duty to speak up and to seek assurance that there is no place in the Catholic Church for anyone who had hurt a child or a vulnerable adult, or for anyone who would protect such a predator,” she said.

Ms Collins was appointed by Pope Francis to the Holy See's commission to protect minors in 2014 but resigned in 2017 in frustration at the failure of the Vatican to respond to letters from abuse survivors.

In her speech at the Catholic conference, she called for the Vatican to implement “the strongest possible safeguarding policies with the strength of canon law behind them” in every diocese around the world.

“Every child is equally precious where he or she lives should not decide whether they will be safe or left at risk. So why is this not being done?” she asked.

She questioned why the United States was the only country where the church has made mandatory reporting in force in canon law.

The Church must also introduce “robust structures” in place to hold accountable those in leadership who protect a predator not only leadership positions in dioceses “but in the Vatican itself.”

“Anyone who would stand in the way of proper protection of children should be accountable as well,” she said.


Three years ago the Pontifical commission recommended the establishment of a court to make strong sanctions against sexual abusers including their dismissal, and their removal from the church if necessary, she said. “It never happened and I think people should be asking why not,” she added.

She said the church on one hand claims “to be on the side of the victims and survivors” but was fighting against the removal of statute of limitations that would prevent the prosecution of abusers.

“The actions of the church do not match the words and in fact they are totally the opposite. I would say why is this being allowed to happen,” she said.

The Church should introduce “real zero tolerance” to have a priest removed as soon as allegations of abuse are made known and “if canon law doesn't allow that to happen then write a new canon law.”

“Sadly, canon law has been more often used to protect the abuser than to punish him,” she said.

Ms Collins's call was one of several of her statements applauded during an eight-minute address.

She said that the Vatican must stop using the “papal secret” - a code of confidentiality that applies under canon law - that has been used to stop bishops reporting abusing priests to police.

“It is being used to restrict victims from their legal rights to information, legal files,” she said.

She called on the church to “explain why these changes aren't being made and to make children safer.”

“Every child in the world should be safeguarded equally,” she said. “Everyone in the church will now start asking the questions of the leadership as to why none of this is happening.”

Another speaker on the panel, Barbara Thorp, social worker, former head of the Office for Pastoral Support and Child Protection, praised Ms Collins saying her leadership over the years was “extraordinary.”

“Her voice in these days has never been stronger, never been truer and never been more needed,” she said.

Prof Hollins said that structural changes in the Church were not welcome by some because there was “still considerable denial about the extent and nature of the problem in many countries.”

“The truth is that abuse happens everywhere,” she said.



Archdiocese of Indianapolis plans to release names of priests accused of abuse

by Vic Ryckaert and Mark Alesia, Indianapolis Star

The Indianapolis archbishop says he plans to publicly release the names of all of the priests in his diocese who have faced substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse.

The move also follows the suspension of a retired priest from all church ministry following an allegation that he abused a child.

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson on Wednesday issued an open letter addressing the sex abuse scandal stemming from the release earlier this month of a sweeping Pennsylvania grand jury report. The report linked thousands of victims to more than 300 priests over 70 years.

"When I was called to be a bishop just more than seven years ago, I wanted to believe that the Church had effectively dealt with the crisis of clergy sexual abuse, especially in terms of accountability and transparency," he said in the letter. 

"It's as if a dark, heavy pall has been thrust upon us yet again."

Thompson apologized to all victims in the letter and pledged to take action. He said he plans to prepare and publish a list of all clergy members with a "substantiated claim" of sexual abuse against a child.

"We must do everything necessary to make sure neither abuse nor cover-up ever happens again," he said.

An advocate for those who were abused by priests said the move toward greater transparency is long overdue.

"This should have been done years ago," Judy Jones, Midwest regional leader of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told IndyStar in an email. "Apparently because of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, bishops are getting scared that there will be other Grand Jury investigations in their states."

Jones said her organization is urging attorneys general in other states to do their own investigations into sexual abuse within the Catholic church.

"Every diocese is run the same," she said.

Robert Hoatson, a former priest and president of Road to Recovery, a New Jersey group that assists victims of sexual abuse, said lists of accused clergy are helpful. But that comes with a caveat.

"If the bishop of Indianapolis is going to be transparent and honest about the allegations, then we applaud that," Hoatson said. "Our experience has caused us to be skeptical because the church has a tendency not to be able to police itself. We would prefer turning over all the documents he has to law enforcement so we can get the true number.”

In March, the Diocese of Buffalo released a list of 42 names of accused priests. Television station WKBW later reported that the list omitted dozens of additional priests who were accused of sexual misconduct with adult women or men.

Hoatson said he believes the omission was deliberate.

"I think they're trying to minimize the effect of the large numbers," he said. "But what they're doing is just delaying the inevitable."

The first list of priests accused of abuse to be released by dioceses and religious orders was issued by the Diocese of Tucson in 2002, according to the website

The website, an exhaustive repository of information on the church's abuse crisis,  has links to lists of priests released by more than 50 dioceses and religious orders. The website says the release of such lists is often imposed as part of a court settlement.

The purpose of maintaining the site, it says, is to "help expose bishops who have abused children or vulnerable adults, or have aided abusers."

On Tuesday, the Diocese of Gary released the names of 10 former priests who the diocese has deemed guilty of sexually abusing children. The document also includes the number of allegations made against the priests and the actions taken by church officials. The information is based on diocesan records.

The list didn't report whether any of the men, seven of whom are dead, ever faced criminal prosecution for their alleged child sex abuse.

What constitutes "substantiated" claims of abuse by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis is unclear. A request for further information on the archbishop's plan was not immediately returned Thursday.

The archbishop's announcement comes after a retired priest was suspended by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis after someone alleged sexual abuse. 

The Rev. John Maung, 79, is prohibited from all public ministry while an investigation is pending, the archdiocese said in a statement posted on its website. The statement said a person told the archdiocese that they were abused by Maung as a child several decades ago. 

Maung has denied the allegation, the archdiocese said. The archdiocese did not release details about the alleged abuse or the accuser, including his or her gender or age.

Maung retired in 2009 but continued assisting at parishes. He is now suspended and prohibited from all public ministry.

IndyStar reached out to Maung through the archdiocese seeking comment.

He has served at the St. Lawrence parish in Indianapolis, the St. Gabriel parish in Connersville and the St. Joseph parish in Shelbyville and resided at the Holy Spirit parish in Indianapolis.

The allegations have been referred to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and police in Shelby County, a spokesman for the archdiocese said.

This isn't the first time Maung has drawn inquiries from the church.

In 1998, Maung was pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church when an audit discovered the coffers were short about $75,000.

Prosecutors charged Maung with five felonies and accused him of stealing about $14,500. Four other former church employees were also charged.

Defense attorneys characterized the evidence as weak and spent months criticizing prosecutors for filing the case. More than a year later, a special prosecutor abruptly dismissed the charges. The prosecutor declined to discuss why.

IndyStar reported at the time that Maung and his supporters planned to reimburse the church more than $29,000 as part of a confidential civil agreement.

While investigating the Shelby County case, detectives discovered that Maung had been convicted in 1979 of check deception and grand theft involving a California church.

Maung was accused of stealing to support a gambling habit after $100,000 had been misappropriated from the Epiphany Church in San Francisco's Mission District.

Maung lost his job and served 60 days in jail, the Archdiocese of San Francisco told IndyStar in December 1998.


Washington, DC

Catholic psychologist, abuse survivor, offers advice for families

by Zita Ballinger Fletcher

WASHINGTON — After recent reports describing clergy sex abuse, Paul Peloquin, a Catholic clinical psychologist and a clergy abuse survivor, shared advice for victims and their families.

"For Catholics who have been abused by a priest or clergy, it's doubly difficult because they have not only been psychologically traumatized, but spiritually traumatized," Peloquin told Catholic News. "Unless that is addressed, healing is very difficult."

His work as a Catholic psychologist is tied to his own journey as an abuse survivor.

"I'm a survivor myself," said Peloquin, who is based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. "I left the church for over 30 years. I thought I had the perfect justification. I totally rejected the church and walked away."

Peloquin overcame the effects of the abuse by reclaiming his faith and helping fellow victims in his professional life as a psychologist. Once suffering from spiritual doubt, he now works to promote spiritual healing.

"If one says, 'the Catholic Church is bad' or 'all priests are bad,' that's too broad of a brushstroke. They're not," said Peloquin, who struggled with his beliefs for a long time. "I thought that way for a while."

His decision to return to Catholicism was difficult. It resulted from experiences that changed his perspectives over time.

"I came to a point in my life where I came to my senses and realized I wasn't finding what I was looking for in life -- that there was a great spiritual void," Peloquin said. "My heart started to soften over a period of time. It took many years."

He started going to church while escorting his terminally ill father to daily Mass. Peloquin did not attend to worship, but attended out of a sense of duty and obligation.

As time passed, Peloquin sought out a one-on-one experience with God -- not in a busy parish, but in the isolation of a Benedictine monastery in the mountains. He said he was able to develop his personal faith in God while experiencing the beauty of nature.

Peloquin said that going to a church can trigger traumatic memories for victims. He advised survivors to seek spiritual healing in a place where they feel peace.

"If people can find a way to be quiet and still, the Lord wants to reach out to them," he said.

He said that while many survivors feel the need to vent their anger, it is only a first step in the healing process. Peloquin also does not believe that money awarded in damages can restore victims to spiritual and emotional wholeness.

"If people say, 'Well, I'm just going to get money,' that's not going to heal anything," Peloquin said. "We're talking about a psychological and spiritual wound."

He advised parents to seek help from police or professional counselors if their child discloses sexual abuse.

"I would recommend that the parents get a consult with someone who is familiar with this, to see if they could ask the right questions, how they should react and how they are reacting," he said. "Don't go off and attack a priest or a teacher without getting the support of a professional."

Professionals trained to interview children can often uncover details that parents cannot, while still being sensitive to the needs of the child.

"Oftentimes abuse is committed by someone that is known by the family members," he said.

While most parents react emotionally because of disbelief or anger, Peloquin said it is important to keep calm. Open-mindedness, a caring demeanor and good listening skills prevent a child from "shutting down," he explained.

Many children hesitate to come forward because of fear that no one will believe them. Children who have been seduced over a period of time also feel guilty about being abused. Peloquin said parents must not allow their religious or personal views get in the way of listening to their child.

"The child needs to feel that they're respected and protected in all things," he said.

The psychologist said children should be educated about appropriate and inappropriate types of touching. Kids also should be encouraged to speak to a parent, teacher or other responsible adult if they feel uncomfortable with a particular adult. Doing so, Peloquin said, will enable children to recognize inappropriate behavior and not be seduced into an unwanted relationship. Children should also be encouraged to vocalize their concerns to others.

In advice to fellow Catholics who are struggling emotionally because of clergy sex abuse, Peloquin said panic is not the right response.

"Most priests are good people, but there are some who aren't," he said. "We need the priests. We don't have the sacraments without the priests. But we need good priests, who want to live the life of the priesthood and as servants."

Peloquin said that during his years as a professional psychologist, he has never seen any harm resulting from parents supporting and listening to their child. Problems arise, he said, when parents are close-minded.

"If parents deny it and say, 'this can never happen,' that's very harmful."



Army captain indicted for engaging in sexual activity with minors as young as 12 years old

by Meredith Digital Staff

BALTIMORE, Md. (WMAR) -- A federal grand jury indicted U.S. Army Captain Kevin J. Gorbsky on charges of engaging in sexual activity with a minor.

According to court documents, Gorbsky used emails and social media accounts under the names “Justin Smelder”, “John Bbeez,” and “johnbeez66" to chat with minors between 12 and 17 years old.

Officials say that he would pass off as a 19-year-old, while his real age ranged from 28 to 31 years old and would engage in sexually explicit videos and images with the minors.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.

Gorbsky faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years and up to life in prison for each count of enticement of a minor to engage in unlawful sexual activity, and a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for transfer of obscene material to a minor.

Gorbsky is scheduled to have an initial appearance on August 27, 2018, at 3 p.m. in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.



Arizona Supreme Court orders new trial for Tucson woman convicted of imprisoning kids

by Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX — People who say they were forced by fear of death or injury to break the law need not prove they were in imminent danger at the time of the offense to escape being convicted, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Friday in ordering a new trial for a Tucson woman convicted of imprisoning her children.

In a decision with significant implications, the majority said Sophia Richter should have been allowed to claim she was acting “under duress” when she and her husband kept her three daughters locked up for months in squalid conditions.

Richter never denied that the girls, ages 12, 13 and 17, were taken out of school and kept locked in a room where they were fed rancid food, given moldy water and allowed to go to the bathroom only by signaling Sophia and her husband, Fernando, the girls' stepfather, by means of closed-circuit cameras. But Sophia argued she was too scared of her husband to help them.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Paul Tang rejected her request to present evidence that she acted under duress.

That would have included testimony from a doctor that she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder based on “the many months, if not years of abuse suffered ... at the hands of Fernando.” Sophia also sought to present photographs of “numerous scars” she said were inflicted by him.

Tang, however, said she essentially was claiming “battered woman syndrome,” where someone gets to escape punishment by claiming she was so abused that she, in essence, lacked the mental capacity to know she was committing a crime. That defense is not allowed in Arizona.

After being found guilty of kidnapping and child abuse, she was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

But Chief Justice Scott Bales, writing for himself and three of his colleagues, said Sophia's claims were more specific than that.

For example, he said she believed if she resisted she would either be seriously harmed or killed, or that her children would be as well. And she submitted evidence of wounds and blood on her body that police documented on the day of her arrest.

Bales said that evidence, if accepted by a jury, could show she was constantly in fear, providing a basis for her to argue she had no choice but to go along with what her husband demanded.

But Justice John Lopez, writing for himself and the other two justices, said Arizona law requires someone to show that they acted in response to a “threat or use of immediate physical force.” And he said Sophia presented no evidence that Fernando threatened or used physical harm “which compelled her to continuously abuse her children for the entire three-month period alleged in the indictment, if at all.”

Lopez also said the majority ruling opens the door for more people to claim they acted under duress — and are therefore not guilty — even though they were not under immediate threat of harm at the time of the crime.

Friday's ruling does not mean Sophia is off the hook. Instead, it sends the case back to court for a new trial where she can present the evidence that was not allowed the first time.

Fernando, who faced the same charges plus aggravated assault, was sentenced to 58 years in prison. He lost his appeal last year.

Deputy Pima County Attorney Amelia Cramer said she was still studying the ruling. But she told Capitol Media Services last year that if the conviction were overturned, her office was prepared to put Sophia back on trial.

The case came to light in 2013 when the two younger girls escaped through the window of their bedroom and fled to a neighbor's house, shouting that their stepfather had broken down the bedroom door and threatened them with a knife. The neighbors, who did not know the girls lived in the neighborhood, let them in and called 911.

Police found the parents inside the house and the 17-year-old locked in a separate bedroom. They also confirmed that the younger sister's bedroom door was kicked in.

During their search they found video cameras and covered air-conditioning vents in the girls' rooms, an internal alarm system, a knife near the master bedroom and a five-gallon bucket containing pasta mixed with meat and food scraps in the refrigerator.

The girls told police they had been removed from schools years earlier and the younger sisters had not seen their older sibling in more than a year despite living in the same house. The oldest sister said water in plastic jugs was moldy and the food they were given to eat twice daily was rancid.

“We would have to lick our plates if we wanted them clean,” she continued. “If not, my mom would just throw more food on it if I didn't lick it.”

Bales, writing for the majority, said Sophia has a story to tell that could convince a jury she acted under duress.

“She sought to argue that her intentional illegal conduct was justified because she was compelled to abuse her children by the threat or use of immediate physical force against her or her children,” he wrote. He said that threat need not be something that occurred at the precisely the same time Sophia was committing the crime.

“An ongoing threat of harm can be sufficiently immediate and present for purposes of a duress defense even when the threat precedes the illegal conduct by several days,” he said.

Bales said, though, that for Sophia to succeed in her defense at a new trial she has to convince a jury that a reasonable person, subjected to the same threats and patterns of abuse, would have believed he or she was compelled to engage in the same illegal conduct.