Pope Decries ‘Persecution' of Catholic Church Through Accusations
Remarks, at the end of a gathering of bishops, are unlikely to mollify critics in wake of sex-abuse scandals
by Francis X. Rocca - Wall Street Journal
ROME—Pope Francis told a gathering of bishops from around the world that the Catholic Church is being persecuted through accusations—an apparent allusion to clerical sex-abuse scandals that have undermined the credibility of the papacy and church hierarchy over the course of this year.
Addressing the closing session of a synod of bishops at the Vatican on Saturday, the pope repeated warnings he has made in recent weeks against the “Great Accuser,” or the devil, who “in this moment is accusing us strongly, and this accusation becomes persecution,” and who seeks to “soil the church.”
“This is the moment to defend our mother” the church, said the pope, in remarks unlikely to mollify critics who say he has failed to recognize the hierarchy's responsibility for the abuse crisis. “The accuser is attacking our mother through us, and no one touches our mother.”
The gathering of more than 250 bishops was dedicated to the topic of youth, exploring how the church can better engage young Catholics and help them find roles in the church, whether as priests, nuns or lay members.
In a twist on the usual protocol at such gatherings, more than 30 lay Catholics below the age of 30 years attended the sessions, where they enlivened the atmosphere by clapping and cheering during some of the speeches.
A published agenda for the meeting made only passing reference to sex abuse, but after months of scandals in the U.S., Latin America and Australia—and the claim by a former Vatican diplomat that Pope Francis himself had ignored sexual misconduct by a U.S. cardinal—the subject inevitably loomed over the proceedings.
Bishops frequently addressed clerical sex abuse during the first week of the monthlong synod, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Ireland told reporters on Friday.
The 60-page final document, released late Saturday, devoted two paragraphs to the subject of abuse, calling for “rigorous measures of prevention,” starting with the selection and education of clergy and other church employees. Quoting Pope Francis, the document lays much of the blame for sex abuse on “clericalism,” or an excessive deference to the church's hierarchy.
The final document is “frankly inadequate and disappointing on the abuse matter,” Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, a member of the council that organized the synod, said in an email. “There's very little sense of heartfelt apology in the text.”
The archbishop, who had previously called on the pope to cancel the gathering because of the sex-abuse crisis, said Saturday that “church leaders outside the United States and a few other countries dealing with the problem clearly don't understand its scope and gravity.”
Some bishops from the developing world objected that their peers from western countries were overemphasizing sex abuse at the synod, according to Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, who helped draft the final document, which touches on topics ranging from migration to the internet and their impact on the lives of young Catholics.
“To be fair to the synod, you can't say (sex abuse is) the number-one thing,” Cardinal Gracias, who is also a top adviser to Pope Francis, told the Catholic website Crux. “The statement should answer the needs of the United States, Ireland, Australia, but not just them.”
The pope has called another international meeting of bishops to discuss clerical sex abuse for four days in February.
Another split between developed and developing countries at this month's synod emerged in the debate over the church's approach to gay people. The published agenda made news by using the term LGBT, apparently for the first time in an official Vatican document.
But the African bishops at the synod overwhelmingly opposed the use of LGBT, arguing it would create ambiguity about the church's prohibition of any sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman.
“We've got a very strong tradition in Africa of families, family life, and division of the sexes is very, very clear. If we come out with unclear statements, that same-sex attraction is OK and so on, it's going to be completely misunderstood,” Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of South Africa, said in an interview.
The term LGBT doesn't appear in the final document, which denounces “any discrimination and violence on the basis of sex” and encourages “accompaniment in the faith of homosexual persons.”
I've been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for 20 years – it's no surprise that patients are being abused while detained under the Mental Health Act
Lack of awareness by health professionals means, for example, that female abuse survivors can be forcibly restrained and injected, often by a team of men, without consideration of how this might be triggering
by Jay Watts
The Independent Voices
The current review of the Mental Health Act gives us an opportunity to do something different.
I have been coming in and out of psychiatric hospitals, first as a patient, later as a professional, for over 20 years. In this time, I have met people whose lives have been saved by compulsory detention under the Mental Health Act. But I have also met many others who have been traumatised, silenced and degraded by their experiences. It is yet to be seen whether the new government-commissioned report on the Mental Health Act, published today, will provoke the revolution in inpatient care that psychiatric survivors have been demanding for over 40 years.
Being detained under section is a disorienting experience. Suddenly, you are in a strange environment that you cannot leave, at least not straight away. Other people dictate what you eat, who you share space with, where you sleep. You are surrounded by other people in acute distress. Professionals may decide you need medication whether you like it or not, meaning you might be subjected to an injection in the bum. You may be physically restrained if you become agitated. If you are under observation at level one or two, a nurse will either be watching you at all times or checking in every 15 minutes – and this experience of proximity can feel extremely threatening.
A survey of over 2,000 patients found that only a third felt they had been treated with dignity and respect throughout their detention. Many felt subject to “potential coercive mistreatment, abuse and deprivation of human rights leading to physical and psychological harm”. This included “witnessing physical violence, verbal abuse and threats, bullying and harassment, sexual predation, pain-based restraint, coercive rewards and punishment systems for access to open air, leave or family contact”. Even those who later thought that being detained had been the best course of action for their mental health often raised serious concerns about the manner in which they had been detained and subsequently treated.
Mentally ill feel ‘unsafe' while held under Mental Health Act
Thankfully, the current review has a particular focus on improving the experiences of young men of African and Afro-Caribbean descent who are more likely to be detained under section, restrained and overmedicated. As the interim report suggests, these experiences are partly due to health professionals' unconscious biases, such as believing that black men are more likely to be aggressive. Acting upon prejudice reproduces a “hostile environment” on hospital wards that reinforces BAME communities' distrust in mental health services. Seni's Law, already in the legislative pipeline, offers hope of real change on this.
Another focus must be on an international movement called Trauma Informed Care, which changes the focus from “What is wrong with you?” to “What has happened to you?” Staff are trained to consider how gendered, cultural and historical contexts, as well as experiences of childhood trauma, have an impact on who breaks down and how.
TIC emphasises the need to reduce Iatrogenic Trauma, broadly defined as anything that a health professional or health system does that unintentionally causes patient trauma. Consider female inpatients, for example. Research shows that 46 per cent of women on inpatient wards have been sexually abused as children. Yet few women are asked about their experience of abuse and violence, despite the fact that the Department of Health has required staff to do so since 2003.
This means that understandable reactions to abuse that persist into adulthood, from dissociation to emotional turbulence and self-harm, are read as signs of illness rather than desperate attempts to cope. Lack of awareness means that abuse survivors are also forcibly restrained and injected, often by a team of male professionals, without consideration of how this might be triggering. Experiences of sexual predation and assault by fellow inpatients and, occasionally, staff are often ignored or minimised, with friends of mine having been told not to report this as their diagnosis means that they are perceived to be unreliable narrators.
The traumatic impact of poor psychiatric care is something people struggle to keep in mind. This is one reason why services have failed to maintain the momentum of change ignited by former initiatives, such as attempts to reduce institutional racism following Rocky Bennett's tragic death in 1998, and calls to stop mixed-sex psychiatric wards following testimonies of abuse collated for 2003's Mainstreaming Gender and Women's Mental Health Strategy.
The current review of the Mental Health Act gives us an opportunity to do something different.
We could fund alternatives to inpatient care, such as crisis houses, that are more palatable to patients and avoid the need for compulsory admission in the first place. We could reverse cuts to community services and outreach programmes that build links with people from communities who have historic reasons for distrusting psychiatry and are therefore more likely to have a coercive, traumatic pathway into care. We also need to provide staff with the skills to be aware of patients' pain rather than trying to keep patients at a distance.
It is easier, psychologically speaking, to “other” people who suffer from a profound breakdown, and treat patients as objects to be assessed, categorised and chemically coshed. It is easier to divorce “them” from the social contexts, structural discriminations and life experiences that so often provoke a breakdown. But what may be easier in the short term comes at the cost of the ethics of care and opportunities for healing that we must insist upon to be able to call our society.
One in Four Teenagers Have Received a 'SEXT' by the Age of 18, Study Claims
One in seven teens are actively sending ‘sexts'
‘Sexting' is the colloquial portmanteau attributed to the exchange of digital messages containing sexually explicit material in the form of text or imagery - and it's rife amongst teens, a new study has found.
While one in seven teenagers have sent sexts, the study of more than 110,000 teens around the world revealed that one in four have received them.
Researchers attribute this rise to the ubiquity of smartphones, as this is where the large majority of participants conduct their sexting activities rather than on the computer.
Conducted at the University of Calgary, the team of psychology professors concluded that sexting was a normal part of the teenage experience.
However, in today's hyper-digital climate it's all too easy for this kind of explicit communication to go entirely unregulated, putting young people at risk of exploitation.
Not to mention the myriad emotional consequences, from humiliation and objectification to utter hopelessness and social isolation, there's no telling what may happen if a sext spirals out of control
“Smartphones give easy access to this sort of behaviour, and more people are acquiring them,” explains dating psychologist Madeleine Mason.
Thus, it's never been easier for young people to access and create sexual content online, she added.
Cause for concern was highlighted in the research when they uncovered the number of teens who admitted to forwarding on sexts without consent from the original sender.
The research, which involved a literature review of more than 39 studies of children between the ages of 12 and 17, revealed that one in 10 teens have sent sexts in this unsolicited manner.
Naturally, this has sparked concerns regarding the number of naked images or sexual messages that could be circulating amongst teens without the sender's knowledge, something the study uncovered as having happened to 8.4 per cent of teens.
“An important area of future inquiry will be the identification of variables associated with non-consensual sexting, as well as the evaluation of the effectiveness of educational campaigns and legal policies striving to mitigate non-consensual sexting in youth,” the researchers wrote.
Difficulties can emerge when it comes to defining ‘sexting' in legal terms, explains Olliers solicitor Zita Spencer.
“Any text message with sexual content could be considered a 'sext' e.g. sexually suggestive or explicit wording, images of a sexual nature or of nudity,” she told The Independent.
“This is a growing problem within school age children. Social media and apps such as WhatsApp and Snapchat make the sending of messages/images amongst groups easier and cheaper.”
Spencer added that while the legal age of consent for sex is 16, it is illegal to make an indecent image of anyone under 18.
“Many children are not aware that their 'sexting' activities constitute a criminal offence or the risks they are exposing themselves to,” she said.
The NSPCC outlines the risks of sexting on their website, explaining that a young person is breaking the law if they take an explicit photo or video of themselves or a friend.
“It is an offence to take, possess and share indecent images of those under the age of 18 - and this offence can be committed by young people,” explains Dr Samantha Pegg , senior lecturer at Nottingham Law School.
“So where sexts include indecent images of children, all the parties involved, from those taking and sharing images to those in possession, may be committing offences, she told The Independent.
This is true even if those images have been created or shared consensually, she added.
So, even if someone under the age of 18 has sent an indecent image of themselves, they are committing an offence by distributing it to anyone else, who would then be in possession of an indecent image of a child which is, in turn, a criminal offence.
New York City
ACS accused of ignoring safety concerns of foster kids
by Rich Calder and Yoav Gonen
The city's child-welfare agency ignored evidence that foster-care contractors weren't safeguarding kids — despite more than 1,000 cases of neglect and abuse over the past two years, according to a report released on Friday.
The Department of Investigation said the Administration for Children's Services left kids in the hands of private contractors with a history of poor ratings and didn't follow its own scoring system to hold them accountable.
“ACS is responsible for the safety of nearly 8,500 New York City children in foster care — it has to get this process right,” said DOI Commissioner Mark Peters.
Investigators identified 479 cases of maltreatment for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016, and 599 the following year.
Although about 80 percent of the incidents occurred when kids visited their parents — rather than in foster homes — investigators pointed out that the children were still in the city's custody.
ACS contracts with private nonprofit organizations to place more than 75 percent of the foster-care children in kinship-care arrangements.
The Post reviewed the same internal ACS “scorecards” examined by DOI and found numerous red flags.
In fiscal 2017, eight of 22 contractors scored below 65 out of 100 in “maltreatment” — a subcategory that measures the rate of abuse for children in care.
In a different subcategory, of repeated maltreatment within a year, seven of the 22 providers also scored below 65.
Sheltering Arms Children's and Family Services of Manhattan pulled in the worst numbers in overall safety, scoring a 55 in fiscal 2017, compared to a 66 the previous year.
The poor grades led to “heightened monitoring.”
But ACS removed that specialized designation in August after the firm boosted employee training and “improved performance,” according to CEO Elizabeth McCarthy.
She blamed the troubling scores on a high rate of employee turnover caused by the low rates paid by the city.
“It's hard to keep good people with bachelor's degrees when you can only offer them a starting salary of $35,000,” said McCarthy.
ACS officials said the DOI findings are outdated and that four of six providers cited in the report are now near the top in terms of safety.
But ACS Commissioner David Hansell told The Post he believes the foster-care system needs an overhaul.
He said existing foster-care contracts expire in June 2020 “and must be replaced” and that his agency would begin that process next year.
“As commissioner, I intend to seize this as an opportunity to strengthen the foster-care system across the board and continue to enhance safety for all youth in care,” said Hansell, who took over the embattled agency in February 2017.
NFL star is a ‘monster' who abused our son: lawsuit
by LeSean McCoy
The mother of LeSean McCoy's young son said in a court filing Tuesday that she agreed to defend the Bills running back against an allegation that he abused the boy even though she said she knew the accusation was true.
In a three-page document filed in Fulton County State Court in Georgia, Stephanie Maisonet said she reluctantly agreed to the deal in exchange for McCoy offering to drop a custody case and allow her to enroll their 6-year-old son in a school in Miami.
Maisonet said she previously filed a report with child services — she did not say where or when — after her son would come home bruised and crying after visiting McCoy. She also included a picture of her son with bruises on his chin in the filing.
“I regret ever agreeing to help LeShawn McCoy in this case,” Maisonet said in the court document that misspelled McCoy's first name. “I feel like I am sending our son to a monster every two weeks. LeShawn McCoy should be held accountable for his actions, regardless of his career choice or his income.”
McCoy responded by calling Maisonet's allegations “provably false, outrageously inaccurate and offensive,” in a statement posted on his Twitter account.
“I have a loving and close knit relationship with my son. That young boy is my whole life,” McCoy wrote. “With a custody case coming in November, I can see why these false allegations are surfacing.”
LeSean McCoy's ex in disturbing 911 call: ‘My face is demolished'
Maisonet's allegations were added to a lawsuit filed last month by McCoy's ex-girlfriend. Delicia Cordon alleges McCoy failed to protect her after she was bloodied, beaten and had $133,000 worth of jewelry stolen by an intruder at a home the running back owns in Milton, just outside Atlanta.
Cordon also said McCoy would “often brutally beat his dog” and would “aggressively, physically discipline and beat his young son.”
Last week, McCoy's lawyers asked a judge to throw out the lawsuit because there was no basis to hold him responsible for Cordon being hurt. They also argued the lawsuit was filled with unrelated false, salacious allegations that were meant to embarrass McCoy and cast him in a bad light.
The Bills have backed McCoy, with general manager Brandon Beane previously saying no evidence has come to light to change McCoy's status with the team. The 30-year-old is playing in his 10th NFL season and fourth with Buffalo after being acquired in a trade with Philadelphia.
He led the NFL in yards rushing in 2013.
Maisonet said a note posted on her Instagram account saying the allegations of abuse against McCoy were false was written by McCoy's friend, Tamarcus Porter, who is a co-defendant in the lawsuit. She said she provided Porter the password to her account.
Cordon did not accuse McCoy of playing a role in the attack, which occurred in the early morning hours of July 10.
Maisonet alleged that McCoy may have been involved, accusing him of “potentially orchestrating this heinous incident.”
On July 9, she said, she overheard McCoy speaking to someone on the phone and saying, “I need to get this [person] out of my house.”
Maisonet questioned the timing of McCoy's offer, which she said came after the home invasion.
“I found this to be odd because he has been fighting me so hard against that during our custody battle,” Maisonet said. “Also, if he did not have any involvement in the home invasion, there is no need to make such an extreme offer.”
50 Years Later, a Victim of Ireland's ‘Laundries' Fights for Answers
by Ed O'Loughlin
DUBLIN — For 30 years, she struggled with secret memories of beatings and other abuses, as well as most of the classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder: chronic anxiety, social isolation, compulsive behavior, depression, flashbacks, nightmares and suicidal thoughts.
Finally, 20 years ago, convinced the pain would never subside unless she acted, Elizabeth Coppin, now 69, walked into a police station in her native County Kerry, Ireland. She filed a complaint relating to the 12 years she had spent in an Irish “industrial school,” one of a now-defunct network of state-funded orphanages and reformatories run by religious orders on behalf of the state.
Her statement, which the on-duty police officer typed up and signed, was accompanied by two letters that Mrs. Coppin had written in support of her case.
“I need answers,” one of them pleads, adding: “The emotional scars I carry with me today are still very real. Please check out everything, please don't be put off by the nuns. Check everything, dig deep, especially records.”
There is no sign, she said in a recent interview, that the Irish police ever investigated her complaint.
A year later, in 1999, she filed a civil action against the Sisters of Mercy, who ran the industrial school, and two other orders — the Religious Sisters of Charity and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd — who ran two of Ireland's notorious “Magdalene laundries” where marginalized, unwanted, or “fallen” women and girls lived and worked with little or no pay.
Her suit claimed that she had been physically and emotionally abused in the industrial school, then transferred to the laundries without due legal process, having committed no crime. There she had been held against her will and forced to work without pay in deprived conditions. But that case was dismissed by the High Court in Dublin on the grounds that too much time had passed.
Ignored by the police, rebuffed by the civil courts, Elizabeth Coppin had by 2001 exhausted her conventional criminal and civil remedies. She did not give up. Several years ago an advocacy group, Justice for Magdalenes Research, took up her cause, backed by teams of pro bono lawyers in Dublin and London.
Now, the United Nations Committee Against Torture has agreed to hear Mrs. Coppin's accusations of systematic human rights violations in the industrial school and the Magdalene laundries, where she spent five years. This time, in what amounts to a test case for all survivors of the laundries, the main target of her complaint will not be the nuns but Ireland itself.
She is arguing that despite having paid roughly $30 million to 696 women who survived the laundries, including $63,000 to her, the Irish state has never admitted its role in supporting the laundries. Yet, according to an official report in 2013, thousands of inmates of industrial schools, including Mrs. Coppin, were sent to laundries direct from state care. Those who escaped were often returned by the police.
Nevertheless, the state refuses to admit any liability for their treatment, or to agree to calls for a full inquiry or truth commission. The religious orders who ran the laundries have neither contributed money for compensation nor admitted any human rights violations.
Born in May 1949 in Kerry's “county home” — essentially, a workhouse — to an 18-year-old unmarried mother, Mrs. Coppin never knew her birth father. Her stepfather beat her so savagely that she was placed at age 2 with the Sisters of Mercy in the Nazareth House industrial school in Tralee.
There, she told the police in her initial complaint, the abuse continued. She said that one particularly sadistic nun, whom she named, would regularly strip her and beat her buttocks with a strap until she was welted and bruised. Sometimes the nun would grab her by the hair and swing her around the room. The nuns regularly starved her, locked her in cupboards and kept her out of school to do heavy housework. When the little girl wet herself she would be forced to wear her soiled clothes on her head.
At the age of 12 or 13 she tried to kill herself by setting fire to her clothes. Although being severely burned, she was denied medical treatment, and received “not even an aspirin,” she said. Her chief abuser would taunt her as she cried out in pain.
Mrs. Coppin and her husband met at a dance in the Hammersmith Palais after she fled Ireland for London. “When I met him it was the first time I ever felt loved,” she said.CreditOlivia Harris for The New York Times
At the age of 14, she was moved from the school to a Magdalene laundry at Peacock Lane in the city of Cork, the first of three such laundries that she would be confined to.
In her new prison, she and the other girls were locked into separate cells every night with only a bucket for a toilet. Once, having been wrongly accused of stealing sweets from another girl, she spent three days in solitary confinement in the laundry's “padded cell,” a bare room with no light, blanket or bed.
“It was in the padded cell that it dawned on me that I would be there for life, that I'd be buried in a mass grave; there were whispers that went around,” she recalls now. “I saw the people who were there, who were broken, institutionalized, illiterate, from living in a dark, dark place with no way out. I remember asking myself the questions, ‘What will I do? How will I get out?'”
At 17 she and another girl sneaked into an unbarred room at the front of the building and jumped from an upstairs window into the street. They remained at large for three months, working in a nearby hospital, until one day the “cruelty men,” inspectors of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, retrieved them.
Elizabeth was taken to a different laundry in Cork, and then another in Waterford city. When she was almost 19, a kindly nun in Waterford arranged a job for her as a hospital cleaner in her native Kerry.
She was free. Then one day, on her hands and knees scrubbing a floor, Elizabeth looked up to see her original tormentor, the nun from the industrial school, standing over her.
“She looked down at me and said, ‘Aren't you sorry now for all the trouble you caused?'”
Badly shaken, she fled Ireland for London, where she met a young Englishman, Peter Coppin, at a dance in the Hammersmith Palais. They were married four years later. He was her only support as she dealt with the trauma of a miscarried first pregnancy, and then — after the births of her daughter and son — postnatal depression.
She worked a series of low-paying jobs while studying at night to make up for the education that had been denied her. In 2003, she finally qualified as an elementary teacher, her lifelong ambition. It was England, she said, and Peter, that gave her a life.
“When I met him it was the first time I ever felt loved,” she said. “I didn't know that could happen to me.”
But she also suffered from chronic anxiety, and the crippling fear that she, too, might turn into an abuser of children. Her nights were troubled by a recurring nightmare that the nuns would take her back, or take her children. It was years before she could reveal her past to her husband.
“It was difficult, because at first she only gave out bits and pieces at a time,” Peter Coppin said. “Then she told me more and more, and now it can be hard for her to stop talking.”
Sometimes she trembles as she tells her story, sometimes she chokes back her tears, but she is determined to keep searching. “I will never come to terms with the past,” she said. “They violated my human rights, the basic principles of my life. What gave these men and the church the right to deny us our rights, because we were women?”
Her quest for answers was triggered, she said, 39 years ago, when, at the age of 30, she took her husband and their six-month-old daughter on a strange visit to see the nun who had abused her.
“I think that even though I was abused so badly there, that was my home. She was evil, but she was my mother,” she said. “I was looking for some kind of forgiveness, or approval, or affection. I don't know. A lot of people go back to their abusers because they are the only people they know. I suppose I wanted to show off to her, to show her that I hadn't come to nothing, like she'd said I would.”
But seeing the old nun again, the dark memories overwhelmed her.
“I couldn't control myself. I had to go. When we were leaving I said, ‘I'm going to report you to the News of the World when I get back to England and tell them how evil you are.' And she turned around to me and said, ‘They will never believe you.'”
Elizabeth Coppin has won that battle. Now, she is working to ensure that the that the abuses and terrors she and others suffered in the industrial schools and laundries will never be forgotten.
Special needs teacher indicted on child abuse charges
PRINCETON, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia special education teacher has been indicted on child abuse charges involving students at her school.
Mercer County Sheriff's Department Detective Steve Sommers tells the Bluefield Daily Telegraph that 58-year-old Marlene Sexton Robinson was indicted this week on three counts of felony child abuse.
State Police Trooper A.S. Reed says he watched surveillance video showing Robinson grab a 5-year-old by the arm. A criminal complaint says the accused dropped the child's book bag on him before leaving the scene. Authorities say Robinson was on bond during the summer for felony child abuse.
Sommers says he received a complaint regarding events occurring in September and October. He says the victim in his case was a different 5-year-old student.
It's unclear if Robinson has a lawyer who could comment.
Keith Ellison's Accuser Speaks Out: Instead of #MeToo Treatment, I've Faced 'Isolation' From 'People I Stood With'
Democratic National Committee Deputy Chairman Keith Ellison's ex-girlfriend spoke out Tuesday on Tucker Carlson Tonight, where she detailed alleged abuse at the hands of the Minnesota congressman and the social blacklisting that apparently followed.
Carlson, who said accuser Karen Monahan is a liberal Democrat like Ellison, asked how her fellow Democrats have treated her since she came out with her story.
"You had said publicly that since coming forward with your claims against Keith Ellison, you were in effect blacklisted by fellow Democrats," he said.
Monahan said that letters and postings on social media largely show that people do not believe her, including folks that she has campaigned for in the past.
"It's pretty apparent that there's been a lot of bullying, harassment and isolation by many folks I stood side by side with," she said.
Among the alleged incidents of harassment, Monahan said Ellison dragged her off of their bed and swore loudly at her.
She said it was recorded on video but she will not share it publicly because it is "my pain."
Facebook secret software reveals 8.7m child abuse images on its platform
Company says millions of images removed in a few months with help of machine learning tool
Facebook has said its moderators have removed 8.7m child abuse images in the past three months, as the company battles pressure from regulators and lawmakers worldwide to speed up removal of illicit material.
It said on Wednesday that previously undisclosed software automatically flags images that contain both nudity and a child, helping its reviewers. A similar machine learning tool was also revealed that it said caught users engaged in “grooming” of minors for sexual exploitation.
Facebook has vowed to speed up removal of extremist and illicit material, and machine learning programs that sift through the billions of pieces of content users post each day are essential to its plan.
Facebook and Google are run by today's robber barons. Break them up
Facebook's global head of safety Antigone Davis told Reuters in an interview the “machine helps us prioritise” and “more efficiently queue” problematic content for its reviewers.
The company is exploring applying the same technology to its Instagram app.
Machine learning is imperfect, and news agencies and advertisers are among those that have complained this year about Facebook's automated systems wrongly blocking their posts.
Davis said the child safety systems would make mistakes but users could appeal. “We'd rather err on the side of caution with children,” she said.
Before the new software, Facebook relied on users or its adult nudity filters to catch such images. A separate system blocks child abuse that has previously been reported to authorities.
Facebook has not previously disclosed data on child nudity removals, though some would have been counted among the 21m posts and comments it removed in the first quarter for sexual activity and adult nudity.
Shares of Facebook fell 5% on Wednesday.
Facebook said the program, which learned from its collection of nude adult photos and clothed children photos, had led to more removals. In some cases, the system has caused outrage, such as when it censored the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of a naked girl fleeing a Vietnam war napalm attack.
The child grooming system evaluates factors such as how many people have blocked a particular user and whether that user quickly attempts to contact many children, Davis said.
Michelle DeLaune, chief operating officer at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), said it expected to receive about 16m child abuse tipoffs worldwide this year from Facebook and other tech companies, up from 10m last year. With the increase, NCMEC said it was working with Facebook to develop software to decide which tips to assess first.
DeLaune acknowledged that a crucial blind spot was encrypted chat apps and secretive “dark web” sites where most new child abuse images originate.
Encryption of messages on Facebook-owned WhatsApp, for example, prevents machine learning from analysing them. DeLaune said NCMEC would educate tech companies and “hope they use creativity” to address the issue.
Abuse inquiry told boy was 'jailed for sex with men'
One victim said staff at Beechwood Community Home in Mapperley "picked out boys to be gagged" and abused
A care home abuse survivor jailed as a teenager for having sex with men has told an inquiry the authorities meant to care for him "destroyed" his life.
The man, known as P16, said he was jailed as a boy after performing sex acts on older men for money. The CPS called his prosecution "shocking".
Another care resident said he was made to join "masturbation competitions".
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) hearings into care in Nottinghamshire ended on Friday.
It is part of a wider inquiry led by Professor Alexis Jay into child sexual abuse in England and Wales.
'I was only 15 or 16'
P16 said he reported being physically and sexually abused by a resident at his children's home to staff, but they "swept it under the carpet".
He began long distance running to get away from the abuse but ended up being paid to perform sex acts on older men in toilets, which he did not see as abuse at the time because of what he had already suffered.
When arrested by police he again disclosed the abuse from the resident, but pleaded guilty to charges because social workers told him it would mean "I could go home sooner".
In a statement read to the inquiry, P16 said: "I was prosecuted when older men paid for me to have sex with them in a public toilet. I was only 15 or 16.
"I can't get my head round it, I never could."
He was detained until he was 18.
P16 said the convictions were wrongly recorded, remain on his records and have seen him "persecuted" as an adult.
He said: "Those convictions have followed me around for a long time. They were mistakenly shared as convictions against children when they weren't, I was the child."
Ed Brown QC, for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), described P16's prosecution as "shocking" and "truly dreadful", but added it pre-dated the existence of the CPS.
The inquiry also heard written statements from other survivors of abuse.
They disclosed being physically and sexually abused by staff and residents in children's homes and foster care across Nottinghamshire.
One victim, D37, said staff at Beechwood Community Home in Mapperley "picked out boys to be gagged" and abused, adding he was also raped and "forced to participate in masturbation competitions with other boys and members of staff on multiple occasions".
"I remember winning one of those," the statement said.
"I thought it was good. I thought I had won something, I had achieved something. Because of my childhood I thought it was normal."
'Apologies are cheap'
The final day of IICSA's Nottinghamshire hearings, being held at The Oval cricket ground in London, heard calls from abuse survivors for changes to the system.
David Hollas, an advocate for members of the Nottingham Child Sexual Abuse Survivors Group, said improved police contact and therapeutic support was "a starting point", but he described the litigation system for victims as "broken" and demanded further improvements.
"Words and apologies are cheap - it's action that is needed," he said.
In their closing statements to the inquiry, public bodies apologised for failings and spoke about reforms they have made.
Andrew Sharland QC, for Nottinghamshire County Council, said it was "profoundly sorry" large numbers of children were abused by its employees and then "far too often" not believed by social workers and others.
He said a "pervading culture of disbelief" of children "no longer exists", adding all settlements over civil claims would come with a personal apology.
Samantha Leek QC, representing Nottinghamshire Police, said the force "will re-examine their own systems and practices" following the evidence put to the inquiry.
She said it acknowledged officers had not properly scrutinised claims of abuse in the past, but said it would ensure complainants are "taken seriously, kept informed and supported and treated with respect".
Steven Ford QC, on behalf of Nottingham City Council, said the authority accepted failings happened historically and "in the very recent past", but said factors such as reduced staff turnover and fewer agency workers had improved its care services.
But Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, representing dozens of inquiry participants, said survivors had been "frustrated" by Nottingham City Council's "evasive" responses, and criticised the number of "non-apology apologies" issued "repeatedly" by its staff.
She said victims appreciated efforts by Nottinghamshire Police and Nottinghamshire County Council to address issues, but had "real concern" about Nottingham City Council's approach to the inquiry.
IICSA is due to publish a report on the Nottinghamshire section of its investigation in the summer.
‘Enabling adult survivors will help prevent child sexual abuse'
by Ambika Pandit
Purnima Govindarajulu, a Canadian of Indian origin, mustered the courage to take on her alleged perpetrator four decades after suffering abuse. It was her meeting with WCD minister Maneka Gandhi in January and her request that limitations for filing a case by survivors of child abuse be eased that became an important reason for a review of the law. A conservation biologist, she spoke to Ambika Pandit on her struggle.
Do you feel any closer to justice today and will you now file a complaint?This clarification is going to make a difference to millions of survivors and I am optimistic that this will help reduce the levels of child sexual abuse. I feel the government should also specify through their statement that it applies to cases that happened before the POCSO Act came in 2012 to ensure the lawyers and enforcement agencies are in no doubt.
Today, justice for me is about holding the perpetrator accountable through law. I will certainly file a complaint but it is up to the authorities if they want to pursue my case. I often think that though I broke my silence before my family in my late 20s, no action was taken against the perpetrator. He went about his life, but my life and the life of his other victims was adversely impacted forever. I feared having children and had bad relationships. To most people, I come across as a strong person who is also successful in her life but inside, I know there are deep scars.
When did you first think of taking on your perpetrator?I grew up in Chennai and the perpetrator was a relative who started abusing me when I was around 10 and this went on till I was 13. I never protested as I did not know what was happening to me. All I knew was that it was not right and it filled me with fear, pain, guilt and depressed me. I never told anyone as the perpetrator made me feel it was my fault. I moved to Canada when I was around 21 in 1986 and came back only a few times to India. It was in 2013 that I had an encounter with my perpetrator when I had no choice but to visit an ageing relative. I saw a small child in the house and I was filled with dread. This is when I decided to do something about it.
Taking the legal route must not have been easy?
It was not an easy decision. I returned to Canada and consulted lawyers and it turned out that Canada has a system for recording testimonies of survivors and there are no time constraints for pursuing cases. A file was created but the perpetrator was an Indian based in India. They, however, gave me the recorded statement as a document to try and start proceedings in India. In Chennai, the police expressed helplessness in registering a case citing time limitations for filing cases.
What were the challenges you faced as you decided not to give up?I was told that Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, will not apply in my case as the law is not retrospective. This is when I filed a petition with Change.org in October 2016 for change in laws and clarity on POCSO. I wrote to Maneka Gandhi and met her in February to share my account and explain how enabling adult survivors will contribute to preventing current and future child sexual abuse.
As adult survivors join #MeToo, children listen — and confront their own abuse
Gemma Serrano, a 19-year-old college student, took notice last fall as female celebrities accused Harvey Weinstein of being a serial sexual predator. She paid attention when Reese Witherspoon recounted being sexually assaulted by a director at 16 years old. She watched intently as young women recently lined up, one after the other, to give searing personal statements at the sentencing hearing of former U.S.A. Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
Serrano noticed, perhaps more than other teens, because she shared something in common with the women in the news: A man she once trusted abused her, too.
Serrano reported that abuse, which occurred when she was a child, to a school psychologist, who then informed authorities. From ages 13 to 17, Serrano attended Camp HOPE America, a program for traumatized children created by Alliance for HOPE International, a San Diego-based nonprofit that aids survivors of domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse, sexual abuse, and human trafficking. Serrano went on to intern with the organization for two years, but she'd never publicly identified herself as a survivor until one day in mid-October when she used social media to declare "#MeToo."
"I feel ... almost a sense of liberation," she says. "It was [once] a topic you shouldn't be speaking about. Seeing [the older generation] come out and talk about their experiences -- if they can do it, then I can do it as well."
While the #MeToo movement often feels like an adult conversation about the assault that grown women (and men) endure, particularly in the workplace, it's clear that many children and young people are listening. The stories they hear on social media, through television, in school, and in conversations around their own dinner tables can feel empowering. Those stories can also traumatize, especially when young people feel they have no means to stop abuse or report it.
Historically, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys were victims of child sexual abuse by age 18. While that abuse has declined significantly over the past few decades, thanks in part to improved prevention, detection, and intervention efforts, 10 percent of all American children will still become victims of sexual violence by the time they reach adulthood. The perpetrator is most often someone in their social circle, a biological or nonbiological parent, or someone known to the child's family.
While the taboo of discussing child sexual abuse still persists, Casey Gwinn, president of Alliance for HOPE International, says #MeToo marks a tipping point he's never witnessed in his decades-long career advocating for survivors of sexual violence.
In the last year, Gwinn says campers and kids involved with Alliance for HOPE International have been increasingly interested in discussing their most painful experiences, their candor growing rapidly in the wake of #MeToo.
"I do think there is a cultural shift that is happening," he says. "The more [young people] see high-profile people, or the victims of Nassar, or Olympians and celebrities talking about sexual harassment and assault, I do think it is creating a platform — almost an invitation for kids to be more open about what they've experienced."
"I do think it is creating a platform — almost an invitation for kids to be more open about what they've experienced."
Gwinn says his staff has adapted its Camp HOPE America program, which is offered in 15 states to children between the ages of seven and 17. The weeklong retreat is designed to make kids "feel safe, seen, encouraged, and loved," and uses curriculum to help foster their self-confidence.
Counselors are receiving additional training so they're better prepared to respond to campers who want to discuss sexual violence and others types of trauma they've endured. In previous years, campers usually stayed silent about those experiences, focusing instead on activities like rock climbing, creative arts, campfire sing-alongs, and discussions about resilience and empowerment.
Chris Newlin, executive director of the National Children's Advocacy Center, a nonprofit organization that trains law enforcement and child abuse professionals to prevent and respond to maltreatment with a coordinated approach, says that one teenager cited the Nassar case when she recently reported sexual abuse to the center's forensic interview specialist.
"If they can talk about this, then so can I,” she said, referring to the young survivors of Nassar's abuse.
Yet Newlin is skeptical of #MeToo's impact on children. He associates the movement with efforts to stop workplace harassment and assault, as well as the Time's Up campaign, which is focused on securing equal representation for women in American life.
Newlin believes it's impossible to attribute a single cause to trends in the detection or reduction of child sexual abuse. Kids, he says, are constantly flooded with media, including the news, movies, and television shows, that might prompt them to reflect on and disclose their own trauma. What they see could be related to #MeToo, but it might have no relationship to the movement. Either way, Newlin welcomes the public conversation about sexual violence.
His chief concern is making sure that children who do report abuse aren't re-traumatized by their experiences with law enforcement and frontline professionals. He's also passionate about helping young people understand and come to terms with their experiences, rather than feeling defined by them for a lifetime.
"There is hope in moving forward," Newlin says. "I would want [survivors] to know that they're not alone. While they may feel alone, there are lots and lots of people who have gone through that."
Staffers for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) hotline have seen signs of a shift among young people in the past six months. By January, overall usage of the hotline had risen nearly 50 percent compared to the previous January. The number of kids contacting the hotline similarly increased by 45 percent during the same timeframe, and by mid-February, Larry Nassar's name overcame Bill Cosby's to become the most cited name in the hotline's history.
"There's a greater understanding that it's OK to ask for help."
"One of the big evolutions we've seen, particularly in the wake of #MeToo, is a greater belief that if you come forward and talk about what happened, you'll be believed," says Scott Berkowitz, founder and president of RAINN. "That kind of message has trickled down to kids. There's a greater understanding that it's OK to ask for help."
For children, seeking such help may begin with contacting a hotline, or confiding in a friend or trusted adult. Many professionals, such as hotline staff, school counselors, and physicians, are mandated by the government to report suspicion or evidence of child abuse to law enforcement or child protective services.
When the subject comes up on the RAINN hotline, whose staff is mandated by state law to report the abuse of a minor when given detailed information, many young people try to work through their options, weighing the perceived or real risk of involving the authorities against trying to stop the person abusing them. They may fear being removed from their home and placed in foster care, being blamed by others for the arrest of the family's breadwinner, or making an accusation that's not taken seriously and having no means to escape their abuser.
While these unique concerns aren't reflected in the broader conversation about #MeToo, children may silently agonize over them while reading and hearing about the movement — and there are few places for them to share that burden with others.
Serrano is trying to provide such an outlet for a small group of teens that she mentors through the Alliance for HOPE program. She says that prior to #MeToo, their conversations were casual and meant to be fun. Participants rarely discussed what they'd endured. That began to change last fall. Of the 10 teens she mentors, a few of them started talking about their traumatic experiences. Now Serrano listens and comforts as they express feelings of empowerment and grief.
"In the end, it was never their fault."
"I think what I hope for young people to get out of [#MeToo] is to be able to talk about their situation in an environment where nobody is judging them, and maybe even become community leaders," she says.
"I would tell them not to be afraid," Serrano adds, addressing young survivors who are grappling with their abuse in the age of #MeToo. "In the end, it was never their fault."
Breaking the Cycle of Abuse
by Paige Bierma, M.A.
Shirley Beeman's mother used to get drunk and beat her daughter with a wooden spoon, even throwing her through the wall on several occasions. When she was just a toddler, a teenage cousin began molesting her, and years later an uncle took over where the cousin left off.
Today, Beeman* has confronted her childhood abuse and discusses it quite openly. Talking about the past and dealing with it, she says, is the only way to move on and lead a healthy life. Beeman is so convinced of this that she studied to become a psychotherapist, and now spends her days helping others work through their own childhood traumas.
Many patients are understandably reluctant to revisit agonizing memories from their childhoods, Beeman says, but it's critical to the healing process. She believes victims who don't deal with their past are often fated to inflict similar abuse on their own children. "Child abuse is a multigenerational process," says Beeman. "It just keeps going and going and going unless you do something to stop it."
This idea is not new: German psychiatrist Alice Miller wrote about it repeatedly in the 1980s. Her books, Prisoners of Childhoood: The Drama of the Gifted Child and For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence, broke new ground by expanding on a theory of the roots of violence both in families and in Western society as a whole.
The "unconscious compulsion to repeat," Miller writes, will continue until an adult survivor of child abuse consciously relives his or her traumas. An intellectual understanding -- that hitting or belittling a child is wrong, for example -- may not be enough to prevent abuse, simply because the drive to repeat occurs on an unconscious level. Survivors are compelled to replay abusive scenes from their own childhood in an unconscious effort to regain the power they once lost to their own parents, Miller writes.
In some cases, an adult survivor won't repeat abuse his children or other victims, but instead will turn the anger and frustration inward and become depressed. These types of survivors, Beeman says, are more likely to neglect their children than abuse them, and they show an alarming inability to detect when their child may be suffering abuse at the hands of someone else.
"They can't see the behavioral changes" in their own children, Beeman says. "It's like there's a blind spot because they haven't worked through their own history."
Adult survivors may be blind to abuse because they've repressed their own memories of it. Some experts call this "betrayal trauma," and explain that the cruelties a victim is most likely to forget may not be the most terrifying, but the ones that involve being betrayed by someone they love and trust. "Humans can be exquisitely sensitive detectors of betrayal and cheating," writes Jennifer Freyd in her book, Betrayal Trauma: The Logic of Forgetting Childhood Abuse. "But they can also be remarkably blind to betrayal or cheating that may seem obvious to an outside observer."
Breaking the cycle
Coming to terms with the mistreatment suffered as a child -- whether physical, sexual or emotional -- is the only way to break the cycle of abuse, Miller and other psychiatrists say. "When people manage to get in touch with their own pain, they no longer want to take it out on others," says Beeman.
Therapy is the most common way to reach this crucial point, but support groups can also be very helpful. Often just being around other people who have gone through similar experiences allows survivors to work through their memories and begin to heal. "When people realize that they're not going to have to cope with a painful past by themselves, they're usually able to talk about and process what happened to them," says Beeman, who leads support groups in San Francisco, California through the Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (ASCA) organization.
Groups like this typically define three stages of recovery for adult survivors: remembering, mourning, and healing. (ASCA details a complete 21-Step recovery program on its Web site.) In the first stage, participants work through their memories of abuse and recognize that they were wronged as children. The group emphasizes that the abuser was responsible for this trauma, not the child -- something that survivors often have trouble accepting on an emotional level.
In the second stage, survivors are encouraged to grieve for the childhood they lost, mourn the fact that loved ones failed them, and work on controlling their anger and finding healthy outlets for any aggressive or self-destructive feelings they may still feel. They're urged to identify how abuse has affected them as adults, and to take an inventory of the current problem areas in their lives.
According to the group, to reach the final stage of healing, survivors must learn to accept that they have a right to be happy. They work on strengthening the healthy parts of themselves, and on making the necessary changes in their own behavior and in their relationships with friends and family. For survivors, it's all about coming to the realization that they deserve kindness, a belief that may be robbed from them by experiences of childhood abuse, says Beeman.
I married my mother
Achieving trust and intimacy in relationships is often one of the most difficult hurdles for survivors of child abuse. Beeman says she married "a mean, emotionally immature, narcissistic man" because that's what she thought love was.
But it was the birth of Beeman's first child that created her biggest challenge. "I thought, 'Uh-oh, I'm pregnant and I'm having a girl,' and I went right back into therapy," she says. Her daughter's "terrible twos" tested Beeman's mettle and further convinced her of the importance of therapy for survivors. Even though she knew that her daughter's defiant behavior was perfectly normal for a 2-year-old, Beeman found that the urge to strike her daughter was still a difficult impulse for her to resist.
Luckily, Beeman, like countless others who have sought help, was able to break the cycle. "The study of child abuse confronts us with the astonishing fact that parents will inflict the same punishment or neglect on their children as they experienced themselves in their early lives," writes Alice Miller. "It is not until they are in therapy -- supposing they are given any -- that it transpires that they have been reenacting what they went through as children. As long as the anger directed at a parent or other first caregiver remains unconscious or disavowed, it cannot be dissipated. It can only be taken out on oneself or stand-ins and scapegoats like one's own children."
In a more hopeful essay, Miller concludes that "our sensitization to the cruelty with which children are treated will as a matter of course bring an end to the perpetuation of violence from generation to generation.
Silenced voices, muffled cries: Australia apologises to survivors of institutional child abuse
Australia's Prime Minister has formally apologised to the tens of thousands of people sexually abused in institutions over decades.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison gave the national apology in Parliament as survivors of abuse sat in the galleries and many more listened on the lawns outside.
‘Today, Australia confronts a trauma, an abomination, hiding in plain sight for far too long,' Mr Morrison said.
‘Silenced voices. Muffled cries in the darkness. Unacknowledged tears. The tyranny of invisible suffering. The never heard pleas of tortured souls, bewildered by an indifference to the unthinkable theft of their innocence.
‘As children, you deserved care and protection. Instead, the very people and institutions entrusted with your care failed you. You suffered appalling physical and mental abuse, and endured horrific sexual crimes.
‘As fellow Australians, we apologise for this gross betrayal of trust and for the fact that organisations with power over children — schools, religious organisations, governments, orphanages, sports and social clubs, and charities — were left unchecked.
‘Today, we say we are sorry. Sorry that you were not protected, sorry that you were not listened to. We are sorry for refusing to trust the words of children, for not believing you. As we say sorry, we also say we believe you. We say what happened was not your fault.
‘We are sorry that perpetrators of abuse were relocated and shielded rather than held to account, that records have been withheld and destroyed, and accountability avoided.'
Prime Minister Morrison said that many organisations where abuse occurred had already signed up to the National Redress Scheme, and called urgently for all remaining organisations to sign up.
He pledged to establish a centre of excellence to raise awareness and understanding of the impact of childhood sexual abuse, and a national museum dedicated to victims and survivors of abuse.
GP Dr Chris Hogan told newsGP he hopes the apology will make the community take notice.
‘Hopefully, this apology will make the community finally realise the severity of the survivors' suffering, how long it has affected them and how it still affects them,' he said.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten told survivors that today belonged to them.
‘I say to you here in the galleries, here in the Great Hall, on the lawns and beyond, I say to you in the big cities and country towns: today is because of you,' he said.
‘Today is because of your advocates, your networks, your organisations and your leadership. It is you who have bravely fought the long battle for justice, for recognition, for truth to be believed. It is you who brought this day into being. It is you who kept coming forward, again and again.
‘You dug beneath scar tissue, you told strangers and people in power of the most terrifying moments in your memory.'
Sitting among the survivors was former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who set up the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse five years ago. She spoke briefly to thank survivors for their courage, determination and stoicism.
In July, the government launched the National Office for Child Safety as part of its response to the Royal Commission findings.
GP Dr Tim Senior has previously written in newsGP about the vital role GPs play in responding to adult survivors of child abuse.
‘For GPs, it is important to remember that many adults who have experienced childhood abuse may appear unaffected,' he wrote. ‘However, childhood abuse can adversely impact an adult's functioning and affect their interpersonal relationships, parenting capacity, family functioning and mental health, which are often the cause of presentations to general practice.
‘For this reason, GPs should be alert to the possibility that adults with whom they speak may have experienced abuse or other adverse childhood events. Clues to a history of past trauma are often missed.
‘GPs are often highly trusted professionals, seeing people at vulnerable times in their life. It is not unusual that a person's first disclosure of abuse – to anyone – is to their GP.
Dear childhood abuse survivors, it is not your fault, I should know
by Wendy Squires
It had always been my greatest shame. My childhood was one full of abuse – mercifully not sexual – but insidious, wounding and esteem-decimating all the same. So deep was my distress that as I aged, I would rarely speak of it, instead creating a persona of invincibility around myself, one I loathed, for too many years.
As an adult, when the abuse courtesy of my father's mental illness and alcoholism would haunt me still, I decided I couldn't continue. I didn't like who I was. I was not my authentic self. I was depressed and lost. I needed to learn to forgive myself my perceived failings. I needed help. And in what I see as an immense act of courage now, I reached and got it.
I was about a year into therapy when, in one session, just as she had done so many times before, my therapist uttered the words I so needed to hear – “it's not your fault”. Only, this time, like a cog clicking in to place, I not only heard but understood the significance of these words in my very core. They were no longer a platitude but a truth. It really wasn't my fault, dammit! It never should have happened. I was a child. I should have trusted my parent to be my protector, not my tormenter. I should never have believed his acceptance was a measure of my worth. I deserved better.
The reason I am sharing such an intimate confidence is that I feel I have to. Watching the apologies to the victims of institutional abuse this week, those memories of betrayal, hurt, pain and injustice have come back in force, along with the knowledge they had never really gone, nor ever will. But amidst this reflective period, I do realise that my start to life no longer dominates my future. These memories are no longer a constant source of self-flagellation. They are now somewhat manageable.
If the invective I endured has resonated so much with me for so long, it is unfathomable to even contemplate what years of sexual molestation must do to an innocent – an agony beyond all measure and comprehension. I can't imagine what it must be like for those who have suffered at the hands of those they were told to respect above all others, those brave souls I have followed with passionate interest and heart-breaking consequence since Julia Gillard announced a much-needed Royal Commission in to Institutional Abuse during her all too short time as our Prime Minister.
I think of the shame the victims must have flagellated themselves with; the trust sucked from their very souls, the inability to relate to those untarnished; the sonorous self-loathing… and I sob for them. But I also rally for them. I want redress and justice – not more apologies but legal charges and imprisonment for perpetrators and compensation for the sufferers – and I want them now!
But this will take time and course, and, in lieu of physically hugging and whispering this message in each and every victim's ear, it is my heartfelt desire these words to resonate in those suffering – not just be heard but digested – it's not your fault!!!
It was not your fault it was theirs. What those men (and a much smaller number of women) did to you were criminal acts – insidious, devious and depraved. What the institutions did in covering up, aiding and abetting and re-abusing with denials are also immoral and felonious acts. These perpetrators of pain are the ones deserve to be scorned, their lives plagued with self-loathing – not yours.
There was not something about you that made these evil men choose you other than trusting natures and innocent hearts. You did not deserve your abuse, despite how hard you may have tried to convince yourself you did. You did not enjoy being molested as they sinisterly suggested. You did not deserve to grow with an inherent distrust of love. You are not a lesser person for your injustice. You are survivors. You are strong. You are believed. You are respected. And you are loved.
Understanding it's not my fault is a truth that has changed me for the better. I wish only the same for you.
Controversial study suggests child abuse may leave a detectable DNA biomarker
by Rich Haridy
The field of epigenetics sits precariously on the precipice of the classic nature versus nurture debate. Instead of a simple environment versus genetics dichotomy, epigenetic examines how specific genes are either switched on or off through external forces encountered in a person's lifetime. Striking new research from scientists at the University of British Columbia and Harvard University is suggesting that adults who were victims of abuse as children may carry an imprint of that trauma in regions of their DNA.
At the crux of this research is a process called DNA methylation. This process involves methyl groups interacting with a DNA molecule to alter the expression of a gene. Over the course of a person's life a broad array of factors can influence DNA methylation, from diet to stress.
This new research initially set out to look at methylation markers in several samples of sperm. The primary goal was to find out if these methylation markers could be passed down to a subject's offspring. It is generally thought that most methylation markers are erased in primordial gene cells, the precursors to eggs and sperm. This is an important evolutionary process, acting like a reset button between generations to stop any temporary environmentally triggered aberrations from passing to one's children.
In 2013 a study from researchers at Cambridge upended this idea, suggesting that a small volume of methylation markers can in fact survive this reset process and be found in subsequent generations. This hypothesis has only been shown so far in a small amount of animal studies but it does back up some controversial observational research finding children of Holocaust survivors were more likely to develop depression, anxiety and other psychological disorders.
The long-term data from this new research is yet to be published but an early paper has just been revealed, finding that adult victims of child abuse do display distinctive methylation markers in several DNA regions that non-victims do not display.
This is a small study, comprising just 34 men, and much more follow-up work is needed to validate the findings. However, the researchers do believe this traumatic DNA marking to be distinct, with eight separate regions displaying over 10 percent difference in methylation markers, and one specific region showing a striking 29 percent difference between victims and non-victims.
"Methylation is starting to be viewed as a potentially useful tool in criminal investigations – for example, by providing investigators with an approximate age of a person who left behind a sample of their DNA," explains senior author Michael Kobor. "So it's conceivable that the correlations we found between methylation and child abuse might provide a percentage probability that abuse had occurred."
It's not that surprising that a major childhood trauma could leave such a notable epigenetic mark on a person's DNA. But it is revealing that researchers may be able to clearly identify these molecular scars.
This research undoubtedly raises some thorny ethical issues. One implication, if the work can be further verified and detailed, is that these biological markers could validate decades old accusations of assault or abuse when these cases are eventually raised in court. A he-said/she-said debate could be suddenly upended with a genetic biomarker that purportedly confirms whether a traumatic event did, or did not, take place.
A huge amount in this new research is still incredibly unclear, including whether these methylation markers have any health consequences. Up for even more debate is whether these epigenetic methylation markers can be passed on to other generations. That is one of the next steps for this research team, now that they believe they have found a clear molecular signature for childhood abuse and trauma.
"When the sperm meets the egg, there is a massive amount of genetic reshuffling, and most of the methylation is at least temporarily erased," says Andrea Roberts, lead author on the new study. "But finding a molecular signature in sperm brings us at least a step closer to determining whether child abuse might affect the health of the victim's offspring.
Where to from here? What child sexual abuse survivors want to happen after Prime Minister's apology
Some survivors of childhood sexual abuse have welcomed the apology from the Prime Minister, but for others it is a source of increased anxiety and concern about what will happen next.
For Chris, year 8 in high school marked the start of a living nightmare when he was sexually abused by his trusted teacher.
He was abused at a school run by the Marist Brothers in Victoria.
He has had mixed emotions in the lead up to the national apology.
"I feel a degree of anxiety about it," Chris said.
"It's been a very long time coming.
"It's been a long and laborious process that's actually entailed quite a degree of personal, painful revelation."
Chris was hopeful that all 122 recommendations from the Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse would be actioned.
"I think it would be a terrible shame if we found that findings were hosed down, compromised [or] diminished," he said.
"This would only add to the hurt."
Survivors want national support centre established
One of those recommendations was that a national centre be established, co-funded by Federal and State Governments, "to raise awareness and understanding of the impacts of child sexual abuse, support help-seeking and guide best practice advocacy and support and therapeutic treatment".
Chris is one of many survivors that hope this national centre will be implemented — another is Craig Hughes-Cashmore, who co-founded and is CEO of the Survivors and Mates Support Network (SAMSN), having experienced childhood sexual abuse himself.
Mr Hughes-Cashmore was part of the Prime Minister's reference committee for the national apology and said that while the apology is welcome, progress cannot stop there.
"This apology must be accompanied by action otherwise it will ring hollow," he said.
Further to the Royal Commission's recommendation, Mr Hughes-Cashmore and SAMSN have put forward their own proposal, outlining how a national centre could be implemented, created in consultation with survivors and 30 different support organisations, including mental health, domestic violence and victim support agencies such as Lifeline, 1800RESPECT and SANE Australia.
SAMSN's plan proposes a "National Centre of Excellence" and recommends that "operationally the centre would adopt a client-centred, trauma-informed, gender-appropriate approach, guided by the lived experience of survivors along with expertise from a diverse group of key stakeholders".
"I think we owe it to them to establish this centre," Mr Hughes-Cashmore said.
"I think in terms of saying sorry to victims, yes of course it's important, but what we need to ensure is that post-Royal Commission … Australia is made safer for children."
As part of this, the group is calling on the Federal Government to "consult on its [the centre's] formation and implementation, to ensure the voices of all stakeholders, specifically survivors and their families, are heard".
Mr Hughes-Cashmore said that the centre would need to have the same public profile that organisations like Beyond Blue and the Royal Flying Doctor Service have.
"Survivors and supporters need to know where to go and at this point it's not clear," he said.
"You can be shoved pillar-to-post through the health system trying to find help — the kind of specialist help that makes a difference.
Royal commission 'life-changing'
Coloured ribbons are tied to a fence outside a Ballarat church, with 'no more silence' writtten on one of them.
The end of the child abuse royal commission can't mark the end of courage, writes Lisa Flynn.
"It [the national centre] would basically introduce some standards for working with adult survivors which we currently don't have and coordination amongst the sector because at this point there are loads of gaps.
Mr Hughes-Cashmore, whose organisation SAMSN is Sydney-based also emphasised the need for the centre to provide support in regional and rural areas.
"If you are a survivor of child sexual abuse, the level of service provision you get should not be determined solely on where you happen to live," he said.
Sonya Mezinec from the Victim Support Service said it would be a waste not to learn from past failures.
"We can learn a lot from what's happened in the past and one of those things is to ensure that these things don't happen again," Ms Mezinec said.
"A national centre like that is a very important outcome."
Abuse survivor calls for Child Houses for children suffering sexual abuse in Wales
A survivor of historic sexual abuse is calling for more support for children suffering sexual abuse in Wales and better victim protection.
Maya Meftahi was sexually abused by her father, she remembers it starting from around the age of four. In 2012, her father plead guilty to charges including incest and indecent assault and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He served six and has now been released on licence.
There wasn't a childhood.
There were no teenage years.
Maya is now campaigning for more support for survivors including introducing Child Houses where children who are being abused can safely escape to. She has put forward a petition to the Welsh Assembly to highlight her campaign.
London have two child houses, they have a safety network for children to go into. We should have the same in Wales. What child is going to get from Wales to London?
Maya has set up an agency called 'She Can Consultancy' to help people experiencing sexual violence and psychological trauma.
Her aim is to provide a national platform for survivors to speak out safely so they can have access to support.
She says part of the reason she wants to help other survivors is because she feels she was not supported enough after what she went through.
To contact She Can Consultancy for support you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or use the Live Chat on the website.
No child or adult should have to wait for services or support following any incident of sexual violence. The care and needs of the victim must be paramount. In addition to counselling services provided by Health Boards, we are looking at developing an all-Wales Traumatic Stress Service to provide to provide intensive counselling to victims of sexual assault.
The NHS is also developing regional services to support the immediate needs of child and adult victims and works closely with the police and third sector bodies to provide support to children through the network of Welsh Sexual Assault Referral Centres.
'Society failed us': abuse survivor wants more than an apology
by Katie Burgess
Hannah Coleman-Jennings was two-and-a-half years old when she was sexually abused in a daycare centre run by a Christian community group in Sydney in 1996.
The daily flashbacks of the abuse she suffered at the hands of those trusted to care for her led her to attempt suicide seven times. Her first attempt was when she was just seven years old.
Hannah Coleman-Jennings 24, was one of the youngest people in the public gallery when the prime minister apologised to survivors of institutional child abuse.
The 24-year-old Canberra woman was one of the youngest survivors in the public gallery when Prime Minister Scott Morrison apologised to victims of institutional child sexual abuse on Monday.
Mrs Coleman-Jennings said she struggled to listen to the speeches, as they reminded her of what she has endured.
The cynical part of her also felt it was too little, too late, as the widespread abuse of children should never have occurred in the first place.
But ultimately she felt that the apology - and the royal commission that preceded it - has shone a light into some of the darkest corners of Australian society, where child abusers were allowed to thrive for generations.
"I am happy we are now talking about this. Evil happens in the darkness when we turn our backs. Hopefully by talking about this, by raising awareness and really focusing on the abuse of children we can stop it happening in the future," Mrs Coleman-Jennings said.
"It was really hard being the youngest person there, and knowing it's continued. When people think of child sexual abuse, they think of something that's happened in a 1970s boarding school. It's hard for people to wrap their minds around the fact that this is still happening today. This happens. It happened. Society failed us by letting this happen and it should never happen again."
While Mrs Coleman-Jennings still struggles daily with what happened to her, those that abused her have never been held to account.
The police files in her case went missing and her abusers made threats that forced her family to flee the state.
"It's the most awful thing. I relive the abuse every day. It can be a sound, a smell, a phone call from someone. It doesn't stop when the abuse stops. It happens over and over again and it will happen until the day I die," Mrs Coleman-Jennings said.
After she gave evidence to the royal commission, Mrs Coleman-Jennings said her case had been referred onto the police integrity unit.
With the help of her family, her husband - whom she has been friends with since she was eight years old - and her support dog, Mrs Coleman-Jennings is managing to hold it together.
But she believes the federal government must make it easier for survivors to access the Commonwealth redress scheme. The organisation in which she was abused has not signed up to the scheme.
"They should bring in legislation that compels institutions to sign up. I think the way the redress scheme is set up with regards to victims who are now in prison makes it very difficult for them. Really the abuse is the thing that set them on the path to prison and I think we need to make it easier for them to take part," Mrs Coleman-Jennings said.
She also believes there needs to be a cultural change in Australia's institutions to truly keep children safe.
"I think there needs to be accountability and change in governance. The people who are in power now are people who were around when the abuse occurred, possibly covering it up," she said.
"The Scouts have changed their culture around child sexual abuse so now no adult leader can be alone with a child, it has to be two leaders. I hope that kind of change spreads to all institutions.
The role that adults can play in fighting the stigma of child sexual abuse
Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman talked about sex abuse in the lobby of Eastern Bank's headquarters
by Aly Raisman
Aly Raisman spoke in the lobby of Eastern Bank's headquarters in Boston Tuesday.
As I look back on my career, I can't help but marvel at the power of dreams. My own dream — to be an Olympic champion — got me up each morning and fueled me to train and compete. But it didn't include the worst hardships I faced.
Now, as I listen to kids talk about their hopes and aspirations, I feel conflicted. On the one hand, I want more than anything to encourage them to pursue their dreams, and to tell them that with hard work they can turn them into a reality. But on the other hand, I also feel the urge to caution them about the challenges they may face along the way.
I feel the desire to be positive and encourage them to pursue their dreams, but also the responsibility to warn them of the dangers and uncertainties they may confront along the way. There is no road map that guarantees safe passage; and there is no roadmap that shows the way from hardship to healing.
Truth is, I am still hurting from the sexual abuse I suffered as a young athlete, and I know there are a lot of others out there who are suffering in silence. Sexual abuse is one of the most prevalent health issues facing children today. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. These statistics are unacceptable and horrifying.
Abuse impacts more people than we may ever know. Whether or not someone you know has come forward or you can relate yourself, I believe we should all care and do our part to help children. Education needs to change — in gymnastics, in youth sports, and in all activities and communities where adults interact with children.
I am proud to say that more than 2,500 adults have completed Stewards of Children to date. However, prevention is a collective journey and requires our ongoing commitment to encourage individuals and organizations to engage in this epidemic.
We must recommit to the idea that every child has the right to a safe and healthy childhood, prioritizing this right over our personal comfort or professional reputations. Then and only then will public and transparent reports — of abuse by individuals, universities, governing bodies, religious institutions, and youth-serving organizations — be seen as courageous, and not treasonous.
At Waite Park shelter, survivors of sex trafficking find refuge, hope for new life
It's a home a lot like any other in this St. Cloud suburb. Big windows shine light into a cozy living room with comfy sofas. There's a spacious kitchen, and a pot of marinara sauce bubbling on the stove.
But the people who live in this peaceful setting have faced horrors that most people couldn't imagine.
This is Terebinth Refuge, Minnesota's first shelter for adult survivors of sexual exploitation. They are here to escape sex trafficking — and finding a safe place to stay is their first step toward building a new life.
The shelter opened in April in Waite Park, just west of St. Cloud, with room for two residents. Since then, it has served seven women ranging in age from 21 to 44. It has a waiting list, and staffers field calls from all over the state. They're now expanding to add eight more beds.
Executive director Cynthia "CeCe" Terlouw moved to the St. Cloud area and founded the shelter because it's a service lacking in Minnesota, where most programs focus on young victims of trafficking. She had previously run a program for at-risk and exploited girls at Heartland Girls' Ranch in Benson, Minn.
With easy access to the interstate and the Bakken oil fields, the St. Cloud area has become a "training ground" for traffickers from the Twin Cities, said Jason Thompson, an investigator for the Central Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force and the Waite Park Police Department.
"If they can find a girl and they can bring her to a remote place where she doesn't know anything, she can't run away because she doesn't know where she is," Thompson said.
A place of rest and growth
Terlouw started Terebinth Refuge with help from a grant from Minnesota's Safe Harbor program and community donations. The current shelter is in a house leased for two years from the city of Waite Park, but eventually, Terlouw wants to move to a permanent location with two houses, one for emergency shelter and one for transitional beds.
She named her shelter for the terebinth, a broad, leafy tree related to the pistachio that's mentioned in the Old Testament. Terlouw says it's a symbol of resilience, strength, rest and growth.
"You want it to be refuge, and you want it to be peace," she said. "You want it to be a place where they're learning and growing and can feel cared about and nurtured."
When women arrive at the shelter, they're often exhausted, and sleep for days, Terlouw said. They often require medical and substance abuse treatment and counseling to deal with the trauma they've experienced.
Survivors frequently turn to alcohol and drugs as a way to endure being victimized repeatedly, Terlouw said. Survivors often have criminal records, because they've been forced to steal or commit other crimes to meet the quota their trafficker demands.
And after years of trauma and abuse, Terlouw said, survivors lack an education, job history and most importantly, self worth.
"There are just so many barriers that they can't even fathom by the time they're an adult woman that they could get out of this," she said. "They're being told, 'This is all you're good for.' So they really can't imagine leaving this life."
Slowly, over time, the staff at Terebinth Refuge starts to help the women see themselves as a person again, with hopes and dreams.
"Very rarely is there something in their mind that they've dreamed about, at least at this point in their life," Terlouw said. "Maybe when they were little girls. But it's been stripped out of them, and they can't even fathom that they can get out of this and have a healthy life."
The staff helps survivors learn basic living skills, like doing laundry and keeping a schedule — skills they never learned if they were trafficked from a young age. They help them plan to go back to school or find a job, and imagine a future outside of trafficking.
"They start to recognize there is hope. They can move forward," Terlouw said.
Leaving the control of a trafficker can be a process. Survivors are often dependent on traffickers for housing, food and protection, Terlouw said. They might even have feelings of attachment toward their trafficker despite the abuse.
Sometimes, that means a survivor will come and go from the shelter several times before making a permanent break.
Program manager Lana Kozak recalled one woman who drove herself to the shelter, but couldn't get out of the car.
"She said, 'I just, I can't do this to him. I would be hurting him and betraying him,'" Kozak said. "She was about ready to leave. But we talked a little bit about maybe not doing this for him, but doing it for herself. And that empowered her a little bit to go up to that door."
Terlouw declined to allow interviews of the women living at Terebinth Refuge, citing the recent trauma they've endured.
But one staff member has a deep understanding of what the survivors she works with have been through.
Eleana said she was the 13-year-old child of an alcoholic and addict when she was befriended by a trafficker. She asked that her last name not be used because she doesn't routinely speak publicly about her past.
"They gave me money," she said. "Now I see the stages of the grooming process that they led me through."
After persuading her to go out of town with him, she said, Eleana's trafficker told her she would never see her mom or her family again. He was part of a Minneapolis family that operated a juvenile prostitution ring in the late 1990s.
Eleana was trafficked until she was 19, enduring physical abuse and other horrors. When she got out of the cycle, she testified against her trafficker, who received a lengthy prison sentence.
At the time, there weren't many support services for survivors, Eleana said. But eventually, she got a job and went to college. She's now working on her second master's degree, she said.
Now she's a survivor advocate at Terebinth Refuge. She said her experiences help her relate to what the women are going through.
"I'm just trying to lead them in the direction that helped me and support them and meet them where they're at," she said. "Because I know that if you don't meet a survivor where they're at, they're not going to get where they need to be."
The staff at Terebinth Refuge say public attitudes toward trafficking victims are changing. That's in part due to Minnesota's Safe Harbor law, passed in 2011, which ensures that sexually exploited youth are treated as victims, not criminals engaging in prostitution.
More people now understand that women and girls who are being trafficked aren't in this life by choice, Kozak said.
"These survivors are able to say it without being treated as criminals," she said. "Now, they're being treated as how they should be — survivors of horrific trauma.
NOTE from Misty Livingston: Arizona-based agency VisionQuest plans to house undocumented immigrant children in a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania shelter in spite of multiple incidents of serious physical abuse of children by staff at the shelter, reports of emotional/verbal abuse, lack of adequate staff training, and unclean facilities.
Protesters are rallying against the decision outside the Philadelphia site.
Accused of harming children at its North Philly shelter, VisionQuest now plans to house immigrant youth here
by Jeff Gammage
One child's head crashed through a wall during an altercation with a staffer at the VisionQuest shelter for troubled youths in North Philadelphia.
Another youngster was struck in the face by an adult worker during an argument over a chair. In a separate incident, a youth was choked and slapped by a staff member.
But physical violence toward children wasn't the only problem at the Arizona-based company's facility, according to Pennsylvania state inspection reports.
Two staffers repeatedly cursed at the children, telling them, "You're nothing," and promising to "make life a living hell," inspectors wrote.
Some workers didn't have adequate training. And the place was dirty.
The shelter closed in late 2017.
Now VisionQuest is back in Philadelphia, intending to use the same Logan neighborhood building to house 60 undocumented immigrant children, all boys ages 12 to 17, who arrived alone at the nation's southern border. They'll come here from shelters around the country, among the thousands of "unaccompanied minors" who fled violence and poverty in their homelands of El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico.
VisionQuest CEO Peter Ranalli said the new program will be better run, better staffed, and much better financed, through a contract with the federal government. As for its previous shelter at the site, he said, complaints of abuse occur at virtually all juvenile-justice centers, and not all those lodged against VisionQuest workers were true.
"Did we have staff do inappropriate things?" Ranalli said. "When you have 130 staff, somebody is going to do something inappropriate."
At least three VisionQuest employees were fired between 2011 and 2017 after hitting or physically handling children, state records show.
VisionQuest had contracted with the city to provide protective care to teenagers awaiting court adjudication and placement, and other at-risk youths needing short-term supervision. The work could be difficult. At one point in 2013, for instance, 40 percent of the children at the shelter were mentally ill, and 85 percent had been judged delinquent.
The first group of migrant children won't arrive for at least two months, during which VisionQuest says it will remake the Logan Plaza domain into comfortable, dormitory-style housing. It plans to try to find foster families for the children. Barring that, the youths could be housed here indefinitely.
The federal government's treatment of migrant children has become an explosive issue.
In the "sanctuary city" of Philadelphia, a surge of opposition brought about 40 protesters to the VisionQuest property at 5201 Old York Rd. on Wednesday. They said immigrant minors need care and love, not group housing.
"VisionQuest has no place in Philadelphia," said Erika Almiron, executive director of Juntos, the advocacy group that organized the demonstration.
Kenney administration officials called VisionQuest's plan "disturbing," and City Councilwoman Helen Gym said the agency "seeks to profit off the misery and terror of children."
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan, who spoke at the rally, said his 11,000-member union will not "stand by and watch VisionQuest enter our city and perpetuate a profoundly shameful practice." If union members need to march outside VisionQuest, he said, they'll do it.
Councilwoman Cherelle L. Parker, whose district contains the VisionQuest site, wants to hear from neighbors in the area, some of whom have already expressed their concern, her spokesperson said.
Founded in Arizona in 1973, VisionQuest operates in six states, focused on helping youths in the court and correctional systems.
In February 2011, VisionQuest was licensed to run its New Directions Shelter in Logan, two blocks south of Einstein Medical Center. It added children in phases, toward an approved limit of 128 boys and girls.
The youths got meals and schooling, along with group therapy sessions, anger-management counseling, and drug and alcohol therapies, records say. They were assigned four to a room.
Inspectors from the Department of Human Services cited the first deficiencies six months later: A lack of supervision enabled two youths to leave the premises. Boys and girls complained they weren't permitted additional portions of food. Dirt and food droppings littered the stove area, and overall maintenance was poor.
VisionQuest executives filed a plan to make fixes and were allowed to continue operating.
Inspectors documented a physical altercation on July 27, 2012. At 11 p.m., a staffer heard a youth making noises while other children in the room were trying to sleep. Told by an employee to be quiet, the person refused, "but remained harmless to self or others," the inspection report stated.
The staffer put the child in a restraint and took him out of the room, the young person kicking a dent in the wall as he resisted.
VisionQuest fired the staff member, records show.
In April 2013, investigators wrote that two staff members "do not treat the children that live at the facility with fairness, dignity and respect." Those staffers allegedly swore at the youths, and said, "You're going to be nothing in life."
Both workers received written admonishments and warnings that further violations could get them fired, records show.
The state reports do not identify staff members or children by name, age or gender. They provide a summary of events and findings, and in some cases do not specify the date of an altercation or deficiency.
In August 2013, inspectors found that eight staffers had not been certified in CPR and First Aid. Fire drills were an issue. VisionQuest needed to be able to evacuate all children within 2½ minutes. Instead, it was taking three, four, or five minutes, and in one drill, nine minutes.
In 2014 and 2015, a staffer was found to be working without a child-abuse clearance. Three had no CPR or first aid training, and five had no medical proof that they were free of serious communicable diseases, required when working around children or food.
An August 2016 summary outlined the incident where a staff member choked and hit a child. The cause of the violence was not stated, but an examination found scratches on the left and right sides of the youth's neck. The employee was suspended immediately and soon fired.
The cleanliness of the shelter suffered through 2016: shower heads covered in mildew, a water fountain clogged with rusty brown water, mouse droppings in cafeteria heaters. Floors of community lunch areas and youth bathrooms were corroded with a dirty brown substance, a report stated.
"The facility," VisionQuest wrote in response, "is under continuous physical renovation and improvement."
In a November 2016 summary, signed in February 2017, inspectors described the episode where a child's head went through a wall. It occurred in what was called the Quiet Room, when a staff member with no training in restrictive procedures improperly attempted to restrain the child, they wrote.
A May 2017 summary recounted how, after a child and a staffer got into an argument over a chair, the adult struck the youth in the face. The staffer was fired the same night.
In October 2017, the state approved VisionQuest for another year of operation, but the center never made it that far.
VisionQuest's Ranalli said his agency closed the shelter after the city declined to pay more for the program. City officials said that while they did deny a rate increase, they ended the contract because of poor oversight of the children and bad building conditions.
"When it is clear that a service is not meeting our standards, we close intake" of children, said Heather Keafer, spokesperson for the city Department of Human Services. "We have closed sites that we believe do not serve the best interest of our youth."
One-year-old Josiah Gishie was killed as a result of child abuse while in foster care in Arizona. Laws need to change so this situation does not repeat.
DCS was contacted on six separate occasions regarding abuse or neglect of Josiah and his siblings. But because King is affiliated with an Arizona Tribe, her cases fall under the Indian Child Welfare Act. ICWA cases contain jurisdictional and legal issues that influence how the department investigates and provides services to a family. There is a higher burden of proof for the government to intervene in an ICWA case.
PHOENIX - Laura Pahules shudders at the thought of what happened to one-year-old Josiah Gishie. Pahules is the executive director for Arizonans for Children, the non-profit that facilitated visits between Josiah and his mother when he was in foster care.
"We referred to him here as the cutest monkey ever because he was in a monkey costume at our Halloween event," Pahules recalled. "I held this baby; I loved on him. All of the staff and volunteers did here. When I found out about it, it broke my heart. I had to leave work."
Josiah died on July 17th, 2018. His mother, 32-year-old Donielle King, is charged with first-degree murder.
Over the weekend, the Department of Child Safety released a detailed statement on the case. It explains how DCS was contacted on six separate occasions regarding abuse or neglect of Josiah and his siblings. But because King is affiliated with an Arizona Tribe, her cases fall under the Indian Child Welfare Act, a law enacted in 1978 to keep Native American children with Native American families.
"To try to keep kids connected to their heritage, I understand the reason behind it," said Pahules. "I think it may serve to get revisited to see if there should be changes or amendments made."
ICWA cases contain jurisdictional and legal issues that influence how the department investigates and provides services to a family. There is a higher burden of proof for the government to intervene in an ICWA case.
It's not the first time Pahules has lost a child who was a part of the center. Josiah's photo now permanently hangs there. She said his memory would live on through their Halloween celebration.
"Costume closet will be in his honor every year from now on. We are going to call that the cutest monkey ever costume closet," she said.