Indiana, Mississippi, Florida and Pennsylvania
5 children have been killed in 3 days waiting for school buses
by Madeline Holcombe
(CNN) They were just kids, trying to get to school.
At least five children have been killed this week and seven injured when they were hit by drivers near school bus stops, authorities said. The incidents -- in Indiana, Mississippi, Florida and Pennsylvania -- draw attention to pedestrian safety and distracted driving across the country.
Girl shielded her brothers as pickup fatally struck them at bus stop.
Crossing the street to their bus stop in the morning in rural Indiana, 9-year-old Alivia Stahl and her twin 6-year-old brothers, Mason and Xzavier Ingle, were fatally struck by a pickup truck, police said.
Alivia held her brothers' hands and shielded them from the oncoming truck, their uncle told CNN affiliate WRTV.
The 24-year-old driver was arrested on three counts of felony reckless homicide and misdemeanor passing a school bus with the arm extended. She was released on $15,000 bond.
Another student injured in the incident was airlifted to a hospital in Fort Wayne.
A 9-year-old was struck and killed north of Tupelo, Mississippi, as he crossed the road to board a school bus.
Getting to and from a bus stop may be more dangerous than the actual ride to school. Here's why.
A 22-year-old man was charged with aggravated assault in the incident, Mississippi Highway Patrol Capt. Johnny Poulos said. Bond was set for the driver at $10,000.
In Tallahassee, Florida, a 19-year-old man hit and injured a kindergartner who was crossing the street to board a school bus, police told CNN affiliate WCTV.
The driver realized too late that the bus was stopped with arm extended, police said. He was given two traffic citations, the Leon County Sheriff's Office said.
The driver reached out to apologize, the child's family told WCTV, and the 5-year-old boy is at home and doing well.
In central Pennsylvania, a 7-year-old boy from Franklin Township was found dead on side of the road by his home after he was run over by a slow-moving vehicle, authorities said.
"Evidence has shown that the child was run over at a slow speed," Pennsylvania State Police Troop G's tweeted. "A search warrant was obtained for a vehicle that was in the area at the time. The driver has been interviewed."
"The bus driver on route arrived at the stop discovering the situation, contacted 911 and remained at the scene until first responders arrived," Tyrone Area School District Superintendent Cathy Harlow said on Facebook.
For fifth time in three days, a driver hits kids at bus stop, police say.
In Tampa, Florida, five children and two adults were rushed to a hospital after a car struck pedestrians at a school bus stop, police spokesman Eddy Durkin said.
One child is in critical condition, Durkin said Thursday, but none of the injuries are considered life-threatening. Three of the children are 6 years old, one is 9 and one is 12.
Images from the scene show backpacks scattered on the ground.
Witnesses reported that a Ford Escort driving at a high rate of speed in a residential area hit the pedestrians on the side of the street, Durkin said, but police later said it was unclear whether the driver, a 47-year-old man, had been speeding.
The driver stayed at the scene and has not been charged, officials said.
Owners of Rainbow Bright Daycare and senior centers along Peninsula charged with human trafficking, employee violations
The family of four that owns Rainbow Bright Daycare and senior care facilities in the Bay Area faces 59 counts of human trafficking, rape and labor abuse.
by Wayne Freedman and Brandon Behle
DALY CITY, Calif. (KGO) -- A Bay Area family of four faces 59 counts of human trafficking, rape and labor abuse. They're charged with running a human trafficking ring out of a Daly City child daycare center and two residential senior care facilities they owned and operated across the Peninsula.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the arrests and charges Friday morning against the owners of Rainbow Bright.
The defendants -- Joshua, Noel, Gerlen and Carlina Gamos -- remain in jail under a combined $9 million bail.
According to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the crimes happened from Westmoor High School in Daly City, and five other neighborhoods in Pacifica and South San Francisco.
While serving the arrest warrants, Becerra said authorities also recovered 14 illegal assault weapons including three "ghost guns" without serial numbers. Officials told ABC7 News that one pistol was found unsecured, wrapped inside a blanket at the child daycare facility, allegedly within easy reach of children.
"Rainbow Bright was cheating," said Becerra at a press conference. "Not just the workers of their pay. Not just the workers of their dignity. But you and me as taxpayers."
It totals $8.5 million, said Becerra, who went on to say the defendants targeted the Filipino community, including recent immigrants.
"The workers were forced to live on the premises," he said. "They were locked outside in the rain when the owners were not home. One defendant is being charged with three counts of rape against a female employee."
It also states that the defendants prevented employees from leaving by threatening to turn them over to immigration officials, taking their passports, and in extreme cases raping them.
"No worker in the United States should live in fear or be subjected to violence, abuse or exploitation at the hands of their employer," said Becerra. "The charges against the Gamos family members are despicable. We must not turn a blind eye to abusive labor practices. Report it, and we will investigate and prosecute."
ABC7 spoke with one former worker on Friday. John Paul Velez fits the employee profile. He worked for the accused 10 years ago in a senior center.
"I was surprised," he said. "Especially with the human trafficking. And 24 hours? How could you work 24 hours?"
Becerra says his office has identified hundreds of victims, and expects more.
"It was the workers who brought this case to light," he said. "And the workers who were the greatest victims of Rainbow Bright and its operations."
Officials say the arrests were part of a year-long investigation by multiple agencies.
Detectives: South Bay women used social media to target minors for sexual activity
Two South Bay women who investigators say describe themselves as "best friends" are facing criminal charges -- accused of having sex multiple times with several minors.
by Carlos Saucedo
SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Two South Bay women who investigators say describe themselves as "best friends" are facing criminal charges -- accused of having sex multiple times with several minors.
Talia Sisco, 24, and Tina Pourani, 23, were both arrested Thursday on having unlawful sex with a minor.
"They were boasting and bragging about these sex acts with minors, using words such as 'sexual deviants,' such as 'going to hell' because of their actions," said Vicente Mitre, a detective with the Santa Clara County Sheriff's office.
The Santa Clara County Sheriff's office began investigating in April after getting tipped off about alleged inappropriate behavior.
Detectives say the women used social media to initiate contact with three boys - between the ages of 15 and 16.
During the investigation, suspect Talia Sisco was a student-teacher at Bernal Intermediate School
"None of the victims at this point appear to have come from the middle school," said Sheriff Laurie Smith. "They were high school boys that were the victims that we identified."
Once the school was notified, Sisco was removed as a student teacher.
Investigators fear there could be more victims.
"We believe there's a fourth victim that we have evidence of but we haven't identified," Smith said. "We're still looking for additional people that may have been affiliated with these women."
The women could face additional charges if more victims come forward. Anyone with information on this case is encouraged to contact the Santa Clara County Sheriff's office.
The sheriff's office is asking anyone with information regarding the suspects to contact the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office Detective Unit at 408-808-4500 or the Sheriff's Office Investigative Services anonymous tip line at (408) 808-4431.
Perris torture case: Turpin siblings enjoying newfound freedom
The 13 siblings rescued from their Perris home where their parents allegedly held them captive are enjoying their newfound freedom, their attorney said.
by Brandi Hitt
PERRIS, Calif. -- The 13 siblings who were rescued from their Perris home where their parents allegedly held them captive are enjoying their newfound freedom, their attorney said in an ABC News exclusive interview.
"I think the favorite new experience for them is moving into new bedrooms, where they have been able to pick out their own bedding, have closets with their clothes in them, be able to have a bathroom right handy that they can use, and probably most of all just to go outside," attorney Jack Osborn said.
The oldest siblings were released from Corona Regional Medical Center on Thursday and are now sharing one home under state care. The younger six have been split up into two additional homes.
The older siblings are experiencing many firsts -- like learning to cook and trying Mexican food. They're also caring for the family dogs.
"They are joyful, they are warm, they are considerate...I give them a lot of credit for helping each other, relying on each other. I think they've learned how to bring out the best in each other over the years," Osborn said.
Their parents, David and Louise Turpin, remain behind bars on dozens of charges including torture and child endangerment.
The attorney for the adult siblings says they've communicated with their younger brothers and sisters through Skype, and they all hope to have a reunion soon.
The signs of abuse and neglect to look for
Do you know how to spot the signs of child abuse and neglect?
On Sunday, a 17-year-old escaped from a home where she and 12 siblings had been held captive by their parents in Perris, Calif. Both parents were arrested for torture and child endangerment.
At a press conference about the case, officials said one of the most important things that can be done to stop similar situations is to call and report suspected cases of abuse.
Here are the signs to look for and report, especially if you spot a pattern, according to the government's Child Welfare Information Gateway.
To reach the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline, call 1.800.4.A.CHILD (1.800.422.4453) or look up your local number.
SIGNS OF NEGLECT
Child often misses school
Child steals or begs for food or money
Child lacks necessary medical care
Child has severe body odor and/or does not seem clean
Child does not properly dress for the weather
Child says no one is home to care for them
Parent/guardian and/or child abuses drugs or alcohol
Parent/guardian does not appear to care about the child
Parent/guardian exhibits bizarre behavior
SIGNS OF PHYSICAL ABUSE
Child has injuries that child and/or parent/guardian cannot explain including burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or black eyes, especially after an absence from school
Child seems frightened of parent/guardian and does not want to go home with them
Child shrinks away from approaching adults
Child says that their parent/guardian hurt them
Child and/or parent abuses animals/pets
Parent/guardian describes the child in a very negative way
Parent/guardian uses harsh physical discipline
There is a family history of abuse
SIGNS OF SEXUAL ABUSE
Child has trouble walking or sitting
Child suddenly will not participate in physical activities
Child says they wet the bed and/or have nightmares
Child has a sudden increased or decreased appetite
Child demonstrates unusual sexual knowledge or behavior
Child becomes pregnant or contracts a venereal disease, especially if younger than 14 years old
Child runs away
Child says they have been sexually abused
Child develops quick attachment to new environments and people
Parent/guardian severely limits child's contact with other children, especially of the opposite sex
Parent/guardian is secretive and keeps to themselves
Parent/guardian is jealous or controlling
SIGNS OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE
Child exhibits extreme behavior in terms of passivity/aggression, compliance or maturity
Child has delayed emotional and/or physical development
Child has attempted suicide
Child says they do not care about the parent
Parent consistently scolds, belittles and/or blames child
Parent does not show concern for solving child's problems
Parent/guardian rejects child
Two men indicted for allegedly raping baby, filming the attack
by Louis Casiano
Two Tennessee men accused of raping a 9-month-old girl and filming the attack were indicted Tuesday on multiple charges.
Isiah Dequan Hayes, 19, and Daireus Jumare Ice, 22, are both charged with aggravated rape of a child and aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, FOX13 Memphis reported.
The alleged attack was reported to police in October 2016 after the girl's mother reported finding a cellphone video allegedly showing Hayes performing a sexual act on the baby.
She was able to identify Hayes through Facebook and turned the information over to police, authorities said.
Prosecutors said Ice filmed the video.
Police identified Hayes and arrested him in February. Authorities said he admitted to committing the sexual assault.
Both men were being held in the Shelby County jail.
Childhood abuse never ended for thousands of Australian adults
by Tracey Shelton
After surviving years of abuse at the hands of her family, Sarah has started a family of her own. Sarah is living proof that "life after hell" is possible.
For more than 20 years she says she endured beatings, rape and degradation at the hands of her family.
She tells of being locked in sheds, made to eat from a dog's bowl and left tied to a tree naked and alone in the bush.
Her abusers spanned three generations and included her grandfather, father and some of her brothers. She has scars across her body.
"This is from a whipper snipper," she says, pointing to a deep gouge of scar tissue wrapped around the back of her ankle. Higher up is another she says was caused by her father's axe.
But Sarah survived.
Now she is speaking out in the hope of empowering others trapped in abusive situations.
"There is life after hell, but you need to learn how to believe in yourself," she says.
A reality for many Australian adults
As confronting as Sarah's case may be, she is not alone.
While most people assume child abuse ends at adulthood, it can bring control, fear and manipulation that can last a lifetime.
Incestuous abuse into adulthood affects roughly 1 in 700 Australians, according to research by psychiatrist Warwick Middleton — one of the world's leading experts in trauma and dissociation. If that estimate is accurate, tens of thousands of Australian adults like Sarah are being abused by family members into their 20s or even up to their 50s.
"It's a mechanism of ongoing conditioning that utilises every human's innate attachment dynamics, and where fear and shame are used prominently to ensure silence — particularly shame," says Professor Middleton, an academic at the University of Queensland and a former president of the International Society for the Study of Trauma & Dissociation.
He has personally identified almost 50 cases among his patients, yet there was no literature or studies on this kind of abuse when he began publishing his findings.
Hidden in 'happy' families, successful careers
Sydney criminologist Michael Salter has found similar patterns in his own research. He said cases of incest are "fairly likely" to continue into adulthood, but this extreme form of domestic abuse is unrecognised within our health and legal systems.
"It's unlikely that these men are going to respect the age of consent," says Mr Salter, who is an associate professor of criminology at Western Sydney University. "It doesn't make sense that they would be saying, 'Oh you're 18 now so I'm not going to abuse you anymore'. We're just not having a sensible conversation about it."
The ABC spoke with 16 men and women who described being abused from childhood into adulthood.
They said their abusers included fathers, step-fathers, mothers, grandparents, siblings and uncles.
Medical and police reports, threatening messages and photos of the abuse supported these accounts. Some family members also confirmed their stories.
Sarah says her father and his friends photographed some of her abuse. One image shows her beaten and bloodied with a broken sternum at five. In another photo (pictured here), she cowers as her father approaches with a clenched fist.
Most victims described their families as "well-respected" and outwardly "normal-looking", yet for many the abuse continued well after their marriage and the birth of their own children, as they navigated successful careers.
"You see a lot of upper-income women who are medical practitioners, barristers, physiatrists — high functioning in their day-to-day lives — being horrifically abused on the weekends by their family," Mr Salter says.
Helen, a highly successful medical professional, says she hid sexual abuse by her father for decades.
"They didn't see the struggle within," she says.
A mental 'escape'
Professor Middleton describes abuse by a parent as "soul destroying". In order to survive psychologically, a child will often dissociate from the abuse.
Compartmentalising memories and feelings can be an effective coping strategy for a child dependent on their abuser, says Pam Stavropoulos, head of research at the Blue Knot Foundation, a national organisation that works with the adult survivors of childhood trauma.
The extreme and long-lasting nature of ongoing abuse can result in dissociative identity disorder, which on the one hand can shield a victim from being fully aware of the extent of the abuse but can also leave them powerless to break away, Ms Stavropoulos says.
Claire*, 33, describes her dissociation as both her greatest ally and her worst enemy.
"You feel like you've keep it so secret that you've fooled the world and you've fooled yourself," she says.
In her family, women — her mother and grandmother — have been the primary physical and sexual abusers and she says some of her abuse is ongoing.
"In a way you have freedom, but at the same time you are trapped in a nightmare," she says.
'It's like he's melted into my flesh'
For many, the attachment to an abuser can be so strong, they lose their own sense of identity.
Kitty, who was abused by her father for more than five decades until his recent death, says she did everything her family said to try to win their love.
"I thought I was some kind of monster because I still love my father," she says. "It's like he's melted into my flesh. I can feel him. He is always here."
Mr Salter says the conditioning is difficult to undo, and often leaves a victim vulnerable to "opportunistic abuse" and violent relationships.
"If the primary deep emotional bond that you forge is in the context of pain and fear then that is how you know that you matter," he says. "It's how you know that you are being seen by someone."
Many of those the ABC spoke with were also abused by neighbours or within the church or school system. Others married violent men.
"They don't have the boundaries that people normally develop," Mr Salter says, adding that parental abuse could leave them "completely blind to obvious dodgy behaviour because that's what's normal for them".
'You believe they own your body'
Professor Middleton said premature exposure to sex confuses the mind and the body and leaves a child vulnerable to involuntary sexual responses that perpetrators will frequently manipulate to fuel a sense of shame, convincing them they "want" or "enjoy" the abuse.
For Emma*, violent sexual assaults and beatings at home began when she was five and are continuing more than 40 years later.
"When you are naked, beaten, humiliated and showing physical signs of arousal, it really messes with your head. It messes with your sexuality," she says.
"Your sense of what is OK and what isn't becomes really confused. You come to believe that they literally own you and own your body. That you don't deserve better than this."
A medical report viewed by ABC shows Emma required a blood transfusion last month after sustaining significant internal tissue damage from a sharp object. The report stated Emma had a history of "multiple similar assaults".
She said medical staff do want you to get help and sometimes offered to call police.
"What they don't understand is that for me police are not necessarily a safe option," she says.
As a teenager she had tried to report to the police, but was sent back home to face the consequences.
She said a "lack of understanding about the dynamics of abuse and the effects of trauma" mean victims rarely get the response and help they need.
While Emma has been unable to escape the abuse, she has made many sacrifices to shelter her children from it. But they still suffer emotionally, she says.
"It makes it hard for anyone who cares about you having to watch you hurt over and over again."
Incest after marriage and kids
For Graham, it was devastating to find out his wife Cheryl* was being sexually abused by both her parents 10 years into their marriage.
"I had no idea it was going on," he says, of the abuse that continued even after the birth of their children. "The fight between wanting to kill [her father] and knowing it's wrong wasn't fun. I don't think people know what stress is unless they've been faced with something like that."
With Graham's support, the family cut contact with his in-laws. He says the fallout of this abuse ripples through society impacting everyone around both the abused and the abuser.
Mr Salter urges anyone suffering abuse to reach out for help, and for those around them to be supportive and non-judgemental.
"You can get out — don't take no for an answer. Keep fighting until you find someone who is going to help you keep fighting," he says.
A new life
Sarah met Professor Middleton after a suicide attempt at 14, but it took many years for her to trust and accept that things could change.
"I just couldn't grasp I was free. It didn't matter what anyone did," she says.
"I still felt overall that my family was in control of me and at any moment they could kill me."
Through therapy with Professor Middleton — who she spoke of as the only father figure she has ever known — and the support of her friends and partner, Sarah finally broke away from her abusive family to start a new life of her own.
"You need people to help you through it. In the same way that it took other people to cause you the pain, it takes new people to replace them and help you give yourself another go," she says.
"If I can give hope to one other person out there, then all my years of pain will not have been for nothing."
Now is the time to repair shattered lives
Real Lives. Real Change. That is the message this week to all Australians about the 5 million adults who are survivors of childhood trauma and abuse.
Across the country communities are acknowledging – as part of the national Blue Knot Week – the harm done to the one in four Australian adult survivors of complex childhood trauma. Feelings are being validated, stories shared and support networks strengthened.
Community support is vital. However, for survivors of childhood trauma to really move forward, there needs to be structural change.
There is an urgent necessity for the federal government and its state and territory counterparts to establish a National Centre of Excellence to respond to all childhood trauma. Not providing appropriate services to adult survivors of childhood trauma costs Australian governments an estimated minimum of $9.1 billion a year.
The Centre would focus on the many Australians who have experienced childhood emotional, physical and sexual abuse as well as neglect – including those who have grown up with community or family violence or other adverse childhood experiences. Many of these traumas occurred outside of institutions – in the home, family and neighbourhood.
Church covered up priest's abuse of 50 boys
Ortiz says he was angered to learn that Coyle, who had been living at his home until recently, admitted in 1986 that he sexually abused 50 Iowa boys and that the church has kept it quiet for decades.
by RYAN J. FOLEY
FORT DODGE — A Roman Catholic diocese acknowledged Wednesday that it concealed for decades a priest's admission that he sexually abused dozens of Iowa boys — a silence that may have put other children in danger.
The Rev. Jerome Coyle, now 85, was stripped of his parish assignments in the 1980s but never defrocked. And it was not until this week, after The Associated Press inquired about him, that he was publicly identified by the church as an admitted pedophile, even though the Diocese of Sioux City had been aware of his conduct for 32 years.
The diocese recently helped Coyle move into a retirement home in Fort Dodge, Iowa, without informing administrators at the Catholic school across the street.
In 1986, Coyle reported his “history of sexual attraction to and contact with boys” to Sioux City's bishop, revealing that he had victimized approximately 50 youngsters over a 20-year period while serving in several Iowa parishes , according to a private letter written in February by the diocese vicar general and obtained by the AP.
The diocese told the AP on Wednesday that it never contacted police or informed the public after Coyle's admission.
“The diocese admits it could have been handled better,” diocese spokeswoman Susan O'Brien said. But she said the policies in place at the time did not call for notifying police or the public.
Instead, the diocese at the time announced without explanation that Coyle was taking a six-month medical leave of absence. Church officials transferred him to a treatment center in New Mexico, the Servants of the Paraclete, where other accused priests nationwide were once commonly sent.
Coyle was stripped of his ability to lead Mass and otherwise function as a priest. But he never faced further punishment and lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, until recently, retaining the title “father” and collecting financial assistance from the diocese.
In 1986, the diocese was aware of one complaint against Coyle from a college student but did not have that man's name, O'Brien said. That individual and another now-adult victim have come forward in recent weeks, and their allegations against Coyle will be reported to police, she said.
His total number of victims could be higher than 50 because the diocese remains “uncertain of an accurate number,” O'Brien said.
Coyle is unlikely to be prosecuted for any of his long-ago offenses because the statute of limitation has run out. He has not been named in any civil suits, and O'Brien said the diocese has never paid a settlement related to him.
He has not been publicly accused of molesting any minors in the past three decades, but lawyers and detectives are looking into what he has been up to since 1986. Fort Dodge police interviewed Coyle and searched his apartment last month after being tipped off that he was living near a school.
Coyle declined to comment Friday after answering the door at his apartment.
The bishop to whom Coyle reported his abuse, Lawrence Soens, retired in 1998. A review board later found that Soens himself had abused students when he was a priest and parochial school principal.
As a member of the clergy, Soens was not a mandatory reporter — someone obligated to tell police about child abuse allegations — under Iowa law. But critics said he still should have called authorities, sought to have Coyle defrocked, alerted the public and asked victims to come forward. Soen's whereabouts are unknown.
Unlike other dioceses, Sioux City has never released a list of priests who have been credibly accused, despite calls from victims to do so.
“The Sioux City diocese covers everything up,” said attorney Scott Rhinehart, who has represented dozens of victims and calls the diocese a “haven for pedophile priests.”
The case has come to light amid a push by prosecutors around the country to hold the church accountable, not just for the sexual abuse of youngsters but for efforts to shield accused priests. In recent months, authorities in at least a dozen states have opened investigations, and federal prosecutors have launched an unprecedented statewide probe in Pennsylvania.
The diocese privately revealed Coyle's past in a letter to a Catholic couple who had been allowing Coyle to live at their Albuquerque home after he was injured in a 2017 car accident. The letter warned the couple, Reuben and Tania Ortiz, that the diocese “cannot condone the risk you take” in allowing Coyle to live with their three teenage children.
“The letter was very scary for us as parents,” said Reuben Ortiz, who had been friends with Coyle for years and was unaware of the extent of his abuse. He said that he confronted Coyle and that the priest could not guarantee that he would be able to refrain from fondling his son. But Coyle had nowhere to go and continued living there until June, when deacons from Sioux City moved him back to Iowa.
“I was up day and night for days sometimes, patrolling my own house,” Reuben Ortiz said.
In the letter to Ortiz, and a similar one to Coyle, Vicar General Bradley Pelzel tried to discourage the priest from moving back to Iowa. He said the boys Coyle molested would now be men between the ages of 45 and 70, and they “could potentially encounter him and be retraumatized by the memories that would surface.”
The diocese offered to increase Coyle's monthly retirement assistance by $575 so that he could afford an assisted living home in New Mexico. But that idea didn't work out, and the church instead helped him move to Fort Dodge, into a care facility adjacent to Saint Edmonds Catholic School, whose students routinely visit.
Lawyers for the Ortiz family said the case illustrates how the church's secrecy poses a continuing risk to children. They urged Coyle's victims to share their stories, saying they have been “suffering in silence.”
“This is the time for Father Coyle's victims to seek justice, and the time for the church to account for its cover-up,” said attorney Levi Monagle.
Experts called the Sioux City letter extraordinary for its written acknowledgment of abuse and continuing concealment.
“The letter shows in black and white that the system of covering up continues to this day, even after everything that's occurred,” said attorney Craig Levien, who has represented dozens of abuse victims.
Despite a history of sexual abuse, some Catholic parents choose to stay with the church
by Lauren Chval
Michael Hoffman is what some call a "cradle Catholic." Born and raised into the faith, he and his family were extremely involved in their Forest Park, Ill., parish throughout his childhood. As a kid, he was an altar server. As an adult, he considers the Catholic community the "fabric" of his life.
From 12 to 16, it was also the source of his sexual abuse.
Hoffman, now 53, kept that to himself for a long time. It wasn't until 2006 — a decade into his marriage — that he decided to tell his wife. The second person he told? His pastor at St. Mary of the Woods Parish in Chicago.
"I was that active at our parish that I felt compelled to tell him. My kids were going to school there. I was on the athletic board," Hoffman said. "If that experience went poorly — and there's a 50-50 chance that it could go either way — he might have thought that I was attacking his ministry or attacking his character, which I wasn't doing. If he didn't handle it the way he handled it, which was a very good and gracious way, that could have changed my path. But he didn't. I was just at a moment in my life where I was really wanting help."
The Rev. Robert Mayer had been head of the altar servers; that's how he gained access to his victims, and Hoffman said there were many. Having pizza up in the priest's room was framed as a beneficial mentoring relationship.
"My parents adored the priest. And he groomed a lot of parents to gain access to a lot of children. Not just me. There were many boys in the room. One day it was him, the next day it was me, the next day it was this guy," he said. "So that's tough, tough on my mom and dad, tough on all the parents. Because I was 12 years old. They had to drive me to get abused. They had to pick me up from getting abused."
Hoffman doesn't like to talk about his abuser. ("He's not the story; he's not my story.") His childhood parish was the third of nine the priest was shuffled to before he was convicted of abuse in 1992. He was sentenced to three years in prison and laicized in 2010.
Hoffman's story is not uncommon. In August, a grand jury report alleged that more than 300 Pennsylvania priests sexually abused 1,000 identifiable children — and likely "thousands more" unreported — over the course of seven decades. A hierarchy of church leaders, including a bishop who was later elevated to archbishop of Washington, D.C., is accused of then covering up the abuse. The scandal renewed the outrage that followed a sweeping 2002 Boston Globe investigation of abuse and cover-up in the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.
People ask Hoffman why he stayed. Why did he continue to practice a faith that had betrayed him? Why continue to attend a church that protected his abuser and enabled him to violate others? Why did he decide to raise his children in it? These days, why does any Catholic parent?
Even as they decide to stay in the church, these are questions that many Catholic parents wrestle with. The potential that parents could be delivering their child into the hands of an abuser, as Hoffman's parents unwittingly did, is a threat that hangs over what should be a safe place in a family's life: their church. That threat can have a powerful impact on how parents view the church and relate to their children.
"The same policies that we have about any stranger approaching you inappropriately — if anyone is touching you in a private area, you tell mommy or daddy — previously it would not have been so much on my mind to make sure I was telling my kids to be safe in terms of the church," said Justin Hanson, a 35-year-old father of two in La Grange. "But yeah, now, for me, it is. I have to remind them to be careful and to let us know about things like that."
The tension between that worry and the dedication to one's faith can be difficult to navigate. Hanson said he and his wife haven't considered leaving the church, but they do feel a pull to take greater personal responsibility for their children's Catholic faith and education rather than leaving it to church leaders. Personally, Hanson said, he finds the experience of working through the latest revelations jarring.
"It kind of feels like a member of your family has betrayed you," Hanson added. "And of that dear member of your family, you have good memories, but now you're conflicted, and you're mad and betrayed. But at the end of the day, they're still a member of your family. And you've just got to spend time processing."
When Kevin and Caroline McCarthy started looking for preschools in Arlington Heights, Ill., they didn't necessarily expect to fall in love with the community at St. James Parish. Both were raised Catholic and wanted to pass that on to their three children. Their oldest, now in first grade, has continued at the school because they've been so impressed.
"It just feels like they're teaching him to be a good person, as a whole," said Caroline McCarthy, 38.
When the Pennsylvania grand jury report came out in August, they appreciated that their pastor was proactive about addressing the abuse.
"Our pastor came out pretty early on when all this started coming up again and gave a really good homily, as well as an after-message where he basically encouraged all of us to speak up," said Kevin McCarthy, 41. "Don't be silent. If you're mad, frustrated, tell people. You have a right to be mad and frustrated that these things are happening."
Though the McCarthys won't leave the church, Caroline said the latest revelations were the "final nail in the coffin" for her parents, which makes for a more challenging dynamic within the family. Though she and Kevin have been satisfied with the children's training at the school regarding sexual abuse, Caroline said that if she ever heard a whisper of inappropriate behavior at St. James, she'd withdraw their children immediately.
For others, there is comfort in the numbers. According to the 2004 John Jay Report that investigated abuse from 1950 to 2002, approximately 4 percent of priests were accused during that time.
Kevin Byrnes, a 63-year-old Elmhurst resident who grew up in Beverly and Jeffrey Manor in Chicago, is reassured by the percentages. He's familiar with the church's history of abuse. When he was a teenager, his brother told him about being invited to the priest's rectory and seeing a Playboy magazine out on display. This priest, who was regularly invited to family backyard barbecues, was the same priest who abused Hoffman.
And after Byrnes graduated from college, he worked and volunteered in Catholic ministries and would hear stories about priests who were "farmed out to Iowa" to "sort things out."
His daughters, now 29 and 22, both attended Catholic school. Despite his experiences, he said he never worried about their safety in the church or in school. Byrnes said that times have changed. Where priests were once categorically revered, now there is more caution. It's a sentiment that Hoffman shares.
"There are no altar serving 'trips to the cabin' anymore," he said.
That caution exists everywhere, not just in the Catholic Church, said Lori Ann Post, director for the Institute for Public Health and Medicine at Northwestern University.
"I wouldn't leave my children alone with any adult who is a man," Post said. "I know what the risks are. I know how many predators are out there. I would never put my children at risk for being exploited."
Post speaks, in part, from personal experience. She was director of the Sexual Assault Surveillance System for the state of Michigan, and her daughter happened to be in gymnastics where Larry Nassar worked. The Catholic Church is not unusual in its abuse or in its cover-up — she considers it unique only in how vulnerable victims are.
"You have families that trust their religious leaders; they trust their children with religious leaders. Those children are taught to be deferent," Post said. "Children are left alone with them young, and easily groomed."
The Archdiocese of Chicago has worked to combat abuse in the church by providing training to guard against the vulnerability. In 1992, it established the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth, the first of its kind in any archdiocese in the country. The office does outreach to victim-survivors as well as prevention efforts through training for both adults and children. Mayra Flores is the OPCY safety environment coordinator.
"The training is twofold: We have the adult training that teaches about the methods and means by which perpetrators try to groom the community to try to gain access to children and then abuse them," Flores said. "But then, we have our children's training, which is age-appropriate, research-based and that is to learn that they have a right to be safe. And if they don't feel safe, they have a right to report. That they have a voice and they should report to a trusted adult."
Since 2003, the office has trained 263,000 adults. Just last year, 112,000 students were trained. OPCY Director Mary Jane Doerr said the office's record can serve as reassurance for parents.
She added that in the wake of the Boston Globe reports in 2002, the principles and procedures enacted by the Archdiocese of Chicago were developed into what's known as "The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People." In January, the archdiocese will host a seven-day spiritual retreat at Mundelein Seminary for Catholic bishops from across the country to "work to address the current U.S. clergy sex abuse crisis."
Once a board member of his children's school, Hoffman is very familiar with the extent of the archdiocese's effort to implement change. In addition to the three-hour training and background check every adult volunteer and employee must go through, he pushed for a process in which volunteers are interviewed by a board member.
"I had a dad say, 'I don't want to go to the class.' I said, 'OK, that's great. You're not coaching your child.' He said, 'What do you mean?' Isn't your child worth it? A three-hour class with some discussion is a minimum standard," Hoffman explained. "That culture didn't exist when I was in Catholic school. Anybody could coach kids, and you never knew what was happening. Now we have a minimum standard, and we're turning people away (if they don't meet that standard)."
Through it all, Hoffman never left the church. His wife was also raised Catholic, and they never had any doubts that they wanted the same for their children, he said. Their kids, now 21 and 19, were both altar servers. Hoffman said the community of the church is his support system.
Once he came forward, the same church that was the source of his pain provided Hoffman opportunities to heal. It's a message he wanted to instill in his children.
"What I've tried to do is tell them, even if abuse occurred in the Catholic Church and I'm one of the victims, good and healthy God-blessed things can actually happen here too," he said. "That's what I think is healing: If the church can take that leadership role, they should, after all this abuse. In many cases, they are taking a leadership role."
A key part of that leadership role is working with victim-survivors, both in their initial coming forward and in their healing process. That's how Hoffman got involved with the archdiocese — after his initial report, he wanted to keep working with the church to help others who had been abused.
One example of this outreach is the annual Hope and Healing Mass, which took place for the seventh year Oct. 20. Hoffman is the chairman of the group that plans the day, and he described the Mass as a way to honor the wounds from abuse, while celebrating the healing that's happened and is still ongoing. It's put on by clergy, victim-survivors and OPCY's Office of Assistance Ministry. Some of those who help aren't victims, themselves, but loved ones working through their grief.
Tom Tharayil helps with the Mass as the director of the Office of Assistance Ministry. He said a victim-survivor once offered something that sticks with him: "My abuser took so much from me, but I'm not going to let him take my faith."
It's a sentiment that Hoffman echoed.
"There are all these unspoken stories or little victories — personal victories — of overcoming very painful memories, trauma, depression, anxiety, however it takes form in all the different people (at the Mass)," Hoffman said. "They walk through that door, and they're participating in something in common.
"It fits with my Catholic faith."
Human trafficking generates about $150 billion a year, two-thirds of it from the sex trade
Most of it is through a process that exploits women and girls
One recent example of the progress being made to bring the monsters in this system to justice in North Texas is Operation Zeus, a sting involving over 100 state, federal and local authorities that led to 12 arrests on child porn and sexual exploitation charges.
Deputy Chief Thomas Castro tells us the Dallas Police Department is working to do its part, training officers to spot trafficking victims, taking a victim-focused approach, and devoting resources to its high-risk victims and internet crimes against children units.
Another of the numerous nonprofits waging this fight is Shared Hope International, which among other things rates each state on how its laws address sex trafficking. In this assessment, Texas earned an A in 2017, a testament to our state's and our community's commitment to this issue.
IJM, which focuses much of its efforts on Latin America, Asia and Africa, says sex trafficking is most common in countries with weak justice systems. But where law enforcement is stronger and steps are taken to prosecute those who perpetrate these crimes, there is hope.
"Modern slavery can end in our lifetime," IJM asserts.
With every beat of our collective hearts that went pitter-patter over our baby girls, that is our fervent wish.
Abuse 'normalised' at Quarriers children's home
The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry has been taking evidence from former care home residents.
A man who was sexually abused at a children's home in the 1970s has said some of its staff ran it like a military institution where physical abuse was normalised.
David Whelan gave evidence to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry about Quarriers Village in Bridge of Weir.
Another resident, Stephen Findleton, has told BBC Scotland the memories of his time there "never go away".
Quarriers has apologised to residents who were abused while in its care.
Plan to compensate child abuse victims -
Orphanages were places of 'threat and abuse'
The inquiry heard, Mr Whelan, who has waived his right to anonymity, was sent to Quarriers in 1969, aged 11, and remained there until he was 16.
Now in his early 60s, he struggled to control his emotions as he described his early years at the home.
He said they were regimented, like something from a military institution, where physical abuse was normalised.
Punishments included beatings with a belt and baton, being locked in a shed and being told he was unwanted by his parents.
Residents were also subjected to hair-pulling and being made to stand outside in a shed, sometimes until dawn.
Mr Whelan also told the inquiry he suspected the home may have been linked to a paedophile ring.
He said: "I believe I was being groomed to be passed on.
"At the time, you try and understand what was going on here, try to read what's going on here.
"I'm as clear as daylight - I was going to be passed on.
"I just wonder if there was a paedophile ring operating out of Quarriers, with some former residents."
Mr Whelan also spoke of strict rules and carers who would lash out with violence, often leaving him "petrified".
He said: "This was supposed to be a care home. From start to finish it was like being in a military establishment.
"They used derogatory language just to demean you, to belittle you.
"We weren't soldiers - we were children.
"There was no affection. It was like from a Victorian era, where the child was seen and not heard."
'Brutality and Cruelty'
The witness described physical abuse as being "normalised" and went unchallenged by those in higher authority at the orphanage.
He added: "Bruises heal, but what happens with the psychological stuff is it stays with you.
"It was beyond the bounds of what was reasonable. It was brutality and cruelty."
A former member of staff was later convicted of lewd, indecent and libidinous behaviour towards Mr Whelan at Quarriers.
Opened in 1878, Quarriers was a network of Victorian villas, called "cottages", run by members of staff referred to as "house mothers".
Another former resident, Mr Findleton, has also waived his right to anonymity and spoke to BBC Scotland after giving evidence to the inquiry on Thursday.
He went in to care in 1965, aged seven, and spent six years at Quarriers.
The 61-year-old grandfather, who lives in Stranraer, said: "At night time, if you spoke in your beds, you were brought down to the bottom of the cottage by the house mother.
"You were given a smack and you would be crying with the pain and then she would take you down to the back of the cottage and lock you in a dark room for an hour and you would be crying because you were scared of the dark as well.
"I would plead with her 'please let me go, please mummy' and she wouldn't listen to me."
'Abuse across generations'
Mr Findleton said he witnessed other children being abused.
He added: "Memories of Quarriers are in my head every day. It never goes away."
Seven former members of staff at the Quarriers home have been convicted of offences against 23 former residents.
In a statement read out at the beginning of the latest phase of child abuse inquiry Quarriers said it acknowledged that children "were subjected to physical, sexual and emotional abuse" whilst in its care.
It said: "It is acknowledged that abuse occurred across generations at Quarriers Village.
"Quarriers acknowledges that there were shortcomings in its historical policies and practices which did not prevent abuse from occurring."
The inquiry before Lady Smith continues.
Children 'blackmailed' for sexual images in online video chats
by Sean Clare,
A surge in the use of video chats and live-streaming among children is leaving them vulnerable to abuse, the NSPCC has warned, calling for a social network regulator to be introduced.
A survey of 40,000 children aged seven to 16 found a quarter had used the services. On video chats, 10% had been asked to remove their clothes.
The NSPCC says groomers can record the abuse and use it to blackmail victims.
The home secretary has "demanded" tech giants take online abuse seriously.
One child, "Ben", tried to take his own life after being blackmailed for sexual images shared between six men.
It began when he was tricked into thinking he was speaking to a female friend-of-a-friend.
Three weeks later, the person revealed himself to be a man, and - blackmailing him and threatening to kill his parents - coerced Ben into sending sexual images and performing sex acts live over video chat.
'I felt helpless'
"This man had spent weeks pretending to be a girl and finding out information about every part of his life," Ben's father told the Victoria Derbyshire programme.
"He knew who his family were - nans, brothers, sisters.
"He knew what school Ben went to. Everything. They find out everything to use this information to manipulate you."
The images and videos sent by Ben to the man were then shared with five other men, who bombarded Ben with further demands.
"He just felt helpless and didn't know what to do," his father said. "He was a different child but we didn't know why."
After two years of meeting these demands, Ben attempted to take his own life - leading the abuse to be uncovered. The main perpetrator was later jailed for four-and-a-half years.
The family says the effect has been devastating.
"You don't see it coming," his father said. "And when it does, your world falls apart and it's so hard to get that back to how you were - to a really close, loving [family], doing everything together.
"He won't go out, he doesn't play sport anymore. He's not the child he was."
Some 19% of primary school children surveyed had live-streamed
The NSPCC survey - the first of its kind - suggests use of video chats and live-streaming among children has risen rapidly.
Some 29% of secondary school children have broadcast themselves online according to the findings - almost three times a previous estimate, by Ofcom, that suggested one in 10 children aged 12 to 15 had live-streamed.
The charity said the rise was likely to be down to the introduction of live-streaming capabilities on some of the biggest social media platforms.
The NSPCC said it was now calling on the government to create an independent regulator to force social networks into introducing measures that make children safer.
Of the children surveyed who had video-chatted with someone they had not met, one in 10 had been asked to get undressed.
Some 19% of primary school children surveyed had live-streamed, with 8% of those saying that another person live-streaming was semi-naked at the time.
One girl, aged 10-11, told the charity: "My friend was doing a live-stream and an adult man was asking for her to video request him, so she did and he showed his private parts."
Another girl, aged 11-12, said while on video chat "this man was pulling, touching, and showing his privates".
Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said the popularity of live-streaming meant children were "being pressured into going along with situations that make them feel uncomfortable.
"What's really disturbing is that groomers can then screenshot or record live-streamed abuse, and use it to blackmail the child or share it with others."
In September, Home Secretary Sajid Javid warned he would "not be afraid to take action" against tech giants if they did not help to tackle child sexual abuse online.
Mr Javid said he was "demanding" companies take "more measures" - or face new legislation.
He added that some sites were refusing to take online abuse seriously - and highlighted live-streaming of child abuse as a growing problem.
Campaigners claim ‘hostile environment' being extended to victims of modern slavery
Theresa May is facing a new storm of protest over the government's post-Brexit immigration policies after ministers said that EU victims of human trafficking and modern slavery would have to pay a fee to remain in the UK after it leaves the European Union.
The admission, which angered groups campaigning to curb trafficking, drew claims that the Home Office was continuing to foster a “hostile environment” for migrants, however desperate their situation and deserving of help they might be.
The row erupted after immigration minister Caroline Nokes was asked by shadow Brexit minister Paul Blomfield whether fees that will apply under the EU Settlement Scheme would be waived for victims of trafficking and human slavery and their dependents after December 2022.
Although May has made tackling human trafficking and modern slavery a top priority, Nokes said in a parliamentary answer: “With regard to application fees, there are currently no plans to waive fees for victims of trafficking and modern slavery unless the victim is a child in local authority care. The application fee has been set below the cost of a UK passport and applicants have until 30 June to make the necessary arrangement to enable them to apply.”
Under Home Office plans, EU citizens seeking to remain in the UK after December 2020 will have to apply to stay through the new settlement scheme. The fee for remaining will be £65 for those over 16 and half that for those under 16.
Last night the Labour MP and chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee Frank Field, who has been asked by May to chair a commission into the workings of the Modern Slavery Act, said his group would be “very much concerned” by the Home Office's answer, which appeared to be part of an approach dictated more by a desire to control immigration numbers, than the interests of victims.
“We will want to look at whether the whole of modern slavery policy should be owned by the Home Office, when it is concerned with migration levels – and we as a commission are concerned with the victims.”
In 2016, after becoming prime minister, May described human trafficking as “the great human rights issue of our time”. Caroline Robinson, director of Focus on Labour Exploitation said: “The prime minister has made tackling modern slavery a personal priority. Yet by failing to remove fees for victims of modern slavery, the government is acting at odds with this priority and denying victims recovery and the hope of a better life.
The government recently decided to slash financial support for potential victims of modern slavery in half, taking it down to just £37.50 a week, and this decision to charge them for registration compounds the financial stress they will experience. The harsh reality is that for many victims this fee will be very difficult to pay, leaving them open to the real risk of further exploitation.”
National Crime Agency figures showed that last year 643 potential victims of modern slavery and human trafficking arrived in the UK from other European countries, a rise from 610 in 2016.
Reacting to Nokes's answer, Blomfield said May was “presiding over an immigration system that will force EU victims of these horrendous crimes to pay for the right to remain”. He added: “These are some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Many will not be able to afford the fee and will be at risk of further exploitation or of living in the UK without the correct documentation.If the Tories are serious about ending the ‘hostile environment' policy they will drop these plans immediately.”
The controversy is the second involving Nokes to have blown up in recent days. Last week,, May's former department was forced to reassure businesses that they will not be required to screen EU employees post-Brexit, after Nokes, speaking to the Home Affairs Select Committte, said they would have to conduct their own “rigorous checks
123 missing children found in Michigan during sex trafficking operation
by Emily Jacobs
Over 100 children were found safe during a one-day sweep by multiple Michigan law enforcement agencies, the US Marshals Service said Wednesday.
The agency said Operation MISafeKid recovered 123 missing children Sept. 26 throughout Wayne County in a sweep aimed to identify and recover missing children and locate victims of sex trafficking.
The operation had 301 case files for missing children open before the sweep, which was the first of its kind in Wayne County, according to the report.
All recovered children were interviewed by authorities about possibly being sexually victimized or used in a sex trafficking ring and officials said three identified as possible sex trafficking cases.
The report said one homeless teenage boy had not had anything to eat in three days, so authorities transported him back to their command post for food and turned him over to Child Protective Services for aftercare.
In addition to the missing children in Michigan, officers in the operation obtained information about two missing children in Texas and another in Minnesota. Those cases are being actively investigated, officials said.
“The message to the missing children and their families that we wish to convey is that we will never stop looking for you,” the US Marshals Service said.
Several agencies were involved in the operation including the US Marshals Service, Michigan State Police, Detroit Police Department, Wayne County local law enforcement, as well as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Inspector General.
Spain child abuse: Victims fight back and appeal for change
by James Badcock
Like other victims who have come forward, Mr Álvarez claims he was abused by staff at the Seminario Menor boarding school in La Bañeza, in Zamora province, and that Spain's Catholic Church authorities have done little about it.
He filed his accusation against a priest in early 2017, and is still waiting for a decision by the local ecclesiastical court in Astorga.
Mr Álvarez says he was 11 on the night he recalls being woken by the priest.
"He was pulling down the sheets and my underpants, and I was pulling them back up again and again.
"I can't remember much more about that first time, but it started to happen almost every night. Then, when I was 12, it got worse; I remember fighting to turn my hips away from him so he could not touch me."
Priest with two abuse convictions
Stories of abuse from La Bañeza and other institutions in north-western Spain have hit the news after another priest, found guilty of sexual abuse of minors in his care for a second time, was sentenced to a 10-year period of exile in a monastery and was spared excommunication.
It emerged that José Manuel Ramos had appealed the sentence and remained in a Church residence in the northern city of Astorga.
Ramos had already been suspended from his post as a village priest when an ecclesiastical court found him guilty of sexually assaulting two brothers at La Bañeza in the 1980s. But the sentence was not made public.
The victim in that case, named Javier, has denounced Ramos's "impunity".
However, the man who oversaw the La Bañeza cases, Bishop of Astorga Juan Antonio Menéndez, said he had carried out an "exhaustive investigation" into Ramos, adding that the sentences had been decided by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Justice and the Church
According to an investigation spanning three decades by El País newspaper, Spanish criminal courts have found priests guilty of sexual assaults on 33 occasions involving 80 minors.
Only three of Spain's 70 bishoprics routinely pass on information on cases of abuse to the country's criminal justice system, the paper says.
Emiliano Álvarez remembers priests inflicting beatings during the day "for the slightest thing".
"Then at night, this horrible panic once the lights went off because you knew you wouldn't be able to stay awake all night. It was complete torture. They acted with complete impunity."
He was unable to tell his parents, as they revered the priests and were making a considerable economic sacrifice to keep him and his brother at the seminary. Eventually he ran away from the school and tried to take his life before he was 13.
Classical pianist and author James Rhodes felt compelled to act when he read about Spain's treatment of child victims of sexual abuse after moving from London to Madrid last year.
Rhodes has described his own suffering, in his book Instrumental, during and after the years in which he was repeatedly raped as a child.
He then met Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez with Save The Children Spain. The result, he says, is a draft package of reforms that will become "a benchmark for other countries" if they go through.
Drafted with input from NGOs, childcare experts and judges, the reforms will make it simpler for children to give evidence on a single, non-stressful occasion.
There will be new protocols for professionals who work with children, better education and information, and an end to the statute of limitations, which currently means that many sexual abuse offences expire only five years after the victim reaches the age of 18.
The number of cases reaching Spain's criminal courts is "clearly the tip of the iceberg", says Gema Varona, a senior researcher at the Basque Institute of Criminology.
Dr Varona contacted the more than 70 ecclesiastical courts across Spain, but none agreed to supply her research team with numbers of cases.
"There is indifference, a lack of interest and, I believe, a fear of coming under attack over things that happened in the past. But for victims, the past is their present."
One in five adults affected
The best indication of the prevalence of sexual abuse here comes from a 1995 Salamanca University study, in which 20% of the 2,000 adults questioned recalled being sexually abused as children.
Of these, 4% said the perpetrator had been a member of the Church. Extrapolate that and the number of cases involving Catholic ministers could be in the hundreds of thousands.
A spokeswoman for Spain's Episcopal Conference told the BBC that the national synod would "work on the drawing up of new rules for the prevention and protection against sexual abuse of minors".
The Church's protocols for cases that arise are currently being reviewed by a special commission, she added.
But eyebrows have been raised by the fact that the commission only includes priests. It is also headed by the Bishop of Astorga, the man who led the Ramos investigation.
"It is a delicate and difficult task, but we will work to eliminate abuses altogether," said Bishop Menéndez.
Juan Ignacio Cortés, author of a book on paedophilia in the Spanish Church, believes a huge number of cases have been covered up, while victims feel poorly treated.
"They complain about ridiculous sentences for abusers and are left feeling rejected and humiliated," he says.
Live-streaming of child sex abuse spreads in the Philippines
Children in poor communities have been exploited by cybersex traffickers and paedophiles as online sexual exploitation of children proliferates in the Philippines.
In the first part of an investigation into the online streaming of child sex abuse, we explore the nature of this emerging crime in the Philippines, where thousands of youngsters are seen to be at risk.
by Pichayada Promchertchoo
MANILA -- Victor Lorenzo has spent much of his life chasing down criminals and helping their victims. For a law enforcer with years of experience, much of what he does is now routine.
Yet there is one type of crime which the veteran chief of the Philippines' cyber investigation unit has difficulty coming to terms with.
“Every case is shocking,” Lorenzo said, in his office at the Cybercrime Division of the National Bureau of Investigation on Taft Avenue. A shiny figurine of Batman gleams amid piles of documents on his desk. Another busy day. Another suspect. More crimes.
“No matter how hard you try to shield yourself from emotions, you just can't. It's very painful on our part as a human being whenever we see children performing live in front of a camera.”
Lorenzo was referring to the growing number of child cybersex cases, where paedophiles based overseas pay local traffickers to molest children and live-stream the abuse.
Despite numerous crackdowns, the sophistication and lucrativeness of the cybersex industry continues to enable its proliferation in the Philippines. According to the International Justice Mission (IJM), the number of rescue and arrest operations related to the cybersex trade in the Philippines went up from 17 in 2015 to 51 in the first nine months of 2018. At the same time, the age of the victims is going down. Most of them are 12 years old or younger, and one in ten are boys.
“Girls and boys are forced to perform sex acts on themselves or each other, molested by an adult, or are abused in other degrading ways,” said Sam Inocencio, the national director of IJM Philippines. His agency has helped the country fight cybersex trafficking since 2016, enabling police to detain nearly 100 suspects and rescue more than 370 victims.
“The youngest victim IJM has rescued is a three-month-old baby,” he said.
CHILD CYBERSEX TOURISM
Cybersex trafficking is also known as online sexual exploitation of children – a relatively new crime in the digital age.
As the Internet penetrates more parts of the world, sex predators can gain easier access to more children. They no longer have to physically travel to meet a child for sexual exploitation to occur. Advanced cyber technology enables them to recruit local traffickers, select children, view and direct the long-distance abuse in real time from anywhere in the world, while remaining invisible under the cloak of cyber anonymity.
Cybersex trafficking was first reported by American non-profit organisation, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 1998. In the Philippines, it was not detected until 2010 after a tip-off from authorities abroad.
Today, the country is “the epicentre” of the live-stream sexual abuse trade and the “number one global source of child pornography”, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Every month, the Philippine Justice Department receives more than 3,000 reports from overseas of possible cybersex trafficking cases.
“The main perpetrators are family members. Many of them use the ‘non-physical contact' as an excuse, saying the perpetrators don't touch their child, therefore it's okay,” said Lotta Sylwander from UNICEF Philippines.
Of course, it's not correct. It's not a childlike behaviour to undress in front of an anonymous camera and, on top of that, actually perform sexual activities.
ABUSE BY PARENTS
Locally known as a ‘show', child cybersex abuse in the Philippines takes place on various platforms – from social networks to dating sites and chat rooms. IJM estimates that in more than 70 per cent of cases, abuse is carried out by traffickers known to the victims. Half of them are the parents of the children themselves.
As victims are young, sex predators often use people the children trust, such as parents, older siblings, relatives and neighbours, to facilitate the exploitation.
At any given moment, an estimated 750,000 adults are seeking to abuse children in some 40,000 public chat rooms worldwide, reported international children's rights organisation Terre des Hommes, citing data from the United Nations and US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Degrees of abuse vary from posing in front of a camera to having sexual contact with another juvenile – often a sibling – or an adult. As the crime proliferates, the severity of sexual abuse increases.
“We can see a trend where the children get younger and younger and there is more and more torture going on,” Sylwander said.
Poverty is one of the main factors driving live-stream sexual abuse of children in the Philippines In the Philippines, child cybersex crime mostly operates as a family business, but there have been incidents showing it can also transform into an organised syndicate.
In 2015, Australian national Peter Scully was arrested in Malaybalay City for trafficking and sexually assaulting Filipino children, with the youngest being an 18-month-old baby girl. Assisted by two Philippine female accomplices, Scully filmed the abuse for his cyber pornography trade catering to an international paedophile ring. He was later sentenced to life imprisonment.
As authorities chase down the criminals, cybersex trafficking migrates. Investigators first noticed its concentration in the central Visayas region before a spread to Mindanao in the south. Recently, incidents have begun to emerge in the north of the country.
On par with its proliferation is the wider use of peer-to-peer (P2P) mobile applications among perpetrators in sharing pornographic content with paedophiles overseas. P2P file sharing allows users to exchange digital resources without going through a central server. As a result, it creates a direct one-to-one connection between local traffickers and sex predators abroad, making the abuse more private and detection more difficult.
“You can directly transmit all those performances with live streaming,” Lorenzo said. “Many P2P applications are commercially available. Some are even free.”
THE DARK WEB AND UGLY SECRETS
Last year, UNICEF stated peer-to-peer file sharing has transformed and expanded the distribution of child pornography on the Internet. The circulation is not only limited to the Surface web – the part of the Internet where the likes of Google, YouTube and Facebook operate – but also on the Deep web, an extensive online territory unindexed by search engines.
Within the Deep web lies the ‘dark web' – a part of the Internet where criminal activity, child pornography and other illegal content proliferates. This territory is invisible to most users, including law enforcement officers, as access requires special permission or special software.
"It takes some degree of skills to get there and, unfortunately, paedophiles who want to access images of children need to submit a new video or a new picture themselves to show they're real," said Sylwander.
"Interpol or the police could never do that."
One of the most common types of advertisements on the dark web is for live-streaming sexual abuse, according to the Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography and the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children. Their 2017 report ‘Cryptocurrency and the BlockChain' revealed that abusers would schedule and market “live sessions” ahead of time. Customers are required to pre-pay for a link or access code in order to watch the abuse.
“The role of ‘director' is auctioned off or charged at a significant premium, giving one user the right to ‘control the action',” the report said.
Examples of advertisements for live-stream sexual abuse on the Dark web show bitcoins as the accepted payment method. Driving the proliferation of live-streaming child sexual abuse is the increasing use of encrypted payment systems - cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin, for example, is an accepted payment method in the unregulated sphere of the dark web. As of March 2017, the report said it cost 10 bitcoins - then worth about US$10,000 - to direct live abuse and 1 bitcoin to view it.
“Online sexual abuse of children is a huge business,” Sylwander said. “At least half of all crimes on the dark web are in and around child pornography and child sexual abuse.”
EASY ABUSE, EASY MONEY
Offenders convicted of human trafficking face severe punishment in the Philippines. If they are parents, siblings or guardians of the trafficked persons, the sentence is life imprisonment and a fine of no less than 2 million pesos (US$37,000). Still, local perpetrators – mostly from impoverished communities – are attracted to the lucrative industry.
"There is no fixed price. Sometimes they base it on the age of the victim - from 5,000 pesos (US$92) to 15,000 pesos (US$276) per ‘show'. Each can last 3-4 hours," Lorenzo said.
The younger the performer, the higher the going rate.
Payments are often made through remittance companies, which are abundant in the Philippines. Perpetrators can withdraw money from various locations, making it hard for authorities to trace the money trail. Between 2015 and September this year, the country recorded 136 rescue and arrest operations related to online sexual exploitation of children.
Globally, Interpol's database has identified more than 14,200 children as victims of child pornography. The number does not include data linked to “numerous unidentified victims”, whose cases are yet to be investigated.
The recorded numbers of cybersex offenders and victims are believed to be just a fraction of the real picture. According to UNICEF, very few perpetrators are convicted and more abuse continues unreported.
“The evidence building can be very difficult, especially in webcam child sex, because the act is often not recorded. As soon as it's done, it's over. The only thing you have left is the story the child can tell,” Sylwander said.
To reflect the magnitude of the crime, Amsterdam-based Terre des Hommes developed an Internet avatar in 2013 to identify cybersex predators. Computer engineers created a 10-year-old virtual Filipino girl named Sweetie, who moved and talked like a real human.
Sweetie is a 10-year-old virtual Filipino girl created for a sting operation to identify paedophiles on the Internet. (Photo: Terre des Hommes)
As soon as Sweetie joined public chat rooms, she was swarmed by paedophiles. Most of them came from wealthier countries, including Australia, Canada, Germany and Britain. In just two months, Sweetie helped identify 1,000 sex predators from 71 nations. Over the course of ten weeks, 20,172 paedophiles in 19 chat rooms had approached her.
“Sweetie really sounded the alarm. It's a very big issue and the problem is potentially growing very fast,” said Terre des Hommes' Asia representative Eric van der Lee.
“People who approached Sweetie is only the tip of the iceberg. There are so many more people out there who are actually looking for online contact with young children.”
In the Philippines alone, tens of thousands of children are exploited in the long-distance abuse online, according to Terre des Hommes. Unlike most Southeast Asian countries, the island nation has several characteristics that drives the growth of cybersex trafficking. Widespread poverty, accessible Internet, ease of receiving money from overseas and fluency in English make it an attractive target for paedophiles.
CHATBOTS, CYBERTIPS, ARRESTS
As sex predators become smarter in avoiding arrest, law enforcement officers are exploring more ways to stop cybercrime. Chatbots are employed to catch paedophiles, and new technologies are being developed to identify perpetrators as well as their victims with sophisticated image analysis.
In the Philippines, cybertips from overseas are one of the most powerful weapons for local investigators to detect suspects of cybersex trafficking. They also work with banks, money remittance firms and Internet service providers in tracking down the sources of child pornography material.
“The Internet is so vast and that's why public awareness is a very powerful tool to suppress child pornography,” Lorenzo said, knowing the crime is likely to grow even further.
“Every case is painful but at the same time it strengthens us to the point that it gives us determination to address this issue.”
Priest Who Testified Against Bishop Found Dead
Father Kattuthara found dead after speaking with investigators about charges that Bishop Franco Mulakkal raped nuns
by David Nussman
KOCHI, India (ChurchMilitant.com) - A priest who was a key witness in a case against a Catholic bishop in India has been found dead, prompting a police investigation.
In June, a religious sister in Kerala of the Missionaries of Jesus went to authorities with her claim that Bp. Franco Mulakkal of the Jalandhar diocese had raped her repeatedly in 2014–2016.
Three other Missionaries of Jesus came forward with similar accusations against Bp. Mulakkal. The bishop firmly denies the allegations. In September, the four nuns took part in a series of sit-in protests demanding that Bp. Mulakkal be prosecuted. Bishop Mulakkal was arrested on Sept. 21 and faces criminal charges for the alleged sexual crimes. He was released on bail on Oct. 16 and awaits trial.
A priest who was a key witness in the case, Fr. Kuriakose Kattuthara, died unexpectedly. Father Kattuthara was found unconscious in his room Monday morning at St. Mary's Church in the town of Dasuya. He was taken to the hospital where he was declared dead.
Father Kattuthara passed away just weeks after he gave a statement to investigators regarding the allegations against Bp. Mulakkal. Reportedly, police are investigating Fr. Kattuthara's death owing to these circumstances.
On Tuesday, an autopsy was performed on Fr. Kattuthara's remains. The procedure was video recorded, there were four doctors present and several of the priest's family members observed the autopsy.
Father Kattuthara's brother, Jose Kurian, has his suspicions about the priest's untimely death.
"My brother had talked to me a week before the death," Kurian said. "He had expressed fear that something may happen to him. We can't believe the Punjab Police version that my brother had died due to cardiac arrest. He had no history of heart ailments."
But Fr. Kattuthara, who was 61, did have some health problems in his old age. Doctor and Sacred Heart Sister Laila Jose, at Sacred Heart Hospital in Jalandhar, said of the priest's condition, "His blood pressure and sugar levels were dangerously high when he visited us a week ago."
The parish where Fr. Kattuthara died, St Mary's Church in Dasuya, is in the diocese of Jalandhar — Bp. Mulakkal's diocese.
Father Kattuthara was born in 1957 and ordained a priest in 1983. Over the years, he served the Jalandhar diocese in various capacities.
The cook at St. Mary's Church knocked on Fr. Kattuthara's door Monday morning but did not get a response. He spoke with religious sisters, who knocked again and got no response. They informed priests in the parish and in nearby parishes. A priest from a nearby parish came, and at 10 a.m., they broke through the door to the priest's room and found Fr. Kattuthara lying unconscious with vomit near his mouth.
We can't believe the Punjab Police version that my brother had died due to cardiac arrest — Tweet
Although Bp. Mulakkal's four accusers are all sisters in the Missionaries of Jesus, the religious superior of their congregation maintains the bishop's innocence.
Shortly before his arrest in September, Bp. Mulakkal asked Pope Francis in a letter to allow him to step aside from his role as head of the Jalandhar diocese so he could face the allegations head-on.
The Vatican granted Mulakkal's request. Bishop Agnelo Gracias, an auxiliary bishop emeritus of the Bombay archdiocese, was appointed the apostolic administrator of Jalandhar. An apostolic administrator is a cleric who heads a diocese between bishops. He might be a bishop himself, but he is not technically the bishop of the diocese.
Bishop Mulakkal's arrest in September was the first time in India that a Catholic prelate has been arrested on charges of sexual assault.
In a country with an estimated 1.3 billion people, Christians account for only 2.3 percent of India's population. The country has a large Hindu majority, at 80 percent. India's largest religious minority is Muslims, who make up some 13 percent of the population. The current world population is estimated between 7 billion and 8 billion, which means about one-sixth of the world's population lives in India.
In addition to the Roman rite, there are some eastern Catholic rites that have a long history in India — namely, the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara rites. Syro-Malabar Catholics trace their origins back to St. Thomas the Apostle.