National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

child abuse trauma prevention, intervention & recovery

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Every day we bring you news articles, opinion pieces, crime stories and official information from government web sites. These are highlights, and constitute the tip of the iceberg .. a small percentage of the daily information available to those who are interested in the issues of child abuse, trauma and recovery. Stay aware. Every extra set of "eyes and ears" and every voice makes a big difference.
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"News of the Week"  

November, 2018 - Week 2
Terri Lanahan
Many thanks to NAASCA's Terri Lanahan, Butte, Montana,
for her research into the news that appears on
the LACP & NAASCA web sites.

Dep of Justice


Los Angeles Woman Pleads Guilty to Federal Sex Trafficking Charge

by Nicola T. Hanna, United States Attorney

LOS ANGELES – A South Los Angeles woman who called herself “The Most Hated Hoe in L.A.” on social media pleaded guilty today to a federal sex trafficking offense and admitted she used the Internet to solicit minors to engage in commercial sex acts.

Melanie Denae Williams, 23, who used the moniker “Pretty Hoe” on social media platforms, pleaded guilty to sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion. She entered her plea before United States District Judge George H. Wu.

As a result of today's guilty plea, Williams faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison and will be required to pay restitution to her victims.

According to her plea agreement, Williams abused a woman she had recruited through social media to work as a prostitute. In one incident detailed in court documents, Williams ordered the victim to strip off her clothes, then Williams threw bleach on her and beat her with her hands and a broomstick.

Williams also forced the victim to get Williams' name tattooed on her face, confiscated the victim's belongings and identity documents, and continually threatened to kill the victim if she left Williams, according to an affidavit filed in this case.

Williams also posted social media videos of her physically beating and using firearms to threaten young women, the affidavit states.

Williams also admitted in the plea agreement to using the Internet to recruit two minors to engage in commercial sex acts. Williams would then retain the proceeds from the minors' sex acts for her own benefit.

Judge Wu scheduled a sentencing hearing for January 28.

The investigation into Williams was conducted by the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, which included agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office provided substantial assistance in the investigation and prosecution.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Lana Morton-Owens and Joseph Axelrad of the Violent and Organized Crime Section.


fromk: Ciaran McEvoy, Public Information Officer, Central District of California


For child abuse survivors, it can be tough to overcome trauma. Here are ways to cope

by Arti Patel

For adults who are child abuse survivors, it can be tough to overcome trauma.

There can be serious trauma that follows childhood abuse.

Research has shown at least 26 per cent of Canadians experienced childhood physical abuse, Statistics Canada noted in 2014. The majority of childhood abuse survivors (65 per cent) reported being abused between one and six times, while 20 per cent said they were abused seven to 21 times.

And in a majority of these cases, most survivors (67 per cent) didn't tell anyone the details of their abuse, including family and friends.

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Dr. Jillian Roberts, founder of Family Sparks and an associate professor at the University of Victoria, said adults who experienced childhood abuse often experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as adults.

“These symptoms include nightmares and flashbacks of the abuse,” she explained. “Adults also avoid situations that reminded them of the abuse and this avoidance behaviour can be very problematic.”

Licenced marriage and family therapist Dr. Susanne Babbel previously wrote in Psychology Today that child-abuse trauma can be lingering. She added child abuse can result in PTSD for a number of reasons.

“The degree of the threat, the developmental state of the child or even the response to the abuse can all play a role. For instance, an elevated heart rate post-abuse has been documented as increasing the likelihood that the victim will later suffer from PTSD,” she wrote.

Roberts added some adults can also become hyper-vigilant, often expecting something in their life to go wrong.

Coping with the trauma

Coping isn't always clear-cut either, as some people are able to manage their PTSD, while others have a harder time accepting their past. For starters, Roberts said all survivors should know they did nothing wrong.

“A hundred per of cent of the blame goes to the abuser,” she explained. “In order to process the traumatic experiences, it is often helpful to speak with a trained mental-health professional.”

Look into benefits and resources

Some companies offer employee assistance programs or extended health benefits that cover counselling. “Alternatively, you can speak to your family doctor and seek a referral to a therapeutically oriented psychiatrist,” Roberts said.

“It can be helpful to go to counselling with your loved one or loved ones in order to receive couple-based or family-based therapy.”

Avoid indulging in drugs and alcohol

It is common for adult survivors of childhood abuse to seek comfort and numbing in drugs and alcohol, but this could also be detrimental for people who can't control their intake.

Avoid turning to drugs and alcohol for comfort, Roberts said. Instead, reach out to a person you can talk to.

Find yourself closure

Experts like social worker Robert Taibbi previously wrote that finding some type of closure can also help survivors heal.

“You want to begin to heal some of the trauma by trying to create closure, expressing what you could not express at the time,” he wrote in Psychology Today.

He recommended writing a letter to someone, addressing what you couldn't say in the past.

“Then write a second letter, from them to you, saying what it is you most want them to say — that they are sorry, that it wasn't your fault, that they loved you. Make the letters as detailed as possible, and allow yourself to write down whatever comes to mind.”

Step out of your comfort zone

Taibbi also suggested stepping out of your usual comfort zones. “Speak up rather than being passive, open up and lean in rather than being closed and isolated, focus on the present rather than constantly looking ahead to the frightening future, or experiment with letting go of anger and control.”

Roberts added trauma can result in survivors feeling terrible about themselves, as well as making meaningful relationships with others. “They may also struggle to understand how to set healthy interpersonal boundaries.”

Don't lose hope

Roberts said it is important to know that there is hope. “Approximately one out of four people experience abuse and many of these people survive and have healthy and positive outcomes.”



Doctor the alleged mastermind of Australian child abduction ring

A doctor is one of three men accused of helping parents abduct their own children across Australia in contravention of family law orders.

Two men, aged 63 and 64, have faced court in Grafton Local Court today, while another man, aged 83, has appeared in Townsville Local Court on charges related to organising the abduction of three children who "have since been safely located", the Australian Federal Police said in a statement.

A 78-year-old Perth woman has been served with a court attendance notice.

Dr William Pridgeon, a GP from Grafton, is alleged to be the mastermind, using his wealth and assets to finance the operation.

The doctor, who once founded an anti-paedophile political party, is accused of running a child abduction ring across multiple states.

Part of his alleged ploy was to help women abduct their children, using social media to accuse fathers of being paedophiles.

He is also accused of buying a yacht, raided by the AFP, which he planned to sail to Tasmania to help those abducted start new lives in New Zealand or Zimbabwe.

The three men faced court today - the two from Grafton are being moved to Brisbane tomorrow.

"Five of these are believed to be linked to this group of people," Assistant Commissioner Debbie Platz said today.

Police will allege that Dr Pridgeon, 63, helped two women abduct and hide their own children.

They will also allege that he assisted in the movement of money to these women and actively tried to portray the fathers in these matters as child abusers in social media and other public forums.

Investigators had disrupted an organised and well-resourced group of people demonstrating a complete disregard for the rule of law and decisions of the courts, Assistant Commissioner Platz said.

"The actions of this group do not protect children. What it does is potentially endanger the safety and well-being of these children," she said.

The investigation into this matter remains ongoing and further arrests cannot be ruled out, the AFP said in a statement.

Dr Pridgeon and the other man who faced Grafton court today will face court again in Brisbane tomorrow.


West Virginia

The sick family legacy that lead to the Turpin family torture

by Liz Little

The brother and sister of Louise Turpin – accused of the horrendous abuse of her 13 children – have revealed their horrific upbringing and how it turned their once-naïve sibling into a cruel, sadistic psychopath.

“You hear people say sometimes the abused can become the abuser. I think that she's just one of those that it did happen that way,” said Louise's sister Teresa Robinette.

60 Minutes reporter Liam Bartlett joined Teresa and her brother Billy Lambert as they returned to their hometown of Princeton, West Virginia – or as they refer to it, the birthplace of the cycle of abuse that has forever tormented their family.

Teresa Robinette says she and her sister Louise suffered ongoing sexual abuse at the hands of their own grandfather. Louise is now accused to the horrendous abuse of her own children, aged 2 to 29. Louise is now accused to the horrendous abuse of her own children, aged 2 to 29. Picture: Supplied (60 Minutes)

“This looked like a happy home on the outside but inside it was miserable,” said Teresa.

“This is a house of horrors. This is where it all began.”

Louise and Teresa were repeatedly sexually assaulted by their grandfather, which was condoned and even encouraged by their own mother.

“My mum would take us to him daily,” Teresa revealed.

“There was no escape for us because you weren't allowed to talk about it, because he had the money and the power. Basically, my mum lived off my grandfather for years.”

“She was pretty much selling us for money to live on.”

The sisters grew up with brother Billy in Princeton, West Virginia, but say their seemingly happy home was in fact miserable.

Desperate to escape from her grandfather's abuse, Louise moved to Texas when she was just 16 years old, alongside her much older boyfriend David Turpin.

It was here they began to expand their new family, having eight children in the space of fifteen years.

“We thought she had the perfect life, she had the perfect husband,” Billy told 60 Minutes.

“We thought she was happy.”

From the outside, the Turpins lived a life of wealth and success.

David was a highly paid engineer and would pay for Louise's family to visit them for holidays every year. But then, in 1998 something shifted in the Turpin household.

They were secretly bankrupt which meant an end to the yearly holidays, and in the first of many signs that something sinister was going on, they began to home-school all eight of their children.

“Her excuse to us was the crime rates were always bad or the kids are getting picked on too much and I don't like them feeling down on themselves,” said Billy.

Ricky and Shelly Vinyard and their two daughters Ashley and Barbara spent a decade living across the gravel road from the Turpins in Rio Vista.

They told Liam Bartlett that even with distance separating them, it was clear there was something disturbing about their new neighbours.

“Ashley would go over there and play, I think that she may have been the only friend that they ever had,” said Shelly.

At just 16, Louise escaped her abusive childhood home with much-older boyfriend, David Turpin. “All the other kids would make fun of them because they said they smelled bad, they were dirty and had weird haircuts; they wore weird clothes.”

But it wasn't long before the Vinyards told their children to keep their distance from the Turpins.

“I had come across the kids out there with Ashley and I introduced myself, and then I notice how white her hands were,” said Shelly.

“At first, I thought they were gloves. White gloves and I said, ‘I thought you had gloves on there for a minute!'”

“And she goes, ‘You wash to the wrist or else you're wasting water.' And the way she spoke was really strange like she might be a little slow.”

“She was telling you that she'd been told not to wash?,” questioned reporter Liam Bartlett.

“Past the wrist or you were wasting water.”

The children's horrible existence was almost uncovered when the eldest sibling attempted to run away.

A neighbour picked her up and, due to her extreme malnourishment and lack of education, assumed she was mentally challenged and returned her to her parents.

“After that happened, you started seeing the kids outside again during the daylight and in the evenings and then they'd pull them back in,” Shelly revealed.

“And then after a couple of weeks, they withdrew them again.”

When questioned why they didn't alerted authorities to the Turpins' concerning behaviour, the Vineyards replied: “We thought about it but then again, you're out in the country and you mind your own business and you figure they want their business kept to themselves and you don't realise what you're seeing.”

In 1998, Louise and David Turpin withdrew not only from their family, but also from the outside world.

The Turpins' neighbours in Rio Visto, Ricky and Shelly Vinyard, said it was clear there was something disturbing about the family. The Turpins' neighbours in Rio Visto, Ricky and Shelly Vinyard, said it was clear there was something disturbing about the family. “Evil is deceptive. I mean, it can look good from a surface if you don't get in there too deep.”

By 2010, David and Louise Turpin's secret perversions were becoming more obvious in Texas, so they moved across the country to California. They had added another four children to their ever-growing brood.

What they left behind is something the Vineyards say they will never be able to erase from their memory.

“We walked off into the house, faeces all over the floor.”

“The desks were lined up where they had the little home school. They had the ABCs, the 123s on the walls. They had a giant whiteboard, but the house smelled of funk.”

“All the closets had padlocks. The refrigerators had padlocks. All the cabinets had padlocks. Everything in the house was locked down.”

The Vineyards also discovered unused bikes sitting in the car port that had rotted away.

“It was like mental torture, where you put the toy in front of a child but you can't play with it.”

The children's beds had rotted and were covered in ropes and chains used to tie them down.

Dead cats were found throughout the home.

“It was a house of horrors. A true house of horrors. It was right up under our nose and we didn't see it.”

The Vineyards never reported their horrific discovery, and so David and Louise Turpin went on to not only have another child, but continue to escalate their abuse in Perris, south California.

Teresa Robinette says her sister and David had also been pulled into a vortex of new temptations, including partying, gambling and sexual exploits.

If found guilty, David and Louise face 94 years in prison.“Louise had called me. She just told me that her and David had walked away from the church and they had been looking into other religions. But then eventually they did dabble into witchcraft.”

“I knew they were making some wrong choices but I never in a million years would have thought that it had anything to do with danger to the kids.”

In the early hours of January 14 this year, David and Louise Turpin's 17-year-old daughter escaped the family home and used a hidden mobile phone to call emergency services.

The state the children were discovered in shocked veteran police officers, legal experts and the wider community.

They were chained to their beds, fed once a day, bathed once a year and had no communication with the outside world.

The Turpin's 29-year-old weighed just 37 kilograms. The 17-year-old had the IQ of a first grader.

It's almost hard to believe, but the neighbours living just metres away denied any knowledge of the unfathomable conditions the children were living in.

The Turpins' 13 children are now in the care of the state. The Turpins' 13 children are now in the care of the state. P

For brother Billy Lambert that's something too difficult to accept.

“I'm disappointed at the neighbours,” he told 60 Minutes.

“One said that they were marching in a circle at night-time upstairs and they saw them in the window.”

“To me that seems a little strange right there. I would at least go knock on the door and be like ‘Is everything ok?'”

“There was another neighbour that came forward that said that two of the older boys were digging in the trashcans at night. To me, how is that not a red flag?”

If found guilty, David and Louise Turpin face 94 years in prison for their sick crimes.

But their 13 children, who are currently in the care of the state, have already been dealt life sentences dealing with the psychological and emotional damage created by their wicked parents.



After System Fails His Daughter, Distraught Dad Takes Justice Into His Own Hands

Paola Gallo was vivacious, young, dark-haired beauty. She was gregarious and seemed to always be surrounded by a gaggle of friends. She loved to sing, volunteered to work at orphanages, and was well on her way to Master's degree in psychoanalysis.

Everything was going so well for Paola, until the weekend that she decided to go away with some friends. That one fateful weekend changed everything.

Paola Gallo was away with friends at her parent's weekend home in Tepoztlan, a popular weekend spot for Mexico City's well-to-do. She and her friends were all in their third year of graduate school and had earned some time to just relax and let their hair down for a bit.

Yet even her parents' weekend home was not safe from the monsters that lurked all around. A Group of men jumped the fence, broke into the house, and began to terrorize the group of vacationing college girls. Paola and her friends could do nothing to stop them, and the worst was yet to come.

When they had finished their assault on the young women, the men stole jewellery, the two cars the girls had parked in the driveway, and even Paola and made off with them. It was a truly brazen act, and one that rarely occurred in such an affluent neighborhood.

Kidnapping in Mexico is big business these days, and has been for the last few decades. It's a notorious criminal enterprise usually undertaken by way of express jobs, such as grabbing people from taxis, emptying their bank accounts, and setting them free: to far more severe forms of capture where they demand the government and victims' families pay them millions of dollars: such was the case with Paola Gallo.

Her father, Eduardo Gallo, much like the relatives of hundreds of other kidnapping victims in Mexico, paid the $18,500 ransom to the kidnappers. He even included some valuable jewelry as well. But though the money was picked up, Paola was never returned.

For days after the initial kidnapping and money drop, Gallo and his family prayed that they would return Paola to them. They had given all they could and yet the kidnappers had not sent any word that they received the money, nor that they still had his daughter. He feared the worst and as it turned out, he was right to do so.

A week after Paola had been taken, the bodies of three men, suspected to have been her kidnappers, were found in a nearby town. It was the same town that they had dropped the ransom off in and in fact, two-thirds of the ransom money was still there, next to the bodies of the kidnappers.

Paola's body was also found not far from the bodies of her kidnappers. She had two gunshot wounds in her neck and back. Despite paying the ransom, Eduardo Gallo's beautiful, smart, vivacious daughter was gone. Now all he wanted was to know who had killed his little girl, he wanted vengeance.

While police began their own investigation, a rumor began flying around that it was the victim's father, Eduardo Gallo, who had organized a rescue of his daughter and accidentally killed the three kidnappers in the ensuing bloodbath. It was an unfounded rumor, but it got Eduardo thinking.

Of course, any such accusation against Gallo was immediately discounted by the police. But Gallo believed that it was the police who killed the gunman and split some of the money themselves so it looked like a rival gang shooting where Paola was caught in the crossfire. But how could he prove it?

In the end, he dismissed his initial theory in favor of a much more believable one. Gallo now believed that the kidnappers executed Paola in retribution for the police killing their three accomplices. Either way, there was one killer still at large, one kidnapper who had stolen the life right out from under his daughter and he was going to find them: even if the police didn't.

According to Gallo, the police investigation following Paola's death was a shoddy affair, rife with errors and clear evidence of police corruption. His point was only proved a few months after the bodies were found, when one of the stolen cars was discovered and processed without a proper forensic test. It wasn't until Gallo insisted on a thorough investigation that they found his daughter's hairs in the car. It seemed the case was his now.

Paola's father was becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of follow-through in his daughter's case. It was then that he decided to solve the case on his own. Yet, even though he gave them countless clues, they did nothing with the information."I gave them details, and they did nothing, or they distorted the truth," he said.

Opting to continue the investigation on his own, Gallo closed his consulting firm and turned himself into a novice detective. He was going to devote all of his time, his entire life, to finding his daughter's killer and bringing him to justice: even if he had to administer that justice himself.

For months, Eduardo Gallo chased leads and pored over information about the case. He even managed to get ahold of cellular phone records, a difficult task in the year 2000, in order to track the killer down. Finally, after a year of tireless work, he cracked the case.

Gallo's nearly yearlong pursuit and ceaseless detective work finally paid off when he helped the police set up an arrest of the suspected killer. In no time at all, he and the police had tracked the man down and put him into custody. But they still had to prove he was the right guy.

Luckily, the next day found the man confessing to all the murders, including Paola's. The prosecutors and police commanders were so impressed with Gallo's work, that they gave him all the credit for bringing his daughter's killer to justice, especially since he did so without resorting to violence.

"This man," said Morelos state Police Chief Jose Agustin Montiel, "with much bravery, put aside all his own business and carried out the investigation." After he was finished, there was still some catharsis needed for Eduardo Gallo, so he put out an emotionally-charged eulogy in a local newspaper.

His speech read, "I will always love you, my adored child," he wrote. "Thank you for your smile and your caresses. Thank you for your songs and your happiness and your love of life. Thank you, beautiful daughter; you always lighted the path so I could distinguish between justice and vengeance. Thank you for being my inspiration for keeping my hands clean and my soul calm, the only way I can see you again.

The most important thing to take away from all this, according to Gallo, that Mexican parents should make sure they follow the proper channels when something like this happens by calling the police right away. This is because, through his researches, he found that 80% to 90% of kidnappings are never reported to authorities, out of fear of reprisals or a sense of shame.



UCD research to explore how child abuse survivors found strength in their struggles

The research aims to identify the positive factors that helped peole who experienced trauma in their childhoods.

NEW RESEARCH BEING conducted at University College Dublin is exploring how victims of childhood abuse and neglect coped with their trauma and the positive factors in their lives that have helped them.

This study is being conducted by Grace Sheridan, a clinical psychologist in training, and is supervised by Professor Alan Carr from the School of Psychology at UCD.

The research is exploring post-trauma outcomes of people who experienced physical, emotional, sexual abuse and/or neglect during childhood.

Sheridan said the research is “seeking to identify factors that contributed to overcoming those experiences which enabled the survivors to live a meaningful life”.

“It's sort of controversial because most of the research in this area looks at post traumatic stress and mental health difficulties and alcohol addiction, things like that. What this does is challenge the perception that they are damaged people and looks at their strengths”.

“Focusing on growth and development in the aftermath of childhood maltreatment does not discount the pain or suffering associated with these experiences,” Sheridan said.

“We believe that understanding recovery and growth after trauma is crucial because with an integrated understanding, we may be able to identify best practices for clinicians and develop recommendations to better address the psychological needs of survivors of childhood trauma.”

If you look at health studies relating to medical trauma like a person having cancer, it's typical of them to say they appreciate life more now because maybe it opened up new opportunities to be closer to people and re-establish relationships. Now, abuse is different, but we want to know if any of this concept applies – is there a coexistence of distress and growth?

She described this kind of research as a “strong new wave message” in mental health care which could help with the development of new programmes for survivors.

“We need to understand how people can recover from childhood abuse and neglect and how we can best support them in doing so. In order to achieve this, it's crucial that we identify the conditions under which some people can thrive as they grapple with earlier traumatic experiences,” Sheridan said.

Participants are being asked to complete an anonymous survey online, answering questions about topics like their family relationships and life experiences. Sheridan said she hopes to have results early next year.


United Kingdom

Child abuse videos being so widely shared online 'victims being recognised in street'

A report by the Child Dignity Alliance is calling for governments around the world to do more to combat the spread of abuse Mike Wright

Child abuse videos are being so widely shared online victims have been recognised in the street, former Microsoft chief has said.

Julie Inman Grant, who is now Australia's eSafety Commissioner and spoke at the Child Dignity Alliance conference in London yesterday, said victims' trauma was being prolonged as images of their abuse were repeatedly viewed online.

Her comments come after a panel of UK and international experts released a report saying the spread of such images online was now a “global pandemic”.

During a press conference, Ms Inman Grant, who has also worked at Twitter and now heads Australia's internet watchdog, cited the case of a group of Canadian victims whose abuse has been uploaded online.

She said: “Thirty percent of them said someone approached them on the street as an adult saying ‘oh I saw you in that series of videos'. They were recognised on the street.

“Can you imagine the traumatisation that you would be feeling throughout your life knowing that your abuse could show up out there and that people are recognising you on the street.”

The report was released by a working-group of experts assembled by the Child Dignity Alliance, an organisation formed by the Catholic Church.

It highlighted the serious problems police and governments face tackling the spread global spread of child abuse images online.

The report said there were 35 countries that had no legislation criminalising child sexual abuse images and that removal efforts were hampered by wildly varying rules across the globe.

One of the recommendations it made was that all tech companies should be mandated to use programmes such as PhotoDNA, which "fingerprint" any illegal image so copies of it can be traced across the internet.

It also called on governments to ensure all social media companies were actively seeking out and taking down abuse images on their services.

The UK government is currently drawing up new regulations for tech and social media companies to ensure children are better protect online.

One of the report's writers, John Carr, the chair of the UK's Children's Charities' Coalition, said the government should impose a statutory duty of care to safeguard children, a measure the The Telegraph has been campaigning for.


Abu Dhabi

Global conference in Abu Dhabi to help combat online child abuse

Representatives from the UN and Unicef will speak at the first ever Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities

A major international conference is being launched in Abu Dhabi to help combat the threat of online child abuse and exploitation.

The first ever Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities, held under the authority of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, will take over Abu Dhabi Exhibition Centre this Monday and Tuesday, with hundreds of campaigners, spanning religions and nationalities, coming together 'in solidarity" to tackle the worldwide issue.

The event will feature more than 450 religious leaders and child protection champions - including representatives from the United Nations and Unicef - to discuss how to safeguard children from cyber crime.

Brigadier general Mohammed Humaid bin Dalmuj Al Dhaheri, secretary-general of the office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, said the event will champion the rights of children across the globe.

“Together we stand in solidarity, along with leaders of faith, distinguished academic experts, and industry leaders, to protect every child's right to dignity and safety online,”said brigadier general Mohammed Al Dhaheri.

He said that the event will provide faith leaders with the knowledge and tools they require to provide advice, comfort and support for children and their families.

The forum is being organised by the UAE Government in partnership with a number of organisations, including the Child Dignity Alliance, Religions for Peace, the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, the Global Network of Religions for Children and Unicef.



I Survived Child Abuse for Years—Here's What Everyone Gets Wrong About It

by Jen Babakhan

Erin Cole was six months old when her parent's divorce caused her life to spiral out of control. Read on to learn how she not only overcame years of abuse and trauma but also used her troubled past to fuel her dreams.

She can't remember a time when abuse and neglect didn't affect her life, and yet entrepreneur, designer, and author Erin Cole has found a way to beat the odds. She hasn't just survived; she's thrived.

Cole's parents divorced during her infancy, and her mother's alcoholism set the family down a path of destruction. When her mother married a man Cole refers to as “Captain Jack,” things only got worse. Her new stepfather suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and often flew into fits of rage—with Cole and her siblings becoming his targets.

Between the beatings with tree branches, periods of starvation, and being locked out of her home overnight from the time she was five years old, Cole became desperate for a way out. She found it through self-reliance and the words of her caring grandmother, her primary lifeline in the turbulent waters of her childhood. Cole's memoir, The Size of Everything, shares her journey from a life of pain to the incredible success she enjoys today as a celebrated designer with collections featured around the world.

Here's what Cole says everyone gets wrong about child abuse and neglect—and what you can do to help:

Children experiencing abuse might not admit it

Asking a child if everything is okay at home is a start, but the fact is, those in an abusive situation are not likely to admit the truth. Kids who are abused are secret-keepers; kids who are neglected often don't even realize it, because it's all they've ever known. Cole's best advice is to pay attention and trust your gut.

Verbal and emotional abuse isn't visible

Abuse and neglect can take a million different forms, and many of them are invisible. Abusers prey on children because they're vulnerable and can be manipulated. Saying, “You'll get sent away forever if you tell anyone,” wouldn't work on an adult, but a kid will take that to heart all day long. Bruises and broken bones are easy to spot; an aching ego or battered spirit isn't.

Substance abuse and mental illness often play a role

Things went from bad to worse when the younger of Cole's two older brothers died. “My mom spiraled into a depression she never recovered from. It was so awful that my oldest brother simply left to live with a friend, and my mother was admitted to a mental hospital,” she recalls. “On top of that, two alcoholics aren't exactly reliable breadwinners, so we frequently had very little money for things like clothes and food.”

Abused and neglected children are often bullied at school

“Even though my sister and I couldn't tell you how we were different from the other kids—was it the too-big socks or the too-short pants or the parents who forgot to pick us up from school?—we knew unequivocally that we were,” Cole shares. “Because of this, we were bullied mercilessly.” Here are 8 books about bullying every parent should own.

Abusers and victims come in all shapes and sizes

The “bad guy” can be the seemingly sweet neighbor lady or the affluent doctor from church. They can even be parents or grandparents. The abused can be shy or outgoing, popular or withdrawn.

Teaching your kids about stranger danger isn't enough

Tragically, a vast majority of the time, the abuser is someone the child knows and trusts. People who hurt children know exactly how to manipulate them, typically with fear and threats of further abuse or punishment. Kids need to hear, “If anyone hurts you or threatens you, tell a trusted adult. You will never be punished for telling the truth.”

Abused children might feel survivor's guilt

“When the abuse at home and school became too much, I ran away to live with my dad and his girlfriend. I felt horribly guilty about leaving my mother alone with my stepdad (my older sister had already bolted by this point, too), but I couldn't take it there anymore,” Cole says. “It was at that point—I was 11—that I realized that no adult was going to save me.” Here are 10 more things women who escaped abusive relationships want you to know.

One person can make a life-saving difference

“Growing up, I didn't have a lot of positive adult influence in my life, but I did have an amazing grandmother. She always told me that I could do and be anything that I wanted, that I had talent and ambition, and I was going to do great things,” Cole says. “Her words were exactly what I needed. Because of her, I just knew that there was a better life for me out there.”

It is absolutely possible to break the cycle of abuse and neglect

Doing it takes courage, strength, faith, and the belief that you are worthy of having great things and great people in your life. Stopping the cycle is a choice that's available to everyone, no matter how tragic their circumstances.


New Zealand

New Zealand child abuse inquiry widened to include religious institutions

Jacinda Ardern cites ‘moral duty' after campaign by abuse survivors to include faith-based organisations

A royal commission into abuse in state care in New Zealand has been expanded to include those abused by faith-based institutions such as churches and religious schools, after campaigning by survivors.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there had been overwhelming appeals from those abused by religious institutions since the initial inquiry – the largest in New Zealand's history – was announced in February.

“Extending the scope was one of the most most strongly argued issues in the consultation process and it is important to this government that we listen to the voices of those victims,” said Ardern. “We've got a moral duty here.” The royal commission has received more than 400 submissions on a draft of its terms of reference.

At least two of New Zealand's major churches have already agreed to work with the commission, Ardern said, and the inquiry would look into all forms of abuse including “physical, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse, and neglect” as well as “inadequate care or improper treatment that resulted in serious physical or mental harm to the person”.

The New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference welcomed the expanded scope of the inquiry, as did Anglican Archbishop Philip Richardson. “Our primary concern is for the needs of those whose lives have been impacted by abuse,” Richardson told RNZ. “We see this commission of inquiry as one way we can put that faith into action, and our hope is that this broader inquiry will provide a pathway to healing and wholeness for all concerned.”

The investigation window of 1950 to 1999 will be widened now that faith-based institutions have been included, and the budget has been boosted to NZ$78m (£40m) over four years, NZ$15m of which has been set aside for counselling and support.

As well as investigating churches and religious schools the inquiry will include youth detention centres, psychiatric hospitals and orphanages, as well as any government care services contracted out to private institutions.

Prisons and sports organisations would be excluded, despite a campaign for them to be investigated as well.

Former governor general Sir Anand Satyanand, who is chairing the inquiry, said the commission would have some powers to compel institutions and individuals to give evidence. Compensation claims would not be handled by the inquiry, but the historic claims unit, already in operation.

The first report into abuse in state care will deliver its findings in 2020, and the final report into state care and religious abuse would be delivered in January 2023.

Ardern said her government was willing to apologise to survivors if this was called for.

The move to expand the inquiry was welcomed by the Human Rights Commission, the children's commissioner and survivors, who said it was long overdue.

More than 100,000 New Zealand children and adults were held in state institutions between 1950 and the 1990s, and many suffered serious sexual, physical and psychological abuse.

How many have been abused by religious institutions is unclear at this stage, Satyanand said, but victims were in the many thousands.

The inquiry will begin hearing evidence in January 2019, and will be run along similar lines to royal commissions held in the UK and Australia.



Child abuse: What signs to watch for if you suspect it


Director Brigette Southworth explains what the Court Appointed Special Advocates program in Worcester County is and how its volunteers make a difference in the lives of children who have been abused or neglected.

If you suspect a child that you know is being abused, there are signs to look for.

One of the most common signs of physical abuse is injuries that children struggle to explain, said Richard Barth, University of Maryland School of Social Work dean.

Often, he said victims of maltreatment might try to make excuses or give very general answers to questions about how they're doing or where an injury came from because they're afraid.

"They think they have been bad, and they don't want to get in trouble," he said. "They often don't want to get their families in trouble."

In school, Barth said they might hide or make other efforts to keep people from paying attention to them.

They might also flinch or back away when people raise their voices or step toward them too quickly, he said. Anxiety can make it difficult for them to speak very loudly as well.

"They may have been beaten or put in the closet or put in a very long kind of seclusion because they were talking back or they were making too much noise or they were interrupting the family or something like that," Barth said.

If a child isn't being fed regularly, he said they'll likely be sleepy, withdrawn, struggling to concentrate and showing other signs of poor health.

While any of these signals could be unrelated to abuse, Barth said it's important that people not wait until they have actual evidence to report, but simply a reasonable suspicion.

Court Appointed Special Advocates volunteers are trained to keep an eye out for any significant changes in behavior that might indicate something's not right, according to CASA Director Brigitte Southworth.

"The goal is for our volunteer to get to know that child really well so that if something is going on, that child feels comfortable sharing it with their CASA volunteer," she said.

Sometimes she said volunteers will spend time observing children in school and take note of things that seem out of the ordinary, such as being withdrawn or falling asleep in the middle of class.

While social workers may be handling multiple cases, CASA volunteers are assigned to one child at a time, Southworth said, which means it's easier for them to reach out and build relationships with everyone involved in a child's life.

By keeping in touch with people like day care workers, teachers and therapists, volunteers hear about instances when a child shows up looking disheveled or tired that could be cause for concern.

"If they have any concern, we need to report it and let the state do their job," Southworth said.

Who investigates child abuse claims?

Once allegations of abuse or neglect in Maryland have been screened by a local Department of Social Services, they're assigned either an investigative or alternative response.

An alternative response lets the assigned caseworker tailor an approach to low-risk cases.

Rather than resulting in a formal finding of neglect, an alternative response could allow the caseworker to refer a parent who's been leaving young children home alone while at work, for example, to services and supports that suit their needs.

More urgent cases of abuse and neglect are generally assigned to the traditional investigative track once they've been screened for validity.

When the Department of Social Services takes a family to court in Worcester County and a child ends up in foster care or under protective supervision, the local CASA program can assign a volunteer to the victim.



Educating to prevent child abuse and neglect

ST. LOUIS — It is hard enough being a parent in today's world, but imagine taking on all the responsibilities of parenthood at a young age. It's something the non profit Cope 24 is trying to prevent through education. Their mission is to reduce incidences of child abuse and neglect by reaching these kids at a young age.

The founder, Rene Howitt, joins the show this morning to talk about how they are working their way through hundreds of schools across the nation.

For more information on Cope 24 and their gala head



EVSC students to watch videos on child abuse and child sexual abuse, per Indiana law

Indiana law requires kids in grades K-12 to learn how to recognize child abuse.


EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Kids as young as five-years-old will learn how to recognize child abuse and child sexual abuse through watching age-appropriate videos in school.

Indiana law requires students in grades K-12 in public, charter and private schools have lessons on abuse no later than Dec. 15 of each year. The law, Senate Bill 355, expanded the previous requirement passed in 2012, which then mandated instruction on abuse to grades 2-5.

The Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. alerted parents and guardians through an automated email last month that their kids would watch the videos before winter break. Some EVSC kids have already seen the videos because of scheduling at individual schools.

Kim McWilliams, EVSC Chief Officer of Family, School and Community Partnerships, said his office worked with community partners to find appropriate resources.

The EVSC chose materials created by the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center, a national child abuse prevention nonprofit providing age-appropriate videos intended to help students recognize and respond to situations that may be unsafe.

The Barbara Sinatra Children's Center provides videos to teach kids how to recognize abuse and how to report it. Indiana law requires students in grades K-12 have lessons on abuse.

The short videos are designed to teach students how to protect themselves from abuse, McWilliams said, and how to respond if inappropriate behavior occurs.

“We want kids to feel safe,” he said, “and to have those trusted adults they can go to and communicate so they feel safe and can be successful.”

In 2015, 17 of every 1,000 children were victims of abuse or neglect, according to the Indiana Youth Institute.

EVSC spokesman Jason Woebkenberg said the videos are intended to teach students what inappropriate behavior is, and how it's different from appropriate behavior. Woebkenberg said the video may trigger a past event with a child, and the lesson is intended to teach them what to do with the information.

“This video is a reminder if something has happened you don't feel comfortable with, you need to tell an adult,” he said. “This isn't something to keep with you and be embarrassed talking about. You need to tell someone. And if you're an adult, you need to listen and support that child. Then you need to contact the Department of Child Services.”

Some possible signs to look for if you suspect child abuse, according to Barbara Sinatra Children's Center, include:

Withdrawn behavior

Trouble in school or acting out

Temper tantrums

Bed wetting


“We would like to think in a perfect world these things don't happen,” Woebkenberg said. “But, unfortunately, they do. And we want to create an environment where students feel very comfortable sharing if something's happened, so it can be stopped and it can be dealt with.”

As part of the legislation, McWilliams said staff was trained and watched a Department of Child Services video, “Don't wait, make the call,” so they know how to recognize signs and react if a child confides in them.

It is the adult's responsibility to report allegations immediately, according to the Department of Child Services. The state's hotline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-800-5556.

In June 2017, the Indiana Department of Education sent a memo reminding school district officials it is a crime in Indiana to fail to report suspected child abuse.

McWilliams encouraged parents and guardians to talk to their child about what he or she learns from the videos. If parents need further guidance, he suggested contacting their child's counselor or social worker, or they can call DCS.

“There's always a fine line, you certainly don't want to scare students, but at the same time you want to provide them with the information they need in case somebody has experienced something like this,” Woebkenberg said.


To report suspected child abuse or neglect, call:

The state Child Abuse and Neglect hotline at 1-800-800-5556

Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Office at 812-421-6201

Evansville Police Department at 812-436-7896

Holly's House can answer questions from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 812-437-7233

Albion Fellows Bacon Center offers a 24-hour hotline for sexual assault victims and their loved ones at 812-424-7273

Lampion Center at 812-471-1776



Cuyahoga County Opens New Center for Child Abuse Victims


It's taken two decades of planning, but Cuyahoga County has finally joined other counties of its size with a new center for abused children.

Canopy Child Advocacy Center will provide resources for victims and their families all in one place.

The center joins together 18 entities responsible for investigating and responding to cases of child abuse. Services in the new facility include a medical suite for on-site assessment, office spaces for mental health therapy and observation rooms for victim interviews.

Director Jennifer Johnson says the center will make services more convenient and less traumatic for victims and their families when it opens next week.

“The family can come to the center and get all those services in one place at one time versus having to go and get them throughout the county," she said. "And that also, then, the child doesn't have to tell that story about that trauma over and over and over again. Presently, without having one common place where an interview can happen and be recorded, the child has to tell that narrative an upwards of 15 times.”

The center is located on the property of the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center on Payne Avenue near downtown Cleveland.

The partner agencies working with the new center include:

Case Western Reserve University

Cleveland Clinic Foundation

Cleveland Division of Police

Cleveland Rape Crisis Center

Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas

Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services

Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court

Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office

Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department

Cuyahoga County Witness Victim Service Center

Domestic Violence & Child Advocacy Center

Family Justice Center

FrontLine Service

International Association of Forensic Nurses

MetroHealth System

United Way of Greater Cleveland

University Hospitals




Indian Nobel laureate wants global treaty to tackle online child abuse

Nobel peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi called on Friday for a United Nations convention on online child sex abuse and trafficking, saying an international law is the only way to end the global scourge.

The Indian campaigner against child trafficking said he was gathering support from fellow laureates and religious leaders including Pope Francis for a treaty and a global task force to tackle the multi-billion-dollar industry.

"The same criminal gangs involved in international child trafficking are also involved in online child pornography," Satyarthi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

"I told the Pope that while a government can ban these sites, no one can stop the online porn and sexual abuse due to free digital space, he said after meeting the leader of the Catholic church on Friday to enlist his support.

Satyarthi said he had raised the issue of historic child sex abuse in the Catholic church - an issue Pope Francis has repeatedly spoken out on in the past.

"We must ensure that sexual abuse and exploitation of our most vulnerable children is never repeated," he said.

The Vatican's press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Satyarthi said there was a need for an international law because online crimes transcend across borders.

He said his demands were submitted to the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in September.

While demand for child sex images largely comes from Western nations such as Britain and Australia, children are often abused in countries like the Philippines where growing access to cheap internet and technology is fuelling the crime, experts say.

More and more children are being groomed, abused over live streams and sold for sex - often via social media and listings websites - for ever-cheaper prices in countries from India to the United States.

Satyarthi, joint winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize with Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, is also urging a global toll-free helpline to report cases of online child sex abuse.



Ministry Issues Advisory On Handling Of Child Abuse Cases

The advisory said children who have been abused must be provided necessary medical care, psychological support and counselling within 24 hours.

All India Press Trust of India

NEW DELHI -- The Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry today issued an advisory on handling of child abuse cases in shelter homes, giving the district magistrate the power to take immediate direct charge of an erring institution.

The advisory was issued after several reports of abuse of children at child care institutions surfaced recently.

"In the case of abuse and disruption of service delivery to the vulnerable children living in the institutional care, it is the prime responsibility of the government to take immediate action for ensuring protection and well-being," the two-page advisory stated.

Noting that disruption of service delivery and welfare measures in the institutional care amounts to failure in delivering assigned duties by the child care institutions as well as child welfare committees, the ministry said the district magistrate may "immediately assume the direct responsibility of these institutions".

The advisory also said children who have been abused must be provided necessary medical care, psychological support and counselling within 24 hours.

"The district magistrate may consider empanelment of psychologists in the district or engage institutions capable of providing psychological care to such child victims for the purpose," the advisory said.

The district magistrate has also been given the power to take a decision if there is a need to completely change the management and staff of the institution while children continue to live in the same facility or relocate the children to some other facility.

It also directed the district administration that under no circumstances the identity of the children should be revealed to media or to general pubic.

"The press statements may be issued by the designated officer of district administration at a definite time to apprise the media about the developments in the case. No direct access should be given to media inside the children's home," it said.

The ministry said the advisory has been formulated to help the district administration in formulating an action plan during any case pertaining to child abuse in child care institutions.

The Centre had in August told the Supreme Court that 1,575 minors, who were victims of sexual abuse, and 189 victims of pornography were living in 9,589 child care institutions across the country.

The Centre, while referring to a study conducted on child care institutions across the country, told the apex court that there were 9,382 children in conflict with law in such homes -- 6,928 boys and 2,454 girls.

The report further said that the number of children in need of care and protection was found to be 3,68,267 in these 9,589 child care institutions, of whom 1,98,449 were boys, 1,69,726 girls and 92 were transgenders.



World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse: Saving our children

by Ramya Kannan

On the occasion of World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse, here's a peek at the rising crimes against children, and an attempt to see what more the State can do in terms of ensuring the welfare, and future, of its youngsters

Last week, a 16-year-old tribal girl in Sitling, in the western district of Dharmapuri, was raped by two boys from the same village as she went out to the fields to answer nature's call. Five days later, the young girl died in the government hospital in Dharmapuri. Both the victim and her parents had struggled to register a complaint, and by their account, had to run from pillar to post and pay a bribe for the police to do so. Several days later, a team of activists who went on a field visit to inquire into the case found personal effects of the girl at the same spot, exposed to the elements, unclaimed by the police, though it did seem to them that it would serve as crucial evidence.

The Dharmapuri case has emerged as a classic representation of the threats children in the State face and indicates a measure of the State's initial response to such heinous crimes. Violence against children takes various forms – physical and mental torture, sexual abuse, neglect – and can be perpetrated by a wide range of people the child comes into contact with, including parents, teachers, caregivers, peers and strangers.

Ahead of the World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse (November 19), it behoves the State, especially one that has witnessed a series of gross assaults on children over the last year, to take stock of the safety mechanisms it has in place to ensure the protection of children against any kind of abuse. While the State is a significant institution, the welfare of the children rests with other institutions — the family, society and schools — and spreading awareness among them is key.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that globally, up to 1 billion children aged 2-17 years have experienced physical, sexual, emotional violence or neglect in the past year, and warns that experiencing violence in childhood has a lifelong impact on health and well-being. In 2012, 9,500 children and adolescents were killed in India, representing 10% of all children globally and making India the third largest contributor to child homicide after Nigeria and Brazil (WHO 2014, Global Health Estimates). In fact, one of the targets of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development is to “end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against, and torture of, children”.

Rising trend

“One of the theories going around,” says Girija Kumarababu, honorary secretary, Indian Council for Child Welfare, “is that we are seeing a lot more cases these days because of increased awareness about POCSO and better access to media. It may be true, it needs to be examined. However, to me, there is definitely an increasing trend of violence against children, and each case is more and more gruesome.” She goes on to add: “To me it seems as if the perpetrators are challenging the State, cocking a snook at all child rights activists.”

She makes the point that violence against children cannot be seen in isolation from the other social dynamics. “For instance, caste-related crimes are increasing in Tamil Nadu, and much of this is manifesting as violence against children. Then, availability of proper sanitation facilities, for instance, would have helped prevent the rape at Sitling. Migration, urban-rural divide, sending children to school – are issues that render children vulnerable and we need to address them when we talk of protecting children.”

In R. Vidyasagar's mind there is no doubt whatsoever that the number of cases of extreme violence against children in the State has been increasing. He served for many years as a child protection specialist with Unicef, and now uses his expertise to help multiple organisations working with children. “In reality, no day passes when cases are not being reported.” A question that he raises begs an answer: What are the various child protection structures present in the State, child protection units, juvenile police stations, women police stations doing to pre-emptively prevent such crimes? “They only react after a case has been registered, and even there, there is a question of lack of sensitivity and great reluctance to register a complaint.”

Elusive compensation

While the lack of sensitivity by the police comes up often in public discourse, not many are even aware that the law provides for the victim – financially, by way of an interim compensation. Does this actually work in practice? Responses sought under the RTI Act by an activist indicate that of all the cases in 11 districts which had been committed to the court under the POCSO Act, a shockingly low number of the victims involved have received an interim compensation.

The rules of the Act mandate that interim compensation can be given if the victim or someone on his or her behalf files an application. An order for interim compensation can also be passed by the court on its own. Additionally, data was also sought for the cases where a judgment of acquittal was given and the court recommended an award of compensation as well as when the accused was discharged.

The data shows that while there have been nearly 2,000 cases committed to court from 2012 in most of these districts, there are only 40 cases where the victims have been awarded compensation. The interim compensation is awarded with the aim of meeting the immediate needs of the child for relief or rehabilitation at any stage after filing the FIR.

"The importance of the interim compensation to families is overlooked. When parents who are daily wage earners have to accompany their children for the legal proceedings, a day of work missed means that they will have to struggle for food. There are a lot of health expenses involved as well," said Vidya Reddy, co-founder of Tulir: Centre for prevention and healing of child sexual abuse.

She recounts a case in 2016 where a young girl was raped by the watchman of the building where her mother used to work as a domestic help. “The mother's employment was affected, and living in a suburb of the city, she had to travel long distances with the child for the legal proceedings. It is cases like this especially, where an interim compensation is useful,” she adds.

She points out that POCSO rules clearly state that the interim compensation can be awarded anytime after the registration of an FIR, which is an extremely critical time for the family and the victim. “When the rules clearly specify when and how the compensation can be granted, why is there so much apathy and ignorance,” she questions.

Also, under the POCSO Act, an FIR should be filed against the police and any official delaying the reporting of a crime, or filing of an FIR. "In the State, there has not been a single case where an FIR has been filed against the police for delaying or refusing to file an FIR under the POCSO Act," says Henri Tiphagne, a human rights lawyer and activist.


In Tamil Nadu, there have been 1,110 cases registered under the POCSO Act till August 2018. While Chennai alone has had 119 cases, the south cluster of districts including Madurai, Virudhunagar, Theni, Kanniyakumari, Ramnathapuram and Sivaganga have seen nearly 354 cases being registered .

In a meeting earlier this month, R.G. Anand, a member of the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), pointed out that the Tamil Nadu government had been extremely proactive in implementing preventive measures against child abuse.

M.P. Nirmala, Chairperson of the SCPCR, said that the committee is planning to organise a statewide workshop on the POCSO Act and its implementation.

Doubly disadvantaged

If being a child or a woman increases one's vulnerability to abuse, then being disabled further enhances helplessness, says persons with disability. In an independent study carried out by the Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of All Types of Differently-Abled and Caregivers (TARATDAC), there have been 10 incidents of sexual assault against women and children with disabilities in the last one year.

“Of this, six cases involve children with disabilities. When it is someone who is disabled who has been sexually assaulted, we feel that the police and the government are extremely lethargic and don't act as swiftly,” alleged S. Namburajan, General Secretary, TARATDAC. The association has submitted a representation to the Chief Minister urging for the 10 cases to be looked into. It has also called for creating awareness programmes for those implementing the Act.

Apart from awareness and sensitisation of the police force and the lower and higher judiciary, activists are calling for training medical professionals too, as a substantial part of how the case fares in court depends on the medical reports they file. “There are protocols in place that one can follow to prepare medical reports, so that courts will not throw out cases for lack of evidence. We desperately need to improve the conviction rates in crimes against children, specially those of sexual abuse,” says Ms. Kumarababu.

The POCSO Act was passed with the intent of effectively addressing the heinous crimes of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children through less ambiguous and more stringent legal provisions. In reality, there has hardly been any deterrence in the implementation of the law. A large number of cases of crimes against children in Tamil Nadu also invoke the POCSO Act, as they involve sexual abuse.

Mr. Vidyasagar says death penalty will further endanger effective implementation, and victims, under pressure from perpetrators, might even turn hostile. The State needs to ensure that people know it means business when it sets out to claim that it will protect children from all kinds of abuse, by demonstrating its intent with meticulous investigations, due diligence and following through with convictions in court. Otherwise, neither the State nor the law will make any difference to the children of the state.



Panel describes facts, impact of child abuse


The 15th Judicial District Child Advocacy Center and Cumberland University hosted the third annual Child Abuse Awareness Panel on Tuesday, Oct. 30.

The event's format changed slightly this year. As CAC Executive Director Nancy Willis explained, in past years child abuse survivors have shared their intense, heart-breaking stories; however, for this event the panel included Assistant District Attorney Tom Swink, Child Advocacy Center Forensic Interviewer Cece Ralston, Dept. of Children Services Lead Investigator Patrick Cockburn and Wilson County Sheriff's Office Detective Jennifer Mekelburg.

There was also a victim's father who spoke and left the crowd speechless as he shared the story of how his teenage daughter was abused by a teacher at her school and the effect it had on their entire family.

Following his comments, a representative of each agency described their job in working cases of alleged abuse.

In some cases, abuse is reported anonymously to a Department of Children Services hotline, which is where Cockburn's work begins.

He explained that he supervises a team of six investigators who handle severe abuse. In Tennessee, any sexual abuse is considered severe abuse.

“There is a reporting hotline and they determine if (the call) meets criteria to constitute an investigation,” he said.

The job of his agency is to “ensure that the child remains safe while the investigation is going on” and to “set the child back on the path to success.”

Ralston conducts forensic interviews at the Child Advocacy Center in Lebanon. To date, she's conducted an estimated 600.

She reminded the audience that everyone in Tennessee is a mandated reporter if abuse is known or even suspected.

She works with children ages 3-17 and admitted that it can be grim to hear their stories.

“Some will tell you very casually about abuse that has happened for years. I always say any reaction is a normal reaction for a sex abuse survivor,” Ralston said.

She also encouraged parents to teach their children the right names for the parts of their body.

“It is helpful to educate them about their body and that they can say, ‘I don't want to do that.' They don't even have to hug anybody if they don't want to. It is their body,” she added.

Mekelburg discussed the slow nature of working a case in order to be thorough.

“A lot of (abuse) isn't reported right away. Sometimes they are scared or embarrassed. I do everything I can to prepare to talk to the perpetrator. We don't want to lose a case because we rushed into it,” Mekelburg said. “It takes a minute to build a solid case because there is a lack of evidence. These are secret crimes — they don't do this in front of a lot of people (where there would be witnesses).”

Swink said that is why only a small amount of abuse cases are prosecuted.

“We know ultimately we have to convince 12 people unanimously and prove our case beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said.

He also thanked the victim's father for sharing his family's story. He said the defendant in that particular case is in the penitentiary.

“(In my job) I signed up for this, but you didn't. I hate that you had to be dragged through this process,” Swink added, commending them for staying the course to put the perpetrator behind bars.

The victim's father responded quietly: “The alternative is (if you don't prosecute) you leave them out there (to hurt) someone else.



Child abuse: Mandatory reporting and how it can help

by Benjamin Nunnally Times Staff Writer

Against an adult, kids are defenseless.

We use words that mask that just enough to make it bearable. Kids are vulnerable. Kids are impressionable. Kids are at risk. But we don't often say that small children are helpless, assailable, victimized. They're one bad grown-up away from a different kind of life.

It's maddening to think what it must feel like to be in that position as a child, and when we get too close to the truth — when someone is arrested for abusing a child in the shadows for years, especially a trusted member of the public, as has been alleged in Etowah County within the last year — it leaves us feeling hollow.

There are laws in place to try and mitigate that vulnerability. One is called "mandatory reporting," and it's just what it sounds like: When someone in a specific occupation witnesses abuse or evidence of abuse of a child, physical or sexual, they're mandated by Alabama law to report it to the authorities. To willfully ignore evidence is a misdemeanor, and can come with a fine of up to $500 and six months jail time.

Mandatory reporting occupations and organizations are varied, but most will seem obvious: school staff and faculty, at both primary and secondary schools; doctor's offices, including dentists, optometrists, chiropractors and podiatrists; medical staff that includes surgeons, medical examiners, coroners and pharmacists; mental health professionals, law enforcement, social workers and members of the clergy (though there are some provisions for confidentiality); and anyone called upon to render aid or medical assistance to any child.

Once the worker sees something, they're required to say something, either by phone or in person, with a written report to follow. While they do have to go on the record with police or the county's department of human resources, their involvement in the report is kept confidential, according to Patricia Falcon, director of the Barrie Center, Etowah County's child advocacy center.

"You can't be sued as a mandatory reporter. It's your legal responsibility for mandatory reporters and if it turns out to be unfounded, there's no legal repercussion," Falcon said.

Some folks might read that statement as, "There's nothing to stop someone from faking a complaint," when it's really saying, "There's nothing to stop someone from telling the truth."

Those situations in which a child has been coached to lie — "I fell and got hurt" — are now a non-dilemma for potential reporters. If the story is true, professionals from the police department and DHR will be able to suss it out, having been trained to look for indicators of real child abuse. If the story isn't true, the report goes a long way toward getting that child help.

Once a report is made to the police or DHR, the receiving organization will alert the other, and get the Barrie Center involved. The center has professionals who will talk with a child to get their story, including details of incidents and the circumstances of abuse. Once they've completed the process, called a forensic interview, the Barrie Center's staff members act as advocates for the child, speaking on their behalf and recounting details for law enforcement, DHR and the courts.

"You can't just have a laundry list of questions," Falcon said of the interviews. "We're meeting that child where they're at, we don't put words into their mouths, we don't introduce people into the conversation, even if we may have known some information because we have it on the report. We're not able to introduce information without them bringing it up."

Reports are going up each year. According to Falcon, the Barrie Center performed 316 forensic interviews this fiscal year, up 21 percent from 253 interviews with primary victims in 2017. Secondary victims — family members of the children, mostly — numbered 294 in 2017, making a total of 547 people served by the center last year, just shy of two per day.

The data sheet said that 75 percent of the reports were about sexual assault in 2017 (the rest were physical abuse), that 66 percent of the primary victims were female and 77 percent were Caucasian, 17 percent were African-American and 6 percent were Hispanic or of other races.

According to the Alabama Department of Health, child abuse and neglect is the eighth biggest health concern for Alabama, over diabetes and geriatrics, but below cancer and sexually transmitted infections.

The Child Welfare League of America's 2015 state statistics showed 22,067 reports of abuse and neglect of children in Alabama, and 21,722 reports were referred for investigation.

According to Falcon, 1 in 10 children are assaulted before they turn 18 years old, and she's sure that there are more children who are being abused in the county now that have yet to be reported.

Falcon said the Barrie Center's increased caseloads over the years might not be a sign of additional abuse, but rather that more people are taking signs of child abuse seriously and making more reports. Children are learning what is and isn't OK at an earlier age, and they're being taught to say something if they're being touched inappropriately or hurt. Falcon said that it's important for family members to reinforce those lessons frequently.

In light of highly politicized debates about rape allegations across the nation, Falcon said that it's important to take allegations made by children seriously.

"It's a very low percentage of children that are not telling the truth. Generally, when a child makes an outcry the most important thing someone can do is believe them," Falcon said.

Mandatory reporters should get basic information from a child when they feel it's time to make a report: name, address, parent information and whatever specifics kids offer, or indications of abuse the reporter has seen. Adults gathering information for a report don't have to play at detective work; issuing a report with the basics will get professionals on the case.

"If a child does disclose to someone, show your concern, but let the child talk at their pace," Falcon said. "Don't ask specific questions about it, but believe the child as they're reaching out for help, and let them use their own words."

People who aren't required by law to report signs of abuse can still do so with ease; neighbors, family members and others can simply call the police or DHR with their suspicion and make a report anonymously. While some parents may not appreciate the authorities stopping by to discuss child welfare, the chance to help a defenseless kid far outweighs the risk of embarrassing someone.

"Really, anyone, whether a mandatory reporter or not, can make a report if they have cause for concern," said Falcon. "Whether looking at it from the legal side or looking at it morally because it's the right thing to do, I hope people will continue to make those reports."

To make a report, get in touch with the Etowah County Department of Human Resources at 256-549-4135, the Etowah County Sheriff's Department at 256-546-2825 (also doubles as after-hours number for ECDHR), the Gadsden Police Department at 256-549-4500 or your local municipality's police department.



In Kashmir, child abuse in orphanages is rampant

Newslaundry investigates six orphanages that were shut down in the Valley owing to abuse or poor facilities.

by Daanish Bin Nabi

Six children's schools-cum-orphanages have been closed in the Kashmir valley in the last few months owing to a lack of proper facilities. In Kashmir, these orphanages and seminaries are mostly run by religious people. The Juvenile Justice Act lays down some of the rules for the functioning of these orphanages and their inmates include juvenile delinquents, while some children come from single-parent families who send them to these homes for the free meals and education.

The six orphanages that have closed since April are:

- Alamdar Welfare Trust in Barbarshah, Srinagar

- Al Muzamil in Lawaypora, Srinagar

- Babul ul Quran in Rajbagh, Srinagar

- Ansar ul Masakeen in Baghat Kanipora, Budgam

- Al-Noor Ibrahim Welfare Trust & Yateem Khana in Baramulla

- Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya School in Kupwara

A children's activist, who wished to remain anonymous, told Newslaundry that sexual misconduct was one of the main reasons for the closure of the orphanage at Rajbagh. He said sodomy and corporal punishment are common practices at orphanages in Kashmir.

Newslaundry took a closer look.


Two orphanages have been closed in Srinagar while a third was partially closed by Child Welfare Committee (CWC) authorities. In all the three cases, it was the locals who complained about the ongoings in these orphanages.

Alamdar Welfare Trust in Barbarshah, Srinagar, operated out of two rooms where 26 children lived. CWC member Srinagar Farooq Ahmed Khan told Newslaundry, “The rooms were in a dilapidated condition. We sent 14 children back to their families while 12 were shifted to Sheikh-ul-Aalam orphanage. The children who were sent back to their homes were given a sponsorship of ?2,000.”

Al Muzamil Orphanage in Lawaypora, Srinagar, had 21 children. The chairperson of this orphanage is Muhammad Iqbal. Khan said, “The main issue here was that the 21 children, including 12 boys and nine girls, were sleeping in the same room. It was a major concern for all of us. All of them were teenagers. But there was no sexual misconduct in this case.”.

In Al Muzamil Orphanage, four out of the nine girls are from Reasi district of the state and belong to the Gujjar community. Khan said, “When we sent them back, their parents refused to take them. But after counselling, they were integrated back with their families.” Khan also said that children's homes are “a big mafia”. “It is a money-minting business. These people start homes with only a few children to make money. As we are still in infancy, the monitoring by CWCs across the state is not up to the mark either.”

In July this year, about 22 girls were rescued from Babul ul Quran in Rajbagh, Srinagar. The girls were shifted to a government-run orphanage at Nishat, Srinagar. However, government officials said the orphanage was closed due to a lack of proper facilities. The inmates at this orphanage were from Machil area of Kupwara district.

A high-ranking official who led the inspection team told Newslaundry, on condition of anonymity, “There was no children's school in Rajbagh. It was some nefarious chap trying to lure girls for flesh trade. We rescued 22 girls. I had to close it down.”


In Budgam district, CWC closed one orphanage/school named Ansar-ul-Masakeen, run by a woman called Afeeqa. There were 26 children here, including 17 girls. The raid on this orphanage was led by mission director and former director of the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), GA Sofi, and members of CWC Srinagar and Budgam.

Khan says, “We rescued 17 girls from this school. The entire set-up (of the school) looked suspicious. When we reached there, the minor girls were doing makeup. All 17 girls are teenagers and all of them are in ICPS custody now. At present, counselling of all these girls are going on.”

Another member of the inspection team said there was no proper documentation for the girls. A proper register or registration process was not maintained either.


In Baramulla district, Al-Noor Ibrahim Welfare Trust & Yateem Khana children's school in Pattan area was closed down by CWC Baramulla after the committee found it was not up to the standards set by the Juvenile Justice Act.

There were 36 children at the children's school out of which 17 were girls. CWC Baramulla member Waseem Hassan Parray told Newslaundry, “All the children were kept in two rooms of roughly about 6 x 8 feet in size. Beneath the rooms was a slaughterhouse. The school was opened only to mint the money from various NGOs around the region.” The 17 girls had only four beds in a single room and only one toilet which was quite a distance from the room.

CWC Baramulla rescued the 17 girls and shifted them to Darul Muzaffar Baghi Islam children's school in the old town of Baramulla district. The boys were shifted to Bait-ul-Mukarram orphanage in Pattan.

When asked if there was any guarantee for the safety of the girl children at the school they had been shifted to, Parray said, “This school at least provides the basic infrastructure which has been set by the Juvenile Justice Act.”

He added, “Our primary responsibility was to rescue and then find a suitable place for the girls. Had we kept them in the same school and not closed it down, there was every possibility that the girl children would have been exploited.” He also said the Act makes it clear that boys and girls should be separated.

The most striking thing, in this case, is that the now-closed establishment was near the police station in Pattan.


In the frontier district of Kupwara, CWC closed down the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) School. There were 40 girl children at this school and 11 staff members. The school was run in three rooms: two 10 x 10 feet rooms and one 10 x 5 feet room.

CWC Kupwara member, Azad Ahmed, said, “We went to the zonal educational officer and asked him to either relocate or close down the school. Finally, we decided to close it down. The 40 girls are from far-flung areas and were sent back to their respective homes.”

Money seems to be the factor which kept the school going undeterred for years. Ahmed said, “The staff were getting a night allowance and a meal allowance besides the residential allowance. Why would they have cared, or allowed the closing of the school? These KGBV schools are only on paper across the Valley.” He also asked how it was possible for 40 girls to live in only three rooms.

Child rights practitioner Owais Wani, who works in the development sector, said, “In some of the orphanages, the children, mostly girls, are sexually exploited by the caretakers. Unfortunately, being a conservative society, we have always tried to hide these things from society at large. It is even seen that sexual harassment among boys is also prevalent.”

He added that the children are also being used as an advertisement to collect money—which orphanage managers then use for their salaries. “This is a growing business, however not for all orphanages. Also, the community uses the children on pickets to collect money for the construction of mosques,” Wani told Newslaundry.

Mission director and former director of the ICPS, GA Sofi, talked about the crimes going on at some of the orphanages in Kashmir. He said, “We received complaints that the exploitation of the inmates was going on in some of the orphanages. If children are vulnerable at any orphanage, we have to close it down.”

Sofi also discusses the rules laid down by the Juvenile Justice Act for these orphanages. “The first rule was to register a child home. Then importantly, we have to check how many inmates and staff members are there and whether a particular orphanage has these basic necessities or not. However, most of the orphanage have failed in providing these things so we had to close them down.”

Officials at the social welfare department said more than 90 per cent of orphan children in Kashmir have a single parent, which is usually their mother(s). A child activist on condition of anonymity said, “It is the free meals and educations which most families seek in Kashmir. Single parents and their families often forget about the main requirement for a child—security.”

The only data available about the total number of orphans in the state is with the NGO Save The Children. Their study puts the number of orphans in the state at over two lakh. The study, titled Orphaned in Kashmir - The State of Orphans in Jammu and Kashmir, also says that out of two lakh orphans, only 20,000 find shelter in orphanages in the state.

However, Qurat Masoodi, chairperson of the NGO Aash: The Hope of Kashmir, says the data available with Save The Children is outdated. “Their data is over five years old. There must be over three lakh orphans in the state.”

Other programmes for children in Kashmir

Firdous Educational Trust for Orphans (FETO) is an organisation, established in 1994, which runs three separate programmes: for widows, for orphans, and an educational trust. FETO caters to 100 widows and has 210 students under their educational programme. The orphanage run by FETO is called Darul Manam.

FETO's general secretary, Mohammad Saleem, told Newslaundry, “We established Darul Manam in 2004. Since then we have only around 30 orphans. We deliberately are not taking more children. It is better to have fewer children and provide them with everything, than have bulk with no or fewer facilities.”

Darul Manam provides the children with basic facilities like food, clothing and shelter. Saleem said, “They do go to school in the morning and come back by evening like other children do at their homes. Besides the normal school education, we also give them Quranic and Islamic education. We have around nine orphans who are Hifz (learn Quran by heart).”

Harris (name changed), a child at Darul Manam, is from the remote village of Kudara in Bandipora. He has lived at the orphanage for the past 11 years. He told this reporter, “We are being looked after and fed properly here. There is a proper heating system as well here. We also regularly go to school and get good education as well.”

When the reporter visited the orphanage in Batamaloo area of Srinagar, Harris and the other students were preparing for an examination.

Qurat Masoodi, the chairperson of the NGO Aash: The Hope of Kashmir, has been fighting against the establishment of orphanages in the Valley. She says, “We basically work on the mental health of the orphans. Around 65 per cent of the orphans are suffering from separation anxiety.”

Masoodi says Aash has adopted 32 children in Budgam district. “I was always against special schools. Ours is community-based rehabilitation. We try to empower single parents. There is no need to take a child away from his home and community. For stronger mental health, the children need to be with his parents.”

Emergence of the Juvenile Justice Act

The Parliament of India, with the intent to provide for the care, protection, treatment, development and rehabilitation of neglected or delinquent juveniles and for the purpose of adjudicating matters related to delinquent juveniles, enacted the Juvenile Justice Act in 1986. When the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of a Child in 1989, India was one of the signatories and so the Act was accordingly reviewed and reconstituted as the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2000, and then amended again in 2006. This Act gives exclusive jurisdiction to the children's court to try any matters pertaining to juvenile delinquents.

In 2014, Maneka Gandhi, minister for Women and Child Development, moved a bill in Parliament whereby the age of juveniles was reduced from 18 to 16. This was passed in 2015. Juveniles who committed heinous crimes would be tried as adults, and the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act 2015 thereby came into force on January 1, 2016.

Irfan Ahmed Sofi, the protection officer of Budgam who works under the ICPS, told Newslaundry that the Juvenile Justice Act is still at an infancy stage in Kashmir. “We are at a stage where we still are in the registration process of the orphanages across the state. As of now, we have seen that most of the orphanages that have spiked across the state lack basic infrastructure. The children's care at these orphanages in very poor.”

Jammu & Kashmir also enacted the Juvenile Justice Law in 1997 (Act No. VIII of 1997) to meet the requirements of juvenile delinquents in the state. Under the State Act, the age of juveniles has been prescribed as below 16 years.

The call for raising the bar of age (which was 18 years for a girl, and 16 years for a boy) in the state gathered heat after the unrest of 2010, as the provisions of the 1997 Act were insufficient to meet present demands. So the Act of 1997 was repealed by the J&K Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2013 (Act No. VII of 2013). Now the age of a juvenile/child was defined as someone who has not completed 18 years of age.

It also defined “juvenile delinquents” as:

- A juvenile in conflict with the law but who has not attained the age of 18 years as on the date of the commission of the offence; and

- A child in need of care and protection

The Act envisages that a juvenile in conflict with the law—who is allegedly involved in a non-serious offence entailing a punishment of less than seven years—shall be sent to an observation home for reformation and rehabilitation, and shall be handed over immediately to the Child Welfare Officer in the nearest police station. The Act contains comprehensive safeguards and protections for each category of juvenile delinquents.

In recent times, Juvenile Justice Boards have also begun operating in Kashmir, with 22 being set up across the 22 districts of the state.

Meanwhile, the government has come up with a new draft, the Juvenile Justice Act, 2018, even as the implementation of the previous laws are still at an infantile stage, after years of delay. Section 77 of the new draft says, “Any adult or an adult group, if uses children for illegal activities either individually or as a gang shall be liable for rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine of ?5 lakh.”

Importantly, the new draft also “proposed that the age for criminal liability be lowered to 16 years from the existing 18”. This means children on the wrong side of the law below the age of 18 will yet again be categorised with adult criminals.



'It's torture': critics step up bid to stop US school using electric shocks on children

The Judge Rotenberg Center has been shocking young people with special needs to control their behavior. Now opponents are demanding action to end ‘state-sanctioned child abuse'

by Ed Pilkington

The world's only known school for children and young adults with special needs that inflicts electric shocks to control their behavior is facing international pressure to have the controversial practice banned.

For almost three decades the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts, outside Boston, has been zapping many of its special-needs residents with a custom-designed electric shock machine known as the GED. Students are required to carry the devices in backpacks that deliver charges of up to 41 milliamps – 10 times the amperage used in most stun guns – to their legs, arms, hands, feet, fingers or torsos via electrodes on the skin.

The shocks, administered by staff using remote controls and lasting up to two seconds, are intended to cause pain that will discourage the students from indulging in harmful or dangerous behavior. The school categorises the punishment as “aversive therapy” which it claims can help seriously troubled individuals avoid life-threatening injury, having been beyond the reach of other care regimes.

A coalition of advocacy groups led by Disability Rights International have written this week to the human rights arm of the Organisation of American States (OAS), based in Washington, to request urgent action. The coalition is calling on the pan-American authority to demand that the US, which is one of its 35 member states, impose a federal ban on the method.

The petition argues that JRC's use of electric shocks, in combination with restraints and isolation rooms, “constitute[s] cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and torture”. It cites the work of Juan Mendez, the UN's former special rapporteur on torture, who in that role in 2013 released a report that concluded that the “rights of students of the JRC subjected to electric shocks and physical means of restraints have been violated under the UN convention against torture”.

Mendez told the Guardian this week that he had hoped that the practice would have been prohibited by now. “The use of electric shocks to control the behavior of children inflicts pain and suffering that at least rises to the level of cruel and degrading treatment and in some cases is definitely torture. That is prohibited by state, national and international law.”

Laurie Ahern, president of DRI and the lead author of the new petition, said the use of electric shocks amounted to “state-sanctioned child abuse. It's torture. That wasn't acceptable in Guantánamo Bay, but it's apparently acceptable in a special-needs school in Massachusetts.”

Ahern said she hoped that stern intervention by the OAS would compel the US government to take action over a contentious practice that had continued for many years. “The American government should care deeply about a form of torture applied to vulnerable children on US soil.”

Under the articles of the human rights commission of the Organization of American States, the commission can issue what are known as “precautionary measures” that demand that member states take immediate action to prevent violations. Such measures can kick in whenever there is a “grave and urgent situation that presents a risk of irreparable harm” to people.

JRC currently has 47 of its 275 clients under “aversive treatment”. In each of those 47 cases, the use of shocks has to be approved in advance by a Massachusetts probate and family court, with an attorney assigned to represent the individual's interests.

In 2010 the Guardian was granted exceptionally rare media access inside the school. A tour of the institution, with its bright pink and green walls and 6ft-high models of Bugs Bunny and the Wicked Witch of the West, was given by Matthew Israel, a psychologist with no medical training.

Israel came up with the idea of a punishment regime for children when he read a novel called Walden Two. The book described a fictitious utopian community in which positive behavior is encouraged and negative behavior thwarted.

From that kernel of an idea Israel began applying “aversives” on vulnerable children from 1971. Initially he began with spanking with spatulas, pinching and dousing kids with water, and from the early 1990s he switched to electric shocks, going to the lengths of designing his own electricity generator that he called the Graduated Electronic Decelerator (GED).

For some students, Israel told the Guardian, the GED devices had to be worn long-term. He compared it to wearing glasses or hearing aids. When the Guardian visited the center one of its residents, Brandon, had been living there for 22 years and was still being shocked on average 33 times a week.

In a detailed statement to the Guardian, JRC said that its treatment was designed to help children and adults who engage in the most dangerous aggressive and self-injurious behaviours such as head banging, eye gouging, tearing their own flesh, biting off body parts and pulling out their own teeth. Clients came from 15 states including Massachusetts, New York, Illinois and California as well as DC and the Virgin Islands.

JRC said its residents “could not be effectively treated with other forms of treatment” in other centers that included “massive dosages and combinations of powerful anti-psychotic medications which have dangerous and sometimes permanent side-effects, including death”.

The statement highlighted the close monitoring that is given to students. All rooms in the center are surveilled with a video monitoring system that is observed around the clock in a central administration building.

JRC insisted that the use of pain was safe and effective. “The use of electronic stimulation devices (ESDs) causes a rapid deceleration of students' dangerous and disruptive behaviors and JRC's educational program teaches these students to replace their problematic behaviors with positive behaviors such as social, recreational, and educational activities. The benefits of using the devices strongly outweighs any potential risks.”

It also insisted that the use of aversive interventions was “widely accepted by professionals as necessary”. But that conflicts with the almost universal consensus among disability groups that such techniques were unacceptable and could be replaced with positive therapies.

Wendy Fournier, president of the National Autism Association, told the Guardian: “I can't believe that this place is still open. It should have closed years ago – for how many years have advocates been fighting against this so-called treatment? It's mind-boggling.”

Over the years JRC has come under persistent legal fire and endured multiple scandals. In 2007, staff at one of its residential homes received a call from a senior manager instructing them to administer shocks to two badly behaved students aged 16 and 19. Over the following three hours, one of the boys was given 77 shocks, the other 29. It was later revealed that the initial phone call had been a made not by a manager but by a prankster.

In the wake of that incident, Israel was forced to resign as head of the school and sentenced to five years' probation. Despite his departure, the electric shocks have continued.

In 2012, in the course of civil trial, video footage was released that showed an 18-year-old student, Andre McCollins, being shocked 31 times over seven hours as he was strapped face down on a board. He is heard in the video screaming and imploring “that hurts, that hurts” as the GED is activated, causing burns on his skin.

Various authorities have made repeated efforts to ban the shocks, with only limited results. In 2016 the US Food and Drug Administration, which has regulatory responsibility over therapeutic devices, announced that it proposed banning all electric shock machines “used for self-injurious or aggressive behavior because they present an unreasonable and substantial risk to public health”.

The FDA said the application of shocks could induce “significant psychological and physical risks … including depression, anxiety, worsening of self-injury behaviors and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, pain, burns and tissue damage”. Yet still today the federal agency has not followed up on is proposal to implement a ban.

Massachusetts state authorities have also tried to restrict the use of the machines to fewer, closely regulated cases. But in June a family court judge stepped in and ruled that the activities of the center were legal and must be allowed to continue.

The state's attorney general intends to appeal the ruling.


Catholic Church

U.S. Catholic church hit with two national lawsuits by sex-abuse victims

Class-action suit names Holy See in Vatican as defendant, cites federal rack eteering laws

by Tom Jackman

Two groups of victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy members have launched simultaneous lawsuits against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, with one class-action suit also naming the Holy See as a defendant. The suit accuses the Catholic church of conspiracy and operating a continuing criminal enterprise under federal racketeering statutes, and attempts to be the first to hold the Vatican liable in the United States for the actions of its clergy.

The suits demand that the church produce the names of all accused sex offenders listed in the church's secret archives nationwide. Both suits were filed Tuesday, apparently by coincidence, the lawyers said. But the class-action suit, filed in federal court in the District, also seeks financial damages for assault, gross negligence, emotional distress and wrongful death, for the families of those who committed suicide after being abused by a priest or other Catholic official. And the class action seeks to triple those financial damages under the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, originally written to target organized crime but appropriate for a church accused of “cheating and defrauding Plaintiffs and Class members out of their childhood, youth, innocence, virginity, families, jobs, finances, assets — in short, their lives,” according to the lawsuit.

The suit filed in Washington notes that the Holy See has successfully avoided liability in the United States by claiming it did not have direct authority over priests. But then on Monday, as the bishops were meeting at their national conference in Baltimore to address the issue, they were directed by a letter from the Vatican to stop the discussion, and did. “If that's not command responsibility, I don't know what is,” said Mitchell A. Toups, one of the lead attorneys in the class-action case.

The second suit, filed in federal court in Minnesota on behalf of six men, was announced Wednesday at a news conference in Baltimore. It was filed by attorney Jeffrey R. Anderson of St. Paul, Minn., who said he has filed thousands of legal actions against the church since 1983 on behalf of abuse victims. One of the plaintiffs in the suit, Joseph McLean of St. Paul, said he agreed to be publicly named in the suit “to force the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to come clean and do the right thing.”

Judy Keane, a spokeswoman for the conference of bishops, said the bishops would not comment on pending litigation. The Holy See, which is the government of the Catholic church, based in Vatican City, and maintains the equivalent of an embassy in Washington, did not respond to a request for comment.

The six plaintiffs in each suit are men from different states around the country, and the suits do not discuss the individual abuse any of the plaintiffs suffered. The class-action suit, instead, revisits the church's centuries of both child abuse and its supposed steps to halt it, starting in 306 A.D. when a council in Spain “passed the first formal legislation condemning child sexual abuse by the clergy, including sexual abuse of boys.” By 1917, the Holy See formally made it a crime for clergy to have sex with children under the age of 16, and subsequent church laws further codified that ban.

In 1962, the Holy See privately circulated a new set of procedures for dealing with clergy sexual abuse, which the class-action lawsuit said required bishops to refrain from reporting such crimes to local authorities. When the document became public in 2003, Catholic officials said it only mandated secrecy within the church investigative process of certain cases and did not prohibit reporting to civil authorities.

By that time, thousands of cases of abuse had occurred, and accused priests had merely been shifted to other dioceses.

The class-action suit attempts to hold the Vatican responsible for the first time under the legal concept of “respondeat superior,” that a supervisory body is responsible for the actions of its employees. “It's a military thing,” Toups said. “The command has responsibility for its troops.” He noted that financial settlements paid to victims of clergy abuse “have to go up the chain of command” within the church for final approval.

Toups said the class-action suit could serve as a one-stop national clearinghouse to resolve all cases of abuse, rather than through a series of local suits. The suit estimates the proposed class may consist of over 5,000 members, whose names are already known to the church. In addition to financial damages, the suit seeks a declaratory judgment that the church must discipline and report known offenders; institute policies of transparency, to include publishing the names of all offenders; and create protocols to prevent or effectively handle future episodes of abuse.

Under state law, most states have statutes of limitations on civil actions of no more than five years, though some states have exceptions for child sexual abuse claims. The class-action suit argues that the statutes of limitations should be tolled because of “fraudulent concealment”: that the church kept its offenses secret.

One of the plaintiffs in the Minnesota suit, Phillip DiWilliams, said at the news conference that his own suit against the church in Philadelphia was dismissed in 2011 when the church successfully argued his claims were barred by the state statute of limitations. He urged reporters to continue publicizing the reports of clergy abuse. “They're not going to stop,” DiWilliams said of the church, “until somebody stops them.”

Thompson, the lawyer in the Minnesota case, said that after decades of bringing suits against the Catholic church, “It's awful that we have to be as active as we are. But it's a good journey to sit with survivors and whistleblowers, doing something to protect kids, knowing they [the church] are not.”


Dept of Justice


Hawthorne Man Charged in Federal Case Alleging Scheme to Collect Insurance Proceeds by Intentionally Killing His Two Autistic Children

Nicola T. Hanna, United States Attorney
Central District of California

LOS ANGELES – A Hawthorne man is due in court this afternoon after being arrested last week on federal charges that allege he intentionally drove his domestic partner and two severely autistic children off a pier into the ocean to collect proceeds on accidental death insurance policies he had purchased on their lives.

Ali F. Elmezayen, 44, is scheduled to appear before a United States Magistrate Judge, who will consider a motion by prosecutors to have him held in jail without bond.

Elmezayen was arrested on November 7 by special agents with the FBI after being charged with defrauding insurance companies. Elmezayen made his initial appearance on November 8, when he was ordered held without bond pending this afternoon's detention hearing.

According to a criminal complaint, Elmezayen purchased several accidental death insurance policies providing more than $6 million in coverage on himself, his domestic partner and his children in 2012 and 2013. Elmezayen allegedly paid nearly $6,000 a year for these policies – even though he was earning less than $30,000 a year – and he called at least two of the insurance companies to confirm they would not investigate claims made two years after the policies were purchased.

On April 9, 2015 – two years and 12 days after he bought the last of his insurance policies – Elmezayen drove a car with his partner and two youngest children off a wharf at the Port of Los Angeles. Elmezayen swam out the open driver's side window of the car. His partner, who did not know how to swim, survived when a nearby fisherman threw her a flotation device. The two children, ages 8 and 13, were unable to escape the car and drowned.

Elmezayen then collected more than $260,000 in insurance proceeds from American General Life Insurance and Mutual of Omaha Life Insurance on the accidental death insurance policies he had taken out on the children's lives, according to the complaint. In addition to posing as his domestic partner in communications with the insurance companies without her knowledge, Elmezayen allegedly made several false statements, including stating that the cause of his children's deaths was accidental and that he had no other insurance policies on his children.

“This case alleges a calculated and cold-hearted scheme to profit off the deaths of two helpless children,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “The alleged conduct shocks the conscience, and we will use every tool available to us to ensure that justice is done.”

“The defendant is accused of orchestrating a scheme to defraud insurance companies by taking the lives of his vulnerable young sons,” said Paul Delacourt, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office. “The defendant faces serious consequences as we seek justice on their behalf.”

“IRS Criminal Investigation is proud to flex our financial fraud expertise in bringing this alleged killer to justice,” stated R. Damon Rowe of IRS Criminal Investigation's Los Angeles Field Office. “Would-be fraudsters should be warned that it is very difficult to profit from death and steal from life insurance companies with impunity.”

The criminal complaint specifically charges Elmezayen with mail fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft for posing as his domestic partner in calls to the insurance companies.

A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

During last week's court hearing, a preliminary hearing was scheduled for November 23, and Elmezayen was ordered to appear for an arraignment on November 29.

If he were to be convicted of the charges in the complaint, Elmezayen would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each of the fraud counts. The charge of aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years in prison.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and IRS Criminal Investigation. The federal investigators received substantial assistance from the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Port Police and the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Alex Wyman and David Ryan.

Assistant United States Attorney Michael Sew Hoy of the Asset Forfeiture Section obtained a seizure warrant that led to the seizure Thursday of approximately $80,000 from an Elmezayen bank account.


from: Thom Mrozek
Director of Media Relations