National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

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"News of the Week"  

November, 2018 - Week 3
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.


Sex-offender dad gets sole custody of 6-year-old daughter


A convicted sex offender spent six years in jail for allegedly raping his then 6-year-old step daughter. Now, in a shocking courtroom decision, he won sole custody of his 6-year-old biological daughter.

"I don't understand how a sex offender can just walk in the courtroom and just take her after I've had her for six years," said Lisa Knight, the man's ex-wife.

Nicholas Elizondo, 55, filed for custody after Knight stopped granting him visits with their child, Sarah.

After one visit, Knight alleges, Sarah came home saying that her half brother, 19, touched her private parts.

"While she was in the bathtub she said 'Something really bad happened,'" Knight's cousin Jodi Coomer told Oklahoma City station KFOR-TV.

Knight's attorney, Valerie Williford of Oklahoma City, says that Oklahoma County Judge Howard Haralson possibly retaliated against Knight because Haralson thinks Knight fabricated the story. But Williford stands by Knight's claims.

They also think that Haralson questioned her parenting because she could not remember all of Sarah's doctors on the spot.

The girl was born with a cleft lip and palette so she has multiple specialists, the family said.

"Because Mom can't remember the doctor's names then she's a bad Mom? I don't think so," said Coomer.

The couple originally lived together in Bakersfield, Calif. until Knight became pregnant with their only child. Knight moved to Norman, Okla. and they divorced in 2008, reported Bakersfield Now.

Elizondo says he completed parole and probation in 2001 and that he only pleaded no contest to one of 11 charges to have the other 10 dismissed back in 1995.

He believes police incited the child to say incriminating things to build a case against him.

Knight and her family are still fighting to keep Sarah.

"I just know that his victim was 6 years old at the time and Sarah is 6 years old right now," said Knight.

Knight and her family do not think Sarah will have a normal childhood under his roof.

"He can't take her to Chuck E. Cheese. He can't take her to a park," said Coomer. "He can't go to her school. He's not allowed in school."


Facebook needs to focus on becoming safer for children

by John Crudele

Facebook said last week that it is creating an independent body to determine what should be removed from its Web site.

May I suggest that anything that shows or discusses abuse of children should be removed? Facebook has been lax about pedophilia and other issues that make the site unsafe for kids.

Sure, there is a lot of other stuff that Facebook should banish. But adults can judge whether political content and the like are dangerous and wrong.

My questions are these: Can Facebook — with or without an independent group — actually keep the bad stuff off its site? And if all the bad and dangerous stuff is removed, what will be left on Facebook?

I don't care what Facebook's stock is trading at, this is a company that has always been living on the edge of disaster.



Adrian Peterson shocker: I still spank my son with belt

Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson might potentially be facing further discipline from the NFL, or even additional legal troubles, after a shocking admission that he still uses corporal punishment on his son.

In an interview with the Bleacher Report, Peterson said, “I had to discipline my son and spank him the other day with a belt.”

The revelation, contained in a lengthy profile of Peterson released 24 hours before the Redskins will be on the NFL's Thanksgiving stage against the Cowboys in Dallas, comes four years after Peterson — then with the Vikings — made national headlines when he was originally charged with felony child abuse and then suspended 15 games by the NFL in a case that involved his then-4-year-old son.

Potentially, this latest news could draw further discipline from the NFL, as Peterson's 2015 reinstatement was contingent on his “avoidance of any further conduct that violates the Personal Conduct Policy or other NFL policies,'' according to a release from the NFL at the time.

“There is nothing more important to Adrian Peterson than being a good father to his children,” agent Ron Slavin said in a statement issued on Peterson's behalf. “The Bleacher Report approached the Washington Redskins and Adrian about doing a story about his resurgence on the field and his leadership in the locker room. Adrian's trust with this reporter was violated when he discussed what happened four years ago.

“Adrian learned several valuable lessons four years ago, thanks in part to his suspension and counseling he underwent during and afterward. The writer attempted to focus on four years ago rather than who Adrian is now as a father. Since signing with the Redskins he has been an outstanding teammate and leader both on and off the field. Neither Adrian or myself will make any further comment on this article. His focus remains on leading the Redskins to the playoffs.”

The NFL's 2015 ruling on Peterson also said, “Any further violation of the Personal Conduct Policy by Peterson would result in additional discipline, which could include suspension without pay or banishment from the NFL.''

While Peterson, a Texas native, was initially charged with felony child abuse, he pleaded down in Montgomery County, Texas, in November 2014 to misdemeanor reckless assault.

That plea resulted in his suspension by the NFL, with the league considering his behavior as “violating the NFL Personal Conduct Policy.''

Peterson's recent admission could also draw attention from legal authorities, though the Bleacher Report article does not specify where the most recent incident took place.

In the 2014 case, Peterson faced charges after he spanked his son with a “switch,” or a flexible, branch-like item.

The corporal discipline left the child with cuts and bruises on his legs, back, buttocks, ankles and scrotum, according to reports.

Though the discipline took place in Texas, Peterson took the child to be examined by a Minnesota doctor, who reported the matter to local authorities. The case would up back in Texas.

Peterson, 33, signed with the Saints in 2017 before being traded to the Cardinals after four games. After suffering a neck injury, he landed on injured reserve and was released.

He signed a one-year, veteran minimum contract with the Redskins in August and is having a bounce-back season. He enters Thursday's game in Dallas with 723 yards rushing, seventh in the NFL.


Me Too - India

'Me Too': How adult survivors of child sexual abuse are vulnerable to re-victimisation

Several studies have shown that those who have been sexually abused as children are twice as likely to be abused sexually and/or raped as adults.

The raging #Metoo movement in India has surprised people with the sheer number of women who have come out to speak up about the sexual harassment and abuse they faced in their workplace or academic institutions by powerful men, many of whom were in positions of authority which they misused.

Daily more cases of sexual abuse are being reported from various parts of India and from various sectors. This has forced me to think about my own #Metoo account and also my own story of long-term child sexual abuse. The connection between child sexual abuse and subsequent sexual abuse, molestation or rape has not yet been made in the stories that we have been reading in the media in the wake of India's #Metoo movement but there is a direct connection and it needs to be recognised so that survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) do not keep falling victims repeatedly to sexual abuse in their adulthood also.

Studies on CSA and re-victimisation

Several studies over a long period of time in different countries have shown that those who have been sexually abused as children are twice as likely to be abused sexually and/or raped as adults. They have boundary issues and are vulnerable to being sexually abused by people they trust or those who are in authority over them.

A research paper on ‘Child Sexual Abuse, links to later Sexual Exploitation/High Risk Sexual Behavior, and Prevention/Treatment Programs, Trauma, Violence, and Abuse' by K Lalor, and R McElvaney in 2010 studied key findings of research literature on the incidence of CSA with emphasis on the relations between CSA and later sexual exploitation. It found that numerous studies suggest that sexual victimisation in childhood and adolescence significantly increases the likelihood of sexual victimisation in adulthood.

Studies suggest that sexual victimisation in childhood or adolescence increases the likelihood of sexual victimisation in adulthood between 2 and 13.7 times. Several researchers speculate that mediating factors caused by CSA contribute to higher risk of sexual re-victimisation.

Another study by S Desai, I Arias, M P Thompson and K C Basile in 2002 on ‘Childhood victimisation and subsequent re-victimisation assessed in a nationally representative sample of women and men' found that women who experienced CSA were twice as likely to report adult sexual victimisation as women who did not experience CSA.

Well-known personalities reveal CSA and re-victimsation in their lives

If you look at several accounts of victims who have chosen to speak up, you can see that many survivors of CSA have faced re-victimisation. Well-known Hollywood actor Ashley Judd has revealed that she was molested at the age of seven and that when she told adults, they didn't believe her. Later she was raped when she was 15 years old and at that time she didn't tell anyone except her diary. She made these revelations in her memoir All that is Bitter and Sweet.

Similarly, in our own country, well-known journalist Barkha Dutt revealed that she was molested at age nine and that she was again sexually assaulted by someone she knew, her boyfriend, when she was pursuing her postgraduation in Jamia Milia Islamia. She did tell her family and friends about it but did not file a complaint against him in a police station.

Many other famous figures have faced sexual abuse as children and they have also faced sexual abuse as adolescent or adults. Well-know media personality Oprah Winfrey and highly acclaimed poet Maya Angelou both faced CSA and then again sexual abuse as adults.

Expert views

A psychiatrist based in Chennai Jamila Koshy, with over two decades of experience, explained the reasons why re-victimisation of CSA survivors is more likely than others.

She said, “CSA victims are likely to experience re-victimisation as adults. Some studies in the West report re-victimisation rates of about 30%, but this is an area which needs more study. What keeps some victims safe? The environment they grow up in and response to the abuse is important. If they are from disadvantaged backgrounds, and are neglected, their stories of abuse are never told, or never believed or handled well, and they suffer from self-blame, PTSD, precocious sexuality, substance abuse and other maladaptive responses to the trauma. Then they are more prone to re-victimisation.”

Jamila further said, “Abused and neglected children should receive some form of intervention and help to prevent this.”

My own experience

In my own life I know this to be true. I am a survivor of long-term sexual abuse by my uncle as a child and then was re-victmisated as an adult repeatedly. Many of these incidences I never reported but I did complain against the director of my academic institute, Centre for Development Communications, Gujarat University after 27 years along with another student, my junior in 2015. Nothing came of it. This was before the #Metoo movement in the USA and also in India.

When Raya Sarkar came up with a list of academicians who had abused students sexually in 2017, I decided to get the name of my director Dhiren Avashia included in that list. That was the best I could do but it was decades later and as usual we were both questioned about our silence for decades and the reasons for speaking up when we did decide to speak up.

Again when the #Metoo movement took off in India and so many brave women decided to speak up, I also wrote about my own abuse at the hands of a former minister though I decided not to name him because, at present, I am not equipped to face a defamation suit where a powerful person can easily employ a big lawyer and I would be hard pressed to hire even a novice. Most people anyway know who I am referring to with all the hints I have given, so for now, shaming him will have to be enough. Will he stop? I am not sure he will. For too long men have been able to get away with sexual abuse and harassment with impunity to the extent that it's normally the women who are being questioned while most people are standing in support of the abuser.

Among the women who have revealed stories of their abuse is Delhi based journalist Adrija Bose, who on her Facebook page, wrote on October 9 about the sexual abuse that she faced by her colleague who abused her in her own house. He is now an assistant editor in Indian Express, she states. She was allegedly twice assaulted by him but she didn't report the incident nor take any action against him.

In that same post on Facebook, Adrija mentioned that a distant uncle abused her when she was four years old, which means she is also a victim of CSA and later re-victimisation. She also mentioned another colleague in her post who forced her to give him oral sex. She was disgusted with herself but she did it and didn't report it either but distanced herself from him. He is now a deputy editor at Time of India.

The thing is that both men and women in our society are brought up in a patriarchal system and try as they might, the effects of patriarchy remains with us. It has taken women so much courage to speak out about their abuse, about giving in to harassers, about not reporting the crimes and about suffering the shame while the men have merrily gone about their jobs getting promotions, growing more powerful professionally and having no regret whatsoever about the number of times they have forced themselves on a woman or sexually assaulted her. Society has just not taught these men that they cannot force themselves on anyone, that there is a thing called consent and one needs to get it before making any moves on someone.

Studies have shown that 70 percent of CSA victims never report their abuse to anyone so naturally they have not received any intervention in this area. The chances of their re-victimisation in the absence of any counseling are very high. Both women and even men who are survivors of CSA are much more likely to get sexually abused, raped and assaulted than others but since most CSA victims remain quiet about their childhood sexual abuse in the first place, it becomes hard to know how many of the victims who are speaking up now are survivors of CSA.

CSA victims who have never spoken up about their childhood abuse don't have confidence in being able to ward off predators when they make unwanted advances. They have what is called as boundary issues with them, not being able to stand up against a person in authority or in a position of power. Most women, in any case, are more likely to move away or avoid a person than say a firm no to a man who is her senior or boss or teacher. Predators take advantage of this reluctance.

Commenting on this, World Vision India Head of Anti-Child Trafficking Program Joseph Wesley said, “There is a growing realisation that the victims of CSA carry the consequences of their negative experiences well into their adulthood. So much so that it even determines the choices they make in their adulthood. The breach of trust which they have suffered hampers forever their relationships / engagement with significant others in future. In addition to this, it's a proven fact that victims of CSA grow up with low self-esteem and negative perception of themselves. This puts them in a position of vulnerability throughout their lives and seems to be making them an easy target for predators.”

He said, “Also there is a marked reluctance among CSA victims in breaking relationships, however exploitative they may appear and are instead inclined to take on themselves the blame. “

For CSA victims, long-term and sustained counseling is imperative to ensure healing so that they can live a holistic life without being abused again.

Note: This article is part of a World Vision India fellowship on Child Sexual Abuse in India. Sonal's website which offers a safe online space for CSA survivors can be accessed here.


Irish News

Victims of abuse need more help - charity

Maeve Lewis: One in Four director expects a rise in alleged victims.

More resources to help child abuse survivors are "desperately" needed amid a surge in demand for counselling due to scandals in the Church and now Scouting Ireland.

The warning from an abuse survivors charity comes as State agency Tusla set up a helpline for anyone with concerns over alleged historical abuse at scouting organisations.

One in Four executive director Maeve Lewis said the number of adult survivors coming forward "increased hugely" after coverage of the visit of Pope Francis. The pontiff met victims of clerical abuse during his August visit.

Ms Lewis expects the number of contacts from alleged victims of abuse in the scouts will rise significantly.

She added: "One in Four and other services working with adult survivors are really struggling to meet the demand. We have long waiting lists and we desperately need more resources."

While One in Four is taking phone calls from abuse victims, its waiting list for face-to-face counselling is currently closed.

In recent months it has sought emergency state funding of around €60,000 so it can hire another counsellor. The request is currently under consideration.

A health department spokesperson said One in Four got €590,000 in State funding this year. A review of historical allegations of abuse in scouting organisations found evidence of 71 suspected perpetrators and 108 victims dating from the 1960s to 1980s.

The new Tusla helpline number is 1800 805 665. It is open this weekend and Monday to Friday next week from 9am to 4pm.


Healing the Shame of Childhood Abuse Through Self-Compassion

The Compassion Cure

Shame is the lie someone told you about yourself.” -- Anais Nin

Several months ago I wrote a blog on how self-compassion can heal the shame of childhood wounds and I received many queries about shame and self-compassion from Psychology Today readers. I'm happy to announce that my book, "It Wasn't Your Fault: Freeing Yourself of the Shame of Childhood Abuse with the Power of Self-Compassion," has just been published (New Harbinger). I'd like to address some of your queries and share some of the major ideas in the book with you help

If you were a victim of childhood abuse or neglect, you know about shame. You have likely been plagued by it all your life without identifying it as shame. You may feel shame because you blame yourself for the abuse itself (“My father wouldn't have hit me if I had minded him”), or because you felt such humiliation at having been abused (“I feel like such a wimp for not defending myself”). While those who were sexually abused tend to suffer from the most shame, those who suffered from physical, verbal, or emotional abuse blame themselves as well. In the case of child sexual abuse, no matter how many times you have heard the words “It's not your fault,” the chances are high that you still blame yourself in some way—for being submissive, for not telling someone and having the abuse continue, for “enticing” the abuser with your behavior or dress, or because you felt some physical pleasure.

In the case of physical, verbal, and emotional abuse, you may blame yourself for “not listening” and thus making your parent or other caretaker so angry that he or she yelled at you or hit you. Children tend to blame the neglect and abuse they experience on themselves, in essence saying to themselves, “My mother is treating me like this because I've been bad,” or, “I am being neglected because I am unlovable.” As an adult you may have continued this kind of rationalization, putting up with poor treatment by others because you believe you brought it on yourself. Conversely, when good things happen to you, you may actually become uncomfortable, because you feel so unworthy.

Former victims of child abuse are typically changed by the experience, not only because they were traumatized, but because they feel a loss of innocence and dignity and they carry forward a heavy burden of shame. Emotional, physical, and sexual child abuse can so overwhelm a victim with shame that it actually comes to define the person, keeping her from her full potential. It can cause a victim both to remain fixed at the age he was at the time of his victimization and to repeat the abuse over and over in his lifetime.

You may also have a great deal of shame due to the exposure of the abuse. If you reported the abuse to someone, you may blame yourself for the consequences of your outcry—your parents divorcing, your molester going to jail, your family going to court.

And there is the shame you may feel about your behavior that was a consequence of the abuse. Former victims of childhood abuse tend to feel a great deal of shame for things they did as children as a result of the abuse. For example, perhaps unable to express their anger at an abuser, they may have taken their hurt and anger out on those who were smaller or weaker than themselves, such as younger siblings. They may have become bullies at school, been belligerent toward authority figures, or started stealing, taking drugs, or otherwise acting out against society. In the case of sexual abuse, former victims may have continued the cycle of abuse by introducing younger children to sex.

You may also feel shame because of things you have done as an adult to hurt yourself and others, such as abusing alcohol or drugs, becoming sexually promiscuous, or breaking the law, not realizing that these types of behavior were a result of the abuse you suffered.

Unbeknownst to them, adults who were abused as children often express the overwhelming shame they feel by pushing away those who try to be good to them; by sabotaging their success; by becoming emotionally or physically abusive to their partners; or by continuing a pattern of being abused or subjecting their own children to witnessing abuse. Former abuse victims may repeat the cycle of abuse by emotionally, physically, or sexually abusing their own children, or may abandon their children because they can't take care of them.

Shame can affect literally every aspect of a former victim's life, from your self-confidence, self-esteem, and body image to your ability to relate to others, navigate intimate relationships, and be a good parent to your work performance, ability to be learn new things, and ability to care for yourself. Shame is responsible for myriad personal problems, including: self-criticism and self-blame; self-neglect; self-destructive behaviors (such as abusing your body with food, alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes, self-mutilation, or being accident-prone); perfectionism (based on fear of being caught in a mistake); believing you don't deserve good things; believing if others really knew you they would dislike or be disgusted by you (commonly known as the “imposter syndrome”); people-pleasing and co-dependent behavior; tending to be critical of others (trying to give shame away); intense rage (frequent physical fights or road rage); and acting out against society (breaking rules or laws).

Shame from childhood abuse almost always manifests itself in one or more of these ways:

It causes former abuse victims to abuse themselves with critical self-talk, alcohol or drug abuse, destructive eating patterns, and/or other forms of self-harm. Two-thirds of people in treatment for drug abuse reported being abused or neglected as children (Swon 1998).

It causes former abuse victims to develop victim-like behavior, whereby they expect and accept unacceptable, abusive behavior from others. As many as 90 percent of women in battered women's shelters report having been abused or neglected as children (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2013).

It causes abuse victims to become abusive. About 30 percent of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2013).

The truth is that for most former victims of childhood abuse, shame is likely one of the worst effects of the abuse. Unless you heal this pervasive shame you will likely continue to suffer from its effects throughout your lifetime.

Facing the problems that shame has created in your life can be daunting. You may be overwhelmed with the problem of how to heal the shame caused by the childhood abuse you experienced. The good news is that there is a way to heal your shame so that you can begin to see the world through different eyes—eyes not clouded by the perception that you are “less than,” inadequate, damaged, worthless, or unlovable.

The Healing Power of Self-Compassion

Like a poison, toxic shame needs to be neutralized by another substance—an antidote—if the patient is to be saved. Compassion is the only thing that can counteract the isolating, stigmatizing, debilitating poison of shame.

Many of you may be aware of the writings of Alice Miller. Miller believes that what victims of childhood abuse need most is what she called a “compassionate witness” to validate their experiences and support them through their pain (Miller 1984). For many years I have personally experienced how healing my being a compassionate witness is for my clients, as well as how transformative my having a compassionate therapist had been for me.

In recent years, many others, including major researchers have taken up the subject of compassion. Their work has revealed, among other insights, that the kindness, support, encouragement, and compassion of others have a huge impact on how our brains, bodies, and general sense of well-being develop. Love and kindness, especially in early life, even affect how some of our genes are expressed (Gilbert 2009, Cozolino 2007).

The Research on Self-Compassion

By studying much of the research on compassion, I discovered that while I had come to understand the healing powers of compassion, I hadn't truly recognized the importance of self-compassion—extending compassion to oneself in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering—in the treatment of psychotherapy clients, particularly former victims of child abuse. In 2003, Kristin Neff published the first two articles defining and measuring self-compassion (Neff 2003a, Neff 2003b); before this, the subject of self-compassion had never been formally studied. There have since been over two hundred journal articles and dissertations on self-compassion.

One of the most consistent findings in this research literature is that greater self-compassion is linked to less psychopathology (Barnard and Curry 2011). And a recent meta-analysis showed self-compassion to have a positive effect on depression, anxiety, and stress across twenty studies (MacBeth and Gumley 2012).

Self-compassion also appears to facilitate resilience by moderating people's reactions to negative events—trauma in particular. Gilbert and Procter (2001) suggest that self-compassion provides emotional resilience because it deactivates the threat system. And it has been found that abused individuals with higher levels of self-compassion are better able to cope with upsetting events (Vettese et al. 2011).

There is also evidence that self-compassion helps people diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In one study of college students who showed PTSD symptoms after experiencing a traumatic event such as an accident or life-threatening illness, those with more self-compassion showed less severe symptoms than those who lacked self-compassion. In particular, they were less likely to display signs of emotional avoidance and more comfortable facing the thoughts, feelings, and sensations associated with the trauma they experienced (Thompson and Waltz 2008).

Finally, in addition to self-compassion being a key factor in helping those who were traumatized in childhood, it turns out that self-compassion is the missing key to alleviating shame. Confirming what I knew from my extensive work with former victims of child abuse, research shows that traumatized individuals feel significant levels of shame and/or guilt (Jonsson and Segesten 2004). Shame has been recognized as a major component of a range of mental health problems and proneness to aggression (Gilbert 1997, Gilbert 2003, Gilligan 2003, Tangney and Dearing 2002). And it has been found that decreases in anxiety, shame, and guilt and increases in the willingness to express sadness, anger, and closeness were associated with higher levels of self-compassion (Germer and Neff 2013).

One clinician, Paul Gilbert, author of "The Compassionate Mind," found that self-compassion helped to alleviate both shame and self-judgment. A study of the effectiveness of Gilbert's Compassionate Mind Training (CMT), a group-based therapy model that works specifically with shame, guilt, and self-blame, found that the training resulted in significant reductions in depression, self-attacking, feelings of inferiority, and shame (Gilbert and Procter 2006).

In addition, research suggests that self-compassion can act as an antidote to self-criticism—a major characteristic of those who experience intense shame (Gilbert and Miles 2000). Self-compassion is a powerful trigger for the release of oxytocin, the hormone that increases feelings of trust, calm, safety, generosity, and connectedness. Self-criticism has a very different effect on our bodies. The amygdala, the oldest part of the brain, is designed to quickly detect threats in the environment. These trigger the fight-or-flight response—the amygdala sends signals that increase blood pressure, adrenaline, and cortisol, mobilizing the strength and energy needed to confront or avoid the threat. Although this system was designed by evolution to deal with physical attacks, it is activated just as readily by emotional attacks—from ourselves and others. Over time, increased cortisol levels deplete neurotransmitters involved in the ability to experience pleasure, leading to depression (Gilbert 2005).

Neurological evidence also shows that self-kindness (a major component of self-compassion) and self-criticism operate quite differently in terms of brain function. A recent study examined reactions to personal failure using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) technology. While in a brain scanner, participants were presented with hypothetical situations such as “A third job rejection letter in a row arrives in the post.” They were then told to imagine reacting to the situation in either a kind or a self-critical way. Self-criticism was associated with activity in the lateral prefrontal cortex and dorsal anterior cingulate—areas of the brain associated with error processing and problem solving. Being kind and reassuring toward oneself was associated with left temporal pole and insula activation—areas of the brain associated with positive emotions and compassion (Longe et al. 2009). As Kristin Neff (2011) aptly stated, “Instead of seeing ourselves as a problem to be fixed…self-kindness allows us to see ourselves as valuable human beings who are worthy of care.”

Of particular interest to me was recent research in the neurobiology of compassion as it relates to shame—namely that we now know some of the neurobiological correlates of feeling unlovable and how shame gets stuck in our neural circuitry. Moreover, and most crucially of all, due to our brains' capacity to grow new neurons and new synaptic connections, we can proactively repair (and re-pair) old shame memories with new experiences of self-empathy and self-compassion.

In light of my research, I determined that in addition to offering my clients compassion for their suffering, I needed to teach them how to practice self-compassion on an ongoing basis in order to heal the many layers of shame they experienced.

Combining what I learned about compassion and self-compassion with the wisdom I've gleaned from my many years of working with victims of childhood abuse, I created a program specifically aimed at helping those who experienced abuse become free of debilitating shame. My Compassion Cure program combines groundbreaking scientific research on self-compassion, compassion, shame, and restorative justice with real-life case examples (modified to protect the subjects' anonymity). Its proprietary processes and exercises help abuse victims reduce or eliminate the shame that has weighed them down and kept them stuck in the past.

By learning to practice self-compassion, you will rid yourself of shame-based beliefs, such as you are worthless, defective, bad, or unlovable. Abuse victims often cope with these false yet powerful beliefs by trying to ignore them or convince themselves otherwise by puffing themselves up, overachieving, or becoming perfectionistic. These strategies take huge amounts of energy, and they are not effective. Rather, actively approaching, recognizing, validating, and understanding shame is the way to overcome it.

Debilitating Shame

Shame is sickness of the soul.” -- Silvan Tomkins

While many people suffer from shame, not everyone suffers from what is referred to as debilitating shame. Debilitating shame is shame that is so all consuming that it negatively affects every aspect of a person's life—his perceptions of himself, his relationship with others, her ability to be intimate with a romantic partner, her ability to raise children in a healthy manner, his ability to risk and achieve success in his career, and her overall physical and emotional health. The following questionnaire will help you determine whether you suffer from debilitating shame.

Questionnaire: Do You Suffer from Debilitating Shame Due to Childhood Abuse?

1. Do you blame yourself for the abuse you experienced as a child?

2. Do you believe your parent (or other adult or older child) wouldn't have abused you if you hadn't pushed him or her into doing it?

3. Do you believe you were a difficult, stubborn, or selfish child who deserved the abuse you received?

4. Do you believe you made it difficult for your parents or others to love you?

5. Do you believe you were a disappointment to your parents or family?

6. Do you feel you are basically unlovable?

7. Do you have a powerful inner critic who finds fault with nearly everything you do?

8. Are you a perfectionist?

9. Do you believe you don't deserve to be happy, loved, or successful?

10. Do you have a difficult time believing someone could love you?

11. Do you push away people who are good to you?

12. Are you afraid that if people really get to know you they won't like or accept you? Do you feel like a fraud?

13. Do you believe that anyone who likes or loves you has something wrong with them?

14. Do you feel like a failure in life?

15. Do you hate yourself?

16. Do you feel ugly—inside and out?

17. Do you hate your body?

18. Do you believe that the only way someone can like you is if you do everything they want?

19. Are you a people pleaser?

20. Do you censor yourself when you talk to other people, always being careful not to offend them or hurt their feelings?

21. Do you feel like the only thing you have to offer is your sexuality?

22. Are you addicted to alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, shopping, gambling, or stealing, or do you suffer from any other addiction?

23. Do you find it nearly impossible to admit when you are wrong or when you've made a mistake?

24. Do you feel bad about the way you've treated people?

25. Are you afraid of what you're capable of doing?

26. Are you afraid of your tendency to be abusive—either verbally, emotionally, physically, or sexually?

27. Have you been in one or more relationships where you were abused either verbally, emotionally, physically, or sexually?

28. Did you or do you feel you deserved the abuse?

29. Do you always blame yourself if something goes wrong in a relationship?

30. Do you feel like it isn't worth trying because you'll only fail?

31. Do you sabotage your happiness, your relationships, or your success?

32. Are you self-destructive (engaging in acts of self-harm, driving recklessly, suicidal attempts, and so on)?

33. Do you feel inferior to or less than other people?

34. Do you often lie about your accomplishments or your history in order to make yourself look better in others' eyes?

35. Do you neglect your body, your health, or your emotional needs (not eating right, not getting enough sleep, not taking care of your medical or dental needs)?

There isn't any formal scoring for this questionnaire, but if you answered yes to many of these questions, you can be assured that you are suffering from debilitating shame. If you answered yes to just a few, it is still evident that you have an issue with shame.

Shame is Not a Singular Experience

Just as the source of shame can be all forms of abuse or neglect, shame is not just one feeling but many. It is a cluster of feelings and experiences. These can include:

Feelings of being humiliated. Abuse is always humiliating to the victim, but some types are more humiliating than others. Certainly, sexual abuse almost always has an element of humiliation to it, since it is a violation of very private body parts and since there is a knowing on the child's part that incest and/or sex between a child and an adult is taboo. (These taboos hold in nearly every culture in the world.) If the abuse involves public exposure—for example, being chastised or physically punished in front of others, particularly peers—the element of humiliation can be quite profound.

Feelings of impotence. When a child realizes there is nothing he can do to stop the abuse, he feels powerless, helpless. This can also lead to his always feeling unsafe, even long after the abuse has stopped.

Feelings of being exposed. Abuse and the accompanying feelings of vulnerability and helplessness cause the child to feel self-conscious and exposed—seen in a painfully diminished way. The fact that he could not stop the abuse makes him feel weak and exposed both to himself and to anyone present.

Feelings of being defective or less-than. Most victims of abuse report feeling defective, damaged, or corrupted following the experience of being abused.

Feelings of alienation and isolation. What follows the trauma of abuse is the feeling of suddenly being different, less-than, damaged, or cast out. And while victims may long to talk to someone about their inner pain, they often feel immobilized, trapped, and alone in their shame.

Feelings of self-blame. Victims almost always blame themselves for being abused and being shamed. This is particularly true when abuse happens or begins in childhood.

Feelings of rage. Rage almost always follows having been shamed. It serves a much-needed self-protective function of both insulating the self against further exposure and actively keeping others away.

Fear, hurt, distress, or rage can also accompany or follow shame experiences as secondary reactions. For example, feeling exposed is often followed by fear of further exposure and further occurrences of shame. Rage protects the self against further exposure. And along with shame, a victim can feel intense hurt and distress from having been abused.

The following exercise can help you discover what your primary feeling experiences of shame are.

Exercise: Your Feeling Experience of Shame

While you may have experienced all the feelings listed above, you may resonate with some more than others. Think about each type of abuse that you suffered and the various feelings that accompanied it. Ask yourself which of the items listed above stand out to you the most for each type of abuse, or each experience of abuse. In my case, for example, when I think about the sexual abuse I suffered at age nine, I resonate most profoundly with defectiveness, isolation, self-blame, and rage.

Further Defining Self-Compassion

If compassion is the ability to feel and connect with the suffering of another human being, self-compassion is the ability to feel and connect with one's own suffering. More specifically for our purposes, self-compassion is the act of extending compassion to one's self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering. If we are to be self-compassionate, we need to give ourselves the recognition, validation, and support we would offer a loved one who is suffering.

Kristin Neff, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, is the leading researcher in the growing field of self-compassion. In her book Self-Compassion (2011), she defines self-compassion as “being open to and moved by one's own suffering, experiencing feelings of caring and kindness toward oneself, taking an understanding, nonjudgmental attitude toward one's inadequacies and failures, and recognizing that one's experience is part of the common human experience" (224).

Self-compassion encourages us to begin to treat ourselves and talk to ourselves with the same kindness, caring, and compassion we would show a good friend or a beloved child. Just as connecting with the suffering of others has been shown to comfort and heal, connecting with our own suffering will do the same. If you are able to feel compassion toward others, you can learn to feel it for yourself; the following exercise will show you how.

Exercise: Becoming Compassionate Toward Yourself

1. Think about the most compassionate person you have known—someone kind, understanding, and supportive of you. It may have been a teacher, a friend, a friend's parent, a relative. Think about how this person conveyed his or her compassion toward you and how you felt in this person's presence. Notice the feelings and sensations that come up with this memory. If you can't think of someone in your life who has been compassionate toward you, think of a compassionate public figure, or even a fictional character from a book, film, or television.

2. Now imagine that you have the ability to become as compassionate toward yourself as this person has been toward you (or you imagine this person would be toward you). How would you treat yourself if you were feeling overwhelmed with sadness or shame? What kinds of words would you use to talk to yourself?

This is the goal of self-compassion: to treat yourself the same way the most compassionate person you know would treat you—to talk to yourself in the same loving, kind, supportive ways this compassionate person would talk to you.

The Benefits of Practicing Self-Compassion

By learning to practice self-compassion you will also be able to begin doing the following:

Truly acknowledge the pain you suffered and in so doing, begin to heal

Take in compassion from others

Reconnect with yourself, including reconnecting with your emotions

Gain an understanding as to why you have acted out in negative and/or unhealthy ways

Stop blaming yourself for your victimization

Forgive yourself for the ways you attempted to cope with the abuse

Learn to be deeply kind toward yourself

Create a nurturing inner voice to replace your critical inner voice

Reconnect with others and become less isolated

I hope I have been able to convey to you how self-compassion can help heal you of your shame. But it is difficult to adequately explain this concept in one blog. In the coming weeks I will write more blogs about how shame can be healed with self-compassion and explain to you how you can go about becoming more self-compassionate. As you continue reading the blogs and practicing the exercises you will grow to more fully understand what a powerful healer compassion can be.

In the next blog I will discuss the various obstacles that get in our way of becoming more self-compassionate including: our belief that self-compassion is the same as “feeling sorry for ourselves,” the belief that self-compassion is selfish, and our need to forgive ourselves for past actions in order to believe we deserve self-compassion.


New York State

Sex abuse survivors slam Cuomo's comments on Child Victims Act

by Rachel Silberstein

Survivors of childhood sex abuse are pushing back on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's Tuesday comments about the Child Victims Act.

The bill, which would enable adult victims of childhood sex abuse to bring claims against their abusers in court, includes a controversial “look-back window,” which groups like the Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Church fear will cripple them financially.

At at pre-Thanksgiving event in Buffalo, the Democratic governor told reporters that he supports the bill, which has passed the Assembly twice and has nearly unanimous support among Democrats in the state Senate, but expressed concern about the version of the bill touted by his party.

“Obviously nobody wants to see a dioceses or the Catholic Church bankrupt, so how it is done is very important,” he said, according to the New York Daily News.

Buffalo's Catholic Dioceses has been reckoning with a massive priest abuse scandal.

In response, survivors of childhood sexual abuse who were abused in the Catholic church and the Catholic school system issued the following statement:

After more than a decade of opposition, survivors of childhood sexual abuse are finally on the verge of getting justice thanks to steadfast leadership in the Assembly and the incoming Democratic Senate majority. But for Governor Cuomo to suggest that children abused in the church would be responsible for bankrupting it is misguided and wrong. Surely he understands that a nonprofit can only voluntarily enter bankruptcy and would only do so if it systematically covered up rampant child rape. Moreover, statute of limitations reform in other states has been so successful that in some cases it's even been extended.

Governor Cuomo should be more worried about the moral bankruptcy of his state than the church's ledger

The statement is signed by:

Tom Travers, abused as a child in the Buffalo diocese by multiple priests

Brian Toale, abused as a child in multiple dioceses by lay faculty and clergy

Dr. Robert Hoatson, former priest, survivor, and founder of Road to Recovery Inc.

Catholic Whistleblowers

Currently, a five-year statute of limitations means that survivors of certain kinds of childhood abuse have only until the age of 23 to bring charges.

The bill has been introduced every year for 13 years, and passed the Assembly twice with bi-partisan support



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.

New Calgary exhibit lets people experience child abuse from the perspective of children

“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 you

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.”

Where to get help

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.


Child sex abuse survivor speaks out to help others

Public talk comes amid calls for legislation passage

BEDFORD — A self-identified survivor of alleged child sexual abuse shared his story Monday to a packed room, describing his outspokenness as a way to help others.

Tommy Williams, 15, told the crowd at the Omni Bedford Springs Resort that the sexual assault, which reportedly spanned two years, began when he was 8 years old. His attacker was also a juvenile.

“I help other victims find a voice and let them know that someone will listen,” Tommy told the crowd.

His speaker series event, hosted by the nonprofit Tommy Talks PA founded by his mother, comes in the midst of the #MeToo nationwide movement and state legislative changes and hoped-for changes.

Tommy's mother, Kelly, said the speaker series is intended to give all survivors a voice and to offer information and resources to those affected by sexual abuse.

“The biggest thing is bringing everyone to the table,” Kelly said. “Our goal with this is not to just get Tommy's story out there.”

“It's more about inclusion of all victims and survivors and their families,” she added. “Because the biggest thing about this all is support.” Kelly stressed the mission of Tommy Talks PA is to provide support to everyone affected by sexual abuse.

A few audience members applauded Tommy for speaking out and coming forward, including Patricia Lynn Brown, who said she is a co-founder of a local child abuse task force.

“I want to applaud you. You are an amazing young man,” she told Tommy while tearing up. “There's been child abuse in my own family. And you, 15 years old, you're going to have a good life because you have a strength in you. You have a power in you. You will persevere. And you will win.”

Representatives from various victim advocacy centers and other entities in attendance also spoke at the event, educating attendees on local resources and pending legislation.

Bedford County District Attorney Lesley Childers-Potts told attendees that Bedford County like others in the state are required to have a multidisciplinary investigative team that handles unresolved cases.

Paul Lukach, Crime Victim Center of Erie County executive director, urged attendees to speak to their local legislators to pass Senate Bill 261, which includes an amendment to establish a two-year window for now-adult victims of child sexual abuse to file civil claims against their alleged abusers.

Jennifer Riley, state director for Marsy's Law, urged the passage of Marsy's Law — legislation that calls for amending the state constitution to offer protections to crime victims.

Riley said the law would give victims the ability to pe­tition the court to be heard and notified of court proceedings involving the accused.

Under the proposal, if a victim was not notified about the accused's sentencing hearing and unable to testify, the victim could petition the court to testify and a judge could then decide if a resentencing could occur, said Riley.

“We're not creating new rights for victims. We're just simply elevating what we have,” Riley said, noting that victims have a statutory right to be heard and notified, but not a constitutional right.

Riley said the law passed the House and Senate this legislative session, but it will need to pass a second legislative session in 2019 before going to voters.

While a decision is yet to be made on SB 261 and Marsy's Law, Tommy's speech Monday follows the passage of the Safe Harbor law, which takes effect next month and prohibits the prosecution of child victims of trafficking.

According to documents shown to the Mirror, Tommy's alleged attacker was adjudicated on multiple felony charges of rape and statutory sexual assault.

Two of the felony rape charges apply to Tommy's case, while the other counts stem from two other cases involving different victims, the Mirror was told.

Under the Juvenile Act, if a child is 14 years or older and charged with a felony, the public has access to certain information including the name and age of the juvenile, address of the juvenile, offenses charged and disposition of the case.

Although Tommy told the crowd he experienced depression due to the abuse, he said he loves and prays for his alleged attacker to get better. He also thanked those who have showed him support on his journey.


Survivors of clergy child sex abuse tell U.S. bishops of rejection, pain

by Rhina Guidos Catholic News Service


BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Luis A. Torres Jr. stood before a group of U.S. bishops during one of the most publicly watched of their fall annual meetings Nov. 12 in Baltimore and in doing so revealed to the world the reality that he has lived with since childhood: that he was abused by a priest.

"I'm not private anymore. Everyone knows," said Torres, a lawyer and member of the Lay Review Board of the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, which examines policies for removing priests who have abused.

It was unclear but it seemed that the moment marked the first time he revealed the truth publicly. He also spoke of what he witnessed toward those who have come forward in the Catholic Church when they revealed what had happened to them at the hands of clergy.

"I witnessed a church that didn't understand or didn't seem to care, or worse, a church that was actively hostile to the children who had trusted and suffered under its care," he said. "A church that professed faith but acted shrewdly, a church that seemed to listen less to Christ's teachings and more to the advice of lawyers, a church that seemed less interested in those it had harmed."

He spoke of a church more concerned with the protection of assets than its people.

He told his story to the group of bishops gathered for prayer in a makeshift chapel at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront. Though his statements were livestreamed, no press was allowed in the chapel.

In the telling of his pain through sometimes deep breaths, Torres told the bishops: "You need to do better." He also told them that "the heart of the church is broken and you need to fix this now."

Torres' story was one of two experiences U.S. bishops heard from survivors of clergy child sex abuse, who still remain active in the church. The other account came from Teresa Pitt Green, who along with Torres, founded Spirit Fire Live, which says on its website that it is devoted to "healing and reconciliation in relationships with adults, families and parishes wounded by child abuse and trauma."

"My heart breaks for you," Pitt Green told the bishops, saying that "the Lord has cried more tears ... because of some of the decisions some of you have made. I don't know how you bear it."

Neither was accusatory in tone, rather their declarations were given calmly as reflections during a day of prayer for the bishops, in which a reflection was given after a Bible reading. While two other reflections addressed what the laity need from the bishops and how bishops can be ministers of healing, the victim statements painfully painted the landscape that has brought the Catholic Church in the United States to address the sex abuse crisis so urgently.

Pitt Green spoke of the manifestation of the wounds by those who've been abused: suicides, addictions, chronic mental illness, broken relationships.
"We are the damaged goods of our age," Pitt Green said.

Pitt Green said she had found a way back to the church and applauded measures that have been taken to curtail child sex abuse in Catholic churches, schools and institutions and thanked the bishops for expressing a desire to do something about it. But she also acknowledged the anger expressed by other victims and survivors, saying that "many who have been entrusted to your care are noisy and they're angry, and I understand."

Torres said he struggled with understanding and explaining even to himself what happened and the different manifestations of trauma as an adult.

"I admit, I don't understand, so I get why you may not understand it either. Abuse of a child is the closest that you can get to murder and still possibly have a breathing body before you," he said. "When a child has been abused, particularly by someone whom they trust, you have destroyed the child. You have mortally wounded the soul and the spirit of that child. This is particularly true where the abuse is by a priest."

The abuse causes a break in the child's connection to God, and robs him or her of innocence, trust, faith and love, he said.

"Truly, this is the devil's best work," he said. "It's as if the child had been shot. Sometimes the bullet catches the child right away and they fall immediately via drugs, crime, suicide or something else. For others the bullet may not reach its destination for many years."

He credited the Diocese of Brooklyn with his willingness to remain with the church because through its Victims Assistance Coordinator, it had demonstrated a "willingness to share my journey" and restoring faith, "where once I knew betrayal."

That betrayal was compounded when the church treated victims as liabilities, as dishonest, or as seeking money, he said.

"The pain of this ongoing betrayal is not restricted to victims but it's also experienced by the families of victims, by the larger church community and by priests," he said.

Torres spoke of the "dissonance" survivors experience when the people who encouraged them to follow the footsteps of Christ failed to follow that example.

"What would Jesus' response have been in the same situation?" he asked. "Would he have called his lawyers and denounced the victims? Or would he have turned over the tables in a fit of rage and declared that this was intolerable in his father's house."

He asked that survivors not be looked as liabilities or adversaries.

"We are your children, we are your brothers, and your sisters, we are your mothers and your fathers. Your words and actions have caused us further harm and pushed us away," Torres said. "Through silence, distrust and defensiveness, we bear the shame of a crime to which our only contributions were trust, faith and innocence.

"I'm not angry, I'm mostly angry at myself. And I don't know why. I know you experience a lot of our anger because it's out there," he continued. "But I am so sad and disappointed, and think this is what many people feel, victims, laypeople, priests, everyone."

In a news conference following the survivors' declarations, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he couldn't speak about the reaction of the bishops as a group but offered his personal reaction.

"When you hear someone speak like that, it hits you very hard," he said, but added that he found it "very moving."

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, of Burlington, Vermont, who was with Cardinal DiNardo at the news conference, said what the bishops had heard from survivors in the past was that no one listened to them, so they wanted to "be open and receptive and listen" and not necessarily issue a response but wanted to say "we believe you and we're listening to you."



Scouting Ireland child abuse cases expected to rise ‘quite considerably'

Audit reveals details of 71 alleged abusers ‘none of which are still working in organisation'

A historic review of Scouting Ireland's records has uncovered evidence of 108 alleged child sex abuse victims, and 71 alleged abusers believed to have preyed on children in the youth organisation.

The numbers of alleged abuse cases are from an audit of the organisation's files, and from information provided by victims who have contacted Scouting Ireland in recent months.

Safeguarding expert Ian Elliott, who has been conducting the review into past abuse in the organisation, said he expected the number of known victims to increase “quite considerably”.

The revelations were disclosed by Minister for Children Katherine Zappone, and Scouting Ireland officials, at a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs.

The review of past records is still ongoing, and abuse victims were contacting the organisation at an “increasing” rate, Mr Elliott told the committee.

Most cases related to incidents between the 1960s and 1980s, and the majority of alleged abusers are deceased.

The organisation has identified 14 alleged abusers who are thought may have abused multiple children.

Where alleged child abusers are still alive, Scouting Ireland has made reports to An Garda Síochána and the State child protection agency Tusla.

“None of the alleged abusers are still working with Scouting Ireland, ” Ms Zappone told the committee.


Aisling Kelly, chair of the organisation's new board, said a “general compensation fund” was being explored, so abuse victims did not have to seek redress through the courts. The organisation was also putting together a victims policy for how to best respond to abuse survivors.

Ms Kelly said it was clear in past cases “neither the offenders nor the victims were always dealt with appropriately”.

“We cannot change the past, but we can make sure that this organisation is a safe environment for all our members now and into the future,” she said.

“Money has been ring-fenced in relation to giving the necessary supports to victims, so the victims are being funded in relation to counselling if that's required,” she told the committee. Ms Kelly confirmed Scouting Ireland was currently facing several legal cases in relation to past child sex abuse.

The organisation has been embroiled in controversy since early this year, after The Irish Times revealed the handling of a rape allegation concerning two adult volunteers had been “deeply flawed”.

Twice Ms Zappone suspended the organisation's State funding in recent months, over a lack of confidence in their governance following the scandal.

Four senior volunteers criticised in a review of how the rape allegation was handled have stepped aside from their roles, pending an ongoing barrister's review into the case.

The entire board of the organisation was replaced last month. Following this, Ms Zappone decided to provisionally reinstate public funding up until next April.

‘Deeply distressing'

Chief executive Dr John Lawlor said the organisation had been “badly stretched” attempting to appropriately deal with past abuse victims coming forward in recent months.

“I think it is a terrible thing that victims have carried this burden for many years. We will work with them, we will find the resources,” he told the committee.

Ms Zappone said the extent of past abuse was “deeply distressing”, and she would continue to liaise with Scouting Ireland “as a matter of urgency”.

Committee chair Alan Farrell (FG) said the revelations were “deeply disturbing,” and Labour Party TD Seán Sherlock said the findings of the review was “devastating news”.

Fianna Fáil children's spokeswoman Anne Rabbitte TD said in recent months the “lid not only came off, it was blown off Scouting Ireland”, exposing the need for “dramatic” governance and cultural changes.

Maeve Lewis, executive director of abuse survivors charity One in Four, said the number of identified past abuse cases was astonishing.

“It is very distressing to think that such a high number of sex offenders were able to gain access to children through an organisation that had been trusted by generations of parents,” she said.


When Our Parents Trespass Against Us Do we need to forgive, to reconcile, or can we begin by just giving ourselves the freedom to tell the truth?

by Grace de Rond

A Mother is supposed to be a safe haven, a place where we're assured love, acceptance, and understanding. She's a source of wisdom and gentle guidance, without investment in whether we follow along. She's the one we come home to.

A Father is supposed to be a protector and guide, teaching us all kinds of things, from making critter-shaped pancakes, to writing our names, to driving a car. A tower of strength, always ready to wrestle danger to the ground so we don't have to. He's nurturing and trust-worthy, and central to our emotional and psychological well-being.

But what if it doesn't go this way? What if our parents are the perpetrators in our #MeToo experience?

One of my friends grew up with a sexually abusive, alcoholic dad. And it was as gruesome as it sounds. But she managed to get out with her sanity, just not without lasting effects.

How could her dad get out of bed and go get in bed with his daughters for eight years and her mom not know?
One of her sisters left home at 18, dropped out of art school in spite of serious talent, and essentially went to bed for five decades as a hypochondriac. The other sister got pregnant at 16, was a serial bride through a series of violent marriages, and attempted suicide more than once. But she eventually managed to lift herself out of her low life conditions by getting a good job and marrying a good man.

My friend was the youngest of the three daughters. At age 60, she no longer needs to cross the street when passing a man she doesn't know. But she's still afraid of the dark and sleeps with a light on sometimes, she still has OCD issues and phobias, and she still struggles when relating with unknown people.

The dad and the older sister have already passed away. But what's happening now is that unresolved issues with the mom have resurfaced. It began about six months ago when my friend's sister began having flashbacks and nightmares. She needed to talk it out, so she began emailing my friend, and it all came back to my friend as well. Then they tried to talk to the mom, and she freaked out.

In her 20s and 30s, my friend saw multiple therapists and counselors. Back then, professionals and the related literature leaned toward mom-blaming. The overall thinking was: How could her dad get out of bed and go get in bed with his daughters for eight years and her mom not know?

The mom swears she never knew. She says that her first knowledge of it came much later, when the older sister blew up one day, blurted out what had happened to her as a child, and then drove off and didn't come back for five years. After the sister left, the mom called my friend in her university dorm and asked whether it was true. My friend said yes. And her mom said, “Then I have to divorce him,” and hung up. My friend says it's difficult to describe the depth of relief she felt from that phone call. But weeks went by, and nothing happened, and no one talked about it, and it went back to being a secret that wouldn't be discussed. Which was crushing.

My friend always accepted that her mom didn't know, not wanting to believe the worst. Today, the literature has changed. Studies of families indicate that most mothers don't know. They also say though that when mothers discover the truth, most of them take immediate and appropriate action to protect and heal the children and to hold the abuser accountable including removal from the home and due punishment. My friend's family stopped short of that.

For decades, the only way for my friend and her sisters to be active in the family, and seemingly to be cared for by the parents, was to pretend that nothing had happened. They were effective at it for years at a time. And then one of them wouldn't be able to do it anymore, and she would spin off and go missing for months or years. The other sisters would admire her for having the guts to act on her feelings. And the parents would see her as a difficult person.

My friend says it resurfaced in her 30s, and she insisted to her parents that there be a conversation about it. Instead, she and her parents stopped talking for 18 months. Finally, she decided that it was more important that her children have interaction with their grandparents. So she wrote them. The response was an angry letter from the mom telling her that a letter was on its way from her father, which she had told him not to write, and that my friend was terrible for making her father suffer this way. The letter from her dad arrived and he had written: “I don't remember what happened, but whatever I did, I'm sorry.” That helped some. She had always assumed, or hoped, that he was too drunk to know what he was doing. But again, there was no resolution, no discussion. And my friend stuffed her feelings back down.

Now it's resurfaced again, and the mom's angry that the sisters are making her life miserable. She's telling them, “Let it go!” And they're saying, “That's what we're doing. And it's hell!”

My friend and her sister are asking their mom for honesty and transparency, and maybe even some accountability. Not necessarily an acknowledgment that she knew what was happening at the time, but rather that she should've taken some action to help them heal. For the first time in their lives, they've joined together and decided that, for the sake of their health and well-being, they won't stuff the pain and rage down anymore.

But the mom is telling them that, because they're Christians, they should forgive and get on with their lives, saying that they're not spiritually evolved because they haven't forgiven yet.

1in6 is an organization, founded in 2007, to provide information and support resources to individuals who've experienced negative childhood sexual experiences – particularly men, because the site says that one in six males is affected. And clearly, everything written here also pertains to men who've been sexually abused by a parent, whether it's by the mom or the dad. Here's what 1in6 says about forgiveness in these instances:

Some acts of forgiveness are… truly emotionally, morally and spiritually beneficial for everyone involved. But others are not. Unfortunately, forgiveness can be false and destructive. This happens when it is demanded or forced – by outside pressure from others, including those who mostly want to avoid conflict and genuinely dealing with the problem, or by internal pressure, including a feeling of obligation to forgive in order to be a good person.

Also, unfortunately some people strongly but incorrectly believe that a (seemingly) sincere apology, especially when accompanied by a promise not to repeat one's harmful behavior, is enough for everyone to “move on.” Tragically, the pressure to “forgive and forget” can be a powerful obstacle to protecting children effectively from harm. Finally, giving in to such a demand for forgiveness also means dismissing the feelings of those who have been harmed, and for them it usually feels, rightly so, like an extension of the abuse.

The mom is also telling my friend that she should be ashamed for “enjoying playing the part of the victim.” She doesn't get it that my friend is still affected by her childhood experience, in spite of her very best efforts to be normal. “Normal” for sexual abuse survivors regularly includes poor self-esteem, negative body image, phobias, eating disorders, difficulty with relationships, drug and alcohol problems, challenged sex lives, fear of life, and the need to hide self.

MOSAC, Mothers of Sexually Abused Children, is an organization offering information, resources and support following disclosure. Here's what the site says about the effects of sexual abuse:

Child victims of sexual abuse may demonstrate a range of symptoms that include: stealing, lying, nightmares, bed-wetting, self-harm, inappropriate sexual behaviors, and eating disorders. It is important that mothers respond to these symptoms in supporting, caring, loving, patient ways, rather than with harshness, judgment, and punitive discipline.


United Kingdom

Survivors Matter support group featured on BBC North West Tonight

Survivors Matter

A Rochdale support group specifically for male survivors of sexual abuse featured on BBC North West Tonight on Monday (12 November).

Collective group Survivors Matter (formerly Survivors First) launched a peer support group in September for male survivors of sexual abuse, following campaigning and awareness work in Rochdale, highlighting the issue of childhood sexual abuse.
An estimated 12,000 men are raped in the UK every year, and more than 70,000 are sexually abused or assaulted, according to the charity Survivors UK.

The Survivors Matter peer to peer group meets every fortnight and hopes to establish a nationwide network.

Speaking to North West Tonight, abuse survivor Simon Hart said: “When things like this happen, you do think about killing yourself because you feel you've got no power.

“You don't know who to turn to. It took me a long time to speak to my family because it's just hard saying the words. A lot of the problem is that it's taboo.”

Daniel Wolstencroft, a group founder, said: “There's a distinct lack of funding for face-to-face support. There are massive waiting lists; we're cutting those. When someone gets in touch, we'll meet them straight away within 72 hours.”

During October's full council meeting, former MP and paedophile Cyril Smith was posthumously stripped of the Freedom of Rochdale over his sickening catalogue of child abuse over several decades.

The honour was removed in just three minutes by a unanimous vote at a full meeting of Rochdale Council following a complaint from one of Smith's victims.

The motion to remove the accolade from Smith, who died in 2010, was moved by leader of the council, Allen Brett.

Last year's Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse heard how the politician had raped and abused boys at Knowl View special school in the 1980s and carried out abuse at Cambridge House Boys Hostel in the 1960s.

On Thursday (15 November), members and representatives of Survivors Matter held a silent flash demo, gathering outside Rochdale Town Hall with tape over their mouths, symbolising their cause of “highlighting the many years of Rochdale Council silencing survivors of abuse”.

In response to the demo, a council spokesman said: “Our response to the sexual abuse of children is a matter of public record, as are the many reports, investigations and inquiries that have taken place in recent years.

"Any suggestion that this authority does not take child protection issues seriously is wrong and not supported by any evidence.

"Ofsted also highlighted how the council provides a strong multi-agency response for children and adult survivors of sexual exploitation. The service, developed with partners like Greater Manchester Police, is recognised as a model that other local authorities can learn from."

Survivors Matter peer support runs every two weeks, facilitated by two group members who are experienced in delivering peer support sessions.




Now is the time to repair shattered lives

Real Lives. Real Change. That is the message this week to all Australians about the 5 million adults who are survivors of childhood trauma and abuse.

Across the country communities are acknowledging – as part of the national Blue Knot Week – the harm done to the one in four Australian adult survivors of complex childhood trauma. Feelings are being validated, stories shared and support networks strengthened.

Community support is vital. However, for survivors of childhood trauma to really move forward, there needs to be structural change.

There is an urgent necessity for the federal government and its state and territory counterparts to establish a National Centre of Excellence to respond to all childhood trauma. Not providing appropriate services to adult survivors of childhood trauma costs Australian governments an estimated minimum of $9.1 billion a year.

The Centre would focus on the many Australians who have experienced childhood emotional, physical and sexual abuse as well as neglect – including those who have grown up with community or family violence or other adverse childhood experiences. Many of these traumas occurred outside of institutions – in the home, family and neighbourhood.

The Centre would deliver best-practice services informed by research, a national prevention strategy and a workforce development and training arm.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison's announcement last week that the government would establish a National Centre of Excellence to raise awareness and understanding around the impacts of child sexual abuse was an important start. However, now the commitment needs to be broadened.

When Prime Minister Morrison and the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten apologised to the estimated 60,000 Australian victims of institutional child sexual abuse, it was an opportunity to honour our fellow Australians who were brutalised and betrayed while in the care of our institutions.

For many victims this recognition was profound and incredibly moving as they had spent decades in the wilderness of secrecy, silence and denial.

Both leaders also acknowledged the need for action.

The time for perpetrating a hierarchy of trauma and creating tiers of victims has passed. This is about our nation showing compassion and support and helping to turn shattered lives around.



How Dove's Nest trains churches to keep children safe

“Churches are places of high trust—and high risk.”

Elizabeth Palmer interviews Anna Groff

Anna Groff is the executive director of Dove's Nest, an organization that equips faith communities to build safe environments for children and survivors. It trains teachers in the Circle of Grace curriculum, a tool for helping young people maintain physical boundaries and recognize inappropriate situations.

For those who don't know the Circle of Grace curriculum, what's the one point it makes that is most important to teach children?

Many children already receive sexuality and boundary education in school. Circle of Grace is distinct in communicating that people in the church care about all the parts of life, including our physical bodies and body safety. We want children to know that God cares and the church cares that they are safe and that their bodies are respected. Circle of Grace enables Christian educators to teach that no topic is off limits in church.

For example, a few days before Circle of Grace was being taught at a church in Grand Rapids, a first-grade student at a local Christian school texted a photo of his penis to another student. Since several of the church's children attended that school, the text message came up in conversation during a Circle of Grace lesson. The teacher alerted the director of children's ministries, who brought the parents into the discussion at dismissal time. “We can have those kind of conversations—about sexting, safety, our bodies—at church,” the director told me. “It is fair game.”

A small congregation might feel overwhelmed by the idea of developing and implementing a policy on the protection of children, especially when it involves screening volunteers. Further fears might arise from the recent court case in Illinois in which a pastor and congregation were sued for failing to implement their safety policy after a teenager was raped by her youth group leader. What would you advise?

Sometimes small churches think they're off the hook. They assume, “We're family here,” not realizing that most abuse happens within families. And policy can be tricky. Once you have one, you ought to follow it: there are legal consequences if you don't. It needs to be implemented and updated regularly.

Dove's Nest offers consultation services for churches that are creating or updating their policy. Since churches have unique situations, getting a consultation can be more effective than getting the generic advice an insurance company might offer.

For example, we recommend that churches follow the two-adult rule to ensure that one adult is never alone with one child. We also recommend that churches work to avoid situations involving one adult with multiple children. At the same time, we offer workarounds to the two-adult rule, such as combining Sunday school classrooms if there's low attendance, moving class to a public space in the church, or utilizing roving hall monitors. All churches can work to decrease isolation and secrecy, increase supervision and accountability, and make sure all activities are observable and interruptible.

How can organizations balance the rules of the policy with the often unexpected demands of everyday life—such as when a member of the church staff is asked to provide temporary care or transportation for a child?

Churches are places of high trust and therefore also places of high risk. We recommend that church staff remember their limitations and practice setting boundaries, especially when it comes to requests for childcare or transportation that would put them in a position of being alone with a child. Policies not only protect minors; they also protect adult volunteers and staff people.

What do you say to communities where calling the police is complicated by issues of race or immigration status?

In all our trainings, we emphasize the importance of reporting. If you suspect abuse or a child discloses abuse, believe the child and make a report immediately to child protective ser­vices or the police. You don't have to have evidence or proof. And you don't have to do the investigation yourself—or anything that resembles that. Cooperate with professionals who conduct the investigation.

However, we're also working to understand how complicated this assertion is for some communities. Conservative Mennonite and Amish communities, with whom we often work, are often reluctant to involve the police. Some have formed their own crisis intervention teams. Last year we held a training session with a group of pastors in the Los Angeles area, many from immigrant churches. The discussion included the lack of trust in law enforcement, fears of backlash from families, and the desire to “solve it on our own”—concerns we now address in our training with all faith communities.

Churches with undocumented individuals may resist doing background checks for adult volunteers working with minors. There are some background check companies that don't require a social security number, so that is an option. Also, we remind churches that while background checks are critical, they are only one piece of the child protection puzzle.

What are the common reactions to your recommendations? Do you find people reluctant to discuss the topic at all?

Due to Me Too and Church Too, there's been a shift. Most people—at least in their heads—will admit that abuse happens everywhere—church included—and that there are abuse survivors in every congregation. I know of many churches that are now incorporating child protection themes into their worship services, sermons, and Sunday school classes. The leaders of churches we've worked with generally appreciate the chance to bring in outside resources and accountability, which can help ease internal resistance to taking protection measures.

At the same time, I see churches continuing to struggle with what former pastor Jim Amstutz calls the “fatal flaw of exceptionalism.” This is the mentality that assumes after an instance of abuse that “God will bless our good intentions, so we don't need to call the authorities or outside experts.” The understandable im­pulse is to return to normal and minimize the internal and external impact. Against this temptation, Amstutz recommends: “Take time to grieve, identify what you don't know, and invite an outside resource to coach the congregation through this liminal space.”

What's the biggest mistake congregations make in addressing issues of abuse?

Many of us continue to be naive about offenders, who are often skilled masters of manipulation. Dove's Nest cofounder Jeanette Harder once asked an incarcerated offender: “What should church leaders know about offenders?” He an­swered: “Never trust us.”

Sexual abuse is rarely a onetime occurrence, and there are usually multiple victims. We tend to buy into the stranger danger myth—that someone new to our church is more threatening to children than someone we know well and love. Unfortunately, the majority of offenders are known and trusted by victims and their families.

After an instance of abuse is confirmed, a faith community should share the name of the offender publicly and provide a space for other victims to come forward. In situations of child abuse allegations, notice should be given within 48 hours to all parents whose children may have encountered the alleged offender. They need to know that allegations have been made and reported. I've found that this is often a trying task for church leaders, who worry about shaming the alleged offender. But it is necessary in order to keep community members safe.

When churches wish to welcome people who are known sexual offenders, we advise: know your limitations. Prior to creating a written safety plan or a limited-access agreement with the individual, churches should seek counsel from an outside advocacy group, conference or denominational leadership, or another appropriate organization. We also advise regular check-ins with an external group. A congregation can neither hold an offender legally accountable nor replace professional counseling and treatment.

Some survivors of abuse are passionate about helping make churches safe for children and all vulnerable people. How can church leaders identify and empower them?

We recommend reaching out to survivors, listening to their stories, and validating their experiences. A church working on policies should try to include the input of a survivor who has already disclosed this information to the church.

When church leaders become aware of an instance of abuse, how can they best support the person who has been abused?

In the initial response to a crisis, keep giving the victim short, positive messages like, “I am here for you,” “You did the right thing,” and “You're safe now.” Victims should be at the center of any process. They should be heard, supported, and kept in the communication loop. Prioritize the victim's needs over the offender. I've witnessed church leaders focus their energy and pastoral care on the offender, not the victim. That's a temptation to resist.

When someone discloses that they have been abused in the past, do not keep that person at arm's length, even if the thought of the abuse they've suffered makes you feel uncomfortable or unsure how to support them. It is often said: when we make churches safe for survivors, we make churches safer for children.

Some Christian practices—passing the peace, foot washing, communion—might make survivors uncomfortable or even trigger trauma for them. How do we address those realities?

Hilary Scarsella has written extensively about this concern. “When we say during communion that Jesus demonstrated his faithfulness to God by being willing to endure bodily harm and execution as an expression of love for the people trying to hurt him, children who are being hurt are paying attention,” she wrote in a Dove's Nest blog post in 2015. She also says that for someone who has suffered oral sexual assault by an adult man, the invitation to put Jesus' body into one's mouth is frightening and intrusive.

I encourage church leaders to strategically provide a way out, primarily by making these practices optional and giving notice to the congregation when possible. For example, pastors can check in with individuals in advance to make sure they are comfortable with the laying on of hands during a congregational time of blessing or sending.

Since the very nature of ministry is intimate, I try to incorporate a discussion on appropriate touch in most of the training. We go over the differences between good touch, bad touch, and uncomfortable touch. Uncomfortable touch makes the receiver feel uneasy, confused, or unsure. The receiver may have conflicting feelings about the touch or the person doing the touching. Many of us may feel unsure about some of the interactions we have at church. These are in the uncomfortable category.

This is true for children, preteens, and teenagers as well as adults. Whether a touch is good, bad, or confusing is determined by how the receiver experiences it, not by the intentions of the person doing the touching. Appropriate touch responds to a child's need for comfort, encouragement, or affection. It is not based on the adult's emotional need. Many children are looking for someone to listen to them and show interest in them, not for a handshake or hug.


Rocky Mount PD

Cops focus on human trafficking


Padlocked doors, bars on windows and excessive video surveillance could be signs a residential home is involved in human trafficking.
Since Rocky Mount police can't be everywhere, they're training certain city employees to look for such indicators.

Human trafficking is the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act, according to information from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Human trafficking is second only to drug trafficking when it comes to the billions of dollars gained illegally across the globe. Human trafficking is a hidden crime as victims rarely come forward to seek help because of language barriers, fear of the traffickers and undue fear of law enforcement.

That's why local police are using employees of the city's Energy Resources Department to be their eyes. They're being trained to spot things that are out of place.

“While they're out and about in neighborhoods doing their regular jobs, we want them to notice things that are out of place,” said Sgt. Brad Summerlin, spokesman for the Rocky Mount Police Department.

Police are training the workers to spot things like windows that are covered, sheds with an excessive number of locks and a house using electricity, but no one ever appears at home.

A combination of large agricultural land, sprawling military communities, numerous major highways and two international seaports make Eastern North Carolina a prime location for human trafficking. Year after year, North Carolina hovers among the top 10 states with a human trafficking problem, according to recent research.

There's local empirical evidence as well. Philtece Joel Harrison, 37, of Sharpsburg, was arrested last year after two women who claimed to be victims of human trafficking were found by police to be in her vehicle. Harrison is awaiting trial on charges including human trafficking of an adult victim, promoting prostitution and profits prior and sexual servitude of an adult victim.

Authorities said recognizing key indicators of human trafficking is the first step in identifying victims and helping save lives. Here are some common indicators to help recognize human trafficking:

Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations or houses of worship?

Has a child stopped attending school?

Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?

Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?

Is the person disoriented or confused or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?

Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?

Is the person fearful, timid or submissive?

Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep or medical care?

Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, such as where they go or who they talk to?

Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?

Is the person living in unsuitable conditions?

Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation?

Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?

Not all indicators listed above are present in every human trafficking situation, and the presence or absence of any of the indicators is not necessarily proof of human trafficking.



Ending the culture of silence

by Rochel Leah Bernstein and Patty Dailey Lewis

As parents, we are living in a remarkable and trying moment in time. A seemingly constant wave of sexual abuse scandals have captivated the public discourse in a way it never has before – and it seems finally the epidemic of sexual abuse plaguing our most vulnerable population, our children, is coming to the fore.

From the recent outbreak of reports covering the abuse within the Catholic Church to the mass sexual abuse of young gymnasts, among other local and national sports teams, the accounts are graphic and disturbing; the latest of which has hit far closer to home.

Eric Uller, a long time Santa Monica city employee has been arrested on suspicion of abusing children throughout the 1990s, while he served as a volunteer for the Police Activities League program. Santa Monica PAL, a public-private partnership operated by the City of Santa Monica since the late 1980s, follows the state and national PAL model, bringing youth and adult volunteers together in the name of mentorship, wellness and fun.

As a society, we seem to have been living in the dark, perpetuating a culture of silence and institutionalizing a normative taboo around sexual violence, particularly in regards to children. For far too long, we have been living in fear and collective shame, entirely unprepared to address child sexual abuse and the endemic nature of the crisis now unfolding before us. Child sexual abuse is a silent public health crisis. And it does not discriminate based on race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, gender identification, or religious affiliation. As a result, survivors of child sexual abuse surround us, living in a constant state of shame and fear.

The statistics are staggering. One in ten children will be abused before the age of 18. Six of ten will never report it, because they are almost always abused by someone they know, love, or trust. The collective societal impact and pain is immeasurable, and permeates our culture and our consciousness.

It is incumbent upon us to wake up and take responsibility for the voiceless and powerless – for our children – and for the adult survivors among us who bear the deep and silent scars of abuse. The time has come for real, lasting change and an end to the culture of silence and lack of preparedness to address and end child sexual abuse.

But there is hope. The critical tools required to protect our children are not complicated. They are not controversial. They are not difficult to implement.

As parent advocates, we call upon the residents and community leaders of the City of Santa Monica – and all cities and states across the country – to break free from their silence, to shine light on the darkness and take action to prevent child sexual abuse from occurring. It is necessary to start asking difficult questions of parents, youth serving organizations, peers, politicians, educators, community leaders, and to galvanize a culture shift surrounding sexual violence against children. We must do more to engage with the incredible holistic resources that are available to our communities through partners including Darkness to Light, the Beau Biden Foundation, RAINN, Child Safety Pledge and World Childhood Foundation.

We must have courage in the face of fear to transform our societies. We must institute change in impactful, meaningful ways, ensuring that all schools, camps, and after school activities have best practice standards and policies instituted and that our educators, volunteers, administrators, parents and public officials undergo trainings on sexual abuse prevention and intervention. Policies, procedures, and programming that focuses on child protection are necessary everywhere, along with a community engagement on child safety and sexual abuse prevention.

In order to do so, caretakers and caregivers must be empowered to ask critical and important questions of those youth serving organizations to which they are directly connected or which exist within their communities. These questions include: does the organization have a license to provide child care in the jurisdiction in which it operates? Does it have clear, written policies about child sexual abuse? Do staff and volunteers undergo a vetting process? Do they receive training in abuse prevention, detection and response? How are child safety policies put into practice by organizational management? And to the facilities promote a safe physical environment for all the children (and adults) it serves?

Here is a link to the Child Safety Pledge toolkit on how to start these types of conversations with organizations:

And on an individual level we urge all parents to conduct these types of daring discussions with your family and community members – with your partner, your child, your lay leaders, local politicians, educators and peers.

Here is a link to the Child Safety Pledge toolkit on how to engage in these sensitive conversations at home:

Beau Biden often said, “as adults, we have a legal and moral obligation to stand up and speak out for children who are being abused—they cannot speak for themselves.” On a communal level we ask every child serving organization to take this call to action seriously. All those who serve and work with children should know their obligations. Prevention begins with knowledge and education. A regular review of policies and a robust prevention training will dramatically improve the safety of our children.

Together, we have an opportunity like never before to seize this moment and create a safer world for our children. Let's not let this moment pass us by. Because if not us, then who?


Dept of Justice


Grand Jury Indicts Hawthorne Man on 14 Federal Charges for Allegedly Collecting Life Insurance after Killing His Two Children

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

LOS ANGELES – A federal grand jury today named a Hawthorne man in a 14-count indictment that alleges he intentionally drove his family into the water at the Port of Los Angeles in a scheme to collect proceeds of life insurance policies he had purchased on their lives.

Ali F. Elmezayen, 44, was charged with four counts of mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft and five counts of money laundering. Elmezayen remains in federal custody after being arrested on November 7 by the FBI.

The indictment alleges that Elmezayen purchased several life and accidental death insurance policies providing coverage on himself, his domestic partner and their three children in 2012 and 2013. Elmezayen then drove a car with his partner and two youngest children off a wharf at the Port of Los Angeles on April 9, 2015. Elmezayen swam out the open driver's side window of the car. Elmezayen's partner, who did not know how to swim, escaped the vehicle and survived when a nearby fisherman threw her a flotation device. The two children, who were 8 and 13, drowned in the car.

Elmezayen then collected more than $260,000 in insurance proceeds from Mutual of Omaha Life Insurance and American General Life Insurance on the accidental death insurance policies he had taken out on the children's lives, according to the indictment.

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

Elmezayen is scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment on November 29 in United States District Court.

If he were to be convicted of all the charges contained in the indictment, Elmezayen would face a statutory maximum sentence of 212 years in federal 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.


from: Thom Mrozek, Director of Media Relations