National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

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"News of the Week"  

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


Calls from schools to DCF child-abuse hotline have risen sharply this fall

A spike in calls from school officials reporting suspected child abuse or neglect threatens to strain the hot line at the Department of Children and Families

Calls to the state's child abuse and neglect hotline rose sharply this fall over the same period in 2017 and 2016, driven by the high-profile arrests of several top school officials for failing to meet their obligations as mandated reporters of suspected threats to child safety, records show.

The cases are serving as a reminder of not only the moral and professional obligation of teachers, counselors, and administrators to report their suspicions about possible neglect or abuse to the Department of Children and Families' Careline, but also the criminal penalty for failing to do so.

In October and November, Careline caseworkers received 21,068 calls, up more than 3,300 over the 2017 period, and more than 5,000 over 2016. The calls involve suspected neglect or abuse and come from all sources, including schools, police, health and medical providers, as well as neighbors and relatives.

While DCF did not provide a figure for the schools alone, it is believed that the arrests of school officials in Suffield and Montville, and employee suspensions in Bristol and in other locations, have pushed hundreds of educators to err on the side of caution and make a call they may not have made just a few months before.

“There's been a lot of attention drawn to the consequences of a failure to report - it's been in the news and there have been prosecutions. That's going to make people more inclined to report,” DCF spokesman Gary Kleeblatt said Thursday.

In October and November of 2017, the Careline received a total of 17,764 calls; for October and November 2016, the total call volume was 15,972.

Monthly totals rise and dip over the course of the year, with May usually setting the bar as the peak month. The totals for this past October (10,289) and November (10,779) approach or surpass a typical May total, which is unusual, DCF officials said.

In May 2018, the monthly total edged past 11,000. In May 2017, 10,059 calls were received; in May 2016, the total was 9,324.

The increase in calls this fall does not mean there has been an increase in actual abuse or neglect. Some calls are not accepted as reports. For example, a call from a school official about a school yard fight may not be accepted as a report, whereas a report about a fight refereed by a teacher, and was the case in Montville, would be accepted.

About 40 percent of the reports investigated by DCF are substantiated as abuse or neglect.

“We'd rather get a call than not,” Kleeblatt said. "The call allows us to assess a situation."

The increase in calls this fall has lengthened wait times at the Careline, with some callers hanging on for an hour more. In one isolated case, a caller had to wait four hours.

Joette Katz. the outgoing DCF commissioner, said in a staff memo that school officials can now file reports online, which will relieve some of the pressure on the Careline.

Mandated reporters -- the professionals who are required to report their suspicions - account for 80 percent of calls to the Careline. School officials have always accounted for about 45 percent of the calls from mandated reporters.

Some of the added calls don't address abuse or neglect at all.

“Anecdotally, there are some calls we are getting now that don't report maltreatment but rather the performance of school personnel or student behaviors that do not signify maltreatment, While it is clear that calls have risen, we do not see evidence that actual maltreatment has increased,” Kleeblatt said.

Kleeblatt said DCF has not received authorization to add caseworkers to the Careline.


New York City

City's worst child abuse cases hit record high

Twenty years after it was created to tackle the city's most heinous child-abuse cases, the ACS's Instant Response Team is busier than ever, investigating a record number of high-risk cases in its most recent year of data.

Between July 2017 and June 2018, the IRT probed 5,792 cases, including 104 involving the deaths of children under 18, and thousands more covering young victims of sexual or severe physical abuse, according to the Administration for Children's Services.

The 5,792 cases — a little less than one-tenth of the ACS's total annual caseload — represent an all-time high and a 10.4 percent increase from the previous year for the IRT.

Since its founding in 1998, the IRT sought to give special attention to the cases of the ACS's most vulnerable wards through tight interagency cooperation, including with the NYPD and district attorneys' offices, ACS Commissioner David Hansell told The Post.

“In many cases, the investigations that we're doing from a child-welfare perspective also involve criminal investigations, and so it's critical that when we're investigating serious physical abuse, sexual abuse, the most concerning reports that we get, that we do it hand-in-hand with the NYPD,” Hansell said.

ACS leadership attributes the rising number of cases it investigates not to increased violence but to factors including greater awareness of signs of abuse.

“A piece of that is also historically when there are major cases in the news .. that person that might let that black eye go because Mom says the kid tripped may not [let it go] this time,” said IRT co-head Susan Morley, a retired cop who once led the NYPD's Special Victims Division.

Hansell added that gradually growing public confidence in the long-beleaguered system has also played a role, while acknowledging that the ACS still has work to do to shore up its oft-criticized system



A reality check on expectations for February child abuse summit

ROME - Under any circumstances, the announcement in September that Pope Francis plans to convene a summit Feb. 21-24 for all the presidents of bishops' conferences around the world, along with the Vatican's senior leadership, to discuss the clerical sexual abuse scandals in the Church would have been big news.

After the Vatican invoked that summit in November in instructing the U.S. bishops to stand down in adopting new accountability measures, however, telling them they need to wait until after February, it was foreordained that American analysts will treat February like Roosevelt and Stalin at Yalta - a high-stakes, history-making exercise.

Before expectations spiral completely out of control, however, it's important to say this out loud: For all kinds of reasons, this is not going to be Yalta on sex abuse, and to hope that it will be is a fool's errand.

Let's lay out the reasons why, and then touch on what would actually count as success.

First of all, Yalta was a full week - Feb. 4-11, 1945. This meeting is going to be three brief days, and much of the time won't be occupied by the titans of the earth sitting down at a table and hammering out a deal, but rather by listening to presentations from expert speakers. It's more akin to an in-service weekend, in other words, than to high-level negotiations.

Second, and probably more relevant for our purposes, this meeting is not bringing together a homogenous group of bishops who are more or less on the same page in terms of the abuse crisis, who just need to hammer out the fine points of a common approach.

Instead, what you have is roughly one-third of the bishops of the world who've experienced the “crisis,” in the sense of media pressure, lawsuits, stiff financial settlements, high-profile prosecutions, advocacy groups and so on, and who grasp instinctively the need for the Church to adopt “best practices” in the anti-abuse fight.

Then you've got about two-thirds of the world's bishops, many from developing nations in the global south, who've never experienced the “crisis” in that sense. Many are convinced that their cultures don't harbor the problem to the same extent, and they resent the way that Western discussions of abuse scandals overshadow their own concerns and priorities. They question the need for their nations to make a priority out of something many of them regard as a geographically and culturally limited phenomenon.

Moreover, some of these bishops also suspect that efforts to impose universal responses to the abuse scandals are simply another chapter in Western colonialism, foisting American and European approaches on everyone else without stopping to think about whether they actually make sense in other cultural contexts.

Case in point: Since the beginning of the abuse crisis, there have been calls among reform groups and survivor advocacy groups for the pope to impose a “mandatory reporter” policy on the global church, according to which bishops would be obliged to report all charges of child sexual abuse to the police and civil authorities.

While that comes off as a “no-brainer” for Americans and Western Europeans, places where in broad strokes one can trust the integrity of the police, it strikes prelates in places such as China, or India, or the Middle East - places where the police are often under the control of forces actively hostile to the Church - as handing your enemies another tool with which to destroy you, not to mention feeding a potentially innocent cleric to the wolves.

Proof of this cleft came in last October's Synod of Bishops, when the group of roughly 260 bishops from around the world walked up to the brink of endorsing a “zero tolerance” policy on sexual abuse only to pull back at the last minute, due mostly to opposition from bishops from the developing world, above all Africa and Asia.

As a result, it's probably unrealistic to anticipate some bold new set of universal guidelines to result from the February summit. When participants and organizers say this is merely a beginning, they're not exaggerating.

So, what is realistic to anticipate?

Well, for one thing, the meeting gives Francis a chance to deliver an unequivocal message that clerical sexual abuse is a universal problem, one that requires the participation of the Church at all levels to resolve.

Francis could also set an example by announcing concrete methods for building stronger systems of accountability, not just for the crime of sexual abuse but for the cover-up. Nothing gets the attention of bishops everywhere quite like a new way in which they could possibly lose their jobs.

Finally, Francis could also charge all these presidents of bishops' conferences with making a point of meeting abuse survivors when they go home. As anyone who's been involved in the anti-abuse push over the years will tell you, there simply is no substitute for spending time with victims in terms of getting a sense of the horror that being abused as a child by a member of the clergy represents.

The bishops will be hearing from survivors in Rome, but there's nothing quite like encountering the victims in one's own back yard.

So, bottom line: Almost by definition, Americans are likely to be frustrated with what may seem the scant results of the February meeting. Things will rise or fall with how nimble the U.S. bishops are about putting together a plan of action that coheres with the indications it provides after it's over.

Given where the Church stands globally, that's about all one can realistically hope - and the sad part is, that alone would represent real progress.



Vatican investigates after nuns ‘thrown out of order after reporting priest's sex abuse'

Pope Francis apologises to the world

The Vatican has launched an investigation into a small Chilean religious order of nuns after some sisters denounced sexual abuse at the hands of priests and mistreatment by their superiors.

The investigation marks a turning point, showing the Holy See is now willing to investigate allegations of sexual violence against nuns.

The scandal at the Institute of the Good Samaritan was revealed publicly in an investigative report by Chilean national television earlier this year at the height of outrage over how Chilean Catholic hierarchy covered up decades of sexual abuse of children by priests.

The investigation marks a turning point, showing the Holy See is now willing to investigate allegations of sexual violence against nuns.

In the report, a half-dozen current and former nuns said sisters were thrown out of the order after they denounced the abuse to their superiors. The report followed the sisters as they testified before two Vatican investigators sent to Chile by Pope Francis to get to the bottom of the church-wide scandal there.

In a statement, the Vatican embassy to Chile announced that an "apostolic visitation", or investigation, had begun Wednesday (local time) in the institute.

It said over the coming months the probe would take testimony from current and former sisters and those affiliated with the institute so the Vatican can understand the situation and make whatever changes are necessary.

The institute is located in the diocese of Talca, which since 1996 had been headed by Bishop Horacio del Carmen Valenzuela Abarca. Pope Francis removed Valenzuela as bishop in June as part of his cleanup of the Chilean hierarchy.

The Vatican has launched an investigation into a small Chilean religious order of nuns after some sisters denounced sexual abuse at the hands of priests and
As a diocesan institute of consecrated life, the Good Samaritan order was wholly dependent on the bishop and under his authority.

The Vatican investigation into the abuse there marks a turning point of sorts as the Holy See in recent years has focused its attention on responding to the abuse of minors by priests.

But recently, adult nuns have begun denouncing sexual violence at the hands of priests and bishops, an abuse of power that has become more recognized in the #MeToo era.

The Vatican did send in an investigator in 2014 when seminarians and priests reported sexual misconduct claims against their superior, the late Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien. Francis eventually removed O'Brien's rights and privileges as a cardinal.

A similar case erupted this year in the US involving disgraced ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

The scandal at the Institute of the Good Samaritan was revealed publicly in an investigative report by Chilean national television earlier this year at the height of outrage over how Chilean Catholic hierarchy covered up decades of sexual abuse of children by priests.

In the report, a half-dozen current and former nuns said sisters were thrown out of the order after they denounced the abuse to their superiors.

The scandal was sparked by an allegation that McCarrick abused a teenage altar boy, but exploded further when adult ex-seminarians reported that he routinely pressured them to sleep with him.

An Associated Press expose this summer, which cited the Chilean case and others in Europe, Africa and India, found that the Vatican had long known about the problem of the sexual violence committed against religious sisters but done next to nothing to stop it.

Church authorities have long downplayed the prevalence of the problem, often blaming the nun for seducing a priest when a scandal became known.

The issue though has gained such prominence that the international association of the world's religious sisters recently issued an unprecedented statement urging that nuns report any abuse they had suffered to police and their superiors.

The statement from the Union of International Superiors General, which represents 500,000 of the world's 660,000 nuns, was even more significant since it was issued to mark the UN's day for the elimination of violence against women, a strong show of solidarity with all women who are victims of sexual violence.



Altoona-Johnstown fund for clergy abuse survivors running dry after paying out $21.5 million

by Deb Erdley

As the Pittsburgh Diocese prepares to unveil details of a fund for adult survivors of clergy child sexual abuse, the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese this week revealed it has paid $21.5 million related to such costs over the last 19 years.

In a special message to parishioners dated Monday, Altoona-Johnstown Bishop Mark Bartchak said the church there sold its diocesan center in 2016 and bishop's residence in 2014 and used those proceeds as well as insurance funds and financial reserves to pay $15.7 million to survivors, $514,422 in counseling and support services, $4.3 million in legal costs and just under $907,389 in support of priests accused of child sexual abuse.

The diocese with a Catholic population of about 84,000 — the smallest in the state— was the subject of a 2016 state grand jury investigation. It concluded about 50 predator priests prowled its small town and rural parishes and schools over decades, often transferred from place to place by their bishops as allegations of sexual abuse surfaced.

The Altoona-Johnstown Diocese opened its settlement fund for adult survivors of abuse in 2004, Bartchak said.

As officials in the Philadelphia Archdiocese and the dioceses of Greensburg, Pittsburgh, Erie, Harrisburg, Scranton and Allentown put the final touches on multi-million compensation funds to make reparations to adults timed out of court by the statute of limitations, Bartchak warned that the well in his small central Pennsylvania diocese was running dry.

“Our diocesan savings is insufficient to settle remaining requests for compensation at this time,” Bartchak wrote. He said the church hopes to secure additional support from its insurers.

The Philadelphia Archdiocese launched its settlement fund last month. Pittsburgh diocesan spokesmen have said they will announce the details of their fund this week. Officials in Greensburg and Erie expect to have their funds open in early 2019.

Those funds were announced days after a proposal to give adult survivors of clergy sexual a two-year window of opportunity to sue their abusers stalled in the Pennsylvania Senate.

The proposal that the House had passed by an overwhelming margin was among four measures recommended by a scathing statewide grand jury report. The nearly 900-page document released in August detailed rampant allegations of clergy child sexual abuse and cover-ups in dioceses based in Greensburg, Pittsburgh, Erie, Harrisburg, Allentown and Scranton.

Church leaders and insurance industry representatives recommended compensation funds in lieu of a new window for lawsuits to be filed. Such lawsuits could bankrupt dioceses, church leaders said.

Bartchak told parishioners the Altoona- Johnstown Diocese paid “settlements and financial assistance to more than 290 individuals” since 1999.

Much of those costs were from a handful of high profile cases, including $6.5 million paid to victims of Brother Stephen Baker, who was accused of abusing more than 100 boys; a $3.5 million settlement for 21 claimants in a 2004 suit; and nearly $3 million in settlements and awards to victims of the Rev. Francis Luddy.

Altoona lawyer Richard Serbin, who prevailed against Luddy in a protracted 1994 trial, represented scores of others in the diocese who applied to the settlement fund.

“I'm glad to see an effort toward transparency, but the numbers are inaccurate. I filed the Luddy suit in 1987. For 12 years before 1999, they bitterly contested it and spent money defending a serial child predator that had molested children for 19 years,” he said.

Serbin said a number of his clients in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese who were timed out of court applied to the settlement fund. He wasn't allowed to accompany them to the review board that heard their cases. He said some walked away empty-handed; others said the church seemed more interested in discrediting them than settling claims.

“To say that they were treated with compassion is certainly untrue. I'm happy they're trying to do the right thing. But I am dealing with broken people,” Serbin said. “Regarding the $900,000 spent on those priests, my feeling is if these child predators had been turned over to the police or (district attorney) offices and had those offices be willing to prosecute there would be no expense to the diocese.”

In hindsight, Bartchak, who has served the Altoona-Johnstown diocese since 2011, might wish his predecessors had done just that. Instead, the storm that devastated the small diocese when the 2016 grand jury report broke continues.

“There has not been one day that I did not hear from or about a person who was a victim and struggles to be a survivor of child sexual abuse,” he wrote in his message.


United Kingdom

Survey for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse launched by Rotherham MP

by Adele Forrest

Ms Champion, who is also the chairwoman of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse, said it would give survivors a voice and help the Government “to make policies more reflective of the views of the people experiencing them”.

Any information provided in the survey will be anonymised.

The survey has been created by the APPG to support its response to the Government's new Victims Strategy, which looks at a victim's journey through the criminal justice system.

The APPG aims to provide the Government with views of survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The survey explores survivors' experiences of support services and the criminal justice system.

Ms Champion said: “The purpose of the APPG is to give a voice to adult survivors of child abuse. Too often the needs of survivors of childhood sexual abuse are forgotten.

“This survey is a crucial part of recording survivors' views. This will help us to send a strong message to the Government — it will help the APPG to press the Government to make policies more reflective of the views of the people experiencing them.

“We want the views of people in every part of the country and we would really encourage organisations, activists, survivors and members of the public to share the survey so we can achieve this.”

The APPG will be holding evidence sessions to complement the survey before producing a written response to the Government's consultation on the Victims Strategy, set to launch in the New Year.

To survey can be found at:

The APPG for Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse is a cross-party group of MPs and Lords. It was established in conjunction with the Survivors Trust, a UK-wide national umbrella agency for 130 specialist organisations for support for the impact of rape, sexual violence and childhood sexual abuse throughout the UK and Ireland.

The below helplines and websites may be useful for anyone who might want to talk to someone about their experience of abuse:

The Survivors Trust — 0808 801 0818 —

NAPAC — 0808 801 0331 —

Male Survivors Partnership — 0808 800 5005 —

Rape Crisis England and Wales — 0808 802 9999 —

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I thought sexual abuse only happened to other people's children. Then I woke up.


Nearly 17 years ago, I woke up from a nightmare I didn't realize I was in. If you're a parent whose child has suffered sexual abuse at the hands of someone you know and trust, you will understand what I mean. Sitting in a family counselor's office, the world as I knew it came crashing down as I learned that my eldest daughter, Lauren, had been sexually, emotionally and physically abused nearly every day from the ages of 12 to 16.

I worked hard to provide my family with a wonderful life and to create a loving and safe environment for my children to grow. I made sure to get references and background checks on everyone interacting with my daughters or son. But I was unable to protect Lauren from the monster living in my own home.

It never occurred to me that sexual abuse could happen to my family, let alone to my children. That is the message I want to send to every other parent out there: Don't think this can't happen to you or your children. Child sexual abuse happens in every ZIP code, in every religion and at every socioeconomic level.

A monster living in our home

In the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente, nearly 25 percent of women and 16 percent of men reported childhood sexual abuse — which means there are also many parents in our country whose worst nightmare came to life, just like mine did.

It seems every day a new abuse case dominates the headlines, from the Jeffrey Epstein allegations in Florida to USA Gymnastics to the Ohio State University wrestling allegations, and countless less-publicized stories. Clearly, the way we teach children about abuse prevention must change. And, as parents, our views about abuse must also evolve.

The person who destroyed my daughter's childhood was not a stranger, not a man loitering around the playground or someone claiming a lost puppy. Instead, she was a seemingly loving and dedicated woman living inside my home who was deemed trustworthy to care for my three children. But people deceive us. According to a 2012 report by the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center, in 91 percent of sex offenses against juveniles, the perpetrator is someone the child knows and often trusts.

We thought we knew and trusted Lauren's abuser beyond the shadow of a doubt. She lived in our home and was like family to us — she even came on our family vacations.

But rigorous vetting, references and a background check couldn't protect Lauren from the monster living in our home. Our nanny, Waldina Flores, was a pedophile who destroyed my daughter's childhood with frequent sexual, physical and emotional abuse. Waldina moved into our home when Lauren was 11, then the grooming started. A few months later, at 12 years old, the abuse began. When she was 16, Lauren gathered the bravery to disclose the abuse she had been suffering.



Scouting Ireland faces uncertain future in wake of child sex abuse scandal

As more allegations come to light, the organisation could face a fatal financial cost

Allan Mathews (35) has been involved with scouting since he was eight years old, and is now a leader with the St Patrick's group, in Dundalk, Co Louth, one of Scouting Ireland's largest troops in the country.

In the troop den on Thursday night a group of 20 cubs, aged from nine to 11, were learning how to navigate using compasses. Upstairs a larger group of scouts, ranging in age from 12 to 15, played a series of games on their last meeting before Christmas.

The crisis over the historic child sexual abuse scandal facing the century-old youth organisation appeared far removed from the noisy Dundalk scout den.

“My stomach turned, it's not something that you ever want to hear,” Mathews said, describing the moment he saw the news of the controversy break.

An ongoing review by Scouting Ireland has identified 317 alleged child sex abuse victims, and 212 alleged abusers.

Evidence from the review details abuse that occurred at “all levels within the organisation”, cases where information was “covered up” and alleged perpetrators were permitted to “move from group to group”, Scouting Ireland's new chairperson Aisling Kelly told a stunned meeting of senior scout leaders on Monday.

“If that was true, that was disgusting, the thought of it is sickening . . . It's not something that I would ever have been able to comprehend happening,” Mathews said.

“We detest the thoughts of what happened to the poor innocent kids,” he went on, adding that he hoped the gardaí would investigate allegations now surfacing to the fullest extent.

Despite it being the era of the smartphone and computer game, the Dundalk troop's numbers have increased year on year. The troop has 180 juvenile members, and “we could take 30 more kids tomorrow morning,” Mathews said.

The organisation has taken a hit in relation to the public, but the national scandal has not eroded the trust between parents and local leaders in Dundalk, he said.

In recent months Mathews's six-year-old son joined the younger “beavers” age group. “It's a way of life, I could never see myself leaving, I'm in it 27 years [and] it's something I'm proud of being a part of,” Mathews said.

The aim of scouting is to help develop young people into independent individuals with good morals, who “know how to treat people well,” he said.

“We've had people that have been fostered that had gone through terrible upbringings, that were brought here. To see them grow, develop, change and come out the other end on a happier path, that's what you want to do,” Mathews said.

Confidential review

The first threads of the controversy came loose last February, when The Irish Times reported the details of a confidential review by safeguarding expert Ian Elliott. The review found Scouting Ireland's handling of a rape allegation from 2016, concerning two adult leaders, was “deeply flawed”.

Elliott's report also identified shortcomings with safeguarding standards in the organisation, and recommended an audit of the handling of historic allegations.

Over several months Elliott conducted that review, based on historic child-protection files; interviews with former staff and senior volunteers; and information from a substantial number of alleged victims who had begun to come forward.

In mid-November the organisation announced the review had identified 108 alleged abuse victims, and 71 alleged perpetrators. Three weeks on and both figures have nearly tripled, as more abuse survivors continue to come forward. The ongoing review found the majority of the alleged abuse occurred between the 1960s and 1990s.

The files tell a story of scout leaders who faced allegations being allowed to “go quietly” from the BSA, Mones said. “These files show chapter and verse of the knowledge of men who joined and abused,” he added.

The highly-publicised 2012 case “unleashed scores of lawsuits all over the country,” after which the BSA approach to abuse allegations “did a 180”, Mones said.

The previous policy was akin to “scorched earth”, where the organisation adopted an aggressive defence against lawsuits, he said. After the public scandal the BSA's approach now is to resolve cases in settlements where possible, he said.

The scandal has resulted in a number of multimillion-dollar court payouts for abuse victims. Earlier this week the BSA hired a law firm to explore filing for bankruptcy in order to restructure, according to media reports.

The BSA did not respond to questions from The Irish Times on the abuse scandal.


Daniel O'Connell, a solicitor with Irish firm Coleman Legal Partners who specialise in abuse cases, said the firm had 25 clients looking to take cases against Scouting Ireland. Some 21 of those complainants had contacted the firm in the last three weeks, he said.

“I have a few different clients who had the same abuser. When you see the shocking numbers coming out that does make you sit up and think,” O'Connell said.

In late 2014, a BBC news report on an increase in lawsuits against the Scout Association in the UK since the Jimmy Savile abuse revelations featured the testimony of a victim who was molested in the scouts.

Prior to that point, David McClenaghan, a partner at law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp who specialises in abuse cases, had taken about 28 legal actions against the Scout Association. Following the news report the firm was “contacted by over 400 people who were affected by it,” McClenaghan said.

Since then the firm has represented more than 200 abuse victims in proceedings against the organisation, with awards ranging from £15,000 to hundreds of thousands of pounds.

McClenaghan said he had, in several lawsuits , “absolutely” come across historic cases where people had approached higher-level authorities in the Scout Association about abuse, but “then nothing had been done about it”.

Failure to act on allegations to authorities appeared to be “individuals making mistakes rather than being directed not to do anything” in cases he had seen, McClenaghan said.

A spokesman for the Scout Association said it could not comment on the claims unless provided with specific cases where individuals allegedly failed to act on allegations.

To date, Bolt Burdon Kemp has recovered more than £2 million in compensation for abuse victims from the Scout Association.

The association was unable to identify who its insurers had been for a period between the late 1960s and mid-1970s, meaning it has had to pay the costs of any abuse lawsuits from that period from its own funds.


Scouting Ireland now faces similar problems identifying past insurance records required to help indemnify the organisation against the cost of future legal cases.

The organisation was formed in 2004 following a merger of two legacy organisations, the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland (CBSI) and the Scout Association of Ireland (SAI).

The meeting of senior volunteers on Monday at Scouting Ireland's national head office in Larch Hill, Dublin, heard the organisation is facing challenges locating past insurance documents related to the SAI.

“At the moment there is only one insurer who is willing to insure Scouting Ireland in this country,” Aisling Kelly told the private meeting. The historic documentation for the CBSI was in “much better shape” than records from the SAI, she said.

If Scouting Ireland is forced to bear the entire cost of lawsuits from past abuse in the SAI itself, the cost is “going to be huge,” McClenaghan said.

The organisation does not have substantial financial reserves. Twice this year its State funding was suspended by Minister for Children Katherine Zappone, due to governance concerns following controversy over the flawed handling of the 2016 rape allegation.

Scouting Ireland's approach to the abuse revelations has been to set up a victim- support scheme to provide counselling services to survivors. There is a recognition inside the organisation that if large numbers of alleged abuse victims pursue civil cases against Scouting Ireland, the costs could collapse the organisation.

Its board is due to consider a range of emergency financial measures at a meeting on Saturday. If the number of alleged victims continues to increase, even selling assets such as scout dens may be considered, Kelly has said.

The Pandora's box of past child sexual abuse in the organisation, which lay dormant for decades, has now burst open, with the number of abuse survivors coming forward expected to keep increasing.

Scouting Ireland's board has vowed that nothing will be hidden, and that legacy failings will be addressed transparently. However, current goodwill towards the organisation may not be enough to save it from the sins of the past.

Past scout abuse: ‘He laced me with drinks then brought me into a tent'

David (not his real name, as he does not wish to identify himself publicly) was 15 years old when he attended a national scout camp in the late 1970s, where he was allegedly raped by a scoutmaster.

“He laced me with drinks – whiskey and beer – and then brought me into a tent,” David said. “He physically raped me, then he gave me a dirty dishcloth to wipe myself after,” he said.

The trauma of the past abuse has “destroyed” his life, and David now struggles with depression and thoughts of suicide.

“At the time I couldn't tell anybody. I have three children, I can't tell them I was raped,” he said. His wife knows about the past abuse, but the trauma has put a huge strain on their relationship, he said.

Earlier this year David contacted Scouting Ireland, and a number of days later met two officials from the youth organisation, who apologised over the past abuse, and were “very supportive,” he said. Scouting Ireland told him the organisation had received other allegations of abuse in relation to the CBSI scoutmaster, who is now deceased.

David is currently out of work, and said he may never work again due to his serious mental health problems. Scouting Ireland is providing him with a small travel allowance to attend counselling sessions once a week, he said.

“I can't sleep at night, I wake up some nights puking. I'm a middle-aged man, and my life is destroyed,” he said. “Scouting Ireland are a great organisation . . . all I want to know is the kids now in Scouting Ireland are safe,” he said.

Scouting Ireland has set up a confidential abuse helpline – tel: 1800 221 199.



After Ohio State sex abuse scandal, a push to change statute of limitations for victims

Currently, under Ohio law, an adult victim has two years from the date of the alleged abuse to file a civil suit.

The whistleblowing former Ohio State wrestler who accused his coaches of failing to protect him and other athletes from a sexually abusive team doctor went to bat Wednesday for proposed legislation that would eliminate the statute of limitations for rape cases in Ohio.

Joining ex-wrestler Mike DiSabato was rape victim advocate and lawyer Gloria Allred, who is representing several of the former athletes who claim they were molested by Dr. Richard Strauss when he worked at Ohio State from the mid-1970s to the late 1990s.

“Clearly there needs to be a change in state law,” Allred said. “Often we think of victims of sexual abuse as women. We should not ignore men who were sexually abused.”

State Sen. Joe Schiavone, a Democrat who is leading the push to change Ohio's law, said it is long overdue. His proposed bill, which currently only has Democratic sponsors, would eliminate statute of limitations on criminal prosecutions of rape and attempted rape and "provide that there is no period of limitations for a civil action brought by a victim."

“There is no statute of limitation on murder and there should not be a statute of limitations on rape,” he said.

But Schiavone said the bill he is championing would not cover the alleged Strauss victims since it only applies to new cases. He said, however, there have been discussions about possibly opening a one-year window that would allow the former Ohio State athletes, and only them, to file civil lawsuits for damages.

Currently, under Ohio law, an adult victim has two years from the date of the alleged abuse to file a civil suit. Meanwhile, a child victim has 12 years from his or her 18th birthday to file a civil suit for damages. For criminal charges, the statute of limitations is capped at 20 years.

The 1978 employment application information for Dr. Richard Strauss, from Ohio State University's personnel files.Ohio State University via AP
Statute of limitations on rape and sexual abuse cases vary from state to state.

DiSabato, whose allegations prompted the university to open an investigation into Strauss in April, said his alma mater needs to be “held accountable.”

DiSabato recounted to journalists Wednesday how he was allegedly molested the first time by Strauss, when he was a 14-year-old athlete at a Catholic high school in Columbus and the doctor was doing a body fat study that was authorized by the university.

"This was not a study, this was a premeditated plot to assault children," DiSabato said of the doctor, choking up.

It was a "running joke" among the students that Strauss was molesting athletes and Ohio State did nothing to stop him, DiSabato said. 'There was systematic abuse within the athletic department," he said.

OSU has said that they will "be focused on uncovering what may have happened during this era."

DiSabato, 50, made headlines in July when he and several other ex-Ohio State wrestlers publicly accused one of their former coaches, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, of turning a blind eye to Strauss' alleged abuse.

Their broadside came after Jordan, who was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State from 1986 to 1994, insisted in no uncertain terms that he had no idea what Strauss was doing — and had not even heard locker room talk about the doctor.

But six former Ohio State wrestlers interviewed by NBC News said they believed Jordan had to have known about Strauss. One said he told Jordan about it directly and his account was corroborated by another wrestler.

Jordan did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether he would support a change in Ohio's statute of limitations law for sex abuse victims. Jordan has previously insisted that he had no knowledge of any sexual misconduct by Strauss.

A spokesman for Ohio State said, "We do not have a position on the bill."

Since April, male athletes from 17 different sports at Ohio State have reported sexual misconduct by Strauss, who died by suicide in 2005.

Ohio State hired the Perkins Coie law firm to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations against Strauss. Jordan and some 150 former students have been interviewed, Perkins Coie attorneys Markus Funk and Caryn Trombino told the Ohio State trustees earlier this month.

In August, the U.S. Department of Education announced it too had opened an investigation into whether Ohio State officials responded “promptly and equitably” to the complaints from athletes about Strauss.


South Africa

SA has most progressive judiciary in the world – anti-abuse group

Women are hitting South Africa’s streets to protest against rape, gender-based violence and femicide.

A number of "very positive rulings" have shown that South Africa does indeed have the most progressive judiciary in the world, rights group Women and Men against Child Abuse (WMACA) has said.

Monday marked the end of 16 Days of Activism for 2018, a year which the organisation said had "not just the same disparaging number of new cases", but also landmark court outcomes.

In November, the WMACA submitted an application against convicted rapist Bob Hewitt's bid to have his prison sentence converted into house arrest, warning it would "be there in future to fight any such attempt by Hewitt to regain his freedom before his jail sentence is served in full".

Hewitt, 78, was sentenced to six years in prison for the rape of two young women and the sexual assault of another who he coached in the 1980s and 1990s.

"Since his age has already been a factor used in mitigation during sentencing, we believed that sending him home after only two years would be a form of double jeopardy – for someone who has shown no remorse nor apology for his victims, Hewitt certainly can't rely upon society to show him any consideration for the fact that he is now an old man," it said in a statement.

The WMACA said it also wanted to "take stock" of the landmark Frankel 8 matter in which the alleged abuse survivors were pursuing a civil settlement against the late Sidney Frankel's estate to "set a precedent that if you abuse children, the law can still hold you accountable after your death".

The eight claimed they were sexually assaulted by Frankel as long ago as 30 years before his death and laid criminal charges in 2015.

Their case never went ahead due to the limitation of the statute of prosecution.

'Groundbreaking' ruling

Frankel died of cancer in his Johannesburg home on April 13, 2017. He was 68.

"The Frankel 8 wanted to pursue a criminal case against their abuser but were unable to due to two primary historical legal legacies still rooted in pre-democratic law. These were the definitions of different forms of sexual abuse and how these related to both time and gender," the organisation explained.

"They fought a battle that challenged the legal framework that made certain sexual crimes against children 'less bad' by saying they could not be prosecuted after a 20-year time lapse, while others had no time limit for prosecution.

"The second battle was for equality of gender under the law as certain definitions of sexual crimes excluded certain genders. The issue of time and gender in the law both limited the rights of adult survivors to seek criminal justice and a Constitutional Court has rectified this. All persons, regardless of how long ago the abuse was, what kind of abuse it was and what gender they were, can now request criminal justice."

The organisation also described Judge Peet Johnson's ruling that former Parktown Boys' High School assistant water polo coach Collan Rex couldn't use his own abuse as a mitigating factor in sentencing as "extremely groundbreaking".

"We as a society are one step closer to realising that your own abuse doesn't give you carte blanche on a next generation of youth."

Rex was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexual assault and an additional three years for common assault after he pleaded guilty to 144 counts of sexual assault and 12 counts of common assault. The court acquitted him of some of the charges.


Leave us kids alone: A look at child marriage in the US and beyond

While the global trend in forced marriage and child brides has seen numbers fall in recent years, the picture emerging from America is more disturbing, writes Bette Browne

More than 12m girls around the world, some not even teenagers, are married before the age of 18.

There were at least 207,468 such marriages in the States between 2000 and 2015, or an average of almost 40 a day.

Child marriage, defined as any formal marriage or informal union where one or both parties are under 18, is banned outright in only two US states.

But now a number of states have been galvanised into action to try to halt the practice.

While on a global scale the US figures may not seem that alarming, you have to take into account that America is overall a wealthy country, whereas most child marriages in developing countries are entered into due to severe economic hardship.

But the numbers emerging in recent years tell a different story, highlighted by research undertaken by groups such as Unchained At Last, Child USA, and Girls not Brides, and have sparked growing calls for action.

In almost all states, the age for marriage without parental consent is 18 but there is no federal law governing it so each state has its own laws.

Nearly every state technically prohibits people younger than 18 from marrying but each of these jurisdictions has exceptions to these laws,” according to the Pew Research Center.

In 36 of the 50 states, the age of marriage for minors with parental consent is 16, but in some states the minimum is even younger if there is both judicial and parental consent. So, in effect, a child of any age could be married in such states.

Three 10-year-old girls were married to men in their 30s in Tennessee in 2001. An 11-year-old boy married a 27-year-old woman in the same state in 2006. But earlier this year the governor banned such marriages when he signed legislation prohibiting the marriage of minors under the age of 17.

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“Perhaps the most concerning aspect of child marriage laws in the United States is that in 23, or approximately half, of the states, there is no minimum age for marriage with parental and judicial consent. This is known as not having a ‘floor' for marriage, or no bottom limit,” said Child USA, which conducts legal, medical, and social science research to identify laws and policies affecting child protection.

“This means that if both parents and a judge sign off on a marriage, a child of any age can be married in that state. This lack of a ‘floor' for marriage puts children at risk of sex abuse.”

Rates of underage marriage are high in southern, rural states with a high prevalence of poverty and religious conservatism, as well as among Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Sikhs, and Hmong people from Southeast Asia, says campaign group Unchained At Last.

The Pew Research Center says child marriage is most common in West Virginia and Texas, where about seven of every 1,000 15- to 17-year-olds were married in 2014.

Several other states in the South and the West, including Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Nevada, and California, also have above-average rates of such unions. In Alaska, Louisiana and South Carolina, children as young as 12 years old have been granted marriage licences.

This puts children, most often young girls, at risk of sex abuse, critics say, because, in many instances of child marriage, the parents are the ones who are insisting on the marriage or, in some cases, forcing their child to marry for social, cultural, religious, or financial reasons.

Child marriage survivors often say they were forced to marry against their will, particularly if they were pregnant, to avoid the stigma of giving birth outside marriage.

A survey by the Tahirih Justice Center, a legal defence organisation that protects women and girls fleeing violence, found forced marriage is a real problem in the US today, with as many as 3,000 known and suspected cases identified in recent years.

“The fact that potentially thousands of young women and girls from immigrant communities may face forced marriages each year in the United States is alarming and demands attention,” said the Tahirih Justice Center.

An increasing number of forced marriage cases involve young women and girls — some as young as 13 — from traditional immigrant communities in the United States. By force, fraud, or coercion, they were being compelled to marry men from their families' countries or regions of origin.

In New Jersey, for example, a girl was only 12 when her father sought to have her married after taking her to live in Saudi Arabia. Then there was the similar case of Lina, who was born in Yemen, but raised in Modesto, California.

During a school holiday break, her father took her to Yemen for what he said was a visit to her sick grandmother. Not long after her arrival, he introduced her to the man she would have to marry.

She tried to avoid the marriage but she found everyone was powerless to help, including the US government, which found itself bound by local laws.

Only nine states have specific criminal statutes on forced marriage and no prosecutions have occurred, according to the Tahirih Justice Center.

In all states, however, people who force someone to marry may be charged with violating state laws, including those against domestic violence, child abuse, rape, assault, kidnapping, threats of violence, stalking, or coercion. Child marriage was a problem Americans had believed only existed in developing countries but the numbers told a different story and research by groups such as Unchained At Last and Child USA have galvanised states into action.

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Delaware became the first state in May to ban child marriage, setting the minimum marriage age at 18. Previously, a minor in that state could get married at any age with a judge's approval.

Other states followed suit and now more than 20 have now introduced legislation to raise the minimum marriage age.

Florida raised it to 17 in March. In May, Tennessee passed a similar ban, and the same month, New Hampshire passed a bill to raise the marriage age from 13 for girls and 14 for boys to 16 for both genders.

Maryland considered but failed to vote on a bill this year to tighten up its law, which allows 15-year-olds if pregnant, to marry with parental consent. State lawmakers hope to pursue the issue in January.

Missouri had the most lenient law in the nation allowing 15-year-olds to marry, with only one parent's signature required. But in July it outlawed marriage for anyone under 16.

In New Jersey, where nearly 3,500 children married between 1995 and 2012, a child marriage ban bill was signed into law in June, setting a minimum age of 18 with no exceptions.

This makes New Jersey the second state to completely ban child marriage, after Delaware. Last year New York banned children under 17 from marrying. Previously minors as young as 14 were allowed to wed under state law providing they obtained parental and court permission.

But opposition to changing the laws can be strong in some states. It was a long battle to see change in New Jersey, for example. The measure that became law this year had passed both chambers of the legislature back in 2017 but was halted by then Republican governor Chris Christie, who refused to sign the proposal into law because he said a complete ban on child marriage would “violate the cultures and traditions of some communities in New Jersey based on religious traditions”.

Yemeni former child-bride Nujud Mohammed Ali participates in a demonstration to support proposed legislation banning the marriage of girls under 17, outside the parliament in the capital Sa'naa. Ali was granted a divorce in 2008 at the age of eight after her unemployed father forced her into an arranged marriage with a man 20 years her senior.

Child marriage is also a controversial issue in other, less developed, countries. In over 50% of countries, across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and parts of Europe, there are no minimum ages to get married and there are laws that allow exceptions to marriage laws.

In recent years, many countries in the EU have tightened their marriage laws, either banning marriage under 18 completely or requiring judicial approval for such marriages.

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Countries that have reformed their marriage laws include Sweden (2014), Denmark (2017), Germany (2017), Luxembourg (2014), and Spain (2015).

In Ireland, the minimum age for marriage is 18 years and any person under 18 must seek an exemption from the Circuit Family Court or the High Court before they can enter into a marriage.

In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland teenagers can marry at 16 with parental consent. In Scotland, they do not need consent.

Every year, millions of girls across the globe are either encouraged or forced to marry men, sometimes two or three times their age, due to cultural and religious reasons or because of extreme poverty.

Parents may believe early marriage is in their daughter's best interest, especially if she's pregnant. But in all cases, girls who marry before age 18 are harmed for life,” Unicef stresses.

Yet, every US state except Delaware and New Jersey allows people under the age of 18 to marry once they've obtained some combination of a judge's order, parental permission, premarital counseling or proof of pregnancy.

“The risks are just as real for child marriages in the US as they are in developing countries,” says Mark Engman, Unicef managing director, public policy and advocacy. “For the sake of protecting children from abuse and protecting their futures, every single US state must take legislative steps to ban child marriage.

“It's important to have legislation on child marriage on the books, but the law in and of itself is not going to change people's minds.

“We have to convince people that stopping child marriage is the right thing to do.”

Advocates campaigning to set the minimum marriage age at 18, with no exceptions, say it is extremely difficult for minors in an abusive marriage to get help. In some states, minors cannot access a domestic violence shelter or apply for a protective order without the help of an adult.

“When somebody aged 17 or younger calls us, there is almost nothing we can do to help. If we tried to help her leave home, she's considered a runaway,” says Fraidy Reiss, director of Unchained At Last.

Gaps in state laws are failing to protect minors from being forced or coerced into marriages where they may face violence and sexual assault.

Yet some lawmakers and others on both sides of the political spectrum have voiced reluctance to completely ban marriage for all minors. Some minors, they say, should be allowed to marry under certain circumstances.

Opposition to setting a legal age often gets caught up, too, in the politics of abortion.

In Delaware, during a debate on the under-18 ban, at least one representative said he believed more teenage girls would get abortions if they weren't allowed to marry.

In some states, such as California, opposition has come from civil liberty groups. The American Civil Liberties Union of California argued that banning marriage before 18 “unnecessarily and unduly intrudes on the fundamental right of marriage.”

Boys are sometimes married as children, although according to Unicef, “girls are disproportionately the most affected”, with child marriage five times more common among girls than boys. Child marriage has lasting consequences for girls, from their health, education and social development perspectives.

While the movement to end child marriage in the US is undoubtedly growing, there is still a long way to go until the issue is addressed in all states. But 2019 will see the campaign intensifying.

Officials in Pennsylvania, for example, are reviewing legislation that could be proposed early next year that would make that state the third in the country to ban child marriages, with no exceptions.

Changes also look likely in Ohio, where pregnant girls of any age can marry with parental and court permission, as well as in Wyoming, Washington, Utah, and Georgia.

“The number of children married each year in the US is decreasing,” Unchained At Last says, “but it will not reach zero until every state passes laws to end child marriage.



Cyntoia Brown, sex trafficking victim, sentenced to 51 years in prison

Cyntoia Brown, a former 16-year-old sex trafficking victim, is facing five decades in prison if the recent Tennessee Supreme Court ruling is upheld. On December 6, the court ruled that Brown, who was convicted of first-degree murder as a teenager, would have to serve 51 years in prison before being eligible for parole. The case is one that brings to light the continued criminalization of sex trafficking survivors, along with the continued problems with the juvenile justice system that affects a disproportionate number of girls and children of color.

In 2004 Cyntoia was 16 when she shot and killed a 43-year-old man, Johnny Allen, who solicited her for sex. According to Brown's later testimony, at the time she had been forced into prostitution by her abusive older boyfriend and pimp named “Kut Throat.” Brown maintained that she had shot Allen in self-defense after the older man had become violent with her after showing her his gun collection. Cyntoia explained that she feared for her life, and shot him with the handgun she had in her purse.

The prosecution countered that Brown's real motive was robbery. She was tried as an adult in Tennessee, and convicted of murder, and sentenced to life behind bars in 2006. Cyntoia's case could have seen her as just another statistic, but it was the PBS documentary called “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story,” that drew public attention to her situation, and renewed support by those seeking her freedom.

Brown and her legal team challenged the 2006 ruling, asserting it was unconstitutional by citing a 2012 opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court that it was in violation of the U.S. Constitution to give mandatory life sentences without parole to juvenile offenders. It also came to light in the years following Brown's initial trial that her case had been mishandled. She had been advised not to testify on her own behalf. Evidence regarding her troubled upbringing and mental disorder also was not included as a factor in her defense by her original defense lawyers.

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that Brown's sentence was not unconstitutional because a “life sentence” was 60 years, and since Brown was only serving 51 years (a reduced sentence she received based on her own good behavior) her sentence didn't violate the constitution. The Tennessee Supreme Court, essentially by using a legal loophole, denied Brown her right to fair sentencing under the law.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union close to 60,000 youth under the age of 18 in the United States are incarcerated in juvenile jails and prisons. Of that 60,000 there is a disproportionate amount of youth of color incarcerated. According to statistics gathered by the Youth First Initiative Black youth are five times more likely to be incarcerated than white youth, Native American youth are 3.2 times more likely to be incarcerated than white youth, and Latino youth are 1.8 times more likely to be incarcerated than white youth. This is despite the fact that, as according to the Haywood Burns Institute, youth of color commit the same level of juvenile crime as their white counterparts. This division of so-called justice isn't just along racial lines, as further reports note that young girls are making up a larger amount of the juvenile justice population.

The report Gender Injustice: System-Level Juvenile Justice Reforms for Girls explains that there has been a steady increase in the number of girls arrested and incarcerated in the juvenile justice system, and more so in the number of girls of color. The executive director of the human rights organization Rights4Girls, Yasmin Vafa, noted in a recent NPR interview that many of these girls are finding themselves in the “sexual abuse-to-prison pipeline,” which is a variation of the school-to-prison pipeline often associated with youth of disadvantaged backgrounds being criminalized from an early age.

Vafa explained that many girls in the prison system, like Cyntoia, have suffered instances of sexual and physical violence. “I think that it's not a coincidence that the whole issue of Cyntoia Brown has made a kind of resurgence during the wake of these ‘ME TOO' disclosures because I think it shows what ‘ME TOO' looks like for some of our most vulnerable girls,” she said in the interview.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear Brown's case next, as she is not eligible to go before a parole board until she is 67 years old. There is also a public calling for Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam to grant Brown clemency with a shorter sentence before he leaves office in 2019. Gov. Haslam stated in a recent town hall meeting that he is reviewing Brown's case.

Research and statistics show that Cyntoia Brown's case, although a high profile one, is not unlike many cases of young girls of color lost and vulnerable in a system that is doing little to provide them with protection and a chance at fulfilling lives. Brown's case puts into the spotlight a continued problem of exploitation and oppression of individuals at the intersection of race, gender, and class.

With a little over six weeks left of Gov. Haslam's term, organizers and activists are urging supporters to call Haslam's office at (615) 741-2001 to apply pressure for a decision on Brown's case.



Valley man helps adult survivors of childhood abuse

Helping Adult Survivors of Abuse

by Marina Barnett

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV).-- April is National Child Abuse Prevention month and a Valley man is working to help adults who are survivors of childhood abuse.

The story gives survivors a chance to talk about their own experiences, and learn about others'.

Charlie Tinsley survived 19 years of childhood abuse and now serves as an ambassador for the National Association of Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse (NAASCA).

They have a website with resources and a radio show that survivors can call into to share their stories and hear other survivor's stories.

Tinsley said a lot of adult survivors he meets have not processed their abuse, or talked about it, and the radio show helps.

"There's a sense of shame that comes along with that and I think that we need to get away from the shame and the stigmas that come with being survivors of abuse, and be honest with ourselves," said Tinsley.

There's a six month interval on the website, so survivors can tell share their stories and find new and different ways to tell them. They can listen to the show at any time.


United Kingdom

UK opens its first 'safe house' for child sex abuse victims to speed up prosecutions and recovery

Britain's first specialist “safe house” for child sex abuse victims has been launched to help cope with a surge in cases fuelled by social media and to speed up the prosecution of offenders.

The London-based centre will enable police, medics and psychologists to interview and care for victims in one place so investigations into the perpetrators can be pursued alongside counselling and support.

The £8m centre, called The Lighthouse, will eliminate the need for victims to undergo the trauma of repeating their statement several times to different agencies.

Some 70 child abuse victims have already been referred to the centre where they are interviewed by psychologists in a "talking room" filmed by discrete videos which enable police officers to ensure they are amassing the evidence needed for a prosecution.

Its backers believe the approach, based on the Icelandic Barnahus (Child House) and American Advocacy Centre model, will improve evidence-gathering, reduce delays in bringing a child abuser to trial and speed up recovery times.

There will be capacity for more than 500 young people each year as part of the two-year pilot which it is hoped could become a model for a network of such centres across London and the UK.

The bulk of the money is coming from the Home Office but it is also being funded by London Mayor Sadiq Khan's Office for Policing and Crime, NHS England and Department for Education.

Mr Khan, who opened the safe house yesterday, said he hoped it would be a forerunner of a network across the capital: “Children who have experienced sexual abuse have already undergone a horrific ordeal, so it's essential that we do everything we can to make their path to recovery and justice as simple as possible.”

The centre will be led by specialists from University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) with additional services provided by the NSPCC through partnership funding with Morgan Stanley.

Peter Wanless, the NSPCC's chief executive, backed extending it nationwide: “Bringing this concept to life in the UK is a landmark moment for the NSPCC and all those that advocated this way of working and who have come together to deliver ‘The Lighthouse'.

“The eyes of the nation will be on this project which is organised around the needs of young people that have suffered from the physical and emotional trauma of sexual abuse. It is an enlightened approach which we hope will flourish.”

Home office minister Victoria Atkins did not rule out the possibility of more such centres being set up depending on the success of the pilot: "It brings together all of the agencies and people who can help children who have suffered most traumatic experiences to recover and secure justice for them."

Its creation followed research that found one in four children who told police or social workers about suffering sexual abuse were referred for health and therapeutic support.

The Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse estimates 15% of girls and 5% of boys experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 16.

Police have reported a surge in child sexual abuse fuelled by the internet. The National Crime Agency (NCA) received 82,109 individual industry referrals for child sex abuse images in 2017, a 700% increase since 2012.


Expert sees cyberspace full of risk, from addictions to child abuse

A leading expert in cyberpsychology describes a digital culture today in which children and pre-teens have virtually unfiltered access to online pornography, and she predicts that one day parents who fail to monitor their children's online activity may be found guilty of criminal child abuse.

“I can see later down the line that parents or caregivers who allow their very young children to be exposed to hardcore pornography on their phone and on their devices …that may be considered, in terms of social welfare and social services, as the active abuse of a child,” said Mary Aiken, Adjunct Associate Professor at University College in Dublin and an Academic Advisor to the European Cyber Crime Centre at Europol for Ireland.

Aiken told Crux the widespread diffusion of sexual content online has been described in some circles as “the ‘pornification' of society.”

This is a problem for youngsters, because “children are vulnerable to being damaged by what we call legal but age-inappropriate content,” she said, explaining that in the UK, there is currently talk of developing an “A” and “B” internet, where households who actually want porn will have to put their name on a list and sign up for it.

Currently, the exposure of children to pornography is only considered a crime when predators intentionally expose children to hardcore porn as part of the grooming process.

Part of the problem, she said, is an increase in sexual assaults on children by other children, and while there isn't yet hard evidence to support it, her belief is that it's related to “the availability of hardcore pornography online.”

Aiken was a keynote speaker at a Nov. 29-Dec. 1 conference on “Drugs and Addictions, an Obstacle to Integral Human Development,” organized by the healthcare section of the Vatican department for Integral Human Development.

In addition to substance addiction, the conference touched on what experts are referring to as “new dependencies,” which include addictions to gambling, sex and the internet.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Vatican's development office, opened by saying addictions to drugs, the internet, gambling and sex, including pornography, “strongly undermine the freedom of the person, which is the fundamental expression of the dignity of every human being.”

Drugs and other dependencies “are a wound inflicted on our society, which traps many people in a spiral of suffering and alienation,” Turkson said, emphasizing the need to reach out to those weak and suffering, helping them to regain hope and take charge of their lives.

Professor Umberto Nizzoli, a member of the National Commission of Experts on Addiction and a professor at the University Institute (IPU), in Italy, said that when people become dependent on something, without it they feel a “continuous hunger” whether it's an object, a person or a behavior.

The correct term for those who become dependent, he said, is not “addict,” but “slave,” because they lose control on both a biological and psychological level.

Noriko Tanaka, president of the Japanese “Society Concerned About Gambling Addiction,” is a recovering gambling addict whose father and grandfather both suffered from the same condition. After rebuilding her life, she converted to Catholicism and wants to raise awareness of the dangers of gambling.

Speaking at the conference, Tanaka cited a 2016 study finding that 58 percent of the world's slot machines are in Japan, leading to an “abnormally high rate” of gamblers and addicts. She urged greater education and government support for recovery, especially in Japan, where there is still a stigma surrounding gambling.

“No matter what country you're in, no one should suffer alone,” she said, adding that “the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it's connection.”

Doctor Peter C. Kleponis, a licensed Clinical Therapist and Assistant Director of Comprehensive Counseling Services in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, spoke about increases in sex and pornography addiction.

Kleponis said it can take many forms, from strip clubs to porn and fetishes, but it usually begins with pornography. The porn industry rakes in about $100 billion annually, he said, with $13 billion from the U.S. alone, putting its total profits higher than Apple or Amazon.

Kleponis said there are currently some 4.2 million porn sites in the world, 60 million daily requests, 4.5 million daily emails, and around 100,000 child porn websites. Yet these are likely “gross underestimates,” since it's nearly impossible to monitor the deep and dark webs.

Though porn addiction is primarily a man's problem, with some 20 percent of men accessing porn sites at work, around one third of visitors to porn sites are now women, meaning “it's not just a men's issue anymore.”

Entry points are television, cable, movies, social media and, most commonly, the internet, meaning children as young as nine or ten with smartphones have almost immediate access to explicit content, and predators have instantaneous access to children.

Kleponis said porn addiction is just as addictive as other drugs due to the chemical impact it has on the brain. After a while, the body gets used to the pleasure signals and begins to crave them, and eventually it “hijacks the brain,” he said, adding that porn addiction is often a coping mechanism to hide emotional pain.

Kleponis said the industry has a devastating impact on marriage and the family, with some 56 percent of all divorces being related to pornography. When women discover that their husbands have an addiction, some experience symptoms similar to PTSD, feeling ashamed and unworthy.

When it comes to children, the average age at which they're exposed to hardcore porn is eight, with most porn being viewed during school hours. France recently banned smartphones in schools and Kleponis gave it kudos, saying “they're really protecting their children.”

Aiken also spoke about internet addiction, saying that while there are many benefits to technology, there's not much research on risks. After getting a degree in psychology, Aiken decided to study cyberpsychology in the 1990s. She also studied cybercrime, and, she said, “believe me, I'm kept very busy.”

With just 1 percent of the internet used for basic search engine requests, the other 99 percent happens in the “deep web” and the “dark web,” Aiken said, noting that it's easy for children to access both.

Although people are spending longer periods of time connected to devices, there's still no clinical definition of “internet addiction” which presents “a major psychological challenge,” especially in terms of treatment, she said.

In her comments to Crux, Aiken said the internet “is like a giant slot machine, and every now and then you get a great text, a great comment, a great post, and that's far more addictive than if every comment were good or bad.”

“It's this sort of slot machine effect that hooks us,” she said. The problem, she added, is that phones and other devices are “designed to be addictive, and social media platforms, social tech platforms, are designed to be addictive.”

She warned that as a society, “we're adopting each new emerging technology with the collective wisdom of lemmings,” cautioning that “technology will only mean progress when we can mitigate its most harmful effects.”

Aiken said there are guidelines for parents on other stages of development, marking approximately what age a child should sit up, crawl, or say their first words, yet there's no equivalent for when they should access technology.

“Many famous Silicon Valley developers don't allow their children to engage technology at a young age. What do they know the rest of the world doesn't?” she asked.

In her speech, Aiken also warned about the impact of technology on bonding, saying that on average, an adult picks up their phone 200 times a day and touches it 2,500 times a day.

“That's 200 times you're not looking at your child, and 2,500 times you don't touch your child,” she said, recalling how on a train she once saw a mother breast-feeding her infant, and for the entire 30 minutes she was looking at her phone while the baby looked at the mother.

“That's catastrophic for us as a species,” she said. “There are no studies that do not support eye contact with infants…this is catastrophic from a developmental perspective.”

Too much screen-time can also damage a child's development, Aiken said, noting how brain patterns change when a person is online.

Citing a study monitoring the effects of internet activity on behavior, she said there's been a 70 percent increase in anxiety and depression among children and teens. Poor concentration, depression and sleeping disorders are common, along with a rapid increase in cyberbullying, sextortion and graphic content online, as well as websites promoting suicide, eating disorders and hard-core pornography, all of which are easily accessible to young people.

Dr. Gilberto Gerra, Chief of Drug Prevention and Health Branch and the Division for Operations of the U.N. Office against Drugs and Crime, said religious convictions can help.

Faith and spiritual attitudes, he said, “can improve the response to treatment.”


USOC, USA Gymnastics officials enabled Nassar's abuse of athletes, investigation reveals

by Pierre Meilhan and David Close

An independent investigation reveals numerous institutions and individuals enabled former USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nassar's abuse of young athletes, including Michigan State University, the US Olympic Committee and multiple law enforcement agencies.

The law firm Ropes & Gray published the 233-page report on Monday that draws upon more than 100 witness interviews during a 10-month investigation.

On Monday, the USOC fired Chief of Sports Performance Alan Ashley based on the findings of the report, according to USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky.

The report said that in 2015, the former CEO of USA Gymnastics, Steve Penny, informed Ashley and Scott Blackmun, then the olympic committee CEO, that national team members had lodged sexual abuse allegations against Nassar. Nassar was the team doctor and an employee of Michigan State University.

Neither Blackmun nor Ashley "shared the information received from Mr. Penny with others in the organization, and the USOC took no action between July 2015 and the date the Indianapolis Star published its account of Nassar's child sexual abuse in September 2016," the report said.

"Specifically, after Mr. Penny advised Mr. Blackmun that USAG had received disturbing allegations about the gymnastics team doctor, Mr. Blackmun did not inform anyone else at the USOC of the allegations, including any member of the USOC Board of Directors or any member of the USOC SafeSport team. Mr. Ashley likewise took no action in response to the information that Mr. Penny had shared with him," according to the report.

The investigation was commissioned by US Olympic Committee, which issued an apology on Monday.

"The U.S. Olympic community failed the victims, survivors and their families, and we apologize again to everyone who has been harmed," said Susanne Lyons, USOC independent board member and incoming board chair, in a statement.

The USA Gymnastics Board of Directors said it was indebted to the "brave women" who came forward.

"USA Gymnastics is one of the organizations that let them down, and we are working to regain their trust and that of the entire gymnastics community. We have made and will continue to make significant progress to help ensure that gymnastics programs at all levels are offered in a safe, positive and encouraging environment," the board said in a statement.

Attorney John Manly, who represents more than 180 survivors of Nassar's abuse, said the report was "a stinging indictment" of the USOC leadership but "incomplete because it was not completely independent from the US Olympic Committee." He called on Congress to investigate USOC and USA Gymnastics to find out who knew about Nassar's decades of abuse

CNN is seeking comment from Michigan State University.

Blackmun stepped down in February because of his health, the USOC said. Penny resigned as CEO in March 2017. He was arrested last month on suspicion of removing documents related to Nassar sexual abuse case from a gymnastics training facility in Texas.

The independent report also reveals failures by multiple organizations and law enforcement agencies who "shunned, shamed or disbelieved" survivors.

"Numerous institutions and individuals enabled his abuse and failed to stop him, including coaches at the club and elite level, trainers and medical professionals, administrators and coaches at Michigan State University ("MSU"), and officials at both United States of America Gymnastics ("USAG") and the United States Olympic Committee (the "USOC")," the report said.

"Multiple law enforcement agencies, in turn, failed effectively to intervene when presented with opportunities to do so. And when survivors first began to come forward publicly, some were shunned, shamed or disbelieved by others in their own communities. The fact that so many different institutions and individuals failed the survivors does not excuse any of them, but instead reflects the collective failure to protect young athletes," the reports said.

Nassar was sentenced in January to 40 to 175 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to seven counts of sexual misconduct. Before he was sentenced, more than 150 women and girls said in court Nassar had sexually abused athletes under the guise of medical treatment.

Last week, USA Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy as the 200,000-member organization struggles to recover from the Nassar sexual abuse scandal.

Several top USA Gymnastics officials have stepped down or were forced out as the group faced criticism over how it handled the child abuse allegations and how it responded after the scandal.


How to help with the fight against sex trafficking

If you want to help end trafficking, consider getting involved in one of these nonprofits. The list is not exhaustive, and it will grow online as more nonprofits are added.

Allies Against Slavery

This Austin-based group offers tools and training to those on the frontline of ending modern slavery. The group has educated more than 5,500 people through presentations, training and its Free Austin campaign. --

Children at Risk

Children at Risk, which aims to improve the lives of Texas children through research and advocacy, created the Center to End the Trafficking and Exploitation of Children. The center is committed to strengthening laws and policies on human trafficking and improving the response to children who have been commercially sexually exploited. --

Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation

Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation, or CEASE, is a collaboration of cities committed to reducing sex-buying by testing and sharing strategies to deter people from buying sex. Members include Atlanta; Boston; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Houston; Oakland, Calif.; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; San Diego and Seattle. The network intends to create a blueprint for reducing demand at the local level, while fueling a national movement to end sexual exploitation.

The CEASE Dallas team, which is comprised of specialists, philanthropic partners, survivors, law enforcement and others, is implementing john schools, engaging in prevention and training campaigns at local schools, developing cyber patrols, posting weekly ads on john boards to track buyer information, collaborating in law enforcement operations, and working with the secretary of state's office to implement demand-reduction training and anti-demand policies and procedures. --

Dallas Children's Advocacy Center

Dallas Children's Advocacy Center helps severely abused children, including those who have been involved in criminal activity. The center is one of the first children's advocacy centers in Texas, and the group now has more than 70 centers of varying sizes and scopes of services. Dallas Children's Advocacy Center serves more than 5,000 children and their non-offending family members each year. --

GEMS (Girls Educational & Mentoring Services)

This New York City-based nonprofit is involved in court advocacy, case management, transitional and supportive housing and educational initiatives. Its survivor-led and survivor-engaged programming prepares members to become leaders in their own lives. Theory of change states that with the right opportunities, girls and young women can move from being victims to survivors to leaders. The program stresses the need to address poverty, racism and gender-based violence to combat trafficking. --

Global Fund to End Modern Slavery

This group's theory of change is that existing efforts do not match the scale and complexity of the problem. So the fund aims to mobilize more resources and engage governments and the private sector in testing models of systemic change in law enforcement, survivor care and prevention. --

Haven of Love

Focused on prayer and recovery mostly for women leaving the prison system, Haven of Love helps women caught in the traps of prostitution, drug abuse and domestic violence. The group's outreach is supported by the Dallas Police Department, Dallas County Sheriff's Department and other community-based organizations. --

International Justice Mission

The largest international anti-slavery organization in the world, the International Justice Mission supports local police and criminal justice systems to rescue enslaved people and prosecute those who held them. Globally the group has rescued 45,000 people and prosecuted more than 3,500 suspected slaveholders and other criminals. The group estimates there are 40 million people held as sex and labor slaves around the world, more than at any other period of history. --

Letot Center

Letot Center is a dormitory-like recovery facility for troubled girls. The mission of the Dallas County Juvenile Department's Letot Center is to assist referred youth in becoming productive, law-abiding citizens, while promoting public safety and victim restoration. --

Mosaic Family Services

Mosaic Family Services focuses on survivors, especially those from immigrant communities. The group provides shelter, case management, translation, emotional support and referral to community resources. --

National Human Trafficking Hotline

The National Human Trafficking Hotline, 1-888-373-7888, is a national, anti-trafficking hotline and resource center serving victims and survivors of human trafficking. The toll-free hotline is answered live 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Callers can speak with a trained advocate in English or Spanish, or in more than 200 additional languages using a 24-hour tele-interpreting service.

The hotline works with a group called Polaris, which uses data-driven strategies to prevent and disrupt human trafficking. The group can isolate calls by state and various types of trafficking based on calls to the hotline. --

New Friends, New Life

This Dallas group's prime focus is to find a safe way out for women and girls who are being sexually exploited and restore them to their communities. The group helps women and girls access education, job training, financial assistance and mental health services to overcome abuse, addiction and poverty. It also offers statistics on North Texas sex trafficking. --

Operation Underground Railroad

Operation Underground Railroad rescues children from sex trafficking. The group's Underground Jump Team consists of former CIA, Navy SEALs and Special Ops operatives who lead coordinated identification and extraction efforts. The operations are conducted with law enforcement throughout the world. Once victims are rescued, a comprehensive process involving justice for the perpetrators and recovery and rehabilitation for the survivors begins. In four years, the group says, it has rescued 1,682 victims and assisted in the arrests of 848 traffickers around the world. --

Shared Hope International

Shared Hope International works to prevent sex trafficking by educating professionals who confront sex trafficking and by reporting to the public on the problem. Shared Hope also offers programs to restore victims to their communities and advocates for legislative policy changes. --

Traffick 911

Traffick 911 is a Texas-based group that aims to free youth from sex trafficking with a three-prong strategy of prevention, identification and empowerment. The Traffick 911 team has served more than 900 victims, and its work, in close partnership with law enforcement, has led to multiple state and federal felony arrests and convictions. Traffick 911 has a youth prevention program called Traps, which teaches youth how to stay safe from traffickers by understanding their tricks, traps and lures. Traffick 911 delivers Traps in schools, youth shelters, Child Protective Services groups, youth groups, parent programs, juvenile detention facilities and more, and reaches more than 10,000 youth each year.

In 2017, Traffick 911 was selected by the governor's office to provide direct services, including crisis response, case management, advocacy and mentorship to child sex trafficking victims, as a part of a regional multidisciplinary team in Dallas and Tarrant counties. As a part of Traffick 911's Voice & Choice survivor empowerment program, first responders are able to call Traffick 911 for 24-hour crisis response to begin relational advocacy services with the survivor. Since beginning this specialized service in June 2017, Traffick 911 has served 145 child sex trafficking survivors with specialized advocacy and case management services (as of August).