Sex crime survivors start caravan to India's capital, demanding justice
MUMBAI - Hundreds of people set out from Mumbai to India's capital, New Delhi, on Thursday in a caravan aimed at pressuring authorities to speed up trials of perpetrators of sex crimes, and to encourage victims to speak out.
Government data shows reported cases of overall crimes against women rose by 83 percent from 2007 to 2016, a year when four rape cases were reported every hour.
Campaigners say many sexual attacks remain unreported, as victims fear stigma or retribution.
Of the 35,000 rape cases reported to police in 2015, only 7,000 resulted in convictions, according to government data that showed a 40 percent increase in both numbers from three years earlier.
“I am here to seek a quick trial for my daughter. She has still not recovered,” said Sohmat Singh Lodhi, whose four-year-old girl was raped in June by a man now awaiting trial.
“We just want him to be punished.”
Organizers from the advocacy group Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan (National Pride Movement) said they expect thousands of people to join the caravan along its 10,000 km (about 6,000 miles) journey, which should end in New Delhi in late February.
On the way, the protestors, who are traveling by bus, plan to hold meetings with local officials and communities to encourage women to speak out about sexual violence.
“The objective is to turn shame to support,” said Ashif Shaikh, convener of Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan.
In addition to raising awareness with their “dignity march,” participants said they hope authorities will take steps to help sex crime survivors, including training police and doctors to be sensitive while recording cases and examining victims.
Access to support services like legal aid and health care is also poor, according to campaigners.
Mamta, a sex trafficking survivor who requested her last name be withheld, recounted a long wait for police to register her case, as well as intrusive medical tests and uncomfortable questions in court.
“Why is the burden of proof on me?” she asked, arguing that alleged perpetrators should instead be required to prove their innocence.
Mamta said she was raped by a family friend who then sold her for 200,000 rupees ($3,000) to a man who kept her as a slave in his house for nearly six months, until another resident of the village helped her escape.
When she returned, her husband rejected her.
“Instead of supporting me, my family abandoned me. Where will women like me go? I want to raise this issue at the rally,” Mamta said.
Vikram Raghuvanshi, a father of another rape victim, said the rally would send a strong message to authorities and society in general.
“Until we don't speak about this crime openly, people will keep committing it,” he said.
“This has to stop."
Spike in child abuse cases could come after report cards are released
by Mal Meyer
LA CROSSE, Wis, (WKBT) - Child abuse cases may spike once report cards are released to families, according to a new study.
Researchers looked at reports made to a child abuse hotline in Florida. The study included reports of broken bones, burns and other confirmed cases of abuse.
The increase only happened on Saturdays after report cards were sent home on a Friday. There were almost four times more cases on those Saturdays, as compared to other Saturdays.
The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.
India's twin taboos: Sexual assault and child abuse once again in the spotlight
Nirbhaya: India's Daughter
by Guy Davies
On the sixth anniversary of the 2012 gang rape and murder of Jyoti Singh, which sparked mass protests against misogyny across the whole of India, a three-year-old girl was hospitalized after allegedly being raped by a neighbor in Delhi.
The man has been arrested and is in police custody, but the girl herself remains in the hospital. The horrific incident last Sunday, Dec. 16, leaves major questions as to how far India has come in tackling its historically twin taboos: child exploitation and sexual violence.
Swati Maliwal, the chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women, drew a direct parallel to the incident involving Singh six years ago.
“On this very night, 6 years back Nirbhaya was brutally raped,” she said on twitter. “Nothing has changed. Until swiftness & certainty of strong punishment is ensured, nothing will change!”
The word “Nirbhaya,” which is Hindi for "the one without fear," refers to the brutal rape and murder of Jyoti Singh, 23, who was killed on Dec. 16, 2012. Five of the men convicted of the rape of Singh were sentenced to death, while a sixth, who was a juvenile at the time, was given a prison sentence. After the event, thousands of people took to the streets in Delhi to protest against the crime that shocked the nation.
Indian National Congress party activist hold placards and shout slogans during protest against the recent abduction and gang-rape of five charity workers in Chochang village of Khunti district, in Ranchi, June 23, 2018.
In 2015, British journalist Leslee Unwin released a documentary on Singh's case, called "India's Daughter." She told ABC News that although the protests that followed the rape and murder of Singh “filled her with hope,” the sentiment ultimately proved to be short-lived.
“To date, I still haven't seen anything like [the protests],” she told ABC News. “What I didn't realize at the time, though, was how meaningless that was going to prove. Here were hundreds of thousands of people saying, ‘We will have no more of this.' The fact that it continues relentlessly with no abating whatsoever, that should make us appalled.”
Unwin, who interviewed the convicted rapists for the documentary, said that the perpetrators rationalized the crime using phrases such as “boys will be boys” and the victim “was asking for it.”
“The lawyers had exactly the same view,” she said. “And for me, that was the biggest eye-opener when making the film.”
Despite having secured the consent of police officers to be interviewed before the documentary, India's Daughter was banned in India on the grounds of a statute “citing a breach of law and order,” Unwin said.
After the rape of Singh, the government passed legislation to modernize the law. Police are now legally obliged to report incidents of rape, and since 2012, there has been a significant increase in the number of victims coming forward.
“The Nirbhaya case struck a chord because of the sheer savagery of the attack, and because Delhi's middle classes could relate to Jyoti Singh: a student traveling back from watching 'Life of Pi' at one of the city's many malls,” Dr. Elizabeth Chatterjee, professor of political science at Queen Mary University of London, told ABC News. “For too long, discussing sexual abuse has been taboo in India.”
“India's creaking and overburdened criminal justice system is slow to change. Though police are now legally obliged to record rape accusations, in many areas they remain reluctant to investigate,” Chatterjee said. “New fast-track courts to prosecute rape cases have become bogged down in the same old problems of understaffing, witness intimidation and long waits for forensic evidence. By the end of 2016, the National Crime Records Bureau found a backlog of more than 133,000 rape cases. One study calculated the backlog of child sex abuse cases alone would take two decades to clear.”
A Thomson Reuters survey of over 550 experts this year found that India was the most dangerous country in the world for women, going as far as to describe rape as an “epidemic.” The stats are often misleading. While official police figures suggest that there were 38,947 rapes in 2016, for example, administrative barriers and a lack of education means the number of unreported assaults is likely to be much higher.
The feminist Indian writer Deepa Narayan, author of "Chup: Breaking the Silence About India's Women," says that even though reports of rape have increased, conviction rates have remained the same. She wrote in The Guardian in April of this year that “India can arguably be accused of the largest-scale human rights violation on Earth: the persistent degradation of the vast majority of its 650 million girls and women.”
“Since the Nirbhaya rape, reporting of rape has gone up in Delhi and in surrounding states,” she told ABC News. “The Nirbhaya Effect, based on the official National Crime Bureau Report, [shows] there was a 33 percent increase in 2016 as compared to 2005 to 2012. But the statistics on convictions have not changed, ranging between 24 percent [and] 29 percent. Rapes continue and fear of safety among girls and women is even more acute than before.”
“The #MeToo movement has cracked open the pretense that all is well with gender relations in the educated urban classes,” Narayan said. “Although there is some attempt to push back against the movement, the reality is that a tsunami cannot be controlled or pushed back.”
The second taboo
In 2007, a government study of child abuse reported that 53.22 percent children reported having faced one or more forms of sexual abuse. One in five children were found to have suffered severe sexual abuse. Delhi was found to have one of the highest rates of violence against children.
The problems of violence against women and child exploitation are inextricably linked. Around 240 million Indian women were married before the age of 18, according to the BBC. Nirbhaya triggered a national conversation over the need to change attitudes toward both rape and child abuse.
“After the Nirbhaya case there has been a big shift in public opinion,” Javier Aguilar, chief of child protection at UNICEF India, told ABC News. “More and more people are able to talk about sexual abuse, even in rural areas. There has been a big transformation in the way this is being discussed.”
Yet, while public attention is often drawn to high profile cases of “exceptional circumstances,” the vast majority of abuse is committed by family and people close to them, Aguilar said. “Where the taboo lies now is there is not a recognition that this can happen in any place — whether you are in a top boarding school or a very low caste family.”
But merely discussing the problem is not a solution. UNICEF's analysis of police data shows that only 11 percent of the open cases of child rape in 2016 (57,754) have been disposed within the one-year time limit required by law and only 29.6 percent of the disposed cases led to convictions.
Aguilar believes that not enough has been done to tackle child abuse in two critical ways.
“There is not yet a breakthrough at two levels. The first is that there is not sufficient prevention yet. In schools, it is still very difficult to talk about sexuality. The best prevention for a child is to be aware of what can happen to them and how to keep themselves safe.”
The second is the overemphasis on punishing the perpetrators of sexual violence, Aguilar said.
“Where we need to do far, far more is in helping the victims of sexual violence in healing and recovery,” Aguilar said. “The systems to support the victims are really insufficient.”
It could not be more significant that the latest incident to make headlines happened on the anniversary of Nirbhaya. While a national conversation is now taking place and highlighting individual incidents is important, the reality is that nationwide change is slow and the problems remain as glaring as they were six years ago.
School for the disabled won't stop electrically shocking its students
by Emily Jacobs
A controversial Massachusetts school for children with disabilities is still using electric shocks as a form of punishment — and an international human rights group wants the Trump administration to step in.
The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center — a Canton, Massachusetts, school for children and adults who are emotionally disturbed, have intellectual disabilities or autism — currently subjects more than 40 of its severely disabled students to electric shocks as “aversive therapy,” according to The Guardian.
Students at the school are forced to wear backpacks containing the zapping devices, which are attached to the students through wires connected to electrodes on their skin. The jolts are worse than those discharged by stun guns, according to the Guardian.
The contentious practice has been met with condemnation by disability advocates and human rights groups.
“This facility's decades-long insistence on so-called ‘aversive therapy' as a treatment of first resort defies logic, decency, and expert medical opinions,” said Andy Imparato, executive director of Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), a network of centers for those with disabilities.
“Using electric shocks to punish and ‘correct' behavior is widely discredited throughout the medical and educational community, making the Rotenberg Center the only facility in the nation that clings to the practice,” Imparato added.
Now, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has issued a rare, formal notice to the school to immediately disband the practice, despite a court ruling in its favor.
As part of its notice, the intergovernmental organization gave the Trump administration 15 days to ban the school from shocking its students or risk condemnation. The IACHR reached out to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to ask for his observations on electric shock therapy but has not received a response, The Guardian reports.
The controversy surrounding the school erupted in 2012 when a video showed an 18-year-old boy with autism being shocked 31 times over the course of seven hours while being tied down. Throughout the video — which was taken in 2002, according to the Huffington Post — the teen can be heard screaming, “That hurts.”
The school says it no longer use the restraint board seen in the video, according to CBS News.
In a statement to The Guardian, The Judge Rotenberg Center said: “The clients are generally free of restraint and ineffective and dangerous psychotropic medications, free of injuries and able to further their education and relationships with their families in ways that were not possible with any other treatments.”
But another former student, Jennifer Msumba, told CBS she too was subjected to the shocks, saying: “It's not humane, you don't even feel like a person.”
Child Abuse Survivor Dubbed the 'Girl in the Closet' Allegedly Sexually Assaulted 14-Year-Old
by JEFF TRUESDEL
A child abuse survivor who endured six years of assault and torture by her parents, who became known as the “Girl in the Closet,” has been arrested and accused of sexually assaulting a child herself.
Police in Lewisville, Texas, allege 25-year-old Lauren Kavanaugh — whose mom and stepdad are serving prison time for crimes committed against her — sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl she met via a Facebook page titled “The Lauren Kavanaugh Story,” through which Kavanaugh offered support to victims of abuse, police Capt. Jesse Hunter tells PEOPLE.
Both the teen and Kavanaugh admitted to a “sexual relationship,” which the teen told officers had been ongoing for two months, according to police.
“There was no force, there was no kind of threatening,” says Hunter. “It was a consensual relationship, but due to the age of the victim, it is against the law in Texas.”
The parents of the alleged victim, who was not identified, told detectives that Kavanaugh lived with them in their apartment.
“Unfortunately the victim's family did not have knowledge of the relationship,” Hunter tells PEOPLE. “They didn't approve of any relationship outside of them being friends.”
Lewisville police learned of the alleged abuse after another agency received an anonymous phone tip on Monday. Kavanaugh was arrested the same day, says Hunter.
Police launch urgent review of child cadet programmes 'being abused by officers for sexual purposes'
Fears programmes for children aged between 13 and 18 are being used by paedophiles to access children
by Lizzie Dearden
Police forces are launching an urgent review of volunteer cadet programmes amid fears they are being used by paedophiles to gain access to children.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is investigating several police officers who worked with cadet groups – which are for young people aged between 13 and 18 – in London and Manchester, and called for safeguarding checks across England and Wales.
A constable in Greater Manchester Police is alleged to have abused his position for sexual purpose in a cadet programme.
“The officer has been arrested and released on bail and more potential victims have been identified,” a spokesperson said.
The IOPC is also investigating a police sergeant regarding their actions in the same programme, and how they dealt with complaints against the PC.
In the same week, the watchdog was contacted by the Metropolitan Police over “potential failures by three officers involved in the running of a cadet programme in the London region”.
A volunteer cadet leader “may have abused his position for sexual gain”, the IOPC said, and officers are accused of failing to protect children following reports.
A separate misconduct investigation is examining claims that a Metropolitan Police officer abused his position for sexual purpose at a London-based cadet training camp. He is subject to a criminal investigation.
The IOPC has written to the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) asking it to pass on advice to the heads of 43 forces in England and Wales.
“We are sufficiently concerned by these two referrals to ask all police forces in England and Wales to urgently review their own volunteer police cadet programmes to ensure they have robust safeguarding procedures in place,” said IOPC deputy director-general Ian Todd.
“The programmes benefit thousands of young people and it's not our intention to alarm them or their families.
“I must stress that the two investigations are unconnected and we have no information to indicate this may be a wider problem. However, some of the evidence emerging from these investigations indicates that there may have been opportunities to act sooner on the allegations that we are now investigating.”
Mr Todd said the public rightly expected the highest possible standards of child protection from police involved in programmes that engage with young and sometimes vulnerable teenagers.
“Anyone who is concerned about their own experience in the cadets, or that of someone they know, can contact us or their local police force,” he said. “All reports will be treated seriously and with discretion.”
It comes after a “committed paedophile” who joined the Cheshire Police to access children was convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl.
The NSPCC children's charity said that the cadet investigations were very concerning.
“The IOPC is right to take this seriously and to urgently review safeguarding in these programmes across England and Wales,” public affairs manager Andrew Fellowes said.
“That needs to conclude swiftly, and if other cases are identified then police authorities must set out publicly the steps being taken to ensure that it cannot happen again.”
The NSPCC is calling on the government to extend “position of trust” laws to roles such as cadet leaders and sports coaches to protect young people from being targeted for abuse.
Chief constable Shaun Sawyer, the NPCC lead for police cadets, has written to all police chiefs in England and Wales and asked them to establish whether similar cases were present in their forces and how they were being dealt with.
He said all adult volunteers were checked and vetted by local forces before participating in cadet unit activities. “A new national safeguarding framework is being developed to ensure all police forces consistently meet the highest standards of safeguarding. We will act on any learning from these investigations and are working to share the new framework in early 2019,” he said.
“No young person involved in the police cadets should be subject to abuse of any kind and I urge anyone who has been, or anyone with concerns or information, to report it.”
Anyone who has experienced inappropriate behaviour within a volunteer police cadet programme is asked to contact the IOPC on 0300 020 0096 or write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Child cruelty and neglect offences double over past five years in UK, police figures show
Separate data shows recorded child sexual abuse has risen by 206 per cent since 2013
by Lizzie Dearden
Child cruelty and neglect offences in the UK have doubled over the past five years in the UK, new figures show.
Campaigners say almost 17,000 cases reported to police in the year to March represent just a “fraction” of children being abused.
There were 16,939 child cruelty and neglect offences recorded by police in 2017-18, up from 7,965 in 2012-13, the NSPCC said.
The charity's helpline also received 19,937 calls last year about children suffering neglect, with three quarters referred urgently to police or children's services.
Tracey Hamer, a helpline practitioner, described one incident where police found a mother seriously ill and unable to care for her three-year-old daughter.
“The house was in a state of disrepair and the kitchen worktops were covered in dirty crockery with mould on them,” she added. “The washing machine was broken, and mum said that water would come up through the pipes when she tried to use it so she couldn't clean any clothes.”
Recorded offences reveal only a fraction of neglect cases because social workers try to step in at an earlier stage if parents cannot meet the needs of their child, the NSPCC said.
Last year there were 27,856 children in the UK on a child protection plan or registered for concerns involving neglect.
Police define an offence of child cruelty and neglect where a parent or carer “wilfully assault, ill-treats, neglects, abandons or exposes a child under 16 in a manner likely to cause them unnecessary suffering or injury to health”.
Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC, said: “It's unclear exactly why the number of child neglect and cruelty offences has risen so dramatically, but greater public awareness and improvements in how police record offences could be factors, along with deeper societal issues.
“Whatever the reasons for the increase in child neglect there is something we can all do about it now, we need to be aware of vulnerable children and be ready to report it to the NSPCC or the authorities if we are concerned for their safety or wellbeing. “
The charity said signs to look out for included children with poor appearance and hygiene, living in dirty homes or without heating, untreated injuries, medical and dental issues, hunger and poor communication skills.
Its warning came as Sajid Javid revealed that separate child sexual abuse offences have risen by 206 per cent in the past five years.
"Sadly the amount of abuse we're seeing is increasing year by year,” the home secretary told MPs
"To give a sense of that, in terms of all child sexual offences there was a 23 per cent increase in the year to March 2018 and, compared to 2013, there was a 206 per cent increase.
"The good news is there's much more work and effort going into this and each month there are about 400 arrests and about 500 children safeguarded.”
Conservative MP Phillip Hollobone asked Mr Javid to set out a maximum penalty for online child grooming and how many convictions had been secured.
The shadow security minister, Nick Thomas-Symonds, accused the home secretary of overseeing a reduction in online security in the government's draft Brexit deal.
The Labour MP said the political declaration championed by the government on security did not make reference to vital European databases that are used to track paedophiles and other criminals.
“It has not identified exactly what our relationship with Europol or Eurojust is going to be and we only have vague promises on maintaining the benefits of the European Arrest Warrant,” Mr Thomas-Symonds added.
”When will this Government actually act to stop the diminishing of our ability to tackle crime?“
Mr Javid said negotiations over continued access to the Schengen Information System and European Criminal Records Information System were ongoing.
"We have reached agreement with the EU on future security cooperation, or example on things like passenger name records and DNA and other databases," he added.
Adults concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC helpline seven days a week on 0808 800 5000, or email email@example.com
Judgment for Predatory Priests, Here and in the Hereafter
The Catholic Church says it is trying to hold itself accountable after years of abuse.
Pope Francis had grim tidings for predatory priests, in this life and the next.
“Hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice,” the pope said in a Christmas address at the Vatican, making clear that the church will no longer protect them, “hush up or not take seriously any case.”
The warning came after the release of the latest catalog of church horrors, a scathing report by the Illinois attorney general, Lisa Madigan, finding that nearly 700 priests had been accused of abusing children over the years, while the names of only 185 were made public. It's terrible, and terribly familiar. Earlier this year, a grand jury report in Pennsylvania accused bishops of covering up seven decades of widespread clerical abuse of children, and at least 16 state attorneys general have opened similar investigations.
The words of the pope and the authorities — about justice, divine and human — should be of deep concern at two major gatherings that the Catholic Church hopes will initiate genuine change in an institution almost brought to ruin by cascading revelations of clerics' sexual abuse of minors, and systematic cover-ups by their bishops.
Action at the meetings — first a gathering of all American bishops outside Chicago in early January, then a summit meeting of the heads of all the national bishops' conferences in the Vatican in late February — will be crucial if the church is to overcome broad skepticism after years of denial, obstruction of justice and callousness toward victims of predatory priests.
The depth of the problem was revealed nearly 17 years ago when The Boston Globe published its pioneering report on abuse in the Boston diocese.
That the law is finally catching up with this long trail of horror and impunity can only be welcomed, though it is shameful that it has taken this long.
Alas, there's only so much the law can do. Many of the predatory priests have died, and the statutes of limitation on many others have expired. But at least the victims can receive long-denied recognition of their suffering, and perhaps seek compensation for the damage done to them.
That alone will not resolve the crisis. The Church must confront the clerical culture that spawned the crisis before it destroys the Catholic Church. At risk is the faith of millions around the world and a great many schools, hospitals and charitable institutions founded and supported by the Church.
In his address, Pope Francis harshly denounced abusive priests. “They perform abominable acts yet continue to exercise their ministry as if nothing had happened,” he said. “They have no fear of God or his judgment, but only of being found out and unmasked.”
With “their boundless amiability, impeccable activity and angelic faces,” he said, “they shamelessly conceal a vicious wolf ready to devour innocent souls.”
He has only belatedly recognized the enormity of the crimes. He was oddly gentle in accepting the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Catholic archbishop of Washington, who as bishop of Pittsburgh kept acknowledged cases of sex abuse secret from parish communities and avoided reporting the abuse to police. In January, the pope refused to meet with victims of a pedophile priest and dismissed allegations of inaction by bishops as “slander.”
But he has also met regularly with victims. It was he who called on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to gather for the retreat, which will be held Jan. 2 to Jan. 8 at Mundelein Seminary, near Chicago.
The pope has summoned presidents of every bishops' conference in the world for the meeting in the Vatican, the first of its kind, a recognition that the crisis is global and requires a global response.
But can Pope Francis and his bishops investigate themselves and effect the change that is needed? That, after all, is at the heart of the problem the Pennsylvania grand jurors and Ms. Madigan discovered — that “the priority has always been in protecting priests and protecting church assets,” as Ms. Madigan said.
Every new disclosure makes clear that hierarchs were aware of the abuses for many decades. When Theodore McCarrick, the former cardinal and archbishop of Washington, was finally revealed as the abuser and enabler of abuse that he was, and stripped of his titles, it emerged that his activities were well known to many in high places.
Now there is no place left for the bishops to hide. When they meet, they need to go beyond contrition and promises, and radically transform the secretive, privileged, all-male clerical culture that controls the Church and that allowed the abuse to proliferate and persist.
Staying Catholic at Christmas
A Gospel reading for the scandal in the church.
by Ross Douthat
At Mass this Christmas Eve, many Catholics who have spent a year reading headlines about abusive priests, indifferent bishops, predatory cardinals and Vatican corruption will sit and hear the long roll of Jesus's ancestors with which the Gospel of Matthew begins.
“Unless you like stats / just skip the begats,” wrote Jeanne and William Steig in their “Old Testament Made Easy.” But before he gets to the angels and the wise men Matthew gives us 39 of them, from the famous names (“Abraham begat Isaac … David begat Solomon”) to the rather more esoteric, like Jechoniah, the father of Shealtiel.
If you only know the Bible vaguely, this litany of names probably sounds a bit pompous, an attempt to elevate the infant Jesus by linking him to great patriarchs and noble kings. But the truth is roughly the opposite: The more you know about Genesis or Chronicles or Kings, the more remarkable it is that Matthew announced the birth of the son of God by linking him to a pack of egregious sinners.
I'm stealing this point from an essay by a 20th-century Dominican priest, the late Rev. Herbert McCabe, which was recently excerpted by the important Catholic Twitter account known as Woke Space Jesuit. Matthew's genealogy, McCabe writes, link Jesus explicitly to “the squalid realities of human life and sex and politics.” Then he offers examples of just how squalid things got among those long-dead Israelites.
Take a line like “Judah begat Perez and Zerah of Tamar.” Just a typical nuclear family, right? Here's McCabe with the real story: “Judah slept … by mistake, with his daughter-in-law Tamar: She had cheated him by disguising herself and dressing up as a prostitute … [When] Judah heard that his daughter-in-law had prostituted herself and become pregnant, he ordered her to be burnt alive. He was disconcerted when he discovered that he himself had been the client and that the child, Perez, was his.”
Or again: “David begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Uriah.” That “her,” of course, is Bathsheba, upon whom David spied while she bathed and then contrived to marry by murdering her husband; the result of this wickedness was the future King Solomon, “the next in the line of succession,” McCabe notes dryly, “toward Christ our savior.”
And David was Israel's greatest king; the line that follows him in Matthew includes a few decent men but also a collection of tyrants, child-murderers and worse, none of them remotely pious and many actively at war with the prophets sent by God.
Crucially, in claiming the divine is entering the world through this line of “murderers, cheats, cowards, adulterers and liars,” Matthew isn't offering some particularly Christian innovation within the larger biblical story. He's simply picking up what his own people, the Jewish people, already said about themselves: We're the chosen people of the one true God, and to prove it to you here's a long story about how awful and promiscuous and murderous and fallible we are, how terrible our leaders often turned out to be, and how we deserved every exile and punishment we received.
If you don't find that message credible, well, I understand. But if you find it strangely compelling, then you're close to the case for remaining Catholic at a time when the corruption of the church is driving a number of very public defections from the faith.
I promised to make a version of that case-for-staying-Catholic a few weeks ago, but there isn't much I could say that isn't right there in the Christmas-season bridge between the Old Testament and the New, in the history of the Jewish people that Christians claim as their own.
The idea that biblical religion has always proposed is emphatically not that you can tell whether a people is chosen by the virtue of their leaders. It's that the divine chooses to act constantly amid not just ordinary fallibility but real depravity — that strong temptations as well as great sanctity are concentrated where God wants to work — and that the graces that define a chosen people are improbable resilience and unlooked-for renewal, with saints and prophets and reformers carrying things forward despite corruptions that seem like they should extinguish the whole thing.
The case for remaining Catholic in this moment, then, is basically that all this has happened before and will happen again — in what G.K. Chesterton once called the “five deaths of the faith,” the moments across two thousand years when every human probability pointed to the church of Rome passing into history, becoming one with Nineveh and Tyre.
For American Catholics at least, this era feels understandably like another death — in which the saints seem hidden, the would-be prophets don't agree with one another, the reformers keep losing. And it is all-too-understandable that people would choose to leave a dying church.
But it is the season's promise, and in the long run its testable hypothesis, that those who stay and pray and fight will see it improbably reborn.
Report raises questions about efforts to combat child abuse in Missouri
by Kurt Erickson St. Louis Post-Dispatch
JEFFERSON CITY -- A state hotline designed to protect Missouri children from abuse and neglect is understaffed, raising questions about whether it is achieving its mission.
In a report issued Thursday, Auditor Nicole Galloway said the hotline administered by the Department of Social Services has seen a steady rise in the number of calls it receives dating to 2013, but has not kept up with the increase by hiring more employees.
That has led to longer waiting times for callers, potentially endangering children in emergency situations, the report says.
“Without adequate staffing levels, the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline Unit is less likely to achieve its mission of protecting children, including ensuring the safety and well-being of children, and is unable to provide a high customer service level that would be expected in other highly sensitive call centers,” the audit said.
“Increased staffing levels would allow the unit to provide employees with increased training opportunities, efficiently perform quality control reviews of reports, ensure each work shift is adequately staffed, and reduce wait times,” the report adds.
Missouri law calls for certain professionals, such as social workers and child care providers, to report alleged child abuse and neglect cases to the state. The hotline received more than 138,000 reports of alleged child abuse and neglect in fiscal year 2017.
The audit found that high turnover in the call center has meant longer wait times, or callers having to call back multiple times to make reports.
“Consequently, there is a higher risk of some abused or neglected children not receiving timely and critical assistance and protection,” Galloway said.
Staffing woes exist throughout Missouri state government, which ranks among the worst paying states for government employees in the nation. The state's sprawling prison system has hundreds of openings largely due to low pay levels, requiring officials to reduce recreational and educational offerings for inmates.
Hoping to combat some of the turnover, lawmakers this year approved $700 pay hikes for state workers earning under $70,000. Department of Corrections workers will get another $350.
Galloway credited the Department of Social Services for trying to make improvements, but said the number of calls have increased by an average of about 4,500 in each of the past four fiscal years. That has pushed waiting times for callers from just over a minute to more than four minutes.
“The role of the Hotline Unit is absolutely critical in protecting Missouri's children,” Galloway said. “The process of receiving and reviewing allegations of child abuse and neglect — and then taking quick, appropriate action on credible reports — must be as efficient and thorough as possible.”
The audit notes that the department has made efforts to improve waiting times, including an online reporting system for nonemergency reports. Officials also have worked to increase staffing levels.
In a written response, Department of Social Services Director Steve Corsi said the agency continues to explore opportunities to increase the call center's performance. “This includes ensuring the unit remains fully staffed and all vacancies are timely filled,” Corsi said.
He also said a new system to forecast staffing levels will be put in place in the spring of 2019.
Galloway releases audit on Missouri child abuse hotline
An audit of Missouri's Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline Unit found “a lack of resources is still hindering the work of the Hotline Unit,” according to State Auditor Nicole Galloway.
Galloway released her offices' audit of the unit Thursday.
According to a press release from Galloway's office, the state has improved its efforts, but insufficient staffing and a higher number of calls to the unit have resulted in longer wait times. Galloway said this leads to kids potentially being at greater risk.
“The role of the Hotline Unit is absolutely critical in protecting Missouri's children,” Galloway said. “The process of receiving and reviewing allegations of child abuse and neglect – and then taking quick, appropriate action on credible reports – must be as efficient and thorough as possible.”
More than 138,000 reports of child abuse and neglect were called in to the hotline during the 2017 fiscal year.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Former daycare workers' attempt to dismiss 44-count child abuse indictment denied
by DANIELLE FERGUSON
An attempt to dismiss a 44-count indictment against two former daycare workers accused of abusing children during nap time was denied, but a judge asked the state to give a more detailed account of the charges against the two women.
Attorneys for Kenedi Rayne Wendt, 23, and Teresa Jean Gallagher, 31 — who were charged in April on dozens of child abuse charges — said in a motion to dismiss that prosecutors were trying to charge the women multiple times for the same incident. They also said some of the wording in the charges was confusing, making it difficult for them to prepare on what they need to defend against.
"I am at a loss as to what I need to specifically advise my client," said defense attorney Melissa Fiksdal.
More: Mother reacts to Sioux Falls day care abuse charges: 'It's been a nightmare'
Second Circuit Court Judge Natalie Damgaard denied the attempt to dismiss the indictment, but granted a motion for a bill of particulars, which is a detailed claim of what the state is alleging.
Prosecutors said the charges lay out individual instances of alleged physical contact with a child, and some charges give ranges of time when a child who wasn't necessarily physically touched was "exposed" to the abuse.
The women are co-defendants facing a 44-count indictment of abuse of or cruelty to a minor under the age of 7, a class 3 felony, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or a $30,000 fine. Abuse or cruelty to a minor is defined by South Dakota Codified Law as "any person who abuses, exposes, tortures, torments, or cruelly punishes a minor in a manner which does not constitute aggravated assault."
Prosecutor Abby Roesler said "exposure" to the environment where other kids are being abused can constitute as child abuse, but that's up to a jury to decide.
Wendt and Gallagher were arrested in April after a child told his mother in late February that an employee of Little Blessings Learning Center, where the two were employed, had banged his head on a mat while he was sleeping.
The parent contacted the Department of Social Services, which then contacted police. In early March, a detective obtained video footage from the day care spanning the dates of Feb. 14 to Feb. 23. that showed Gallagher and Wendt repeatedly slamming children to the ground, yanking them by their arms and stomping on them.
The state must provide the bill of particulars by Jan. 8. Jury trial was moved from Jan. 28 to Feb. 25.
Focus was always on children, prosecutor says after child abuse charges dismissed against Joshua Tree couple
by Beatriz E. Valenzuela
When a Joshua Tree Superior Court judge dismissed all child abuse charges against a Joshua Tree couple last week, San Bernardino County prosecutor Ron Webster said he was glad the decision was made.
“Our concern over the entire progression of the case was not punishing (Mona Kirk, 52, and her husband, Daniel Panico, 74,) but improving the environment for these children,” Webster said Friday, Dec. 21, adding the dismissal was “all we could have hoped for in this case.”
San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Joel Agron dismissed the misdemeanor charges Dec. 14 filed against couple. In February, a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy found the family of five living in squalor on a piece of 5-acre property in the 7000 block of Sun Flair Road owned by the couple.
Some in the desert community felt the couple was being targeted because they were poor. However, the Sheriff's Department said Kirk and Panico were arrested because of the family's and the children's care. Officials said there was no running water or electricity, or enough food, and that Kirk and the children slept in a plywood box, while Panico slept in the trailer with their approximately 40 of cats.
The couple was first charged with felony child abuse stemming from their Feb. 28 arrests. The children were ages 11, 13 and 14.
But according to Webster, an investigation by Child and Family Services revealed the children's conditions were not as dire as first expected.
“When it initially came in there was some serious concerns of the health and condition of the children and the living situation for the children,” he said. “Over the course of the investigation, (CFS was) closely monitoring the children and determined this didn't appear to be felony conduct and it was likely misdemeanor conduct.”
In May, the felony child abuse charges against Kirk and Panico were dismissed and misdemeanor child abuse and truancy charges were filed.
Over the course of the trial, with help from community members and money raised through a GoFundMe account, the couple was able to purchase a two-bedroom home near their Sun Flair Road property to provide a more stable living arrangement for the children.
The parents were able to satisfy all the requirements made of them by CFS allowing them to reunite with their children.
“Everything improved markedly,” Webster said. However, he didn't have specifics if the couple had to undergo any special classes or training to meet the requirements set by CFS.
According to Webster, cases of child abuse that reach his desk often involve parents who criminally neglectful or purposely abusive, but he said that was not the case with this couple.
“These were people who just were not able to do it,” he said.
Start by believing': advocates shine a spotlight on sexual violence against children
One in eight children will be victimized, according to the Laurel Center
by Ellie Williams
Danielle Bostick first had an inkling that something might not be right about her childhood when she saw a news article about another woman who had been sexually abused by a different swim coach in the D.C. area.
Bostick, who grew up in Montgomery County, Md., said something about it struck too close to home. Once more, she pushed away those feelings until a few years later.
"I hadn't faced my childhood abuse until I was in my 30's," Bostick said.
But when she did come forward with her story, she found the process a bit unsettling.
"When I reported it to police, they said, 'don't worry, we're not going to tell anyone your name. You'll be victim A.' And I was simultaneously relieved and disgusted," Bostick said. "'Wait, I lose my name in this process?' I hadn't done anything wrong. I had nothing to be ashamed of."
Like so many survivors of childhood sexual violence, Bostick didn't come to terms with her abuse until she was an adult. However, Bostick got justice - police believed her allegations, and that was enough to get a case moving.
Bostick actually got her abuser, Christopher Huott, to admit on a recorded phone call that he had committed numerous crimes against her. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2014.
But Bostick's case came from before the era of #MeToo, and before the exposure of USA Gymnastics coach Larry Nassar's years of abuse. In many senses, she was alone as she chose to be identified by media outlets as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.
Emileigh Whitehouse, a sexual assault child therapist at the Laurel Center in Winchester, said childhood sexual assault often times goes unreported. When it is, the victims are rarely named because of the stigma associated with it.
One reason for the low reporting rate is because children who are abused are often dependent on their abuser, Bostick said.
Despite warnings of "stranger danger," the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network states that 90 percent of children who are sexually abused know their abuser, whether it's a relative or a family friend, and 80 percent of perpetrators are the child's parent.
"What we see are a lot more incest cases when it comes to childhood sexual assault, versus stranger-type of incidents," Whitehouse said.
She estimates nearly one in eight children are sexually abused, but adds that the number may be higher because of the high rate of under-reporting. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network estimates that a child is sexually abused every 11 minutes.
Whitehouse said often times, the trauma of childhood abuse isn't recognized by survivors until they explore other issues in their lives as adults.
"Oftentimes, what we see is that a lot of these individuals have co-occurring disorders. A lot of them fall into substance use, a lot of them are in domestic violence relationships. And their primary concern may not be coming in for sexual assault. It may be for another issue," Whitehouse explained.
"But then we uncover, 'oh, by the way, I was sexually assaulted by my uncle when I was like seven.' And it's like, 'oh, okay, maybe this has something to do with all the problems that you've experienced.'"
Breaking that silence is the first step to recovery, but Bostick recognizes it's not a simple task.
"Unfortunately, when it comes to child sexual abuse and other forms of sexual violence, since we don't talk about it, a lot of people just don't know what to do," she said. "Their blueprint is just silence."
Both Bostick and Whitehouse say the better blueprint is to believe someone if they disclose sexual violence, regardless of their age.
"What's the worst thing that happens if we don't believe survivors?" asked Bostick. "A perpetrator perpetrates again."
If you're looking for someone to talk to in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, you can call the Laurel Center's 24-hour hotline at 540-667-6466.
Christmas Can Be Hard If You're A Childhood Abuse Survivor – Here's How To Get By
Seeing so many happy families on your timeline can be upsetting –remember that millions are in a similar position to you
by Dawn Neville
With Christmas just around the corner, there are scenes of happy families on TV, family gatherings in restaurants and pictures of togetherness everywhere. But for as many as one in five people who survived abuse in childhood, including myself, the festive season is marred by reunions with child abusers, family estrangement, or returning to the place where the abuse happened. Simply put, the holidays are hard for us survivors.
At least 80% of all types of abuse occurs within the family, so for many it is a season to be feared. At NAPAC, a charity that supports adult survivors of child abuse, we often hear people talking about the difficulties of Christmas on our telephone support line and in our support groups. Here are my tips for how survivors can keep themselves safe and sane this festive season.
1. Get out and meet new people
Many survivors have limited contact, or are estranged from family members, or their entire family. So it's important to connect with others and build a strong support network.
You can get out and about at Christmas through various social apps like Meetup.com, with some groups meeting around Christmas and on Christmas day.
The holidays can be hard for survivors, and the emotional turmoil can take its toll, so it's a good idea to increase your self-care.
This doesn't always mean doing fun things; self-care is about building a life you don't feel you want to escape from. For you that could mean taking care of your diet, making a spreadsheet of how you'll repay your debts in 2018, or introducing a better bedtime routine. Some people make a list of enjoyable self-care activities that soothe them when they're feeling out of sorts; whether that's painting Santa by numbers, a walk in nature, or salt baths.
Good self-care also includes saying ‘no' when you want to, because you're too tired, because you want some ‘you' time, or to protect yourself.
3. Use boundaries
You are entitled to say no to family gatherings, and you do not have to see your abusers if you don't want to. It is important to put your (and your children's) safety first, and if you're in any doubt about that, consider saying no or using other boundaries (e.g. no contact).
It's not uncommon for survivors of child abuse to have a fear of saying ‘no', especially when it comes to family and / or abusers. Some may react angrily to boundaries, but it's important to do what feels right for you. This is especially important if you have your own children, and you need to think carefully if they might come into contact with your abuser.
4. Think things through
Don't let the nostalgia of Christmas make you feel like you must reconnect with family/abusers. Think things through carefully first, and perhaps discuss it with a trusted friend or counsellor, before making a decision.
If you do decide to reconnect, it's probably safer to meet in a public place, rather than a family home, as alcohol-fuelled arguments could escalate more quickly in home environments.
5. Go on holiday
Reinvent your Christmas and plan a holiday. Perhaps there's somewhere you've always wanted to go, or an old friend you've been meaning to visit? Or you could try a spiritual retreat. This works just as well if there's a group of you (i.e. you and your partner / children), or if you're estranged and were planning to spend Christmas on your own.
Helping others by volunteering has been shown to improve your health, and even your mortality rate. It's also a great way to meet new people and expand your support network.
At Christmas, there are lots of opportunities to help charities. You could also contact your local Church, as they often put on a Christmas day lunch for elderly people who would otherwise have spent Christmas alone, and need helpers.
Last year I arranged to visit local nursing home residents and day care centres with my dog Lola, dressed up as a Christmas elf! (pictured). See do-it.org and, if you're in London, check out the Christmas volunteering guide on Londonist.com
7. Take a break from social media
It can be upsetting to see so many seemingly happy families on your timeline. Remember that social media can be a smokescreen – every family has its problems, and millions of people are in a similar position to you. Although social media can be a way to feel connected to others, consider taking a break from it and instead focusing on connecting to people in real life.
8. Reach out
If you're struggling with your emotions this festive season, reach out for support.
• NAPAC's telephone support line for adult survivors of child abuse – 0808 801 0331 (confidential and free from landlines and all mobile networks). The NAPAC support line is open until 6pm on Christmas Eve. It re-opens at 10am on Tuesday 2 January 2019.
• Samaritans 116123 (freephone) – open 24 hours a day, all year round.
Here's how you can recognize, report and reduce child abuse in Pa.
by JOHN BUFFONE
Child abuse and neglect is, unfortunately, not uncommon.
In 2017 alone, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services reported over 47,000 cases of child abuse and neglect in the state — about 3,000 more than the previous year. Those cases involved 88 near-fatalities and 40 fatalities.
And after nearly two years of investigating sexual abuse of children within six Catholic diocese across Pennsylvania, a grand jury issued a historic report in August detailing sexual abuse by hundreds of priests.
There is no easy solution to this problem. There's not exactly a step-by-step guide to preventing child abuse.
But child protection experts say there are ways to recognize abuse and keep children safer.
Here are some tips from Kristin Houser, chief public affairs officer for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape; and Cathy Utz, the deputy secretary for the state office of children, youth and families.
According to most recent CDC statistics, an estimated 1 in 4 children in America experience maltreatment at some point in their lives.
First things first...
"It is the responsibility of all adults to look out for the safety of all children," Houser said. This means adults need to tell other adults who care for kids about their expectations.
More: Retired minister charged after York County landlord finds child porn images, cops say
More: Child abuse policies out of date in 4 York County school districts, plus LIU and York Tech
Ask about policies regarding adult time with kids:
How often are your staff trained about preventing child abuse?
What kind of relationship does your organization have with the local rape crisis or child advocacy center?
Adults also need to speak up when they see or hear other adults doing things that are inappropriate. They don't need to be confrontational, but they do need to communicate that they are watching and willing to intervene.
You can't know if an adult has bad intentions or is “grooming” a child…but you can say things such as:
“I've noticed you spend a lot of time with Kevin and are really physical sometimes"
"I wanted to let you know that some of the parents have noticed... it doesn't always look appropriate."
"Are you particularly close with his family?”
Talk to your children
Talk with your children early and often, and in age-appropriate ways. Make it OK for them to ask questions and share things that aren't always comfortable.
If you are watching TV, playing video games or listening to the radio with your children, you have constant opportunities to pull out a lyric or discuss a theme that is disrespectful and ask them, "Does this happen in your school? Do kids talk like this? How does that make you and your friends feel? What would you do if this happened to your friend?"
Abuse often occurs from people in positions of authority, such as coaches or teachers, so it's important to be consistent in asking your children about how their day was — "What did you do in school today? How was soccer practice?"
Reinforce values that are protective
Reinforce values that are protective – things like kindness, looking out for friends, respect, and the right to determine who touches them and how.
You can do this in ways that have nothing to do with sex. Support children who don't want to hug or kiss adults or relatives by suggesting a high-five, thumbs-up, or a wave instead.
Teach them that "no" and "stop" are important words that should always be honored. Help them understand that just because they agreed to something once, doesn't mean they have to the next
Warning signs of abuse
Look for these indicators of abuse:
Unbelievable or inconsistent explanations of injuries
Bruises that resemble objects such as a hand, fist, belt buckle, or rope
Injuries that are inconsistent with a child's age/developmental level
Pain or irritation in genital/anal area Difficulty walking or sitting
Positive testing for sexually transmitted disease or HIV
Source: PA Dept. of Human Services
Fear of going home
Pronounced aggression or passivity
Flinches easily or avoids being touched
Play includes abusive behavior or talk
Unable to recall how injuries occurred or account of injuries is inconsistent with the nature of the injuries
Fear of parent or caregiver
Expressing feelings of inadequacy
Fearful of trying new things
Poor peer relationships
Excessive dependence on adults
Habit disorders (sucking, rocking, etc.)
If your child tells you they were abused...
There isn't a “right” way for a parent to react when they are told their child has been abused, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network's official website.
The website offers parents some advice, telling them to repeat the following messages through both their words and actions if their child discloses abuse to them:
I love you.
What happened is not your fault.
I will do everything I can to keep you safe.
Human trafficking: Hidden in plain sight
by ROMY HAWATT
DUBAI: The media globally tends to have a bias towards negative, sensational and headline-grabbing stories and events and this certainly applies to reporting related to human trafficking in the “Third World.” With the abundance of stories around sweat shops, massage parlors and organ-trafficking networks happening ‘somewhere else,' the West is generally desensitized, lacks empathy and fails to fully appreciate the scale of the problem which sits right under their noses and in plain sight.
It is a fact that for a variety of reasons, this insidious trade tends to be more hidden away in the West while it is generally conducted more openly in developing countries.
“Human trafficking is a global problem, but it's a local one too,” United States (US) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in 2018 when the US State Department released its 2018 Trafficking in Persons report, which assesses countries around the world based on how their governments work to prevent and respond to trafficking. “Human trafficking can be found in a favorite restaurant, a hotel, downtown, a farm, or in their neighbor's home.
Estimates vary, depending on the agency reporting and also depends on specific categorizations. The International Labor Organization (ILO) for example, estimates 21 million people are affected by forced labor whereas other reputable agencies estimate up to 48 million men, women and children are enslaved and trafficked around the world today.
According to the ILO, 68 percent are exploited in industry sectors like agriculture, mining, construction and domestic work creating profits of $150 billion annually.
Gigantic financial motive
There is therefore a gigantic financial motive for the maintaining and the growing of this illicit trade which sadly ‘has always been the way of the world.' The ideal of inalienable rights and universal liberty is actually still a relatively new concept in the history of time.
The proposition is diabolically simple in that some human beings will take advantage of and exploit other vulnerable categories of human beings unless there is a strong disincentive and a massive change in the contributing circumstances.
Whatever the cause and whatever the thinking, modern-day slavery and human and human organ trafficking is now far more prevalent in the developed world than either the public knows about or was previously thought. Sadder is the fact that even with the best intent matched with state-of-the-art resources, even the best law enforcement agencies do not appear to be able to keep up with the growing size and scale of the problem.
Even in the UK, which after all gave the world the Magna Carta in the 13th century, a turning point in establishing human rights and arguably the most significant early influence on the extensive historical process that led to the rule of constitutional law today in the English-speaking world, the number of people trafficked is estimated to reach tens of thousands of victims, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).
These victims in the UK are predominantly from places like Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa, with a roughly equal balance between men and women in other than the sex industry in which women and girls make up the vast majority of those exploited.
There are also trafficked people of all genders working in more prosaic roles like car washes, construction, agriculture and food processing. They receive very little pay and are forced to put up with poor living conditions.
As a result, the NCA says, it is increasingly likely that someone going about their normal daily life in the UK, engaging in the legitimate economy and accessing goods and services, will come across a victim who has been exploited in one of those sectors but may never recognize them unless they are educated to the signs.
General indicators of human trafficking or modern slavery tend to be harder to spot in the developed world but can include signs of physical or psychological abuse, fear of authorities, no ID documents, poor living conditions and working long hours for little or no pay.
A 2018 report by the Global Slavery Index estimated that some 403,000 people are trapped in modern slavery in the US — seven times higher than previous figures. In the UK, that figure is estimated at 136,000, nearly 12 times higher than earlier estimates. Andrew Forrest, founder of the Global Slavery Index, called the report “a huge wakeup call.” The report includes forced marriages, noting that women and girls make up 71 percent of people trapped in modern-day slavery today.
SDGs address slavery
The pernicious persistence of modern-day slavery is one of the reasons it is addressed by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 and these build off of many of the accomplishments achieved with the original Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) but which did not address human rights, slavery or human trafficking and were often criticized for being too narrow.
In particular, Sustainable Development Goal 8 of the 17 SDGs is the goal to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all, whilst Goal 8.7 specifically addresses modern day slavery and human trafficking. It is worth noting that SDG 8.7 is also supported by two other SDG goals. SDG 5 for example aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, while SDG 16 seeks to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
“Because modern-day slavery is a global tragedy, combating it requires international action,” said President Barack Obama, who in 2011 issued a presidential proclamation designating each January to be National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. “As we work to dismantle trafficking networks and help survivors rebuild their lives, we must also address the underlying forces that push so many into bondage. We must develop economies that create legitimate jobs [and] build a global sense of justice that says no child should ever be exploited.”
While progress has been made in addressing broader employment issues in some developed nations, such improvements remain overshadowed by the continuing scourge of human slaves being used in the supply chain at both a local and international level.
Whatever the future holds, what is constant is that human trafficking destroys lives, robs people of their dignity and basic human rights as it causes unfathomable misery to the immediate victims, their families and their communities.
Under the circumstances, there must be a seismic shift in awareness and a willingness to act no matter who you are or what community you live in. It is incumbent upon all of us to exercise a higher-level diligence and situational awareness aimed at winning the freedom of anyone that is exploited and abused.
With individuals, educators, charity institutions, business and government each taking incremental steps, we can win.
Remember, to save one life is a step towards saving the whole of humanity.
A Christmas miracle: 8 women to get a safe home away from sex trafficking
by STEPHANIE DICKRELL
There are several warning signs for human trafficking, including poor physical and mental health, a lack of control over their lives and harsh working conditions. If you see any of these signs, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
There are 36 women ready and waiting to move into the Terebinth Refuge house, a sanctuary for sex trafficking survivors, said Lana Kozak, development director.
In a storyline right out of a Lifetime Christmas movie, some of those women won't have to wait. A last-minute community push is helping complete construction to add rooms in the house by Dec. 25 — Christmas.
"It will take six to eight women off of our wait list, give them a safe place and a warm bed for around the holidays," Kozak said.
Terebinth had been working on expanding its shelter for trafficked women this year, and staff were close to completing the project, said CeCe Terlouw, executive director. They needed only about $14,000.
Enter United Way of Central Minnesota.
"It seemed like a no-brainer to us," said Daniel Larson, vice president of community action.
United Way donated $2,500 of community impact emergency funds to Terebinth. It also used its network connections to ask community members to donate.
"This is such a clear call to action, resulting immediately in getting eight women safe for the holidays," Larson said.
And the community responded. Terebinth now has the funding and volunteers lined up to complete the project.
"We all want to be in a warm and safe place for the holidays and to think of family or friends," Larson said. "It breaks my heart to think what their holiday season must be like."
With a few weeks to go until Christmas, staff and volunteers had to finish trim work, add carpeting and move in furniture.
Terebinth is also ready to accept its first child — one woman with one child, Terlouw said.
United Way really made the difference, Kozak said.
"We're very grateful to them because this is what actually finished ... the final product," Kozak said.
Terebinth is one of the only programs of its kind offering shelter and support to adult women who have been trafficked. Staff take calls for help from across the state.
Outpourings of community support like this can make a real difference to women, staff said.
"It just shows ... what Christmas really means," Kozak said, that these women are not in it alone.
"It just would be an opportunity to really show them that there's another way of life and that there are people who care," Terlouw said.
There is no holiday for trafficked women
What are the holidays like for women who were or still are being trafficked?
"Obviously, there is no celebration," Terlouw said. "It's work as usual."
There's potentially more work, Kozak said, because of the loneliness felt this time of year by the men who buy sex.
It's also not a time of year where women will do anything to anger their trafficker.
"It's not a time to be thrown out or out on the streets with the cold temperatures and snow," Kozak said. "They're not going to do anything to jeopardize that."
It's also a difficult time of year because tradition says people should be with family. For women who have been trafficked, this often doesn't happen.
Many of the women who are trafficked come from at-risk families. That can mean a lot of things: families with single or divorced parents, who live in poverty, where there's physical and emotional abuse and neglect and where there is sexual abuse, addiction addiction problems and mental health issues.
"You're looking at TV and people are supposed to be happy, and they're with their family," Terlouw said. "Some of them are not with their children because they've been taken away."
The two women living at Terebinth Refuge are on that journey now.
One will soon graduate with her high school diploma and as a certified nursing assistant, Terlouw said.
Terlouw said Terebinth is there to help women find their place in the world — whatever that is.
"When you really think about that most of the women were children or teen-agers, when they got sucked in and groomed into this, (they) haven't experienced what most average teenagers do," Terlouw said. "So when we talk to them, what are you good at, they can't really describe anything."
Women and staff will celebrate the holiday together at some point, though not on Christmas, as some already have plans.
"We're preparing a family-type meal," Terlouw said, a time to get together and to open some gifts.
They're inviting a few women who have already left the program, as well. Terlouw hopes Terebinth can remain a positive spot in women's lives even after they leave the house.
"That's what we're about, giving women a second chance," Terlouw said. "Everyone deserves a second chance."
How to help
Terebinth needs donations of new underwear, pajamas and socks for the women. Call 828-7721 for details. You can also buy specific gifts using myregistry.com.
Terebinth is always looking for volunteers, especially people with skills they can pass on to the women. Skills could include cooking, making crafts, art, fitness, basic job skills, tutoring and more. Terebinth is also looking for people willing to drive women to appointments.
Donate funds online at: terebinthrefuge.org/donate
Choose how your money is used with the Hope and Healing Gift Program, where you can choose from life basics, including personal care, clothing, comfort, housing and transportation.
Use Amazon Smile, and designate Terebinth Refuge as your favorite charity, by using smile.amazon.com.
Donate gift cards.
Donate gift cards, so women can get the clothing and personal supplies that work for them. About $45 will provide one week of meals for a woman.
Staff suggests gift cards from CVS, Walgreens, Target, Walmart, Kwik Trip, Coborn's and Cash Wise. Gift cards can be mailed to: Terebinth Refuge, 110 2nd Street South, Suite 231, Waite Park, MN 56387.
If you need help ...
If you are a victim of trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888 or text "HELP" to BEFREE or 233733.