Court rules mothers' drug use in pregnancy isn't child abuse
Two justices who dissented say what should matter is when the injury manifests itself, and that can be after the child is born.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania's highest court says mothers who use illegal drugs while pregnant can't be considered perpetrators of child abuse against their newly born children under the state's child protection law.
The court's main opinion issued Friday says the law's definition of a child doesn't include fetuses or unborn children, and it says victims of perpetrators must be children.
Two justices who dissented say what should matter is when the injury manifests itself, and that can be after the child is born.
The case involves a child who spent 19 days in Williamsport Hospital last year after birth being treated for drug dependence that caused severe withdrawal symptoms.
The mother's lawyer calls the decision a victory for public health and the rights of women and children.
WhatsApp does not allow users to search for groups in its own app, which led to the creation of other services that did
Evidence that adverts for major brands were placed in "child abuse discovery apps" via Google and Facebook's ad networks has led to fresh calls for the tech giants to face tougher regulation.
The apps involved used to be available on Google's Play Store for Android devices, and directed users to WhatsApp groups containing the illegal content.
Facebook and Google said they have taken steps to address the problem.
But the NSPCC charity wants a new regulator to monitor their efforts.
"WhatsApp is not doing anywhere near enough to stop the spread of child sexual abuse images on its app," said Tony Stower, head of internet safety at the child protection campaign.
"For too long tech companies have been left to their own devices and failed to keep children safe."
The charity believes a watchdog with the power to impose large fines would give the technology firms the incentive needed to hire more staff and otherwise spend more to tackle the problem.
WhatsApp is owned by Facebook.
News site Techcrunch published details of a two-part investigation by the Israeli child protection start-up AntiToxin Technologies and two NGOs from the country before and after Christmas.
It reported that Google and Facebook's automated advertising tech had placed adverts for household names in a total of six apps that let users search for WhatsApp groups to join - a function that the chat service does not allow in its own app.
Using the third-party software, it was possible to look for groups containing inoffensive material.
But a search for the word "child" brought up links to join groups that clearly signalled their purpose was to share illegal pictures and videos.
The BBC understands these groups were listed under different names in WhatsApp itself to make them harder to detect.
Brands whose ads were shown ahead of these search results included:
"The link-sharing apps were mind-bogglingly easy to find and download off of Google Play," Roi Carthy, AntiToxin's chief marketing officer told the BBC
"Interestingly, none of the apps were to be found on Apple's App Store, a point which should raise serious questions about Google's app review policies."
After the first article was published, Google removed the group-searching apps from its store.
"Google has a zero-tolerance approach to child sexual abuse material and we thoroughly investigate any claims of this kind," a spokeswoman for the firm said.
"As soon as we became aware of these WhatsApp group link apps using our services, we removed them from the Play store and stopped ads.
"These apps earned very little ad revenue and we're terminating these accounts and refunding advertisers in accordance with our policies."
WhatsApp messages are scrambled using end-to-end encryption, which means only the members of a group can see their contents.
Group names and profile photos are, however, viewable.
WhatsApp's own moderators began actively policing the service about 18 months ago, having previously relied on user reports.
They use the names and profile pictures as a means to detect banned activity.
Earlier this month, the firm revealed it had terminated 130,000 accounts over a 10 day period.
However, Techcrunch and the Financial Times both subsequently documented examples of groups with child abuse-related names and profile pictures that remained active. They are no longer available.
"WhatsApp has a zero-tolerance policy around child sexual abuse," a spokesman for the service told the BBC.
"We deploy our most advanced technology, including artificial intelligence to scan profile photos and actively ban accounts suspected of sharing this vile content.
"Sadly, because both app stores and communications services are being misused to spread abusive content, technology companies must work together to stop it."
At present, WhatsApp has less than 100 human moderators compared to more than 20,000 working on the main Facebook platform, but because of WhatsApp's nature they have less material to work with.
The BBC has asked several of the brands whose adverts were displayed for comment, but none have done so.
Facebook noted that its Audience Network, which placed some of the promotions, checks whether an app is live in Google Play before pushing content.
As a result, removal of the apps from the store meant its system would stop placing ads in copies of the apps already downloaded on people's devices.
Furthermore, it said in the future it would prevent ads being placed in any WhatsApp group search apps, even if Google allows them to return to its marketplace.
Facebook is also refunding impacted advertisers.
Even so, the NSPCC thinks the brands affected should hold the two tech firms to account.
"It should be patently obvious that advertisers must ensure their money is not supporting the spread of these vile images," said a spokeswoman.
Trinidad and Tobego
Fr Sirju: No schooling is child abuse
Bless children before toys
KEEPING a child out of school is a form of child-abuse, warned RC priest Fr Martin Sirju, in his homily at the Feast of the Holy Innocents yesterday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Port of Spain.
He urged those present, including 30 children and their parents, to pray for children who are being abused physically, emotionally or sexually.
Sirju said Children's Authority chairman Hanif Benjamin said 13,000 cases of child abuse were reported in 2017, so together with the three unreported cases for each reported case, there was a total of 50,000 cases that year.
“There are also children not going to school or not doing well.
“That is a form of abuse. When children are not properly educated, that is a very serious form of abuse.”
Sirju justified his continuing stand in not blessing toys at the service but rather the children themselves, who each received an anointing of oil of the forehead and prayers.
“The blessing of toys is superficial. If you have a relative or a friend with a sick child at hospital, today is a very good day to go to visit that child.
“You will receive many more blessings than if your toys are blessed.”
He recalled Jesus Christ once saluting the righteous by saying, “When I was sick, you visited me.”
Earlier, Sirju began his homily by saying Holy Innocents is about children, not their toys.
“If there were plenty toys here would it be quiet or would it be noisy? Noisy. And if it is noisy would you be able to hear me? No. So I prefer not to have the toys, but to bless and anoint you.”
He related the biblical story of how an angel had warned Jesus' parents to flee to Egypt to escape King Herod's murderousness, to return only after the king's death. On this theme of family dislocation, he recalled seeing families sleeping on the streets of Mumbai, India, on a piece of cardboard covered by a thin sheet. “Today we remind God of the ways little children suffer. Can you tell me some ways?”
They replied: hunger, illness, lack of shelter and types of abuse.
Newsday later spoke to Angela Toussaint, wife of Deacon Lennox Toussaint, who wasthere with her granddaughter Maya Elbourne, an altar server. Toussaint reckoned some parishioners had taken their children elsewhere for their toys to be blessed, so reducing the attendance at the cathedral.
In 2016 Sirju was stoutly defended for his “no toys” stance by the tformer archbishop Joseph Harris, who said he himself disallowed toys as being irreverent and a cause of noise from children squabbling over them. In a blog entry last year, Sirju said the toys distract even parents and lead to competitive talk about whose toy is better than whose.
Sirju later spoke to Newsday about a lack of schooling as a form of child abuse.
“People often say you can't blame one person. You need to address it on several fronts – the Ministry of Education, religious organisations, the classroom, the parent. My former teacher Fr Charles, an island schol winner from St Mary's College, said that growing up, his parents said there was often a need to choose between food and education, and they chose education.
“Now we choose things and everything else, but education has a low priority. We need to get back to that era when education across the board, including the poorer sectors of society, was something to be proud of and essential to human development
Child abuse: More death penalty, longer jail terms
WCD Ministry officials said that the amendment was necessary as POCSO, unlike the Indian Penal Code (IPC), is a gender-neutral law that protects both boys and girls under the age of 18.
by Shalini Nair
The definition of ‘sexual assault' in POCSO has been amended.
The Union Cabinet Friday approved amendments to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, to include the death penalty in all cases of aggravated penetrative sexual assault against children, both boys and girls, below the age of 18. This covers 21 categories of sexual crimes against children.
The amendments also extend the punishment for aggravated penetrative sexual assault from a minimum of 10 years to a minimum of 20 years, up to a maximum of life imprisonment and even the death penalty under Section 6 of POCSO Act. Its existing definition covers 20
categories of penetrative sexual crimes against children and the Cabinet also approved adding sexual assault of children who are victims of calamities or natural disasters, taking it up to 21 categories.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development, which moved the Cabinet note, said: “In the wake of gruesome and heart-wrenching incidents, there has been a growing demand from society to arrest the disturbing trend by introducing stringent punishment including the death penalty for rape cases.”
Ochanya, game-changer in child abuse cases
by Stella Iyaji
The death of Benue schoolgirl Ochanya Ogbanje about a month ago caused outrage across the country, with people from all walks of life lending their voices to the matter. They all asked that those behind her death be arrested and made to face the law. It was not just the fact that a 12-year-old girl died that attracted the attention of Nigerians, but the gruesome manner through which she died. Ochanya, a junior secondary school girl of the Federal Government College, Gboko died from health complications caused by many years of abuse.
She was abused by her uncle and his son. It was not the only child abuse case in the country but this episode reawakened the consciousness of Nigerians to an issue which can no longer be ignored. Recently, cases of child molestation have been on the increase, with fathers being the perpetrators in some cases. No sex is spared as male children are also victims. A recent report by Daily Trust revealed that over 100 children were abused in a spate of six months and that is the reported figure. There are many that are neither reported nor documented.
This ugly trend has caused parents to review a practice that has always been part of us, the idea of sending children to live with relatives. This is because most victims are abused by people who are close to them or people that they trusted. There is a need to beam a searchlight on this alien practise so that it can be tackled head on. The safety of children is paramount and any society that cannot protect its young ones has failed. Moreso, children are the future of the country and no nation can develop with a scarred generation. It is not enough to have laws, implementation is key. Many times people are paraded. In fact, some of them even confess to the crime, but nothing comes out of it. All those arrested for molestation should be punished accordingly to serve as a deterrent to others.
The security agents can assist schools to print fliers or handbooks on tips to guard the little children so that they will know when they are in danger and what to do to avert it. Security needs to be beefed up in schools and places of worship as some cases recorded were said to have occurred in such places. Hawking is another way through which children are exposed to abuse. Parents/ guardians need to be mindful of where they send their children to, to hawk and the age should be put into consideration. Caregivers have a role to play in stemming this tide; they have to be very vigilant so that they can know when there is a problem and draw the attention of the child's parents or relevant authourities to it.
Furthermore, the identities of abused children must be protected at all times, to avoid stigmatisation. And it is only when they are sure of such protection that abused persons can speak up. Aside arrest of culprits, the authourities need to consider some sort of counselling for victims to help them manage the trauma
Arizona Cops Reportedly Did Virtually Nothing to Investigate Abuse Allegations at Migrant Kids' Shelter
by Samantha Grasso
Last week, a ProPublica investigation including a national review of hundreds of police records showed local law enforcement is closing reports of sexual abuse at immigrant children's shelters with little investigation. This week, one Arizona publication's records review found that a sheriff's office tasked with investigating cases of child abuse closed them after only reviewing security camera footage, further illustrating the pervasiveness of this nationwide problem.
According to the Arizona Mirror, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office closed three cases of child abuse reported at the Hacienda Del Sol children's shelter ran by Southwest Key in Youngtown, Arizona, after only reviewing security camera footage and without interviewing the Southwest Key employees allegedly involved nor the minors reported to have been abused. A spokesman for the sheriff's office, which was previously ran by President Donald Trump-pardoned Joe Arpaio from 1993 to 2017, didn't respond to the Mirror's inquiry as to why it didn't conduct interviews in any of the cases.
The publication reported Wednesday that in two of the three incidents, which all occurred in September, the sheriff's office decided not to investigate further after reviewing security footage “because the deputies didn't observe any criminal acts.” In these two cases, an employee allegedly “dragged a 7-year-old girl” to her bed by her leg, and in another incident, a different employee “grabbed a minor who was blocking the door of a classroom by the arm and pulled the minor away.”
In the third case, a Maricopa County deputy reported that the footage showed a male employee, identified as Michael Royce, “pushing a boy, bear-hugging him from behind, kicking him in the leg and hitting his body.” The boy involved in the incident also “hit Royce in the groin with a ball and spit at him.”
Despite the review of abuse, Southwest Key staff didn't want the sheriff's office to interview the boy or the employee that reported the incident to shelter security. Shelter security also told the sheriff's office that it “did not want to press charges” and that the incident and disciplinary actions would be “handled by the facilities (sic) director,” according to the deputy's report.
However, the Mirror reports that employees of a company being investigated for potential child abuse shouldn't have been left to make the call whether to press charges.
The decision to press charges should be made by prosecutors, not employees of the company being investigated for potential child abuse, said Heidi Zoyhofski, an attorney for abused and neglected children who reviewed the reports at the Mirror's request.
She said children in government custody are especially vulnerable, and best practices in Arizona are to conduct a physical or medical exam and a forensic interview of the child, collect evidence such as photographs, and submit the case to a state prosecutor.
“In my mind, the state needs to be sure it goes above and beyond and that any claims are investigated to the fullest and in compliance with the law,” Zoyhofski said.
Southwest Key spokesman Jeff Eller told the publication that the employee who was recorded kicking a boy's leg on security footage “did not act in line with our policies and procedures and was terminated.” (We've reached out to Southwest Key asking if they're re-evaluating their policies in light of the allegations, and will update with any response we receive.)
Two of the incidents occurred on Sept. 14, while the third incident occurred on Sept. 21, according to the sheriff's office records. On Sept. 18, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the placement of migrant children in shelters and with sponsors, stopped placing children in the Hacienda Del Sol facility before shutting down the facility 10 days later. In October, HHS said in a statement that the Southwest Key employees involved in the three incidents reviewed by the Mirror had been fired from the facility.
On Oct. 24, Southwest Key surrendered two of its 13 child shelter licenses in Arizona through a settlement with the Arizona Department of Health Services, one of those shelter licenses being Hacienda Del Sol, after failing to provide evidence of current and adequate background checks for employees.
This may be one facility ran by the nation's largest contractor of child shelters being held accountable, but seeing as even local law enforcement failed to fully investigate reported incidents of child abuse, this is only just the beginning.
Letter: Catholic Church must be forced to confront child abuse scandal
To the Editor:
Three cheers for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's investigation of the Catholic dioceses of Illinois!
The sex abuse scandal of the church has been a great embarrassment for many years. The hierarchy's tone-deaf, defensive posture and the lack of continuous reform is mind-boggling.
If the state's attorney general can hold the dioceses accountable, it may lead to necessary changes and, eventually, a return of trust.
As a Catholic father of four children, I had concerns about the lack of transparency and accountability of our Rockford diocese after the scandals in Pennsylvania, Buffalo and Washington, D.C. were reported this past summer. Starting in August, I contacted my bishop's office on numerous occasions – by phone, by letter and in person – only to have my questions and concerns dismissed.
After four months, the bishop wrote to me that it was “not possible” for us to meet and I could find the name of his lawyer on the diocesan website.
It is clear to me that the church's leadership is unwilling to deviate from the status quo of concealment and intransigence unless it is forced. In the Book of Isaiah, God uses Assyria as the “rod of His wrath” upon Israel.
If criminal prosecutions by the attorney general or bankruptcy is the only way to humble this great institution, so be it.
Child abuse rises the weekend after report cards go home, study finds
Reports of parents harming their children in response to bad school grades have been heard before, but how often are report cards the catalyst for child physical abuse? University of Florida researchers claim they've found a correlation.
Researchers reviewed 265 days of child abuse reports from September 2015 to May 2016 and compared them to the dates of report card releases in 64 of Florida's 67 counties, according to a report published online Dec. 17. The study was published Dec. 18 in JAMA Pediatrics, the American Medical Association's journal.
IThe study identified 1,943 cases of child abuse across Florida, the report stated. Increased incidence rates of child physical abuse were not found on the same day or the day after report cards were released on Monday through Thursday. However, the incidence rate of child physical abuse reports on Saturdays after a Friday report card release increased nearly “4-fold,” the report showed.
Researchers argue the findings offer an “actionable, policy-level strategy” for school districts hoping to reduce incidents of child physical abuse linked to report cards. UF researcher Melissa Bright told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the “simple intervention” would be to not give report cards on Fridays.
Bright also told the newspaper she wants to expand the study beyond Florida to confirm the causes of the correlation. She stressed to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that there “might be something else we don't know about” causing the physical abuse of children with unsatisfactory grades.
There have been local reports of child abuse attributed to grades: For example, a Jefferson Parish judge on Nov. 27, 2017, sentenced Furnell Daniel to 40 years in prison after a jury convicted the Waggaman father of fatally beating his 14-year-old son for bringing home an F grade from school.
India's twin taboos: Sexual assault and child abuse once again in the spotlight
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.
Nirbhaya: India's Daughter
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.”
Demonstrators hold candles during a rally in New Delhi, Dec. 29, 2012, after the death of a student after she was gang raped.
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.
Public wants justice, not excuses, in child abuse case
And the revelations in turn raise several questions:
How could the girl remain in the custody of James Stewart and Teri Sanchez, who have been charged in her abuse, with so many tips to CYFD? Why would a police officer be told not to collect physical evidence of possible abuse even if others believed it didn't occur? Why didn't APD share information with the Attorney General's Office about the internal investigation? Is it possible that could get the case dismissed?
The accusation that the AG's Office has been kept out of the loop is the latest in a case that has sickened the public, a case in which Stewart has been indicted on human trafficking, criminal sexual contact of a minor and other charges, and Sanchez faces multiple counts of child abuse.
Deputy Attorney General Clara Moran said in a Dec. 12 letter to Albuquerque City Attorney Esteban Aguilar that strict discovery deadlines in the 2nd Judicial District Court could be affected by APD's interviews with witnesses in the case. Moran said she had asked police in May to include prosecutors if they interviewed witnesses during the internal affairs investigation and threatened to seek a court order to compel APD to release documents from the investigation if the city hadn't done so within 48 hours. As of last week, that had not occurred and the AG served a subpoena to get the records.
Courts have dismissed cases because those deadlines haven't been met. If that happens, many would consider it a crime of its own. The community does not need another Victoria Martens case-in-shambles debacle.
The police department and the AG should have been working together from the start. The good guys need to get on the same page to ensure this case is not lost on a technicality.
APD also has some housekeeping to do. According to the Civilian Police Oversight Agency investigation, one officer didn't follow procedures when he/she reported earlier child abuse allegations involving the girl to a state child welfare agency and didn't see it was also investigated by law enforcement. And the officer who failed to collect the 7-year-old's bloodstained underwear as evidence didn't violate department policy because Crimes Against Children Unit detectives, who talked to the girl and her brother and decided there was no proof of a crime, said it didn't need to be collected.
Not following through is unacceptable in this line of work – lives are on the line. And not collecting evidence, especially bloody evidence, and considering the history with CYFD, simply defies credulity. You would think both would be covered by standard operating procedure.
While all involved work to get this case on track, it is essential they also take a hard look at internal policies to prevent another child from remaining in a situation of unspeakable abuse. The taxpaying public expects all involved to get justice served, not serve up excuses.
Many violent young offenders were ‘born into dysfunction'
by TESSA DUVALL
JACKSONVILLE, FLA. --
Marcus Wilson remembers the first time he saw his mom use crack cocaine. He thinks he was about 9. She was doing it off a soda can," he said. "To experience that, it was like, 'Mom? Are you alright? Are you OK?' ... It's kind of scary." Wilson's life as a child was defined by adversity and suffering.
Wilson's mother had an abusive boyfriend who beat her and her kids. Wilson saw his father shot. Other times his father was behind bars. The family never stayed in the same house or apartment for more than a year or two, moving from one tough part of town to another.
"My mother took drugs over her kids, and with men, she was easily manipulated and persuaded to do things like drugs," Wilson said. "My mother would always, always take her frustration out on us. . We didn't have a lot of lights and water, supplies, food, things like that."
Wilson, now 28, recounted his childhood from Tomoka Correctional Institution in Daytona Beach, where he's now serving a 20-year prison sentence for a second-degree murder charge he picked up when he was 17.
Co-defendant Christopher Crockrell, 18, and Wilson wanted to get revenge on 20-year-old Freddie Lee Smith III, who, according to the police report, both teens said had stolen a gun from them.
They donned all-black and found their victim in the Washington Heights Apartments parking lot. Crockrell shot Smith once in the head as Wilson watched. It took nearly a year for the two to be arrested.
When a kid plays a part in killing someone, the community often looks to the parents for answers — and to place blame.
But in many cases, parents don't know how to help their own kids. In dozens of letters from Duval County inmates like Wilson and those in similar situations, the Times-Union heard repeated stories of abuse and neglect at home, absent fathers, and mothers who struggled with their own challenges.
"All of the things that help people grow up and become law-abiding citizens aren't in place in these children's homes," said Sara Baldwin, director of the mitigation unit for the Fourth Judicial Circuit Public Defender's Office.
In her years of working on juvenile life without parole re-sentencing cases, Baldwin said, she can think of one, maybe two, in which her client had a stable home life.
Public Defender Charlie Cofer said, "Many of the parents are very ill-equipped to nurture children."
Not only are the parents ill-equipped, they had no one else to turn to for support. Mitigation experts have worked cases where they couldn't find a single adult relative in a teen's life who hadn't been jailed at least once.
"There is no excuse for this horrific crime, but there's no excuse for any child in America to grow up the way he did," said Kate Bedell, a defense attorney in one such case in 2017. "He was born into dysfunction. ... That's the kind of dysfunction that causes these horrible cases to come up."
Among the 25 incarcerated young offenders from Duval County who responded to a Times-Union survey developed in the reporting of this series of articles:
60 percent reported emotional abuse at home
52 percent reported physical abuse at home
56 percent reported emotional neglect at home
84 percent said they lived with someone who was a problem drinker or who used street drugs
"It was my environment and the people around me that caused me to act dysfunctional," said Anthony Wagner, who described seeing heavy drinking and domestic violence as a child. Wagner was 15 when he took part in killing Richard Dean Bolin, 59, in 2004. "I blame families like mine. I didn't do my homework at night because there was nobody there to help me. ... The problem isn't the children, it's the adults and the environment."
Wagner was one of the 25 who took the Times-Union survey, though more than two dozen more men shared pieces of their story but did not take the survey.
"Who else am I better to learn from then the adults around me?"
When Deborah Wilson was in the midst of her addiction, she was "nowhere to be found" for her kids.
"He wanted to work and get money," Deborah said of her son's tendency to borrow a lawn mower and cut grass to earn money. "He wanted to provide for himself, because I wasn't providing for him."
His older sister, Jasmine "Angel" Wilson, and Marcus are just shy of being a year apart in age. Because of their mom's addiction, Jasmine did her best to take care of herself and her baby brother.
When the two were teenagers, Deborah Wilson moved out of the apartment they shared on Tyler Street between Beaver Street and Kings Road and left her kids on their own. "Marcus was out of control," she said, looking back.
Marcus went looking for acceptance where he could get it: from older guys who let him drink and smoke weed with them. He started to hang out with a friend who became his co-defendant, who he had met at a juvenile detention program. He stabbed a kid when he was in middle school. He got his first gun at 14. He learned that he would become a father at 16.
"Birds of a feather flock together," Marcus Wilson said. "The people you are hangin' around are the person that you become."
His sister tried to help.
"Trying to have my own place at 16 and raise my brother was very hard," Jasmine Wilson said. She was going to Raines High School and working at McDonald's. Marcus Wilson said he made it to ninth grade at Raines before dropping out to work full-time at Captain D's, but his mom and sister think he only finished seventh or eighth grade, respectively.
"We needed our mama," Jasmine said. "If my mama woulda took up for us, we wouldn't have been like this. If she would have provided us with encouragement we needed for school, we would have made it through."
What Jasmine didn't know at the time was that she and her brother could have used Medicaid and food stamps because of their low income. Then he would have been able to see a doctor, take the medication he needed, and maybe he could have made it, she said.
"The situation he's in, he's not supposed to be there," Jasmine said. "He was supposed to get help."
Wilson's mother, Deborah Wilson, is matter-of-fact when she tells her story and talks about her children. This is the life she knows, because it's what she lived as a child.
A Detroit native, Wilson said she was abused by her family, sexually assaulted, placed in foster care and got pregnant with her first child, a girl, when she was 16. As a teenager with no family to turn to and no education, she lost that baby to the state, she said.
"It's been a hard life," she said. "I been through a whole lot. I'm still going through a lot."
Wilson has been off of drugs for several years now, but said she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, deep depression and very bad anxiety. She also has a learning disability. She said she believes Marcus has all the same conditions.
Still, she's not a believer in therapy for her or her son. She doesn't believe counselors would know how to help them.
"If you didn't live it," she said, "you don't know what we going through."
The parents of many of the young offenders who corresponded with the Times-Union grew up in the same types of neighborhoods and endured similar circumstances when they were kids themselves. A few of the letter-writers shared accounts of the abuses and sexual assaults their mothers endured.
Poverty can be generational, and so can trauma. Those stresses make it hard to be a good parent, especially for people who have never seen good parenting.
Baldwin, the mitigation expert, said she doesn't judge these parents, but recognizes that they needed help that they never got. Many of her clients' parents really tried to be good parents, but didn't know how, or thought that by working two or three jobs to keep the bills paid that they were doing enough for their child.
"But the streets will claim a child that's unsupervised," she said.
Dr. Mikah Owen, a Jacksonville pediatrician, said from the time of birth on, the relationship between the baby and parent is like a dance. Social cues are being sent both ways.
"From an evolutionary and biological standpoint, the babies are using those social cues to develop their brains and learn how to respond to you. In general, you think about it as, the parents respond to the needs of their infants," Owen said. "But really, you give an infant a certain type of parent, that infant will respond to that parent's needs.
"So if I have an abusive parent and I cry and I get abused, I'm going to withdraw."
That withdrawal can lead to permanent changes in the brain that affects a child's emotional and physical well-being when they're older, Owen said.
More than half of survey respondents said they had supportive families that were stable and dependable. At the same time, some of those same respondents would say that they faced homelessness and felt unloved at home. In their letters, few described home lives that would meet a widely accepted definition of stable and supportive.
Given the chance to explain what they wish adults had done differently, most of the answers were simple.
"Paid more attention and showed more affection and love," wrote Emerald Barner. She was 15 and in foster care when she was arrested for the murder of Damon Johnson in 2008.
"Been more loving and caring," said Marvin Wilson, who isn't related to Marcus or his family. Over the span of six days in January 1981, Marvin Wilson, then 16, and his 17-year-old co-defendant James Harmon carried out a spree of robberies, kidnappings and murders. Clarence Langston Jr. and Raymond Kennedy were killed by the teens, and both defendants, now well into their 50s, are decades into their centuries-long sentences.
"Try to care about me a little," said Donald Thomas. In 1983, 17-year-old Thomas and three co-defendants, ages 16, 17 and 20, broke into the San Marco home of adult siblings Charles Acker and Anne Acker. Both Ackers were stabbed to death in bed, and all four co-defendants were given life sentences for their roles in the slaying. "I wish I had a different family."
Most of the teens who wrote to the Times-Union didn't set out to kill; they set out to find some money or something of value. Of the 13 survey participants who said their slaying stemmed from another crime or street beef gone bad, nine were for robbery, burglary or theft.
"If you show kids that drugs bring cars, money, women, and you show them that every day on TV, and you're not showing them a way to get money that right way, and they growing up and they living in them low down apartments ... ," wrote Samuel Fagin, who did not take the survey. He was 16 when he and his uncle robbed a store on Acorn Street in 1993. The uncle, Willie Miller, fired the fatal shot at James Wallace, 60. "Mother can't provide for the kids, get a check once a month. The father can't get a job ..."
On a Department of Juvenile Justice assessment given to kids entering that system, 94 percent of minors arrested in connection with killings in Duval County self-reported that their family income was under $35,000 a year.
Of the 25 Times-Union survey respondents, 21 said their parents had separated or divorced. Among those who grew up in single-parent homes, their caregiver was most often their mother; their fathers were not around. They were long gone, locked up or dead.
Forty percent said someone who lived in their house went to prison, and 36 percent said a close family member had been murdered.
The men who took the survey were especially protective of their mothers, and often sympathetic to their plights. When asked to describe who was always there for them, eight of the 23 men who took the survey named their mother.
"I truly believe in my heart of hearts (that) my mother, given her circumstances, did the best she could do with having six kids to raise alone," said Tony Brown, who took the survey. Brown, now 61, was 16 when he took part in a murder of a Springfield pharmacy clerk that earned him a 15-year sentence. He came back to prison in later on an unrelated charge.
"I was raised by my mother, who always worked with the little she got," wrote Fentriss White, who took the survey. White was convicted of manslaughter with a firearm for the 1997 murder of Joseph Davis, 35. "And always (put) her children first! Always!"
Kids in Jacksonville who grow up with single mothers are more likely to grow up in poverty than kids with two parents or kids living with single dads.
Wagner, the teen who said he blames families like his, said he thought such families were more the norm for poor people.
"All poor families experience those things," he wrote. "Abuse, violence, drinking, drugs. All of that happens in poor homes."
On the other end of the spectrum from Wagner, there's Connor Pridgen, who went to private school and grew up in Ortega.
Pridgen is adamant his parents bear no responsibility for what he did. When he was 16, Pridgen and his 17-year-old co-defendant Charles Southern, shot and killed their University Christian classmate, 17-year-old Makia Coney.
"My childhood and upbringing was blessed," Pridgen wrote. "My parents' efforts were poorly reflected by my actions."
Growing up, Wilson didn't have an extended family he could turn to. He didn't have a father or stepdad he could look up to.
"Where was somebody just to show him right?" Deborah Wilson asked. "He didn't have nobody."
His big sister did what she could. As soon as she turned 18, she put her brother in Job Corps. She encouraged him to work, and tried to get him in school. But it wasn't enough.
"If I'd have just let him play the video games at home," she said, "maybe he wouldn't be in this."
There were times Marcus seemed to get on the right track. He loved scuba diving, something he learned in a juvenile program. He picked up some welding skills in Job Corps. But nothing good seemed to last.
"I wish my mother never did drugs," Marcus Wilson said. "The environment that we lived in, I wish we never did."
Arrest of ‘Girl in the Closet' may be her best hope to get the help she desperately needs
The lines get blurry when victims become perpetrators, but this much is clear in the latest Lauren Kavanaugh tragedy: It's not “the girl in the closet” who most deserves our compassion, but rather the Lewisville 14-year-old whom Kavanaugh, now 25, is accused of sexually assaulting.
Police who arrested Kavanaugh Dec. 19 say she acknowledged having sex with the teen; the 14-year-old told officers the pair had been in a sexual relationship for two months.
Kavanaugh certainly needs more help. And it's tempting to make excuses for her after she, as a young child in Hutchins, survived debilitating cruelty — locked in a filthy closet for six years and systematically starved, raped and beaten by her mother and stepfather.
Against huge odds, all of us wanted a happy ending for Kavanaugh since that first glimpse of the emaciated little girl in 2001. As she grew older, we championed her desire be an inspiring and courageous example to other survivors.
And we know that at the heart of the pending sex offense is the evil first done to her.
But none of that exonerates her from this crime. We should not minimize the trauma to the new victim, a 14-year-old girl.
The four experts I spoke with regarding cases like this one all began at roughly the same place: Nothing about this so-called relationship was OK.
No matter that Kavanaugh's brain was starved for six years, meaning she is mentally more teenager than adult. No matter that the sexual activity may appear consensual. No matter that Kavanaugh is herself vulnerable and fragile — what about her young victim? Under Texas law, a child is anyone under 17, and children can't consent to sex.
Even if Kavanaugh considered the 14-year-old a peer, she can't act out that way. She is, by law, an adult — almost twice as old as the child.
Now the difficult part: What sanctions will actually lead to rehabilitation for Kavanaugh, who remains confined to Denton County jail awaiting the judgment of the criminal justice system?
An outcome that requires many years of extremely strict supervision would be in Kavanaugh's best interests. She would enormously benefit from being accountable to someone who tells her what to do and helps her make wise decisions. At the top of that list is learning and practicing appropriate behavior around boundaries, consent and relationships.
For example, one of her former case workers told me that Kavanaugh did extremely well in 2017 while in a sober-living house of residents who were dealing with the same issues she battles — post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.
While Kavanaugh can manage some adult tasks — buying groceries and driving a car — living on her own is a leap she's shown repeatedly that she's not ready to make.
That assessment doesn't surprise any of us who have kept up with Kavanaugh since her release from a mobile-home dungeon 17 years ago. When the police rescued her, they didn't just find a 25-pound 8-year-old, but a physically and emotionally broken human being.
Experts had warned that, as a teen and young adult, Kavanaugh would face an almost impossible task in independently navigating the world because of the stunting of brain growth and psychological development.
People with good intentions have tried many times to help Kavanaugh with problem-solving and impulse control. They've worried that she had too much freedom for her mental age, especially because psychologists said developing healthy emotional attachments would be among her biggest challenges.
All-too-brief bursts of success and stability have deflated back into loneliness and self-destructive behavior. But this arrest is the first time Kavanaugh has hurt someone other than herself.
The statistical odds are actually good that this never happens again. Females — who account for less than 10 percent of sexual offenses — have an extremely low recidivism rate, according to the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers. The group's research indicates that less than 3 percent of those convicted ever offend again.
One of the experts I talked with regarding best next steps is Portland-based counselor Katherine Gotch, who has done extensive research on females with sexual behavior problems as well as conducted numerous individual evaluations.
“A situation like this is not OK by a long shot because a 14-year-old cannot consent to the sexual activity in a relationship,” Gotch said. “It's a relationship with an inappropriate person.”
She told me that a key difference between males and females who sexually abuse is that women often are motivated by the desire for emotional closeness and intimacy with the victim rather than “coercive forceful behaviors.”
Regardless of gender, Gotch said, if the perpetrator is not as socially or emotionally developed as chronological age suggests, sanctions should be different. “It doesn't make it OK, but it does affect how I would be recommending treatment and intervention versus someone who has, for instance, sexual deviancy issues.”
The experts I spoke with also agreed about the need to balance three key elements: harm to the victim, risk to the public and restitution-rehabilitation of the offender.
The 14-year-old girl needs support and services to help her deal with what has happened.
As for her perpetrator: If the offender is a good candidate for community-based treatment and supervision, those services are likely better than what is available in a correctional facility. A consistent, rigorous support network that builds trust is vital for people who have experienced even a fraction of what Kavanaugh endured.
Only out of that kind of long-term guidance will Kavanaugh have a decent shot at forming healthy individual relationships in the real world. Her best hope is that the Denton County DA's office finds a way to get her the help she so desperately needs
Fancy 5K run raises $7,000 to benefit local nonprofit, human trafficking survivors
by VIRGINIA BARREDA
The U.S. is stepping up the fight against human trafficking until it can be stamped out "once and for all," President Donald Trump said Thursday, calling for an end to "modern slavery."
From tiaras to feathered boas, about 145 runners were dressed to the nines Saturday morning for the first Fanciest 5K. Ever. at the Courthouse Club Fitness in West Salem.
The goal of the fun run, started by Salem resident Angela Watts, was to raise money and awareness to benefit survivors of human trafficking in the Willamette Valley.
16-year-old Allissa said she isn't much of a runner, but when she heard about the cause, she wanted to represent those going through "hardship and show them that there is hope."
A victim of domestic and sexual abuse, Allissa and her younger brother left their father's home about a year ago and moved into a foster home in Keizer.
On Saturday, she ran her first 5K with her adult court-appointed special advocate, Enez Garcia Bradford. The two wore matching silver tiaras and multi-colored beads with their gym shoes.
"Foster kids are high at risk to end up" in a human trafficking system, Bradford, 37, said. "(Allissa) represents hope for kids in the system. She's super successful, has a job, great grades and is doing amazing. She's an inspiration to me and other young kids."
In 2013, 60 percent of child sex trafficking victims recovered through FBI raids across the United States were from foster care or group homes, according to the National Foster Youth Institute.
Allissa said she wants to help bring awareness to an issue that is underrepresented in Salem.
"People always think that bad things don't happen here just because they don't see it," she said. "But bad things happen everywhere, people just need to realize it."
Watts estimates the event raised about $7,000 in its first year. 100 percent of proceeds, she said, will go to Safety Compass, a Silverton-based nonprofit advocating for survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking in the Willamette Valley.
With an annual operating budget of about $380,000 for 2018, they provide survivors with services including emergency hotel stays, Uber rides to safety and basic needs, according to Esther Nelson, founder of Safety Compass.
"I can't wait to get a big check and take it to Safety Compass," Watts said. "I'm excited to see what they do. I know the contribution will allow them to help more people."
Allissa said her hope is the money will help build shelters for kids who are human trafficking victims.
"I know multiple kids that are staying in hotels because they don't have a home available to them," she said.
With the race going better than she imagined, Watts said she would like to do the race again next year. Her goal is to team up with more local businesses, provide further education about human trafficking and invite survivors to share their stories.
"I thought maybe 20 percent would come in something fancy, but it was more like 90 percent wearing crazy, wild, sequencey, ridiculous things," she said. "I was impressed by how many people committed to that."
The top 5K finishers were Jonas Honeyman, 18 with a time of 21:26, followed by Jeffrey Lewis, 39, at 22:18 and Erik Taylor, 29, at 23:03. The female individual with the fastest time was 27-year-old Sarah Smith who completed the race at 23:31.
The race results are posted on the Eclectic Edge Racing website.
Human Trafficking in South Asia: Combating Crimes against Women
by Dr. Nafees Ahmad
Human trafficking is a lucrative crime with instant results, an offence of grave circumvention of human existentialism and a slap on the global security wall. While confronting human trafficking still remains an unfulfilled obligation of the international community as it is a global problem. However, SAARC has also committed to stamping it out while realizing its causes such as rampant poverty, inaccessible healthcare, gender discrimination, class conflicts, and minority injustices. South Asia is a region that is encountered with challenges of human rights such as prevention of human trafficking in women and children for prostitution, devising legal protection for children and evolving mechanism for combating terrorism. In South Asia, human rights discourse has become more intense in the wake of external castigation of its human rights record. Indeed, many Western governments and human rights watchdog institutions perceive South Asia as a reservoir of multi-dimensional discrimination in every walk of life. SAARC governments are mired in human rights transgressions contrary to their constitutional vision, mandate, and the rule of law, democracy, and good governance. South Asian consciousness against corruption, respect for governance institutions, human dignity, and probity in public and private life have been depleting at a pace that has not been experienced before.
Norberto Bobbio—an Italian philosopher—rightly expressed that the supremacy of human rights in present political and legal discourse as a revolutionary upsetting of the primordial practices in ruminating the primary task of moral philosophy to evolve in the designing of a compendium of duties instead of rights. From Two Tablets of Moses to Cicero' De officiis including Immanuel Kant's Sittenlehre which was construed as an edifice of duties raising the question in Kant's second Critique is not “What are my rights?” but it posed “What should I do?” Therefore, the human rights situations of SAARC region cannot be assessed in total disregard of its historical and regional circumstances, nor can it be analyzed as per the preconceived model, tradition or standard of another region. Therefore, people of South Asia derived their viewpoints on human rights issues from their historical circumstances and practical experiences and formulated relevant policies and laws. However, Article 3 of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (2000):
“Trafficking in Persons' shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring and receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”
In this context, it is everyday human rights issues that determine the directions in which people are capable of living their lives in South Asia and elsewhere, they are of tremendous significance not only to all of us as individuals but also to us as members of South Asian society. Therefore, everyday human rights issues should be central to our collective social memory and practice just like certain international and domestic human rights events, victories, abuses and personages. The challenge, however, lies in trying to make these everyday issues attractive and newsworthy enough to capture people's attention. What role can media play in illuminating these everyday human rights issues? Let's try critically to analyze the questions arising out of the “SAARC Convention on Combating and Prevention of Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution”, the strengthening and enforcing of SAARC Convention on Promotion of the Child Welfare in South Asia and SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism in the light of on-going conceptual deliberations.
Human trafficking comes with a modern visage that derives its contours from antiquity and known as modern day slavery. Human trafficking is resorted by employing fraud, force, and coercion for prostitution, debt bondage, forced labour. Age and gender barriers are irrelevant in human trafficking as it is evident from the trafficked women of all ages, men, young children and teenagers. However, human trafficking is a global issue that has been affecting Global North and Global South countries alike and attained the proportions of organized crime. Human trafficking in women and children for prostitution has become a global trend and an offense that has been mushrooming and affecting almost every nook and corner of the world both as sources of passage or destination country. As per the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes), victims from at least 127 countries have been recognized, and it is projected that a criminal is exploiting more than 2.4 million people at any given time.
The ILO expects that there are 2.4 billion people in the world at any given time involved in forced labour and subjected to exploitation due to human trafficking. Around 800,000 women and children are trafficked every year across international borders out of which 80% are ending in forced prostitution. This projection does not include those trafficked within their own countries or missing children. Human trafficking in women and children for prostitution is a grave violation of human rights and has been regarded as a modern form of slavery. The United Nations projects that the trafficking of women and children for forced prostitution in Asia has victimized more than 30 million people. According to the OECD Reports, the human trafficking industry ranks among the top three highest grossing illegal criminal industries along with illicit drugs and arms. The study shows that over 160 countries across the world are known to be affected by human trafficking. It means that human trafficking is a terrible global reality and statistics adumbrated above would bleed the heart of every right-thinking person.
Thus, human trafficking poses an extreme threat to human rights and human dignity of considerable people in various parts of the world. It stays one of the least understood forms of transnational crime, with significant gaps existing in both the data on the incidence as well as differences in the ability of lawmakers to appropriately address the problem in their respective countries. Human trafficking is a life-threatening violation of human rights because of the involuntary manner in which trafficked victims are entrapped, transported, recruited and subsequently subjected to abuses and exploitation. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Regional Office for South Asia, (UNODC-ROSA) and the UN Women, South Asia signed a Memorandum of Understanding under which they committed to strengthening the present levels of cooperation in dealing with the organized crime of human trafficking in the eight SAARC countries. According to Article 1 of the SAARC Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution, 2002 “trafficking” denotes that the:
“moving, selling or buying women and children for prostitution within and outside a country for monetary or other considerations with or without the consent of the person subjected to trafficking.”
Unfortunately, there is no universal definition of trafficking, and the SAARC domestic laws even now lack a shared understanding of trafficking. Although India has a specific law on trafficking, but it does not define trafficking; it represents “prostitution” to have the usual attributes of trafficking for sexual exploitation. However, to determine the efficacy of criminal justice systems in South Asia and their effectiveness in addressing trafficking, it is essential to compare the standards in South Asia to the UNTOC standards as embodied in the Trafficking Protocol. The Protocol is reasonably comprehensive regarding looking at a variety of strategies to combat cross-border trafficking. Therefore, these gaps have raised several questions which have to be attended such as:
How to identify the administrative weaknesses in the enforcement system of anti-trafficking mechanism on a comparatively footing in South Asia?
Why there is a low number of arrest, prosecutions, and convictions for human trafficking in SAARC jurisdictions?
What are the reasons for insignificant legal integration of human rights, gender and child rights in domestic anti-trafficking laws and policies in SAARC countries?
What is the threshold of repressive state protection, prevention efforts in trafficking prone areas in SAARC jurisdictions?
Human trafficking encompasses recruitment, transfer, transportation, harbouring of persons through the use of duress, force, fraud, or coercion for exploitation. Economic inequalities, social disparities, and politico-cultural conflicts have led to the human mobility within all SAARC jurisdictions and across the borders in South Asia. Globalization has encouraged free movement of capital, technology transfer, expert exchanges, and sex service tours. Socioeconomic dependency, gender disparity, Illiteracy, cultural stereotypes, violence, social stigmatization, and endemic poverty inter-aliasociological deprivation of women and children in power-sharing, non-negotiable situations that have pandered to the emergence and mushrooming of the commodious problem of women trafficking in the entire SAARC region. This alarming spread of sex trafficking has fuelled the spread of HIV infection in South Asia, posing a unique and severe threat to community health, poverty alleviation and other crucial aspects of human development. Although the SAARC Convention on Trafficking in Women and Children has been a significant breakthrough, most of the SAARC countries do not have anti-trafficking legislation or means to protect the victims. Therefore, SAARC countries must make a concerted effort to treat women trafficking victims as “victims” of human rights transgressions in all their anti-trafficking policies and practices.
Abolition of women trafficking is inescapably a long-term process that involves a catena of causes like poverty, education, gender inequality, minority rights, and healthcare along with dismantling the actions of criminal syndicates. By its very nature, women trafficking for prostitution are a surreptitious crime for which adequate and comparable statistical data is rarely available. As of January 2017, 170 nation-states have ratified the Additional Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime which was adopted in 2000 (also known as Palermo Protocol) and India has even ratified it. The Palermo Protocol was the first international legally binding instrument with an agreed definition of human trafficking. However, there is an urgent necessity for greater collaboration between security agencies of South Asian countries to protect the victims.
The key challenges to human trafficking in South Asia are porous borders, growing trade links, incoherent approach, lingual hurdles and time-consuming process of identification, verification, coordination, and implementation. Thus, it highlights the need for greater collaboration and assistance to rehabilitate and rescue victims of trafficking. At the same time, the UNODC South Asia must assist SAARC countries to develop comprehensive and sustainable responses to trafficking in persons. Such interventions include the prosecution of perpetrators, protection, and assistance of victims and, most importantly, prevention measures. SAARC jurisdictions countries have to have a unified and integrated action against human trafficking in the spirit of shared responsibility.
Africa: Human Trafficking - Hidden in Plain Sight
by Romy Hawatt
Dubai — The media globally tends to have a bias to 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 parlours and organ trafficking networks happening 'somewhere else', the West is generally desensitised, 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 whilst it is generally conducted more openly in developing countries.
"Human trafficking is a global problem, but it's a local one too," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in 2018 when the U.S. 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 favourite restaurant, a hotel, downtown, a farm, or in their neighbour's home."
Estimates vary depending on the agency reporting and also depends on specific categorisations. The International Labour Organization for example, estimates 21 million people are affected by forced labour whereas other reputable agencies estimate up to 48 million men, women and children are enslaved and trafficked around the world today.
According to the International Labour Organization, 68 percent are exploited in industry sectors like agriculture, mining, construction and domestic work creating profits of $150 billion annually.
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 unalienable 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 U.K., 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 numbers of people trafficked is estimated to number in the 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 U.K., 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 recognise 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 U.S. - 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.
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.
The author, Romy Hawatt is a Founding Member of the Global Sustainability Network ( GSN ) pursuing the United Nations Sustainability Goal number 8 with a special emphasis on Goal 8.7 which 'takes immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms'.
Global Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition
Child labourers rescued in Delhi waiting to be sent back to their villages.
Entire human history is one great struggle for freedom. To many, slavery is a synonym for something in the past, for transatlantic slave trade, but, unfortunately, slavery still exists in many different forms.
Records show that over twenty seven million men, women and children still live today in conditions that characterized social form of the slave ownership. They are trapped in forced labor and debt bondage, in domicile work and forced marriages, or they are being exploited by the human traffickers. We can easily speak of slavery as of great tragedy, and the fact that in this day and age still exists, is a downfall of human kind.
Modern slavery is a challenge for every democratic country. Suffering is the same as in the past, but methods are more sophisticated and perfidious, and most of those who suffer are the ones that should be protected the most – poor and socially excluded groups, who often live on the margins of our society, and young women and children. This is not an imaginary problem, it does not happen only to someone else and somewhere else; rather, it is a real threat and anyone can fall victim to.
The very first challenge in fight against slavery must be a cognizance: we must confess a bitter truth that slavery has been weakened, but still exists. Human trafficking is one of the growing forms of transnational crime, characterized by high profit and low risk, and it is followed by a grave statistics. It is crime of economic nature, and most efficiently organized, and we are currently fighting it on inconsistent and fragmented way. That is the dark side of globalization.
The issue of modern slavery is globally recognized by the UN in its millennium goals. Goal 8 is dedicated to increasing labor productivity, reducing the unemployment rate, especially for young people, improving access to financial services and benefits, fight against modern slavery and child labor. So many activities around this particular global goal prove that we don't live anymore in a selfish world where we don't consider other nations and their problems. No, the world of todays opens up to the misery of others, and everybody everywhere has to be good, for us to feel good. Employed, productive populations, sustainable economic growth, decent jobs with equal opportunities for fair salaries, safe working environments, social protection, these are all values that will ensure the progress of the entire world, and the whole world will benefit from the creativity, business and innovation of the free people.
Plenty has been done in delivering the Goal 8. UN reports that the average annual growth rate of real GDP per capita worldwide increased, the number of children from 5 to 17 years of age who are working has declined, access to financial services through automated teller machines increased… Plenty has been done, but also plenty has to be done. Child labor remains a serious concern with more than half of child laborers participate in dangerous work and 59% of them work in the agricultural sector; labor productivity has slowed down, the global unemployment rate hasn't changed from 2016, with women more likely to be unemployed than men across all age groups. Youth were almost three times as likely as adults to be unemployed… It is clear that efforts provide results, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
There was a time we thought that the slavery is forever beaten, only to come back to us in new forms and shapes. That is why the solution must be fresh and brave. The only final answer to this problem is for every country, every government, every agency to work together, to unite and create an Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition that will engage entire society in fight against this crime, and combine all our efforts in protecting our citizens. It should be understood that eradicating the human trafficking is not solely a mission for the police or law enforcement agencies, this is a fight at all levels of society. We should campaign through media with the message that will define the problem, and develop the clear strategy that will unite countries and governments, churches and religious organizations, NGOs, youth, academic communities, media and all other important representatives of the society in one efficient and effective action with clear mechanisms of measuring the results. Everything should be designed in the way that those results are realistic and visible to the present victims, and to provide prevention and protection for potential victims. Time has clearly shown us, that this is one thing we can't beat alone, nationally, rather, it's a nick of time to do it globally.
Combating Human Trafficking with Comics
Human trafficking is second fastest growing criminal enterprise today
Many people don't immediately think of comics as being educational, but they can be one of the best ways to reach young people. One comic book artist has teamed up with an anti-human trafficking organization to educate kids about the dangers, and how to avoid them.
Dan Goldman first developed an interest in comics and graphic writing around age 5, and learned how to read partly by reading comics. In high school, Goldman was in a record store and stumbled upon a comic book series called “Love and Rockets.”
“I just thought wow, you could really do comics about anything, and that was a big left turn for me about the sort of stories that I was able to tell myself, and it forged a different path for me I think,” Goldman said.
The fact that he could tell meaningful stories with pictures appealed to him and propelled him into a career as a comic book and graphic novel artist. Throughout his career, Goldman has covered a variety of topics in graphic form. He has written graphic works about political elections, the media, terrorism, and a variety of dystopian topics.
Comics and Education
In 2014, Goldman wrote a graphic novel titled “Priya's Shakti” that focuses on a protagonist superhero in India named Priya who is a survivor of sexual violence and fights against it.
“I was able to see for the first time that doing work that wasn't just topical, but that was actually part of an activist pipeline where I was creating story tools for activists and organizations to use on the ground to help educate and bring awareness, that was a real big lightbulb for me. It was like the missing piece,” Goldman explained.
After giving a lecture at the University of Southern California, an ambassador for an anti-human trafficking organization called UNITAS named Daria Strokous approached him and told him that he would be a good fit for them. They discussed the power of storytelling, and how it could be an educational and engaging way to combat human trafficking.
Goldman seized the opportunity to educate and fight human trafficking through his work. He began working on a series entitled “Wolves in the Street,” which demonstrates how human traffickers try to lure people, and how potential victims can make smart, educated choices to avoid their tactics.
Andrea Powell is the founding president of Karana Rising, an organization that helps survivors of human trafficking through self-care, education, and employment. Powell joined the UNITAS team to develop the national curricular material to educate young people about human trafficking in schools, and also developed the scripts for the “Wolves in the Street” series with Goldman. She developed the stories based on the real-life accounts of trafficking survivors she has worked with.
“I think in particular young people really use not only social media, but they're interested in complex ways to consume information, so these comic strips are designed to reach young people where they're spending the most time, and if you look at where young people are spending the most time these days it's overwhelmingly Instagram, and so that's why we chose that medium,” Powell said.
Not only is this model cost-effective, it's a way to take back the internet. Human traffickers often entrap young people online, and by using the internet as a platform for education and prevention, anti-human trafficking organizations are leveling the digital playing field.
Powell explained some of the methods traffickers use to lure people. One way is to pose as love interest. Another common way is for the trafficker to present themselves as a parental figure to someone who is desperately seeking one. The third frequent way is they will claim they can offer a person a better life. In all three scenarios, the trafficker is preying on some type of vulnerability. That's why it's so important for parents to be involved in their children's lives, and if you're a kid, to find a parent or adult you trust, and let them know what's going on in your life.
“If I'm speaking to parents I would say ask your kid questions. See how their day is going. Make sure you understand what they're doing online,” Powell explained. “Also be wary, and teach your kids to ask questions and be careful online because so many of these traffickers pretend to be a young, cute boy and they have a fake profile but instead it's an older man who's a trafficker.”
It's also important for adults in our communities to learn about human trafficking and to recognize what to look out for. If you see someone who looks like they're in trouble or something that doesn't look right, call the human trafficking hotline or the police.
Every story has a pivot point where a potential trafficking victim can make two different choices with two alternative endings. The first story in the series is called “Superstar,” in which an aspiring adolescent singer named Lacey becomes a target for human traffickers. Both of her parents work late, and she spends a lot of time online talking with friends. An older man named Erik notices one of her photos on social media and lures her to a different city by offering to make a demo tape for her. Once she arrives, he gives her a few promiscuous outfits to try on and also offers her some marijuana. She misses the last bus home, and Erik offers to let her stay at his place.
Lacey is scared her parents will be angry, so she spends the night. The next day, Erik tells her that if his friend likes her he can offer her a record contract on the spot. The audition is in a hotel room, and she's told she'll be offered a deal if she lets Erik's friend touch her. Five more men enter the room, and she is dragged into the world of human trafficking.
In the second, alternative ending Lacey is suspicious when Erik reaches out to her. She calls her aunt Tereza, who tells her that nobody offers to make someone famous without wanting something in return. Instead, Lacey auditions for the school chorus and is told that she has a lot of potential. Lacey appreciates the instructor's help, and her aunt tells her she's becoming a better singer because of her hard work and that she's proud of her. Lacey eventually performs, and her aunt Tereza tells her how amazing she was and the two go out to dinner to celebrate.
“Superstar” touches on one theme of human trafficking, which is the vulnerability of adolescents who have big dreams. Though traffickers prey on these girls and boys, they have the ability to fight back.
The next story in the series will feature labor trafficking, with the vulnerable character being an undocumented immigrant from Juarez, Mexico. Human traffickers promise her a better life, but she ends up as an unseen housekeeper in a hotel with no way out. The alternative ending involves another young person realizing something is off about the young woman and helps her escape. The message is that not only can young people be preyed upon by traffickers, they also have agency and the ability to fight against it.
There will be eight to 12 other stories touching on different types of human trafficking, and how they affect different kinds of vulnerable targets. Each story will feature a different theme such as immigration, sexuality, race, and economics. In some instances, the trafficker may try to manipulate a survivor into participating in trafficking.
The series was partially informed by activists, trafficking survivors, and even former traffickers. Goldman was able to hear a variety of different perspectives and learn more about human trafficking.
“The subject itself it makes you angry, it makes you sad, it makes you scared. It's a really complicated topic, and there are no easy solutions,” Goldman explained.
The work has been incredibly rewarding for Goldman. When he hears from readers that can now see warning signs of human trafficking, he knows his work has been effective. Communication between parents and kids is crucial to combating human trafficking.
“I think that comics are a really sneaky way to educate people because it looks like entertainment,” Goldman explained. “Really what you're doing while you're reading these things and you're having fun with it is you're actually receiving and processing information, and if the comics are well done you're having an emotional experience as well … you're not the same at the end.”
‘I saw it as a lesson': How an alleged human trafficking scheme shaped Kingsley Jonathan's football career
by Matt Liberman
The coaching staff thought they had a superstar in the making. After playing football for just one season at Eastern Alamance (North Carolina) High School, their freshman phenom, Jonathan Kingsley, was named a MaxPreps Freshman All-American and helped lead Eastern Alamance to the state semifinal.
Kingsley stood at 6-foot-4 and weighed over 200 pounds. He was believed to be 15 years old and had immigrated to the U.S. from Nigeria the year before.
“He came in not knowing everyone and just by his actions being a great guy, he drew others,” Eastern Alamance head coach John Kirby said. “His motor ran hard and he always stayed to try to learn.”
But over the course of the ensuing months, much of Kingsley's perceived background proved to be misrepresented. He wasn't 15 years old. His name was Kingsley Jonathan, not Jonathan Kingsley. His passport showed he should've been a junior, and not a freshman in high school. An alleged human trafficking scheme placed Jonathan near the epicenter of a federal government investigation on the opposite side of the world from his home.
Two moves and three years later, Jonathan is a sophomore defensive lineman at No. 20 Syracuse (9-3, 6-2 Atlantic Coast) and ranks third on the Orange with five sacks. He will likely earn his second start this Friday against No. 16 West Virginia (8-3, 6-3 Big 12) in the Camping World Bowl due to Alton Robinson's absence for “personal reasons.” Jonathan, who SU head coach Dino Babers calls one of his favorite players because of his endless motor and cheerful character, has endured an arduous path to reach his position. Yet, through it all, Jonathan mustered the strength to find his way in a foreign land.
“Some things I wish didn't happen, but I always trusted God,” Jonathan said. “I knew it was his plan. That's what he wanted me to go through, to experience that, so that I could help people coming from Nigeria and be an example. Throughout the whole process I saw it as a lesson. God showed me things that I needed to learn, things that I needed to open my eyes to.”
A gifted student and basketball player, Jonathan's parents believed he could go much farther in the United States than he could in Nigeria. They obtained a visa, a passport and an I-20 form, he said. Once he arrived in North Carolina, he was met by Aris Hines and Brandi Thomason, who would host Jonathan. The two never had any contact with him or his family before he reached the U.S., Jonathan said, but Hines was the one that had Eastern Alamance send the I-20.
Hines and Thomason enrolled Jonathan in the eighth grade that year, where he adjusted to the culture and new way of life in America. He lived with Hines and Thomason as well as several other kids from different countries that the couple hosted. But according to reports, Jonathan's visa indicated he was supposed to attend Evelyn Mack Academy in Charlotte, where his parents were paying for him to go. But he was on his own in a new world. He did what was asked of him.
Jonathan didn't think anything of it when he walked into his eighth-grade classroom in the fall of 2014 and nearly every kid was much smaller than he was. It was a different place. He didn't know anyone.
The following year, he attended Eastern Alamance and earned a spot on the varsity football roster. He was a “humongous” kid and a gifted athlete. He'd never stepped foot on a field and needed others to put on pads for him, but he adapted quickly, Kirby said.
He became one of Eastern Alamance's best players. He stayed after practice every day to learn more and work on his technique and develop his knowledge of the game. When he went home, after completing his homework, he spent hours on YouTube where he learned the tactics and roles of each position watching NFL players, especially defensively, where Jonathan became a force.
“You get to hit people and don't get yelled at,” Jonathan said. “I love hitting people and I get this kind of adrenaline rush. You can do it and not get yelled at. And then you can do it again and again.”
By seasons end, Jonathan was a MaxPreps Freshman All-American and one of the best up-and-coming players in the country. Rivals.com visited Eastern Alamance frequently as did several Division I coaches.
During that season, Jonathan said, he moved in with Tim and Tyra Grate, whose son was a teammate of Jonathan.
The Grates could not be reached for comment after multiple attempts.
At the same time, Hines was out of town for a few months, and when he returned he saw the Grates worked to become Jonathan's legal guardians.
In response, Hines called the schools who faced Eastern Alamance, claiming that the Eagles played an ineligible athlete. Since the Grates had not yet become Jonathan's legal guardians, his legal guardians' residency was still home in Nigeria.
Eastern Alamance was forced to vacate its wins in both football and basketball, but the blowback from those calls along with the disappearance of three girls also staying with Hines and Thomason opened questions into Hines' and Thomason's background.
Investigations found Jonathan was just one of a series of foreign students that Hines and Thomason hosted in order to exploit their parents for money, upwards of $27,000 according to initial reports. Police reports indicated both Hines and Thomason were charged with obstruction of justice and obtaining property by false pretense. Throughout the following weeks and months the Department of Homeland Security visited Mebane, as it, along with local investigators, dug deeper into the activities of Hines and Thomason. Some reports suggested that the pair had conducted similar schemes in Oklahoma and West Virginia.
Neither Hines nor Thomason could be reached after multiple attempts to contact them.
“I was just trying to keep my head down and stick with the people I know I can trust and with the family I'm with now,” Jonathan said. “I just watched it play out.”
Before Jonathan's senior year, St. Frances (Maryland) head coach Henry Russell and assistant coach Messay Hailemariam heard about Jonathan's situation, how he'd been taken advantage of, and they wanted to do whatever they could to help. Jonathan's play on the football field was just an extra bonus they never planned on.
“Coach Messay and I were like we've got to find a way to help this kid,” Russell said. “He's in a bad spot and it's not his fault.”
Russell and Hailemariam reached out to the Grates and arranged a meeting. Shortly after Jonathan enrolled at St. Frances, 328 miles away from Eastern Alamance. Immediately, Jonathan wanted to play football, but he would have to wait. He wasn't yet eligible to play, and Russell and Hailemariam had to obtain clearance from the federal government to do so.
Due to his victimization in what was believed to be a human trafficking scheme, Jonathan was witness to an FBI investigation. Russell and Hailemariam had to work with the Department of Homeland Security just to make sure he could stay in the United States as an ordinary student. Along with that, because of his ineligibility in North Carolina, the two had to obtain clearance from the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) if Jonathan wanted to play football, which he terribly desired.
Jonathan stayed back after every practice to work with the coaching staff and figure out how to improve. Even if he couldn't play in St. Frances' games, he wanted to ensure he could still play in college. Hailemariam, an Ethopian, was a former Division I football player. Following his playing career, he immediately became a coach. He knew the cultural power of the sport.
“I told him football would allow him to gauge the new country, acclimate. He had an opportunity for free education … to graduate with a degree debt-free,” Hailemariam said. “I told him to be grateful for that. You're from Nigeria and have an opportunity few people get. Don't be complacent.”
Those words motivated Jonathan and they still do. He asked for help in his technique and game from his teammates and in turn tutored around a dozen of them.
After two months of waiting, Russell received word from the MIAA that Jonathan was eligible. When he informed Jonathan of the decision, Jonathan nearly cried. Russell remembered his smile grew wide, tears formed in his eyes. He remembered Jonathan repeatedly asked if it were true.
He became a star outside linebacker, and intercepted a pass in the state final to seal a victory. As a three-star recruit, he gained attention from schools like Syracuse, Tennessee and South Carolina.
“Him not knowing football, I was just lost for a second. I was like ‘How could you be this good at a sport that you know nothing about?' I was confused,” his teammate Gary Brightwell said “I'd ask him every day, are you lying to me? You're just playing one of those games with me again? For him not to know anything about the sport, he sure do make a lot of plays.”
Despite his success, several collegiate coaches were scared to offer him a scholarship because of his past, Russell said. For someone so focused on being part of a family, Jonathan struggled to find a coach willing to let him be part of one. He finally found that in Dino Babers and his staff at Syracuse.
“Coming from everything I've been through, that was mainly what I was looking for,” Jonathan said. “They have my back, no matter what happens.”
During that senior year, Jonathan and his roommates from St. Frances visited Syracuse for the Orange's game against South Florida in September of 2016. Following the game, Brightwell said, Jonathan committed on the field.
“Not too many people could make it that far being through what he went through,” Brightwell said. “Usually people break, but he just stayed focused the whole way.”
As a sophomore this season, Jonathan has elevated his game. Backing up defensive ends Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman, Jonathan ranks third on the team in sacks behind the two, despite not starting. Few players on the team have a higher motor than Jonathan, Babers said.
“He has no governor,” Babers said, referring to the speed regulator on tour busses. “I love him. I absolutely love him.”
Due to Robinson's absence in the Camping World Bowl, Jonathan will likely fill into his role starting alongside Coleman and defensive tackle Chris Slayton, playing on perhaps the biggest stage of his young career.
At the same time that this game will happen in Orlando, Florida, Hines and Thomason are living in Texas, away from prison. Charges against the pair were dropped this past July because Jonathan provided “inconsistent statements” and there were “significant problems obtaining pertinent and relevant evidence from federal authorities.”
In an interview with WTVD in Raleigh, North Carolina, Hines stated the following in relation to Jonathan.
“The parents had signed off on it, it had the Nigerian seal from a notary. And when we went to the school, if they had told us that we needed a court-ordered document, which we didn't know at the time, we would have went through the courts and got the proper document to enroll the kid.”
Hines and Thomason have been linked to dozens of other cases of human trafficking, specifically involving athletes. But inconsistencies let them avoid prison. Jonathan doesn't have animosity toward them. He doesn't know where he'd be otherwise.
“They made it possible for me to get over here. That was a big deal,” Jonathan said. “I always wish everybody the best…They have their life, I have my life.”
For years Jonathan bounced around, struggling to find his place. He was subject to an FBI investigation and did not know where he'd end up.
Now, Jonathan doesn't have to worry about any of that. He has found his family, and he's finally home
Human trafficking symposium coming to Liberal
Matthew 25:40 states, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers, you did for me.”
Keith Anglemyer, senior pastor at Liberal's First United Methodist Church, said right now, the “least of us are in peril,” due to the rising crisis of human trafficking.
In a letter to church and community members and area educators, he said sex and labor trafficking in the world is a multi-billion dollar industry.
“It targets those who are unable to help themselves – mainly children and struggling adults – and forces them to work as sex or labor slaves while others reap the benefits of this forced service,” he said in the letter.
Anglemyer said numbers for Southwest Kansas are not known, but two other things are known.
“First of all, the busiest two-lane truck highway in the United States goes through Liberal,” he said in a recent interview. “We figure there's probably trafficking going on as they travel through or as they park in the big hotels or the big truck stop out there now on the east part of town. The second thing is something that may be more likely to be prevalent here would be the labor trafficking, which is using workers and basically paying slave labor type rates of salary.”
Anglemyer said many times trafficking involves undocumented citizens working off the fees of them getting across the border into America.
“That's likely going to be a type of trafficking that's really not reported,” he said.
Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., a human trafficking symposium entitled “HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT” will take place at Liberal High School. The purpose of the symposium is to educate the public on what human trafficking is, as well as what can be done to both report it and help prevent it.
“There's lots of information, stats and things that are going to be coming out on that day about the types of businesses that are more prevalent for labor trafficking, and restaurants is one of those,” Anglemyer said. “Farming and cattle ranching is one of those type of operations where that seems to be going on or more likely to be going on. This isn't a response to any specific things happening in this area. It's just a general education for a problem that's increasing across the United States.”
Anglemyer said trafficking may not seem like a church issue since examples of it are not seen in pews on Sunday morning. However, he feels it is an issue the church must address, because it is going on everywhere, and it is targeting the marginalized and vulnerable in society – the same people whom Jesus always reached out to help.
Anglemyer said he felt a calling to do put on a symposium such as the one that will take place Jan. 12.
“I think it's just reading the stories that you hear,” he said. “Almost every day, you can find somewhere in the United States or in the world, children have been recovered, or children have been lost.”
Anglemyer said the calling to do something about trafficking was something he felt even more so on a domestic level.
“It's just something I feel God pressed on my heart – that trafficking could be a problem here,” he said. “We know it's a problem in other places. We also know that Kansas is considered to be a hub just because of our location in the country. We've also been classified as an originating state, meaning trafficking victims come from Kansas. It was pressed upon me to bring that to our mission and ministries action team here at the church and asked them if this is an area where we should go, knowing that nobody in Liberal was preparing any information like this or preparing to work on it.”
Anglemyer said the Great Plains United Methodist Church Conference, made up of thousands of churches in Kansas and Nebraska, including FUMC, provided much in the way of effort regarding trafficking.
“There was nothing else going on,”?he said. “We felt the church needed to be more proactive. One of the reason we're doing this is to be a leader in our conference to show other people we can do this, we can have a voice against trafficking, and we can be on the lookout for trafficking in our areas. It's one of those issues you never hear churches are actively involved with, but it's an issue we can get involved in, try to make a difference.”
The local symposium will feature four primary speakers, including:
• Dr. Karen Countryman-Roswurm, the founder and executive director of the Center for Combating Human Trafficking and an associate professor for the School of Social Work at Wichita State University;
• Risa Rehmert, director of program development at the Center for Combating Human Trafficking;
• Jennifer Montgomery, who leads the Kansas Attorney General's anti-trafficking efforts as director of human trafficking education and outreach; and
• Kimberly Becker, founder and director of the Central Kansas Dream Center.
Anglemyer said further studying the issue of trafficking showed two things. http://www.liberalfirst.com/local-news/human-trafficking-symposium-coming-to-liberal
“We find out how Kansas is an originating state and how Southwest Kansas seems to be underserved right now as far as organizations and task forces for trafficking and how they were ready to jump in and help us to do this,”?he said.
Anglemyer said several people in town found out what was being done with the symposium and wanted to help.
“So they have joined us,” he said. “This has actually moved beyond our action team, our mission ministry action team, and has moved into being more of a community organization and an effort.”
Anglemyer said Becker will provide a victim's perspective on human trafficking.
“She is bringing with her a rehabilitated victim who will share a story,” he said. “We'll get a first-hand look into what her trafficking experience was. The lady from the Dream Center tells us it's not just come in, take a class, and you're fixed. It's more like a two or three-year process. We're going to find out about things like that.”
Anglemyer said there is a place in Garden City similar to the Dream Center, and some talk has centered around possibly bringing one to Liberal.
“My understanding is there have been people in Liberal who have talked about trying to get a center like that going here,”?he said. “I'm hoping if people are interested in that, they'll actually visit with this lady. She said she would love to help somebody if they wanted to try and start something like that here.”
Anglemyer said the conference is not just for people in Liberal.
“We're inviting schools,”?he said. “It's in a wide range, a 75-mile radius to come. The best way to stop trafficking is to stop victims from being taken or from being volunteered into it. That's early on in the process. We'll be spending some time talking about that as well
(video on site)
Bodies of 2 children found buried in father's backyard, never reported missing
by Emily Van de Riet
GUYTON, Ga. (AP/Meredith) — Two Georgia children were found dead and buried in their father's backyard, and their disappearances were never reported.
A Georgia sheriff said the bodies of the two children were found buried in the backyard of their father's Guyton home. Autopsies are underway and a cause of death has not been determined.
Authorities said 14-year-old Mary Crocker hadn't been seen since October, and her brother Elwyn Crocker Jr. hadn't been seen since Nov. 2016 when he was 14.
The Effingham County School System said Mary and Elwyn were removed from school and transferred to a homeschool program.
Effingham County sheriff's officials said two children's bodies were found last week, and four people have been charged in their deaths: the children's father, 49-year-old Elwyn Crocker; stepmother, 33-year-old Candice Crocker; stepgrandmother, 50-year-old Kim Wright; and Wright's boyfriend, 55-year-old Roy Anthony Prater.
In a Facebook post, officials said all four suspects had their first appearances in court and were all denied bond.
Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie said deputies received a tip Wednesday night that 14-year-old Mary Crocker hadn't been seen since October and was feared dead.
He said deputies arrived at the girl's home and were told conflicting stories by family members about how she lived elsewhere. Deputies then searched the property and found the bodies of Mary and Elwyn.
A living 11-year-old child with cerebral palsy was taken from the home and placed this week in the care of his mother, Rebecca Self, of South Carolina.
County Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie said despite noticing signs of possible abuse, neighbors and acquaintances didn't report their suspicions to authorities.
Chilling 1989 cold-case murder revisited in true-crime series
by Michael Starr
Investigation ID pays the bills with a 24/7 slate of true-crime programming — and “Who Killed Amy Mihaljevic?” won't disappoint its audience.
The three-hour special, premiering 9 p.m. Sunday on ID, takes a deep dive into the still-unsolved 1989 murder of 10-year-old Amy Mihaljevic, who lived in a town on the shores of Lake Erie. It's the lead-in episode to “The Lake Erie Murders,” a miniseries airing over successive Sundays through Jan. 27, documenting unsolved killings in that region (Erie, Pa., Cleveland, Buffalo, Parkdale, Ontario) — all of which share disturbing similarities.
Here it's bucolic Bay Village, Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie, where Amy Mihaljevic — who loved horses, her bike and the movie “Dirty Dancing” — disappeared in late October 1989 after leaving school with three friends. She never made it home.
One of Amy's friends eventually told authorities that Amy had received a phone call from a man who claimed he worked with her mother. The man told Amy her mother was being promoted at work — and that he wanted Amy to accompany him to buy her mother a surprise gift. Amy was last seen waiting alone in front of a local strip mall on Oct. 27, 1989; two eyewitnesses later reported seeing a man approach her and put his hand on the small of her back, as if guiding her to his car.
Amy's disappearance made national headlines — including segments on “Oprah” and “Sally Jessy Raphael” — once the FBI got involved and released a composite sketch of the suspect (later revised). There was a massive manhunt; later, other young girls from neighboring towns told similar tales of getting that creepy phone call from a man claiming to know their mother. In early February, 1990, Amy's body was found by a jogger in a remote field in neighboring Ashland County. Evidence suggests she may have been raped or sexually abused. Her killer was never found. Theories abound: It was the over-friendly local handyman or the creepy caretaker with glasses who worked at the stable where Amy took riding lessons. One thing everyone knows for sure: There's a predator on the loose — and he hasn't been caught to this day. (There's still a $27,000 reward from the FBI for information pertaining to Amy's murder.)
There's much more involved, and “Who Killed Amy Mihaljevic?” does a solid, professional job recounting the timeline and probable circumstances of Amy's disappearance and murder. There are a lot of reenactments — always a slippery slope — but they're tastefully done, and many of Amy's friends and family, including her brother and her father, are interviewed here. (Amy's heartbroken mother, Margaret, who did much to publicize the case, died in 2001.)
It's a horrifying story we've heard all too often — but still compels our insatiable curiosity in the monsters who walk among us.
(video on site)
Not For Sale: Fighting Sex Trafficking As Super Bowl Nears
Ahead of Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, 'Not For Sale' is a series of articles highlighting the battle against child sex trafficking.
by Tim Darnell, Patch Staff
EDITOR'S NOTE: As Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta approaches, more attention is being focused on the issue of child sex trafficking. Patch is committed to covering this international plague with a focus on local efforts to combat the crime. This is the first in a series of articles on child sex trafficking as it relates to one of the world's biggest sporting events, which will happen on Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta.
ATLANTA, GA -- An Atlanta-based faith organization dedicated to eradicating child sex trafficking is using technology to help victims of the crime receive help and even prevent them from entering what could be a lifetime of degradation and tragedy. Street Grace, whose mission is to eradicate the commercial sexual exploit of children, launched a program called Transaction Intercept exactly seven weeks ago as of Dec. 17, 2018. The technology uses a unique chatbot that poses as a minor available for sex. The bot, called "Gracie," even knows how to chat like a teenager.
Once a customer is identified, the bot has already collected insights and data about who the customers are and when they're looking for connections. "Gracie" then sends messages about the risks and consequences of their actions, including trauma and therapy resources to aid them in taking the first step in receiving help. The technology has the power to intercept thousands of messages each day.
The program was developed in a partnership with the Centers for Disease Control, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Kennesaw State University and advertising agency BBDO.
"Gracie is cutting edge," said Bob Rodgers, Street Grace's president and CEO. "She is learning and has already had thousands of conventions with people calling in to buy sex with minors. She's getting smarter and is already in 13 cities in eight states, intercepting and disturbing transactions." Street Grace said the bot has successfully disrupted over 15,000 transactions.
The problem of child sex trafficking is gaining more attention in Atlanta with the approach of Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. But Rodgers points out the game alone isn't solely responsible for the crime.
"The Super Bowl doesn't cause sex trafficking," Rodgers said. "Conferences and conventions, like so many we have in Atlanta, don't cause sex trafficking. It is already occurring in every metro Atlanta county and it will still be happening when the Super Bowl leaves. The Super Bowl brings millions of people into the city and sex trafficking will ebb and flow with the event, just like business at restaurants, bars and adult establishments."
Rodgers brings more than 30 years of corporate and nonprofit leadership experience to Street Grace's mission. The organization presents information about domestic minor sex trafficking to more than 70,000 people annually, ranging from students and educators to government workers and corporations.
Each year, Street Grace reaches nearly 60,000 youth under age 18 with a comprehensive curriculum and trainings covering many topics that parents, schools and youth groups do not generally feel comfortable discussing. In 2018, Street Grace reached over 12,000 Georgians through awareness events surrounding commercial exploitation of children. Street Grace also trains more than 2,000 ministry and youth leaders annually to identify and prevent sex slavery.
Dept of Justice
Sexual Assault Reports Spike in #MeToo Era
A Justice Department report indicates that sexual assaults and rapes increased only modestly from 2016 to 2017 but that dramatically more of the crimes were being reported to police.
by Susan Milligan
VICTIMS OF SEXUAL assault and rape were far more likely to tell the police of their attacks in 2017 than the previous year, according to a government report, a dramatic development for advocates who have long struggled to convince victims to report such crimes.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics' Criminal Victimization report for 2017 found that incidences of sexual assaults and rapes increased only marginally from 2016 to 2017, from 19.7 per 1,000 residents 12 or older to 20.6 people per 1,000 in 2017. But the reporting of such crimes to police jumped from 23 percent in 2016 to 40 percent the following year.
The report does not offer an explanation for the jump in reporting. But the numbers suggest that the #MeToo movement, which was coined in 2006 and exploded in 2017 with accusations against very prominent people in entertainment, media and politics, is not merely a social media phenomenon.
"There's definitely been a cultural shift," with sexual assault victims becoming more open about their experiences, says Karen Weiss, a sociology professor at West Virginia University who specializes in crime victimization. "I do think it's good news – the victims (reporting) are the first step. You have to report it to get it into the system," Weiss says.
The increased reporting is not necessarily reflective of victims' heightened confidence in the criminal justice system but rather "a confidence in their ability to be heard," Weiss says.
Rape is the most underreported crime, according to the National Sexual Violence Research Center, and without formal complaints to the police, perpetrators cannot be brought to justice. Sex crimes are among the least likely to result in a prison sentence, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, with few than half of one percent of rapists incarcerated.
According to the group's research, many victims opt not to go to the police because they fear retribution, believe police won't – or can't – do anything about it, thought it was a personal matter, or didn't want to get the perpetrator (often known to the victim) in trouble. Victims also often feel a sense of shame, experts note.
"As human beings, we want to believe that we have control over what happens to us. When that personal power is challenged by a victimization of any kind, we feel humiliated, psychotherapist Beverly Engel writes in Psychology Today. "We believe we should have been able to defend ourselves. And because we weren't able to do so, we feel helpless and powerless," added Engel, who has written and counseled extensively on abuse recovery.
The #MeToo movement, founded by sexual assault survivor Tarana Burke a dozen years ago, went viral in 2017 after actress Ashley Judd accused Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment. Her disclosure led to similar reports by other women against Weinstein, who is now fighting indictments for sexual assault, including rape.
It also unleashed a Twitter-led outpouring from women, famous and not, who said they, too, had been the victims of sexual assault and rape. Later, as stories involving decades-old sexual assault allegations against former Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama and then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh led people to question why victims waited so long to tell their stories, self-identified victims took to Twitter again. This time, the topic was "why I didn't report," and victims – mostly buy not entirely women – explained the fear and shame that led them to decide not to talk to police.
The timing of the #MeToo movement and the Justice Department report suggest that sexual assault and rape victims were feeling more comfortable going to police even before #MeToo took off. Judd's revelations came in October of 2017.
It's still unlikely sexual assault victims will see their attackers sent behind bars, according to analyses by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, which are drawn from government statistics. But it starts with reporting, Weiss notes.
"Once it's in the system, it's up to the police to do their job and, of course, the prosecutors to take their case," she says. "Things could change with a cultural tidal wave. But it really is going to be up to the institutional response."