National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

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"News of the Week"  

January 2019 - Week 4
Terri Lanahan
Many thanks to NAASCA's Terri Lanahan, Butte, Montana,
for her research into the news that appears on
the LACP & NAASCA web sites.

New York State

They Were Sexually Abused Long Ago as Children. Now They Can Sue in N.Y.

by Vivian Wang

ALBANY — For more than a decade, victims of childhood sexual abuse in New York have asked lawmakers here for the chance to seek justice — only to be blocked by powerful interests including insurance companies, private schools and leaders from the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish communities.

As activists and Democratic officials pushed to strengthen protections for child abuse victims, those opposing interests — wealthy and closely tied to members of the then Republican-controlled State Senate — warned that permitting victims to revive decades-old claims could lead churches, schools and community organizations into bankruptcy. For 13 years, the so-called Child Victims Act foundered.

But in November, Democrats won control of the Senate. And on Monday, both the Senate and Assembly overwhelmingly approved the Child Victims Act, ending a bitter, protracted battle with some of the most powerful groups in the state. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has promised to sign the bill into law.

Every senator, Republican and Democrat, voted for the bill — even though it never even came to the Senate floor for a vote under the Republican majority. The bill passed the Assembly 130-3.

The bill greatly extends New York's statutes of limitations for childhood sex abuse, which had required that criminal or civil charges be brought before the survivor's 23rd birthday. That put New York's laws among the most restrictive in the nation. (Only Mississippi and Alabama have similarly stringent statutes, according to advocates.)

Many other states allow child sexual abuse claims to be brought decades after the assault. Nine have no statutes of limitations at all.

Under the new law, prosecutors could bring criminal charges until a victim turned 28, and victims could sue until age 55. The bill would also create a one-year “look-back window,” during which old claims that had already passed the statute of limitations could be revived.

“It gives meaning and purpose to everything I and my fellow survivors have gone through,” said Brian R. Toale, who has traveled to Albany for years to press legislators on the Child Victims Act.

Mr. Toale, who grew up on Long Island, said the moderator of his high school's radio club sexually abused him when he was 16 years old; it was not until he was 62 that he wrote to his school to tell administrators of the abuse.

At a news conference at the Capitol, legislators and survivors spoke — with a mix of joy, relief and regret — of the long battle for passage.

“You have bared your pain for 13 years,” Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, one of the bill's sponsors, said on Monday while thanking survivors for their advocacy.

With the bill's passage, she said: “You will be able to name your abuser. The institutions that harbored them. And moved them among other institutions so they could harm other children.”

On the floor of the Senate, Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the new Democratic majority leader, offered an emotional apology.

“We apologize for not hearing you soon enough,” she said. “We apologize for making you wait so long.”

Four lawmakers — Senator Alessandra Biaggi and Assemblywomen Catalina Cruz, Rodneyse Bichotte and Yuh-Line Niou — identified themselves during debate as victims of sexual abuse.

“On behalf of survivors everywhere, I cast my vote in the affirmative,” Ms. Cruz said.

Mr. Cuomo, who held a separate news conference to announce his support, said he was following the lead of Pope Francis, who has called for a fuller reckoning of crimes committed by priests and other church officials.

“You cannot deny what happened,” Mr. Cuomo said, flanked by a group of victims, many of whom are now in their 50s and 60s. “You cannot deny that there was significant abuse in the Catholic Church. You cannot deny that it was not handled appropriately. And you can't deny that people were hurt.”

The fight over the bill's passage had pitted activists — many of whom made their case publicly and emotionally — against influential groups that often preferred to work against the bill in private. While survivors held rallies, pressed newspaper editorial boards and, at least once, arrived at Mr. Cuomo's Midtown Manhattan office unannounced to demand a meeting, groups including the American Insurance Association and the Boy Scouts of America quietly hired highly paid lobbyists to oppose the bill.

New York's Catholic Conference, led by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, emerged as the most forceful and public in its opposition; since 2012, it spent more than $1.8 million on lobbyists in Albany to represent its interests.

Less than two weeks ago, Cardinal Dolan wrote an opinion piece in The Daily News declaring that he had to protect the church from Mr. Cuomo's efforts to “single out the church and weaken its ministry.”

The state's bishops later declared that they would support the Child Victims Act so long as it applied equally to public and private institutions — a provision that the bill's sponsors readily adopted.

“No one can say that this legislation unfairly targets one group over another,” said one of the sponsors, Senator Brad Hoylman.

In a statement after the bill's passage in the Senate, Dennis Poust, a spokesman for New York's bishops, said the group would call for even stronger protections than the Child Victims Act.

Michael Polenberg, the vice president of government affairs at Safe Horizon, a New York City nonprofit that helps victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence, suggested that the church's sudden turnaround was disingenuous.

“They fought the bill tooth and nail until it was going to pass,” he said.

The new legislation would put New York well within the upper half of states nationwide in terms of protections for child victims, according to Michael Pfau, a lawyer who has represented victims of childhood sexual abuse. But, he added, it would still fall short of making the state a national leader. California introduced a one-year look-back window like New York's in 2003 but is considering opening another one to accommodate the victims who could not be addressed in time.

Even as he celebrated the bill's passage, Mr. Toale added that the next year would require intense work to notify survivors across the state of their rights during the look-back window.

“The work starts now. A different kind of work starts now,” he said. “A one-year window is a very short period of time. There's a lot of people to get that information to.”



(video on site)

Volunteers work to combat sex trafficking before Super Bowl

by FOX 5 News

ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - As Super Bowl festivities kicked off in Atlanta Saturday, volunteers fanned out across the metro-area visiting hotels, motels, restaurants and hospitals to combat sex trafficking. 

They distributed informational packets containing fliers of missing Atlanta girls, information about human trafficking, and bags of soap at each stop.

"We are here to save our adolescents from prostitution and we know with the Super Bowl coming, many of these children will be coming through your hotel," one volunteer told a hotel clerk.

It's called the SOAP project or Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution.

Theresa Flores, a survior of child sex trafficking and the founder of Traffick Free, partnered with the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta to bring the SOAP Project Initiative to Atlanta for the Super Bowl.

"It is our job as citizens to number one keep Atlanta safe and then also to protect those women who are being brought in," Flores said. "We know any time an event comes to town – and it doesn't have to be the Super Bowl, it can be the Final Four it can be a NASCAR race – any time an event comes to town the numbers for the demand for women quadruples."

Each bar of soap bears a special sticker with the National Human Trafficking Hotline Number. The group's plan isto distribute the soap in every hotel room in the city to help girls being held against their will escape their situation. 

Hundreds of volunteers labeled soap for distribution at All Saints' Episcopal Church in Northwest Atlanta Saturday morning, eager to do their part to rescue those in need. 

"This is something that is happening every single day in our city," volunteer Tricia Perkins said.

The "It's a Penalty" Campaign, which works on the international level to educate the public, hospitality workers, taxi drivers and Uber and Lyft drivers about human trafficking, is also in town to raise awareness during this major sporting event.

"We are partnering with the Hilton Hotels and we trained staff at the hotel for signs to look for and everyone who checks in is going to get a leaflet with signs to look out for and also the hotline they can dial if they see something," It's a Penalty Campaign founder Sarah De Carvalho said.



How patriarchy forces boys who survive sexual abuse into years of trauma, silence

TNM spoke to survivors and experts to understand what happens when a boy is sexually abused and how it impacts his sexuality and mental well-being.

by Geetika Mantri and Shiba Kurian

“Come, Riyaz! Let's meet someone,” a boy in his neighbourhood told him one afternoon. Riyaz* was 11 years old then, while the boy was four to five years older than him. The boy took Riyaz to a lonely area behind the building. What happened next took a while for Riyaz to comprehend. The boy rubbed himself against Riyaz for five to 10 minutes. “I tried to resist him, but I was no match for his strength. After that, I ran home,” recounts Riyaz, who is 29 years old now.

A few years later, Riyaz would have a second encounter with sexual abuse, when he was in class 9. One day, his bench-mate touched him and then tried to unzip his trousers. They were on the last bench in the classroom, so no one could see; but Riyaz was frozen. “He tried to unzip me… he put his hand inside. And then he, he took…” Riyaz struggles to finish the sentence. “He put his hands inside my underpants. He tried to take my hand and make me touch him too, which I resisted very strongly,” he continues with difficulty.

This continued for three to four days. “I was scared when he was touching me, as this was happening during the class. I feared what my classmates would say, how they would treat me if they found out. Finally, I requested my teacher to change my seat, which she did. It stopped then,” Riyaz says.

These incidents affected Riyaz in many ways – he became timid, developed a stammer and was very anxious around boys. “I did not open up about these incidents to anyone until last year, because male child sexual abuse is less heard about and also difficult to talk about. I was scared people would make fun of me, or not believe me. The guilt of not being able to protect myself, being a boy, kept gnawing at me. I feared questions like ‘how could you be scared when you are a boy'. Nobody would have trusted me, because boys are perceived to be mentally and physically stronger,” Riyaz says.

Riyaz's childhood is just one in hundreds of other cases where boys are scarred by sexual abuse. They are forced to become slaves of patriarchal definitions of what it means to be a man, ultimately compelling them to deal with sexual abuse as a child on their own.

Incidentally, the limited study in this field bears testimony to the lack of acknowledgement and awareness on the oft-suppressed reality that boys too fall prey to sexual abuse. Even the handful of studies on male survivors of child sexual abuse (CSA) point out the dangerous effects patriarchy can have on their mental well-being. It is also important to understand how psychological and emotional trauma experienced by a boy are different from that of a girl, and how the burden of hegemonic masculinity or manhood overwhelms a male victim of sexual abuse into years of silent suffering in shame, guilt and confusion.

TNM spoke to a few survivors and experts to understand what happens to boys when they are sexually abused, how the spectre of abuse, when left unaddressed, impacts their adulthood, sexuality and mental well-being, and how they cope.

How patriarchy, social conditioning force male survivors into silence

Sexual violence remains an unacknowledged and an open secret in many Indian families. This is compounded by the way patriarchy sees boys and men as aggressive and protective, which leaves little room for vulnerability, especially for male child sexual abuse survivors.

Dr Preeti Jacob, Assistant Professor, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, says that when it comes to boys, parents are reluctant to acknowledge sexual abuse. “They brush off an incident of CSA as a stronger form of bullying,” she tells TNM.

She also points out that sexual abuse generally comes with a high degree of secrecy because “men can't be victims as they can't and won't be abused” by the society.

Ram*, a Hyderabad resident and CSA survivor, agrees. “Society shows more sympathy towards female survivors, because according to the mindset of people, especially in orthodox families, boys and men are strong and bold so they don't get abused or assaulted,” he says.

The 24-year-old was first sexually abused by a cousin at the age of four, but did not realise what was happening. In a similar situation a few years later, he realised that it was wrong, but could not confide in his parents.

Ram's ordeal did not end there. He shifted to a residential school when he was in class 6. “My mathematics teacher was my next abuser,” he tells TNM. “I am close to my mother and so I was homesick when I shifted to the residential school. I might have come across as a vulnerable person who would not speak to anyone about a traumatic experience. As he continued to abuse me, I started developing a phobia towards mathematics.”

He shifted to a day school for secondary education. When he was in class 8, Ram developed an interest in biology. His biology tutor, however, decided to exploit him instead. “He would show me informative posters by the Education Ministry on male and female body parts and point towards the private parts in a sexually suggestive manner,” he recounts.

Ram wrote a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind in July asking for mercy killing. In his letter, he pointed out that the cases of boys being sexually abused tend to fall through the cracks due to society's delusion that a male child can “never be vulnerable in a patriarchal society”.

There is also a general silence when it comes to anything related to sex, which further discourages survivors from speaking up, says Dr Shekhar Seshadri, a psychiatrist and senior professor, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NIMHANS.

“Whether it's a boy or girl, their socialisation and relationships with adults are constructed on a culture of instruction, expectation and obedience; not on the basis of conversations. Look at the silence around sexuality as a whole, even in a civil society and between two intelligent and liberal adults. So how can we expect a child to be able to talk about such topics?”

This proves to be a challenge even for those working to raise awareness, observes Sandhiyan Thilagavathy, founder of the NGO AWARE (Awareness for Wo+men to Advocate their Rights and Equality), whose team visits residential buildings and gated communities to talk of child sexual abuse with children as well as parents in Tamil Nadu.

Sandhiyan says that when they started the awareness campaigns two years ago, many parents claimed they did not need such sessions when they have a son. While this mindset has changed to an extent, Sandhiyan notes that when parents are asked to have open conversations with their child about their body and appropriate behaviours, they find themselves in a spot when their children ask them questions like ‘how are babies made?'.

For instance, Delhi-based Rahul*, who was sexually abused as a child multiple times, says that he has had a conversation with his parents about sex. “But it only touched upon lines that since I am of a certain age, I have to be safe,” he says.

Sandhiyan adds, “And most of the parents have a common belief – ‘I don't want to instil unwanted exploratory ideas in their young minds by talking about it'.”

Due to this culture, children often lack the vocabulary or reference to express sexual misbehaviour or abuse, even if they feel it was wrong. “Children don't disclose [abuse] because at that point, they are too young; they don't know whom to disclose to or fear that they will not be believed. Or perhaps they have tentatively tried to do so, but have been shushed,” Dr Shekhar says.

Grooming: How it reinforces confusion, silence

Realisation of being sexually abused in the first place, Dr Preeti says, depends on the grooming during the course of the abuse. Grooming is a preparatory process where the abuser gains a child's trust, with the intent to abuse him or her, while also manipulating the child to ensure he or she does not disclose the abuse.

Dr Shekhar explains how grooming works. “An adult perpetrator knowingly establishes a relationship with a child and imbues it with certain ‘specialness'. This includes sweet talks like, ‘I like you so much, we are so good together', inducements and gifts. The child is isolated from adults and family in such a situation. And then, the abuser sexualises the relationship,” he says.

“The child is then compelled into silence – either with the threat of injury or repercussion to the child or their family, or using emotional blackmail by saying things like, ‘I will be in trouble, don't you care for me',” he adds.

In such a situation, the child will not be able to recognise an abuse and will also be manipulated by the abuser because of the nature of their relationship. Just how deeply grooming can affect a child's perception is reflected in Rahul's story.

The 29-year-old had suppressed memories of the sexual abuse he was subjected to by multiple people in his childhood. They didn't surface till he was 25 and working in Bengaluru. After experiencing nightmares, during which he would break into a sweat, he sought psychological help. It was then that he recollected that his personality quirks were not social anxiety and the scars on his body were not from rough play.

“I was first abused at the age of four or six, by a close female relative at my home. She would force oral sex on me. Around the time, we had a live-in domestic help, a man. He would sexually assault me almost every day. I sensed what he was doing was wrong. But when I resisted, he would hit me and gag my mouth, saying this is love. So I grew up with a skewed definition of love – that love was all about sex. Eventually, the man was sent away because he did not do his work properly,” Rahul says, adding, “Luckily, I would forget it the next day or my memory suppressed it.”

While Rahul was manipulated into believing a dangerous definition of affection, Pune-based Avinash* silently endured a decade of sexual abuse at the hands of his uncle, Sumit*, due to the threat of physical violence.

The 29-year-old grew up in a remote village in West Bengal. “Sumit and my family lived in the same house as a joint family. We were poor and he was the only person in the family who had passed class 10 then. So, he used to tutor us,” Avinash narrates.

After the tutoring session, Sumit would sexually abuse Avinash, his younger brother and other children as well. “Over the years, I think he has sexually abused 17-18 children,” Avinash alleges. “Several children in the neighbourhood used to come to my house to study as well. Sometimes, he would lure some of them by promising them a few rupees or some chocolates.”

Avinash says that his uncle has sexually assaulted him multiple times from when he was in class 2 until class 12. “It was painful,” he recalls. “But if I resisted, he would threaten to beat me, physically torture me, or create other problems for me. So it became a routine. When the tuition ended, one of us would become his prey,” he says.

The children were so terrified of him and the consequences of resisting him that they did not speak to each other about it. “I was so scared that when my brother would get abused, my sense of protectiveness towards him was overpowered by a sense of relief for myself, that ‘thank god, it's not me today',” Avinash recounts.

Homophobia and toxic masculinity

Vidya Reddy of Tulir, a Chennai-based non-profit organisation for the prevention and healing of child sexual abuse, points out that in a society that is homophobic, one of the biggest fears for a boy who has been abused is being labelled gay. Parents bring up their boys to think that if they are weak, they won't be considered a “man”.

In fact, Vidya notes, cultural references play an important role here. “Certain phrases in a region – like  ombodhu maadhri irukathey  (don't be like a transgender person) in Tamil – is an indication of how a culture perceives whom they think is not a ‘manly boy',” she says.

This distorts survivors' idea of what it is to be a man, she adds. “The boy may perceive himself as weak and different because of the abuse, or because he allowed the abuse to happen or even because he was chosen to be abused. One of the common problems men who have been abused as children share with us is the feeling of powerlessness,” says Vidya.

Boys who may develop anxiety, a timid nature or show other manifestations of trauma after being sexually abused may appear vulnerable or effeminate and, hence, are prone to further abuse. Like Ram, whose mathematics teacher started abusing him because he came across as vulnerable, Riyaz also became a victim of bullying from other boys as he came across as being timid and hence “unmanly”.

“The second incident, where my classmate touched me inappropriately, happened because he knew I was scared around boys and would not tell anyone,” Riyaz says.

For men, what can also reinforce silence around child sexual abuse is if their perpetrators are women. Grooming plays a particularly important role here, because in the rare case that women are abusers, they almost always have a pre-existing relationship with the victim, Dr Preeti says.

“It's likely that a woman abuser is known, has an established relationship with the child, who may not even realise when the relationship is sexualised. Such cases get entangled in a sense of betrayal, the abuse and assault, as well as the confusion if this should be considered abuse at all, given the nature of the relationship,” she explains.

This is further compounded because patriarchy mandates that boys and men will always enjoy heterosexual sex. “While a girl's sexual abuse is scorned and looked at as a serious crime, most men are pressured by society to pass off their sexual abuse as a rite of passage,” Insia Dariwala, filmmaker and president of The Hands of Hope Foundation, which does outreach programs to create awareness about child sexual abuse in schools, communities and neighbourhoods, points out.

This is what happened with Rahul as well. He initially spoke about the abuse to a few friends, whom he no longer classifies as friends. “Some said that since I am a boy, I must have enjoyed it,” he says, referring to the abuse by his female relative. “Others said that since I am gay, I must have enjoyed other men touching me,” adds Rahul, who was also subjected to sexual abuse by a male relative and later by two gym instructors at the hotel where his parents worked.

“However, what they did not realise is that such exposure at that age is not what any child, irrespective of sexual orientation, would enjoy. Male survivors receive that kind of apathy a lot. Girls, on the other hand, have been more empathetic. I got the validation that a male survivor of CSA would look for,” he adds.

How abuse impacts psychological, emotional well-being

For Rahul, remnants of sexual abuse continue to agonise him, such as the gash that the men who gangraped him once inflicted on his pubic area. “As a child, I managed to conceal the bruise with cotton and tissue, and it healed eventually. I am 29 years old now and it still burns when I urinate. Sometimes, the pain would be so bad that I would cry,” he shares.

Rahul also started experiencing social anxiety as he grew up. “I turned into a person who does not go out, who just sits at home. I had to start taking medication for my anxiety attacks. Each day is unpredictable for me, marked by erratic behaviour and self-doubt. Anything can set off anxiety, even a disturbed sleep cycle.”

The trauma also started impacting his ability to process emotions. “There is so much suppressed rage inside me that I tend to fly into a fury, where my tongue becomes a sword and I start hurling things,” he adds.

For Riyaz, his second instance of abuse impacted his speech. “I started stammering and my anxiety increased. After undergoing speech therapy in the last few years, my speech has become better.”

Insia opines that the burden of patriarchy weighs down so heavily on boys that it directly affects their ability to emote and express. The consequence of which is either increased aggression or increased isolation from the outside world, both damaging.

Explaining such behavioural problems in male survivors, Dr Preeti says that boys are more likely to externalise their abuse. This means, the person perpetuates what they have experienced or witnessed or display aggression or rule-breaking behaviours. “However, this does not mean that all boys who experience sexual abuse will end up becoming aggressors themselves,” Dr Preeti stresses.

Meanwhile, if a person internalises abuse, he or she may develop mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem or submissiveness.

However, externalisation and internalisation of trauma are not mutually exclusive, adds Dr Preeti. “The same child who hits out at somebody or picks up fights or gets angry is also likely to cry more, blame himself, feel guilty or have low self-esteem. So, it is not true that boys will only externalise trauma. Regardless of gender, survivors exhibit externalising and internalising behaviours to cope with trauma,” she elucidates.

Vidya Reddy (of Tulir) notes that the mental health aspect of child sexual abuse is misunderstood in India, especially for boys. “Unless there is a physical manifestation of the impact of the abuse, parents and society don't understand how it affects the child mentally. As long as the boy eats and sleeps “normally”, they feel their child is fine,” she explains.

The emphasis on physical markers of sexual violence also manifests when parents uphold unhealthy notions such as “at least he won't get pregnant.”

“This attitude breeds many possibilities that normalise abuse when it comes to boys. There is a school of thought that a boy getting ‘roughed' up sexually will make him stronger and teach him how to ‘handle' women,” Insia says.

How CSA affects sexual behaviour, sexuality in boys

Sudheer*, an advocate based in Bengaluru, remembers how his cousin, who was 19-20 years old, did something inappropriate to him when he was six. “We used to live in a joint family. Once, my cousin took me to a room on the top floor of the house, started removing his clothes and made me remove mine too. He held me… and I don't remember exactly how, but he masturbated on me,” he recounts.

“I think it happened a few times. I did not feel violated at the time; it was much later in life that I realised what he had done was wrong,” Sudheer adds.

While the abuse itself did not seem to traumatise Sudheer, it did pique his interest in his own sexuality. “It made me want to experiment, which I did with a few of my cousins who were of the same age as me. We sort of explored our bodies,” Sudheer tells TNM.

However, because Sudheer got the feeling that he ‘enjoyed' the abuse, it made him feel dirty and self-loathe himself. “I felt sick and guilty when I felt I enjoyed it. Maybe my cousin groomed me. But I felt dirty wanting to do sexual things after that,” he says.

What happened with Sudheer is not uncommon. Experts refer to this as traumatic sexualisation, where a child, regardless of gender, is exposed to sexuality at a developmental stage when they cannot fully comprehend the phenomenon.

Dr Shekhar explains that this can happen in two ways. “On one side, it happens through dynamics of seduction, grooming, inducement, mystery and excitement. The other way is through force, hurt, coercion or injury. And a lot of the impact of sexual abuse depends on the nature of this traumatic sexualisation. If a child is sexualised using grooming, sexuality has primacy and the adult outcome may be inappropriate, excessive or unhealthy sexual behaviour. If it is through force, injury and coercion that the boy develops, then you have phobic avoidance.”

It is important to recognise, especially in cases like Sudheer, where outright feelings of pain and violation are absent, that it is still abuse. “Ultimately, for both boys and girls, genitalia will respond to stimulation because it is bunch of nerves put together. So the child feeling “good” because someone has sexually stimulated him doesn't mean anything. It's still a violation of their boundary,” Dr Preeti asserts.

This happened with Rahul as well. Apart from the tsunami of confusion and trauma in his mind, his body also started reacting to the abuse. “Because of the constant stimulation, my body started sexually maturing before the defined age of puberty. I started having hair growth at the age of 10. Besides, because I was getting an erection, I thought I was enjoying it. This was confusing to me,” he says.

Dr Preeti says that feeling “pleasure” during abuse is also a reason why children carry guilt. “Since they feel good to an extent, they think they have invited it in some way,” she adds.

Boys who have been sexually abused often get confused about their sexuality, especially if it happens in their pre-teen or adolescent years. There are two kinds of issues, explains Dr Preeti.

“There are children who have always experienced same-sex attraction; but, after being abused by a man, they don't know what to make of that attraction. A question that keeps haunting them is whether they were abused because of same-sex attraction. We have also had boys who are heterosexual and have been abused by men. They fear other people would perceive them as a homosexual; or they fear they would become gay,” she says.

Further, for boys who are heterosexual, abuse by men can affect their sense of being male, masculinity and self-identity, Dr Shekhar observes.

In young children, abuse may affect their expression of sexuality, Dr Preeti says. “Post the abuse and the grooming, a certain awakening of sexuality does occur. This may be something that they haven't thought about until that point. Sexual behaviour can also become a way of normalising the abuse, especially for younger children, to the point that they can do the same to someone else without understanding what it means.”

CSA survivors are also likely to develop trust, intimacy and relationship issues. However, Dr Sonia, a Pune-based psychiatrist who has treated adult survivors of child sexual abuse, says that this depends on several factors, including the cultural values the boy was brought up with.

For instance, Avinash, who buried the trauma for the most part, believes that the abuse did not give him intimacy issues. However, he finds it difficult to trust people and worries how his future wife will react to his past. “I am worried how she would take it; whether she will be able to accept it, although I know it is not my fault…,” he trails off.

For Rahul, as far as romantic relationships are concerned, he finds it difficult being with a person who is a survivor. “It becomes difficult and unhealthy because both of them can trigger each other. On the other hand, if the partner is not a survivor, there will be a danger of apathy from him or her. The male survivor has his own set of issues and anxiety; one touch that reminds them of the abuse can throw them off-balance. I get dependent on my partner because I still feel vulnerable and look for ways to keep myself safe. So, the burden of my responsibility falls on the partner,” he says.

Coming to terms with the abuse

There is no set template for coming to terms with sexual abuse, especially when it happens at a young age, experts say. For some, it may be about acknowledging the abuse and sharing their story, while for others it may mean confronting their abuser or seeking therapy. And for some, like Ram and Avinash, coming to terms may be all about channelling their trauma to make social impact.

Due to the traumatic memories and the subsequent panic attacks, Ram was not able to share his experiences with anybody or give vent to his emotions.

“In 2017, when reports about a seven-year-old boy at Ryan International School being allegedly sexually abused and murdered surfaced, I decided to speak about the matter. And at the age of 23, I spoke to my mother about how I was sexually abused as a child. She understood and gave me the courage to fight it out and help others,” he says.

Ram started exploring the subject and speaking to male survivors across India.

Avinash, meanwhile, is thinking of reporting his uncle, Sumit. He realised what happened with him was a criminal offense just two years ago, during a sexual harassment training at his workplace. He learnt about the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act and realised that he was a survivor of child sexual abuse. “I developed blood pressure problems and anxiety after learning about this,” he says.

He also associated with Insia's Hands of Hope Foundation, where he interacted with other male survivors of CSA. It helped him feel that he is not alone.

He also confronted his abuser in 2016. “I told him what he did to me was wrong and that I would take action against him. He has not been able to look me in the eye since. He keeps avoiding me and has also moved out of the house,” Avinash shares, adding that he wants to report Sumit to prevent further abuse and raise awareness.

Is he concerned how his parents would react if he files a complaint against Sumit? “I realise that he is part of the family, but family ties and love don't not justify abuse. Sumit has done something wrong, I accepted it because I did not know it was wrong. If [I file the complaint now] something happens in the village, let it happen.”

Therapy is helping both Riyaz and Rahul deal with their trauma. While some can never tell their families about the abuse they have faced, Rahul was able to do so. “It was tough for my parents to process it as they realised that everything happened right under their nose. But they listened to me and are helping me through my struggles,” he says.

The role of therapy

After experiencing anxiety attacks, Riyaz finally confided in his female friends about his abuses last year. The two convinced him to consult a psychiatrist in January 2018. The therapy helped assuage his anxiety. “I was angry that I could not prevent my abusers from doing what they did to me. I was guilty that I could not protect myself. With therapy, I have become calmer and the guilt is lesser,” says Riyaz.

Rahul initially struggled to find a good therapist. When he finally consulted one in Pune, he was able to clarify that his social anxiety was actually a trust issue.

According to Dr Sonia, male survivors seek counselling and psychological help when they are in their mid-20s or early 30s. When she is presented with a child sexual abuse case involving a male, she counsels them in a phased manner. The first step, Dr Sonia says, is making the survivor accept that they have been abused. “Lack of acceptance is the first problem. The survivor's trauma continues when he keeps telling himself that he could have fought it or he could have opened up to somebody,” she explains.

Once the survivor accepts the abuse, the second step is to empower him emotionally. “This is the phase where the survivor is counselled to put this past behind him. However, this is a tricky phase, where the survivor recognises his triggers,” says Dr Sonia, who practises child and adolescent psychiatry. “After I identify the survivor's triggers, I help them disconnect emotions from them piecemeal.”

Once the emotional part is sorted, finding a psychological solace and resolution to what has happened is the next step. “This is when the survivor laments the incident and calls it a closed chapter. This will help him look at the situation objectively than emotionally,” she says.

Lack of government support system

Girija Kumarbabu, secretary of Indian Council for Child Welfare (ICCW), Tamil Nadu, stresses the importance of helping a child who has been abused, at its onset. And this, according to her, can be through a proper support system set up by the government.

“However, as of today, there is no professional centre under an NGO or government where the child can be referred to, especially boys. There is a lack of trained professionals as well. Some parents take their children to a psychiatrist or psychologist, while in many cases the child is left alone to cope with the crisis or come out of it,” she says.

“Every child can overcome such a crisis if supported from the time the abuse is disclosed or discovered. Hence, instead of thinking of punishing the offender, there should be an equal focus on protecting and helping the child. This can be addressed by, as POCSO describes, identifying support persons and training them to be a support system to the boy child,” she adds.

While echoing a similar concern, Dr Sonia notes that these gaps are often filled by the survivors themselves, which, she believes, could backfire.

“A lot of times, a survivor learns a few tricks of the trade and starts counselling. This is not a good idea because his emotions will always be coloured by his own experience. He will look at the case like how he fought it and how he dealt with it, and then let the patient try the same. Counselling and helping others have to be completely non-judgemental; a one-size-fits-all solution will not help. While their intentions are appreciated, which is adding to the strength of the whole movement, I am not sure how helpful it will be,” she reasons.

An urgent need for more studies

The last known government research on this issue was carried out in 2007. In the study, 53.2% of children reported to have experienced some form of sexual abuse; and of these, 52.9% were boys.

The most recent effort to understand the trauma of sexual abuse among males and how it impacted them was in November 2017 by Insia Dariwala. She conducted an online survey of 160 men in the country, which revealed that 71% of respondents were sexually abused as children.

According to the survey, most instances of CSA occurred when the boy was between 10-16 years of age or between 5 to 9 years of age. Only 14.5% of respondents said that they disclosed their abuse to someone as a child. Also, 56.1% of respondents said that shame stopped them from disclosing their abuse.

Finding the studies on this issue insufficient, two years ago, Insia had started a petition on addressed to the Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, demanding an in-depth study on male child sexual abuse in the country.

This petition made the Indian government sit up and consider expanding the scope of the POCSO Act, to make it gender-neutral and to be inclusive of male CSA survivors as well. The Indian government commissioned Insia Dariwala, with support from Adrian Philips of Justice and Care, to conduct a larger study on male survivors of child sexual abuse.

In her response in April 2018, Maneka Gandhi said, “Child sexual abuse is gender neutral. Boys who are sexually abused as children spend a lifetime of silence because of the stigma and shame attached to male survivors speaking out. It is a serious problem and needs to be addressed.”


New York State

States move to lift restrictions on child sex-abuse lawsuits

by DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — In many states across the U.S., victims of long-ago child sex-abuse have been lobbying for years, often in vain, to change statute of limitation laws that thwart their quest for justice. This year seems sure to produce some breakthroughs, due in part to the midterm election results and recent disclosures about abuse by Roman Catholic priests.

New York state is Exhibit A. The Democrats' takeover of the formerly Republican-controlled Senate seems almost certain to produce a more victim-friendly policy in place of one of the nation's most restrictive laws.

Prospects are considered good for similar changes in Rhode Island and New Jersey, and the issue will be raised in Pennsylvania — which became the epicenter of the current abuse crisis in August when a grand jury accused some 300 Catholic priests of abusing more than 1,000 children over seven decades.

Abuse survivors and their allies are once again proposing a two-year window for now-adult victims to sue perpetrators and institutions over claims that would otherwise be barred by time limits. That provision was approved by the Pennsylvania House last year but rejected by the top Republican in the Senate.

Nationwide, only a handful of states — including California, Minnesota, Delaware and Hawaii — have created these "lookback windows" enabling victims to file civil lawsuits against institutions such as churches and youth groups that bore some responsibility for the abuse. California's one-year window opened in 2003, leading to hundreds of civil actions and more than $1 billion in payouts by the Catholic church; activists and legislators in California hope to create a new lookback window this year.

In California, Minnesota and Delaware, large payouts prompted several dioceses to file for bankruptcy. The Catholic Church, the insurance industry and the Boy Scouts of America have lobbied vigorously against efforts to create lookback windows in other states.

University of Pennsylvania professor Marci Hamilton, an expert on statute-of-limitations reforms, predicts that more states will provide windows despite the vociferous lobbying. She says the Pennsylvania grand jury report has changed the dynamics of the debate, increasing pressure on lawmakers to take victim-friendly actions.

"Before, people were giving the bishops the benefit of the doubt, but this time there was outrage," said Hamilton, the CEO of Child USA, a think tank focused on preventing child abuse. "Politicians now understand that people are behind the victims."

In New York, victim advocacy groups and their allies in the Legislature have tried for a dozen years to loosen the statute of limitations.

Last year, the legislature's Democratic-controlled lower chamber overwhelmingly approved the long-stymied Child Victims Act, which would extend the time frames for pursuing civil and criminal cases in the future, and create a one-year window allowing victims to sue over past abuse claims. Senate Republicans blocked the bill from getting a vote and suggested alternatives that lacked the lookback window.

In November, Democrats gained control of the Senate, and the measure is now expected to pass with the window included. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he'll include the act in the state budget, due in April, if a separate measure doesn't pass before then.

Among those pleased by the change is Brian Toale, 65, who has written about being abused in the 1970s by the adult adviser to the radio club at his Catholic high school on Long Island.

Toale, who lives in New York City, underwent years of therapy and still participates in a weekly 12-step program with other abuse victims, including some who still don't speak publicly about their experience.

Toale is unsure whether the Child Victims Act would bring him any compensation or formal apology from the Catholic diocese and religious order that had jurisdiction over his high school. But he hopes that enactment would encourage more victims to come forward.

"When people do tell their stories and expose their abuser, it's so helpful," he said.

The New York Catholic Conference, which represents the state's bishops, has lobbied vigorously against the lookback window in the past, arguing that it would "force institutions to defend alleged conduct decades ago about which they have no knowledge."

However, Catholic Conference spokesman Dennis Poust said Wednesday that the church would drop its opposition to a bill containing a lookback window if it were assured that public entities, including schools, also became targets for retroactive claims.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, says the church is meeting its obligations to victims through a compensation program launched in 2016 that has paid out more than $200 million to more than 1,000 individuals.

"It insures fair and reasonable compensation; and prevents the real possibility — as has happened elsewhere — of bankrupting both public and private organizations, including churches, that provide essential services in education, charity and health care," Dolan wrote in a recent newspaper column.

Similar compensation programs are being set up in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but victim advocates say the programs — unlike civil lawsuits — fail to ensure that there is accountability and full disclosure on the church's part.

"The right thing to do is come clean, open the books and know sunlight is the best disinfectant," said Michael Polenberg of Safe Horizon, a New York City nonprofit serving victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence.

In Pennsylvania, Rep. Mark Rozzi, who has spoken about being abused by a priest as a 13-year-old, will help lead a renewed effort this year to give victims of child sex abuse a two-year window to sue perpetrators and institutions over claims that would otherwise be barred. However, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati maintains that the retroactive provision violates the state constitution, and says the Catholic church's planned compensation programs will be an adequate response.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who oversaw the grand jury investigation, will be part of the alliance pressing Scarnati to allow a vote on the measure.

Shapiro's grand jury probe may have changed the political dynamics in neighboring New Jersey, where Sen. Joe Vitale has been fighting since 2002 to ease statute-of-limitations restrictions.

Vitale says the Pennsylvania report prompted many of his colleagues to become co-sponsors of his bill offering sex-abuse victims more time to bring civil claims and allowing lawsuits that were dismissed because of the time limits to be refiled. Under current law, adults victimized as juveniles have only two years to file a civil suit from the time they first realize the sexual abuse damaged them.

In California, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez has reintroduced a bill that would create a new three-year lookback window for victims who were unable to take advantage of the one-year window in 2003.

Then-Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed Gonzalez' measure last year; she is hopeful that the new governor, Gavin Newsom, will be more receptive.

"Until you make it hurt, people don't change behavior," Gonzalez said.


Rhode Island

R.I. lawmaker reintroduces bill to give sex-abuse victims more time to file lawsuits

by Katherine Gregg

PROVIDENCE — Spurred by the molestation of her sister by their parish priest in West Warwick when they were both children, state Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee has lined up more than 50 co-sponsors for her reworked bill to extend the time that child victims have, after reaching adulthood, to lodge civil suits against their abusers.

The Rhode Island Catholic Diocese successfully blocked an earlier version of McEntee's bill in 2018. The church insisted on limiting the application of the proposed law to “prospective” cases of alleged abuse, which McEntee deemed unacceptable. The bill died in the final hours of last year's session, after hours-long hearings in both the House and the Senate that drew speaker after speaker to the Rhode Island State House with tales of abuse by their family priests and other trusted elders in positions of authority.

The reworked bill which McEntee, D-South Kingstown, introduced on Tuesday would extend Rhode Island's seven-year statute of limitations on the filing of civil suits against the perpetrators of sex abuse of children to 35 years, to more closely mirror the law in Massachusetts.

More specifically, the bill would extend the filing deadline to 35 years after the alleged act occurred, or seven years “from the time the victim discovered or reasonably should have discovered” that “an emotional or psychological injury or condition was caused” by the abuse, “whichever period expires later.” In the latter case, the clock would not start ticking until the alleged victim reached 18 years of age.

The legislation specifically opens the door to claims of “wrongful conduct, neglect or default in supervision, hiring, employment, training, monitoring ... failure to report and/or the concealment of childhood sexual abuse” by an individual, businesses and organizations that “negligently supervised” a person who sexually abused a minor. And it specifically calls for the payment of damages by the public or private entity that “owed a duty of care to the victim ... if there is a finding of negligence.”

As currently written, the bill would only give victims — barred from filing suits under current law — three years from the passage of the proposed new law to do so.

The Rev. Bernard Healey, chief lobbyist for the Diocese of Providence, issued this statement in his role as director of the Rhode Island Catholic Conference: “One of the many issues that will be considered in this year's General Assembly session will be the question of how best to provide justice and healing for victims of abuse. We will review the new proposal and engage in the legislative process in a respectful, constructive way that seeks an approach that is fair and just and truly serves the common good.”

The 2018 hearings on McEntee's bill drew a parade of victims to the State House to publicly recount their personal recollections of abuse, including McEntee's sister, who at that point was a 65-year-old psychologist; a well-known doctor talking about his abuse publicly for the first time; and Jim Scanlan, a Rhode Island man whose account of sex abuse by a Boston College High School priest in the late 1970s figured in the Oscar-winning movie “Spotlight.”

Their tales of abuse by trusted elders were not limited to the Catholic Church. Two women describing themselves as victims of sex-abuse scandals reaching back to the 1970s at St. George's School, in Middletown, and the Gordon School, in East Providence, also conveyed their support for the bill, which has no restrictions on how far back the cases might reach.

McEntee's sister, Ann Hagan Webb, told lawmakers how long it took her not just to remember, but to even talk about her abuse. “I was too fragile,” she said.

Webb said Msgr. Anthony DeAngelis — now dead — repeatedly molested her in the rectory of Sacred Heart Church in West Warwick from the time she was 5 until she was 12, but, “I totally repressed the memory of my abuse until I was 40 ... when my children were about the age I was when it began.”

Webb, now in her mid-60s and working as a psychologist with other adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, said the Catholic Church reimbursed $12,500 of the cost of her therapy, but to receive the help — which she had read in The Journal that the Diocese of Providence was offering — she had to sign away her own right to sue.

She said money is not her reason for pushing to extend the statute of limitations on civil suits. A more compelling reason: “For most abuse victims, it is the only chance for obtaining any justice,” for making the perpetrators face ramifications, and publicly naming them so they cannot move on to another child in another school.

The negotiations came to a halt last year after the Diocese of Providence insisted on limiting the extended statute of limitations to “future” cases. In a recent op-ed that appeared in The Journal, the Rev. Bernard Healey, chief lobbyist for the diocese, suggested as a “starting point” a look at what other states have done.

Attorney General Peter Neronha has promised to promote legislation allowing a grand jury to issue a report, akin to the Pennsylvania law that allowed a grand jury to expose decades of clergy sex abuse against hundreds of victims. Currently, he notes, there is no law “permitting a grand jury to issue a report” where there is no criminal indictment.

With more than 50 of the 75 House members co-sponsoring McEntee's bill [H5171], the chances of passage have improved since last year. House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said Tuesday he could not comment specifically on the reworked bill, because he has not yet read it.

But he has said more than once that he is “working closely with Rep. McEntee toward a resolution of this issue, and he is confident a version of the bill will pass.”



California torture house: Adult Turpin children aren't bitter after alleged abuse

"They came from a situation that seemed normal to them. And now, they're in a new normal," said the attorney for the adult children.

by Elisha Fieldstadt and Miguel Almaguer

They were allegedly held captive, starved and abused by their parents, but sometimes they still miss them.

Last year, the world watched in horror as prosecutors described abuse the Turpin siblings had suffered at the hands of their parents, David and Louise. Twelve of the 13 children were allegedly beaten, shackled to their beds, malnourished, denied access to the bathroom and permitted to shower only once a year.

"They do worry about their parents, and I think at times they do miss their parents," said Jack Osborn, who is representing the seven adult children. "They're not bitter. They really take every day as it is, as a gift."

All but the youngest of the children — who range from 2 to 29 — were abused, prosecutors said. And one of the girls was the victim of a lewd act allegedly at the hands of her father.

One of the teen children escaped the Perris home in January 2018 and used a cellphone to call police, who first thought the adult children were minors because they were so emaciated.

"They came from a situation that seemed normal to them. And now, they're in a new normal," Osborn said, adding that it would take a long time for them to process the change.

"For really the first time they're able to make their own decisions," he said. "What they're going to eat ... where they're going to go, what they're going to study."

"They're still becoming independent," Osborn said. "And they'll tell you that it's kind of a lifelong thing."

David and Louise Turpin were charged with 12 counts of torture, seven counts of abuse on a dependent adult, 12 counts of false imprisonment and six counts of child abuse. David Turpin was also charged with committing a lewd act on a child by force. Their trial is set to begin Sept. 3.

The six younger children are in the custody of the county, but do get to see their older brothers and sisters.

"The older children are extremely protective of the younger ones," Osborn said. "So, when they do have time together, there's a lot of nurturing. There is a lot of reassuring."

While the Turpins brought their kids to Las Vegas three times to renew their vows, 12 of the 13 children were rarely allowed to leave the house. The parents would buy toys, but not allow the kids to open the packages, prosecutors said. They would bake pies, but not allow the famished children to eat them.

But after all they endured, the older children don't want to be seen as victims, Osborn said. "They want people to know that they are survivors."


Christian Thought

Sexual Violence: Whose Fault Is It?

In case it's not crystal clear, let us be emphatic: The sole individual responsible for sexual violence is the perpetrator.


In the movie Good Will Hunting, there is a poignant scene in which Will (Matt Damon) talks with his therapist Sean (Robin Williams) while Sean cradles Will's counseling file. The folder is jammed with gruesome pictures of injuries Will experienced at the hands of his alcoholic dad.

Sean quietly declares that the pictures exposing Will's brutally beaten body were not his fault but Will quickly dismisses Sean's statement and remarks that he knows that already. Yet Sean sees through Will's veneer of disregard and continues to proclaim Will's innocence.

Will suddenly erupts in anger as he backs away from Sean, but eventually Sean's words seem to penetrate his soul and he begins to weep as Sean embraces him. Yet, even though Sean repeatedly tells Will that the abuse was not his fault, Will cries out three seemingly perplexing words: “I'm so sorry” (Schultz & Estabrook, 2012).

What incited Will's words? Why was he sorry?

In a different culture, in a different time, penned on the pages of Scripture, Tamar, the daughter of King David, who was on the precipice of being raped by her half-brother Amnon, cried, “Where could I get rid of my disgrace?” (2 Sam.13:13).

Discussions about this deeply felt sense of disgrace or shame that survivors frequently experience regarding the violence done to them are resurfacing through the # MeToo movement and the sundry of sexual violence stories perpetrated by both male and female clergy who victimize girls, boys, women, and men within sacred places.

However, the question remains: Why are people who are sexually violated and victimized sorry about what was done to them?

The reasons for the self-condemning experience of shame among victims of sexual violence are myriad (Feiring & Taska, 2005). Shame is a common, complex, and deeply self-conscious emotion engendering a sense of feeling dirty, damaged, and defective which prompt individuals to want to flee from the gaze of others.

While no two survivors of sexual violence react in the same way, many female victims of sexual violence believe there was something too feminine or too sexy that caused the abuse, whereas male victims frequently believe that there was something not masculine enough to stave off the violation.

This is only multiplied when the narrative on Twitter, the school gossip line, or the national news is about what she was wearing or how she was being flirtatious. Statements and questions that center on what a victim of sexual violence did or did not do imply that their actions made them responsible, at least in part, for being violated or failing to prevent the violence.

It does not help when he is criticized for being affectionate with his male friends or embodying more traditionally “feminine” qualities. In both scenarios, individuals are blaming themselves and/or being blamed for causing something when they were the victim of a crime.

So, if it is not crystal clear, let us be emphatic: The sole individual responsible for sexual violence is the perpetrator .

Shame is so prevalent among trauma survivors that recent revisions to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2013) included the addition of negative alterations in cognitions and moods as a symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (e.g. exaggerated blame of self) (Donde, 2017).

This pervasive shame experience among sexual violence survivors is understood more fullythrough the abuse dichotomy whereby individuals come to accept sexual offenses as deserved (Briere, 1992).

When a vulnerable individual is violated by someone in a position of power and trust who holds spiritual authority, this individual is saddled with a dilemma: My youth pastor, Sunday School teacher, or camp counselor was sexual with me because she or he was bad or because I am bad.

This tension is especially pronounced if the attention was enjoyed. And most assuredly the badness is confirmed if the victim's body responded (a common physiological response). As Lisa Fontes explains, “Most children seek affection. If they receive sexual abuse instead, they may come to believe it was their desire for closeness that brought about the sexual acts” (Fontes, 2005, p. 139).

Not only does shame for sexual violence bubble up from the inside, self-condemnation for the abuse is also pervasive because perpetrators of sexual violence are skilled at what they do.

They are adept at turning the tables of responsibility in the direction of the survivor or creating an atmosphere of apparent consent and complicity, with words like “our relationship” or “we” when referring to the abusive relationship.

Dr. Anna Salter, an expert on sexual predation explains, “Survivors often internalize the sex offender's version of the abuse, partly because he is the only person who knows about it at the time, and therefore is in a unique position to define her reality” (Salter, 1995, p. 185).

A criticism of sexual abuse survivors who share their story of violation many years later is, “ Why did it take so long to tell?” Insinuated in the question is that the length of secret-keeping indicates that the trauma storyline is contrived.

The short answer, however, for why it takes many individuals a long time to tell is the shame. Perpetrators blame victims. And too often social media and news outlets blame victims. And sadly, many, many survivors blame themselves for what happened to them.

It is no small miracle when a survivor garners the courage to disclose the abuse. This truth-telling is an indication they are starting to believe what Sean so desperately wanted his client Will to know: It's not your fault.

Wouldn't it be a shame not to listen?


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Bender, L., Weinstein, B., Weinstein, H., Gordon, J., (Producer), Armstrong, S., Smith, K., & Mosier, S. (Producers), & Van Sant, G., Escoffier, J., Elfman, D., Scalia, P., Miramax

Films, Miramax Home Entertainment (Firm), & Buena Vista Home Entertainment (Firm (Directors). (1997). Good Will Hunting [Video file]. Miramax Home Entertainment.

Briere, J. N. (1992). Child abuse trauma: Theory and treatment of the lasting effects. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Donde, S. D. (2017). College women's attributions of blame for experiences of sexual assault. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 32 (22), 3520-3538.

Feiring, C., & Taska, L. S. (2005). The persistence of shame following sexual abuse: A longitudinal look at risk and recovery. Child Maltreatment , 10 (4), 337-349.

Fontes, L. A. (2005). Child abuse and culture: Working with diverse families . New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Salter, A. C. (1995). Transforming trauma: A guide to understanding and treating adult survivors of child sexual abuse. Thousand Oaks, NY: Sage Publications.

Schultz, T., & Estabrook, H. (2012). Beyond desolate: Hope versus hate in the rubble of sexual abuse. Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books.

Tammy Schultz, Ph.D., professor of Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Wheaton College, has passionately taught about transformation from sexual violence in the US, Canada, Central Asia, Nicaragua, South Korea, and the Ukraine. She co-authored Beyond Desolate: Hope versus hate in the rubble of sexual abuse.

Hannah Estabrook, M.A., LPCC-S, has been working as a clinician in the mental health field for over a decade and is currently employed by the Franklin County Municipal Court as Coordinator of CATCH Court, a pioneering Specialized Docket that serves victims of prostitution and human trafficking. She also serves as a Pastor of Franklinton Abbey in Columbus, Ohio. She co-authored Beyond Desolate: Hope versus hate in the rubble of sexual abuse.


United Kingdom

‘It never stops shaping you': the legacy of child sexual abuse – and how to survive it

Child sexual abuse is frighteningly common and hugely damaging. But a new project is collecting survivors' stories – and revealing what is needed to heal

by Gaby Hinsliff

The first thing Sabah Kaiser does after sitting down at the table when we meet, is to pick up a pen, and write her name on the nearest sheet of paper. She does it almost unthinkingly, and only later will it come to seem significant.

When she was a little girl, Kaiser wrote her name a lot. She scrawled it defiantly on the wall at home, balancing precariously on a banister four floors above the ground to reach the wallpaper: “Sabah is the best.” Later, she wrote it in foster homes: “I would find the hardest place that I could reach, or the most beautiful or lovely area, and write ‘Sabah is the best'.”

It was a coping mechanism she learned young, without really understanding why. But now, at 43, she recognises it as a way of fighting the feelings of worthlessness and shame so many child abuse survivors experience. “It was saying: ‘Look at me, I belong here; I can do the same as you, if not better.'”

The name she writes now is not, however, the same one she had then. Kaiser changed it by deed poll years ago, borrowing inspiration from Keyser Söze, the character in the film The Usual Suspects who has a double life. Kaiser, she explains, means king; above other men, but below God. It is a powerful name, and the one under which she approached the Truth Project.

Set up by the government's Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, the project gives individual victims and survivors a chance to be heard; to share stories in confidence, helping inform the inquiry's investigation into the widespread failure of institutions from churches to boarding schools to halt abuse. So far it has collected more than 1,000 stories (and remains keen to hear more), and while the details are often harrowing, they are striking in what they reveal about the lifelong consequences. As one survivor says in the report published this week by the Truth Project, it's “like pebbles thrown into a pond; the ripples keep on getting bigger”.

Last week, the World Health Organisation formally recognised the existence of complex post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition from which it is thought many survivors of childhood abuse suffer. It differs from other forms of PTSD in that sufferers tend to have “a completely pervasive and rigid negative belief about themselves”, says the inquiry's chief psychologist Bryony Farrant. They may struggle with managing their feelings, trusting others, and with feelings of shame and inadequacy holding them back in school or working life. An analysis of Truth Project participants found that 85% had mental health problems in later life, including depression and anxiety, while almost half struggled with education or getting a job. Four in 10 had difficulties with relationships, with some avoiding sexual intimacy altogether, while others had multiple sexual partners; some suffered difficulty eating or sleeping, were dependent on alcohol, or were drawn into crime. One in five had tried to kill themselves.

Surprisingly, other research has shown survivors are at greater risk of illness, including heart disease and cancer, with years of chronic stress taking a physical toll on their bodies.

Farrant stresses that not every survivor's story ends badly, and that their fates are certainly not set in stone. “I feel very hopeful and positive that people can recover, and certainly in my clinical work I've seen that,” she says. “The brain is far more plastic than we've previously understood, which means there are far more opportunities for people to repair some of the impacts from childhood trauma.”

But if a new technology, drug or junk food were doing such damage, it would be classed as a public health emergency. It is striking, then, that the toxic legacy of child abuse gets less attention than theories about whether social media makes teenagers anxious or skinny models fuel anorexia. “For me, this is the most public secret we have,” says Sarah Champion, Labour MP for Rotherham, a town still grappling with the aftermath of the child sexual exploitation scandal uncovered seven years ago. “I think people recognise and understand it, we're just not prepared to confront it.” The Truth Project is trying to bring it out of the shadows.

Kaiser remembers clearly the bedroom where it all started; at the top of the four-storey house she shared with her mother and five siblings (her father died when she was a toddler). After an older sister ran away from home, the room was left empty – and supposedly out of bounds – but she would sneak up. “In the room, there was a glass cabinet that had two shelves in – probably 4ft high – and books behind the glass. One on the train robbery, and a book about Tutankhamun. I'd sit crosslegged and just stare at my father's books – never touch.” She was seven years old, she says, when a male visitor to the house first abused her there. Over the next six years, she told the Truth Project, she was assaulted by three other men, both in Britain and when visiting Pakistan. She always felt that to tell would put her mother in danger.

On the surface, Kaiser's was a strict upbringing; if anyone kissed in a film, an adult would instantly switch off the TV. “There were no relationships outside marriage, no boyfriends and girlfriends of any kind, no untoward touching. Those lines were not blurred at any time. That act of touching, there's so much onus on it – literally, the respect of the household is put on it,” she explains. “There were lines that were drawn, and then there were areas that were just ... no-go areas, and it was able to breed and occur as it did because there were no repercussions. Nobody saying stop.”

Years ago, in Pakistan, she heard a story that she didn't understand at the time about a man caught abusing his toddler granddaughter. When the child's mother confronted him, “she was beaten to a pulp. That was a no-go area. It was ‘you didn't have the authority or the right, how dare you have the audacity to bring that up with me'. It was as if there was a place for men, and those men have their reasons.”

Initially, she interpreted the abuse as some kind of punishment, “like I was a bad child, that I was doing something wrong”. As she got older, she drew on her experience as a British Asian straddling two cultures to separate herself from what was happening. The girl at home enduring unspeakable things – withdrawn and always frowning – became separate from the popular, more assertive girl at school. “When I'm in my own home, the colours, the smells, the sounds are completely different. But once I step out of my door into the street, I'm in England, and everything looks and smells and sounds different. It was about being one person inside the house and, as soon as I stepped outside, I'm not that person.”

It was a school sex education lesson at 13 that finally provided words for what was happening. She walked out in the middle of it, and not long afterwards summoned the courage to tell her mother. The only time her voice quavers is when she describes her mother's reaction.

“My mother was a seamstress, she sewed Asian women's clothes. At any point of the day or night you would find her at her sewing machine in her bedroom and that's where I went. I sat down on this little cushion by the gas fire and started to tell her. I didn't quite know how to explain. The words I used were: ‘What a man and wife does in their bedroom to have children, is what he's doing to me.'”

Her mother did confront the man, Kaiser says, asking if he had “touched” her. “He went into this tirade about how if I was raised in Pakistan, I wouldn't be saying these things; how living in England ruins girls.” She realised that her mother was not going to back her up, and that in effect the subject was closed.

So she started fighting at school, skipping lessons, waiting for someone to notice. Someone did, but she says the teacher appointed to counsel her then abused her all over again; she was eventually taken into care aged 15, after months of shuttling between foster families and home. If new acquaintances asked about her parents, she would say she was an orphan. At 19, Kaiser found herself pregnant by an older boyfriend who had no idea of her history.

She struggles to forgive the social worker who, on learning of her pregnancy, told her to get counselling or she might abuse her own child. (Perpetrators are disproportionately likely to have been abused as children, but the idea of the cycle repeating itself is a sensitive one, says Farrant: “The research doesn't support that abused people are highly likely to go on to abuse other people. Often it's such a harmful narrative, and it intensifies the sense of shame and guilt.”)

With that warning ringing in her ears, Kaiser suffered postnatal depression after her son was born. “I could barely touch him; I couldn't breastfeed him because I felt that every time I did, I was abusing him. I loved him so much, there was this fear that I was going to hurt him because there was something wrong with me.”

But she went on to have a second son, and this time it was easier, because she had learned that there were places not to go in her head. “If I didn't close those doors, I'm not sure who would be talking to you today, it would be a completely different story. That's what tends to happen to children like me. We become damaged goods, broken beyond repair.”

And yet she did not break. Kaiser now works as a translator, and volunteers for a survivors' charity; she is proud of her two grown sons and is on good terms with their father, from whom she later separated. However, she has had another relationship that she describes as highly abusive, but realised during counselling that she was unconsciously mirroring her childhood experience. Adult survivors are, she says, vulnerable to predators because of their desperation to be loved: “I don't think it ever stops shaping you. Just the impact is different.”

What saved her, Kaiser thinks, was being reconciled with her mother in her late 30s. She won't call it closure – “for me, it would be for my mum to say she believed me and that she was sorry, and she never said those words” – but it meant more to her than she can describe to be mother and daughter again. After years of anger, she now feels “love and respect” for her mother, wondering what experiences drove her response. “There was never a time when I didn't feel her love. Even though there were times – years – when I didn't feel it for her. I don't believe for a second that she didn't care.”

Two years after she got back in touch, her mother died, and when Kaiser subsequently saw adverts for the Truth Project, she felt ready to talk. “It was almost like I had chains around me, and it was her passing that made me feel I'd broken free.”

Survivors can choose how and where they talk to the Truth Inquiry as a way of returning the control that was brutally denied them as children (Kaiser deliberately picked a town four hours' drive from home). They are asked beforehand about objects that might trigger disturbing memories, and staff adapt accordingly; if an abuser carried rosary beads, nobody in the room can wear beaded jewellery. Some people can't ultimately go through with it and that's fine, says Farrant. It's no good rushing people who aren't ready, since the impact of a “bad” disclosure can be immense. The inquiry has heard over and over again from survivors saying that being disbelieved or rejected was “just as, or in some cases more, traumatising” than the abuse itself.

Support workers will call before and after survivors share their stories to see how they're coping and, if necessary, refer them on. Farrant is pleased that complex PTSD was officially recognised by the World Health Organisation, potentially leading to more research and better treatment for sufferers.

But beyond the auspices of the Truth Project, NHS mental health services remain overstretched, struggling with demand as historic abuse is brought to light. In Rotherham, Champion says there is a seven-month wait for the main specialist local abuse counselling service – and that's the tip of the iceberg. “A lot of survivors can't begin to unpick what happened to them. They're just very aware that they struggle to hold down jobs or relationships, that they might have drug or alcohol dependency. A package to deal with those issues is needed.”

Meanwhile, as survivors become parents themselves, some are coming into conflict with the very social services that failed them as children. “There's this assumption, particularly if they have been involved in gang grooming, that somehow they're going to be a bad mother, whereas if they'd been raped [in other circumstances] people wouldn't think that at all.” She wants a one-stop centre in Rotherham, bringing together multiple agencies under one roof to offer early support rather than “deal with the symptoms 10 or 20 years down the line”.

What she is talking about is essentially a public health approach, recognising the sexual abuse suffered by an estimated 7% of children as a significant hidden cause of mental and physical illness, just as tobacco is the underlying cause of many cancers.

If all forms of so-called Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) – both sexual and physical abuse, or neglect – could somehow be eliminated overnight, the results would be transformative. Public Health Wales estimates it could reduce high-risk drinking by a third and heroin and cocaine use by two thirds, plus almost halving unwanted teenage pregnancies and slashing prison populations.

“When we know these things underpin the problems so many people are suffering, we're really treating consequences, not causes,” says Dr Mark Bellis, director of policy research and international development at Public Health Wales and a leading expert on ACEs. “We don't think about what's driving people towards drugs; we might think about regulating access, when actually it's the consequences of something that happened to someone as a child.”

Abused children often become hyper-vigilant, Bellis explains, knowing survival may depend on seeing trouble coming; and that affects both neurological development and hormone levels. “If your experience of life is fear, it's not unusual to develop a more cautious approach to things. But there are physiological changes, too. The way I explain it is if you set any system on a high alert, it wears out more quickly. If it's permanently running on high alert, it's producing particular immunological responses or proteins which seem to be higher in people who are exposed to these traumas in early life.” Since these are also linked to higher rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, survivors' risk of physical illness increases.

But that chemical response may also help explain why abused children who had at least one adult they could trust and relax around – leaving behind that state of high alert – seem to have better prospects of recovering. Other protective factors, he says, include feeling connected to a wider community or “if you can see a way out of things, being able to set your own destiny; if you feel you've got a pathway out, maybe through school”. It is important for survivors to know, he says, that there is hope. “The more we understand about things like resilience, the more we know there are things in children's and in adult lives that can counteract this. You are not on a set course.” Children and adults do not have to be broken beyond repair. And it is not beyond society's means to mend them.



Steamboat woman raising childhood sex abuse awareness through North Pole expedition

by Leah Vann

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS —Eirliani Abdul Rahman came to Steamboat Springs three years ago to learn how to ski.

Now, she's preparing to become the first Singaporean national to ski 100 miles over 10 days across the North Pole.

"I think just the idea if you want to put your mind to something with training and help, you can get there," Rahman said. "When I am out there in the Arctic, it's incredible because there's nothing except white on white. It's soothing, and for me, I should not be out there. I'm from a tropical island."

Rahman splits her training time between Steamboat Sprigs and the Canadian Arctic. She became the first Singaporean to circumnavigate the frozen Frobisher Bay, skiing 63 miles over five days while hauling a 190-pound sled of gear and food in March 2017.

Around town, Rahman goes by, "Lin," for short. She's often pulling a 150 to 180 pound sled on the road around Manic Training, where she works out almost every day. On other days, she's skiing at the Steamboat Ski Touring Center.

The 5-foot-4-inch, 110-pound, 42-year-old knows she's the last person people expect to take on the ultimate expedition, but she's well-equipped with a passion for a cause to drive her through the Arctic.

"I want to raise awareness on child sex abuse," Rahman said. "I want to do my best to mention our issues, help before it happens to them. Every child has a right to a safe childhood. I've raised $35,000 on my own and have $15,500 left on the costs. The rest will go to my nonprofit."

Rahman has worn many hats over the years, including serving 10 years in the Singapore Foreign Service and starting her own nonprofit organization, YAKIN, Youth, Adult Survivors and Kin in Need. She currently serves as program director of the Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation U.S.

In 2017, she published “Survivors: Breaking the Silence on Child Sexual Abuse,” which tells stories of five men and seven women childhood sexual abuse survivors from Germany, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Singapore, South Africa, the United Kindgom and the U.S.

The cause is close to heart: Rahman is a survivor herself. She wants to give children a voice and help adults who deal with depression or post-traumatic stress disorder from their experiences.

YAKIN was designed to help fund her next book: a graphic novel to help catalyze awareness and conversation on childhood sex abuse. She wants children to be able to use the book to foster conversation with their parents if they are suffering. The book will be published online in 2020.

"We're sharing the stories in the form of cartoons, make them look uniform," Rahman said. "Other kids can point to the picture and say, 'Hey can we talk about it?' When it happened to me, I was a child. I was 10. I didn't know how to raise the subject, had no idea. Easier with something like this in your hand."

Rahman hopes that her expedition not only raises money for her cause but shows other survivors what they are capable of: resilience in the face of severe adversity. She's even encouraged five men to join her on her journey. She hopes to encourage women to join her also.

"In general, not a lot of women train to do this, especially not from where I'm from," Rahman said. "Women from Asia are so small, but let's defy expectations. We don't have to conform to anything. We can do things we want to do."



CARES educates community about child abuse

by Holly Owens

What is child abuse? How do you recognize it, and what to do if you suspect it? Call 911 if it's an emergency, or the Oregon Department of Human Services Child Abuse Hotline, 541-883-5570, advised representatives of Klamath-Lake Child Abuse Response and Evaluation Services (CARES).

Executive Director Ken Morton and Lead Forensic Interviewer Samantha Fenner recently presented the answers to these questions and more to Catholic Daughters of the Americas Court Klamath at Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

CDA is one of the oldest and largest Catholic Christian women's groups in the hemisphere. Living its motto of “Unity and Charity,” CDA donates to nonprofit organizations and strives to be helping hands where there is pain, poverty, sorrow or sickness. Court Klamath has 72 members.

CARES, based in Klamath Falls and serving both Klamath and Lake counties, responds to and objectively evaluates children and teens who may have been abused physically sexually or emotionally by means of medical examinations and one-on-one forensic interviews. CARES also provides comprehensive well-child exams for youth entering foster care. In addition, CARES offers community prevention and education programs upon request.

Grants and donations help make up the difference between the cost of serving about 300 children and youth per year and revenue from government grants and public and private insurance. Children and their non-offending family members are never asked to pay for CARES' services.

For more information about CARES, visit


New York State

Bikers Against Child Abuse hosts 4th annual spaghetti dinner

HENRIETTA, N.Y. (WROC-TV) - The Rochester Chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse hosted its 4th annual spaghetti dinner at the Loyal Order of Moose Lodge in Henrietta on Sunday. 

Each dinner cost $15 per person and those ages 10 and younger were able to eat for free. 

Bikers Against Child Abuse is a nonprofit organization that works to raise money to empower children of abuse. 

Proceeds from the dinner will be used to help support children who have been abused.



Child abuse cases in Bristol County rose last year

by Deborah Allard

FALL RIVER – The Children's Advocacy Center of Bristol County sees abused children at their most vulnerable, when they may be feeling fear, shame and even guilt, but its mission is “all about empowering victims” to find hope and healing.

“For some, it's an immediate transition,” said CAC Executive Director Michelle Loranger.

The center -- that completes forensic interviews and multiple health and advocacy services for abused children and their families -- put across that message at its annual legislative breakfast Friday morning.

Some 815 children were served at the CAC in fiscal year 2018 -- an increase of 164 percent since the CAC started in 2007. Numbers are still climbing. In fiscal 2017, the CAC served 665 children.

For this fiscal year -- that runs from July 2018 to June 2019 – some 390 children have already been served.

When it comes to the abuse of children, Loranger said: “It's so prevalent and Bristol County is not spared in child and sexual abuse.”

Of the total served by CAC in Bristol County, 38 percent of the cases took place in greater Fall River, which includes Fall River and the towns of Freetown, Somerset, Swansea and Westport.

Another 30 percent of CAC's cases were in greater New Bedford, plus 13 percent in each of Taunton and Attleboro, and another 6 percent outside Bristol County.

“Every case is treated like family,” Loranger said.

Each case represents a child or intellectually disabled adults who has been sexually or physically abused, including child trafficking, or those who have witnessed violence.

Some 75 percent of CAC's cases in fiscal 2018 involved sexual abuse. Another 10 percent were categorized as physical abuse, 8 percent as commercial sexual exploitation of children, and 7 percent as witnesses to violence.

“We've really seen an increase in physical violence and witness to violence,” Loranger said.

Of the children served by the CAC, some 46 percent were ages 13 to 17, and 26 percent were between ages 9 and 12. Younger children were also abused, with 22 percent between 5 and 8, and 4 percent from infant to age 4. Another 2 percent of those served included adults with cognitive functioning disabilities.

Some 29 percent of offenders were known to the family. In 19 percent of cases, the parents were the offenders. Other relatives were offenders in 16 percent of cases. The partner of a parent was the offender 11 percent of the time. Step-parents were offenders in 4 percent of cases. Unknown individuals were offenders in 21 percent of the cases.

Not all abusers were adult. Some 20 to 30 percent of reported cases of child sexual abuse are committed by those under the age of 18.

The commercial sexual exploitation of children, including child trafficking, is an area that has grown for the CAC.

“We know that social media ... and being connected 24/7 is definitely having an impact,” Loranger said.

In fiscal year 2018, the CAC saw 23 cases of child trafficking in greater Fall River, and 11 so far for this year.

In greater New Bedford, there were 21 cases of child trafficking last year, and already 35 for this current year.

The breakfast at BK's Tavern, sponsored by William Starck Architects, drew many local legislators including State Sen. Michael Rodrigues, state Reps. Alan Silvia, Carole Fiola, and Paul Schmid, retired Sen. Joan M. Menard, and Mayor Jasiel Correia II.



(video on site)

'Pathetic attempt to cash in': Michael Jackson's estate slams graphic child abuse documentary

by Bridget Grace

Critics have described feeling "sick" and "shaken" as they left the premiere of a new documentary about Michael Jackson.

Leaving Neverland focuses on two men who say the late King of Pop molested them as children and has shocked viewers with its graphic details.

But his estate has dubbed the claims "a pathetic attempt to cash in".

"The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago and treats them as fact," his estate said in a statement.

"The two accusers testified under oath that these events never occurred. They have provided no independent evidence and absolutely no proof in support of their accusations, which means the entire film hinges solely on the word of two perjurers."

They accused the filmmakers of not seeking outside opinions and neglecting opposing facts, and said Leaving Neverland was a "rehash of dated and discredited allegations".

The documentary details the accounts of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who claim Jackson befriended and then sexually abused them starting when they were just seven and 11-years-old respectively.

The film features interviews with the pair - as well as their family members - about their first encounters with the singer and how they were groomed by him.

Both men had been involved in the 2005 investigation into Jackson, with Robson testifying that the singer never molested him - something he now says he did because he was scared of what would happen if he told the truth.

Jackson repeatedly denied sexual abuse allegations and was acquitted of child molestation charges in 2005.



State Improperly Shared Unsubstantiated Reports Of Child Abuse For Years

Federal officials have told the Hawaii Department of Human Services to stop using the reports outside of child abuse investigations

by John Hill

The state of Hawaii has been improperly using unconfirmed reports of child abuse or neglect when evaluating potential foster parents or licensing day care facilities, prompting the federal government to order it to stop.

Federal law allows states to retain unconfirmed child abuse reports to be used in case of subsequent abuse complaints about the same parents or caregivers. The idea is that such reports, though not initially proven, might later help investigators establish a pattern.

But Hawaii's Department of Human Services was going further, putting the unconfirmed reports on its central child abuse and neglect registry. Other DHS operations had access to the registry, including those that consider potential foster parents or license child care facilities.

“There is no legal basis for Hawaii to allow its child care licensing agency to have access to unsubstantiated reports of child abuse and neglect,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services wrote in September in one of a series of letters. Instead, the department wrote, “the state is required  to promptly expunge those records.”

The limits on use of the unconfirmed reports reflects the fact that they can sometimes be made out of malice, by an estranged spouse, for instance — or simply be mistaken.

Earlier this month, the state submitted a corrective plan and is working on technological changes so that confirmed and unconfirmed reports are in separate databases. In the meantime, the department has blocked those who should not be seeing unconfirmed reports.

“No one, as far as we can tell, was ever denied a license or registration because of a not-confirmed report,” said Keopu Reelitz, spokeswoman for the department.

But officials may have used the unconfirmed reports to “have a conversation” with people being reviewed because they wanted to care for children, she said.

Reelitz said it's “fairly normal” for DHS to have discussions with its federal partners about nuances in the law and for the federal government to order a “performance improvement plan” like this one.

“We're coming from a place of trying to keep kids safe,” she said.

‘Why Would Any Parent Not Be Upset?'

Marilyn Yamamoto, an advocate for parents wrongfully accused of abuse, isn't so sure that the mistake was harmless.

As part of its improper interpretation of the law, the state was sending letters to parents who were the subject of unconfirmed reports to tell them that, though the complaint was not substantiated, their names would still be placed on the child abuse registry.

“Everyone knows about the sex offender registry,” Yamamoto said. “Why would any parent not be upset to see their name is on a child abuse registry?”

Such parents would be likely to waste money hiring attorneys to try to get their names expunged, she said, adding she's been involved in hundreds of cases involving accused parents since 2012.

The state's misuse of the unconfirmed reports is all the more puzzling considering that, in testimony on a 2017 bill related to the registry, the department said they would be removed from the registry.

Federal law “requires reports where there is no finding of child abuse or neglect to be expunged from the central registry, so the report cannot be used for employment or background check purposes,” DHS Director Pankaj Bhanot wrote in support of House Bill 1099, which made adjustments to the registry.

Reelitz could not say how long the department has been allowing its various operations to see the unconfirmed reports, but believes it's been standard practice for years. An outside contractor that does background checks on those who work with vulnerable populations had access to the unconfirmed reports, but was told not to use them.

DHS workers who clear potential foster parents also had access. They might have brought up the reports in discussions with applicants, but never blocked anyone solely on the basis of the unsubstantiated complaint, Reelitz said. The same was true for DHS workers who clear in-home child care providers.

State Asked Feds For Help

The issue of background checks has gotten attention recently with new federal requirements. Perhaps because of that focus, Reelitz said, DHS staff last summer started discussing the use of the unconfirmed reports and decided to ask the federal government to review how it was using them.

Around the same time, Yamamoto, the advocate, was asking DHS whether it had revised a letter that goes to parents who were the subject of unconfirmed reports. She wanted to see if the form letter reflected changes made by the 2017 law. After about a month, she got the form letter and saw that it continued to tell those parents that, though the complaint against them was unsubstantiated, their names would still go on the central registry.

Yamamoto complained to the Hawaii Office of the Ombudsman, which in November sent her a letter saying that it was unable to substantiate her complaint. She then asked the federal office that oversees child care to look into it.

In September, the office responded to DHS's inquiry about unconfirmed reports with a letter saying federal law would not permit child care licensing workers to see them.

In November, apparently in response to Yamamoto's complaint, the federal office said that it had learned that others also had access to the unconfirmed reports and ordered a “program improvement plan.”



Minor Sex Trafficking: How Well California Protects Children

Most U.S. states are showing improvement in protecting minors caught in the web of sex trafficking. Here's a look at California's efforts.

by Emily Holland

CALIFORNIA — Most U.S. states are showing improvement in efforts to protect minor children from sex trafficking, which especially affects those in foster care and runaways, according to a new report. California received a C for its efforts to prevent sex trafficking and provide justice to victims.

Shared Hope International said sex trafficking is a booming industry that thrives because of a serious demand for commercial sex with minors. "Every day in America, children are being bought and sold for sex," the non-profit, non-governmental organization wrote in its 2018 annual report. "And they are waiting for you to notice."

Commercial sex acts may include prostitution, pornography and sexual performance, whether from pimp-controlled trafficking, gang-controlled trafficking, familial trafficking for basic needs or drugs or "survival sex," when a minor becomes involved in commercial sex acts to meet basic needs such as food or shelter.

Children are most likely to fall into the net of sex trafficking between the ages of 14-16. Pimps most often find them on social media, but also in their homes or neighborhoods, clubs or bars, school, and the internet.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, one in seven endangered runaways in 2017 were likely child sex trafficking victims, and 88 percent of those children were in the care of social services or foster care when they went missing.

The Shared Hope International report measured states' progress in six areas. Our state received the following scores:

  • Criminalization of domestic minor sex trafficking: 10 out of 10 possible points;

  • Criminal provisions addressing demand: 15.5 out of 25 possible points;

  • Criminal provisions for traffickers: 13.5 out of 15 possible points;

  • Criminal provisions for facilitators: 3.5 out of 10 possible points;

  • Protective provisions for child victims: 21.5 out of 27.5 possible points;

  • Criminal justice tools for investigations and prosecution: 12 out of 15 possible points.

  • Total California score: 76 points out of 102.5 possible points.

Here are the laws in California, along with an analysis of their effectiveness by Shared Hope International.

Key Findings:

Overall, 10 states received an "A" and 25 received a "B" grade in 2018. That compares to 26 states that got "F" grades in 2011. Shared Hope didn't hand out any "F" grades in its 2018 report card, but gave five "D" grades and 11 "C" grades.

Tennessee scored the highest in 2018,with 96.5 points, followed by Louisiana (95.5 points); Washington (95 points); Alabama (94.5 points) and Florida (94 points). States showing the most improvement were South Carolina, which improved its score by 11.5 points and moved from a "C" to a "B," and Alabama, where the score improved by 11 points and the letter grade moved from a "B" to an "A."

The states receiving "D" ratings were New Mexico and South Dakota, with 69.5 points each; Wyoming with 68 points; New York with 66 points; and Maine with 60 points.

Domestic minor sex trafficking is a federal crime under the Trafficking Protection Act, which defines those in violation of the law as anyone who "recruits, entices, harbors, transports, provides, obtains, advertises, maintains, patronizes, or solicits by any means" a minor for the purpose of a commercial sex act.

When considering the crime of domestic minor sex trafficking, under the TVPA, the victim's age is the critical issue — there is no requirement to prove that force, fraud, or coercion was used to secure the victim's actions if the victim is a minor.

Great diversity exists among the states on the treatment of children who have been exploited. "Safe harbor" laws in 23 states and the District of Columbia prohibit prostitution charges against minors, but not all protect them from arrest, detention, interrogation, harmful investigative practices and, ultimately, proving they were victimized.

As a result "not all Safe Harbor laws are necessarily safe for all exploited youth," Shared Hope International said in its report. "Although nearly half the states in the nation have enacted non-criminalization laws, 12 of those states' laws specifically contemplate detaining or arresting a minor for prostitution."


  • Five states solely require a finding of trafficking victimization to prevent the criminalization of the minor for prostitution offenses, suggesting that some minors engage in commercial sex acts out of choice.

  • Eight states and the District of Columbia couple non-criminalization laws with statutory avenues to specialized services.

  • Only four states — California, Connecticut, Florida and Minnesota — have enacted non-criminalization laws that are designed to prevent the arrest and detention, as well as prosecution, of minors for prostitution offenses in addition to connecting child sex trafficking victims with holistic, specialized care and services.

"Developing and enacting comprehensive non-criminalization laws requires a multi-year and multi-agency commitment, inclusive of input, buy-in, and contribution from a variety of stakeholders," Shared Hope International said. "Importantly, through expansive training and cultural changes, states should simultaneously seek policy, practice, and culture reform, ultimately shifting away from viewing and responding to commercially sexually exploited children as delinquent youth rather than as survivors of child sex trafficking."



Preying on the vulnerable: Human trafficking prevalent yet elusive in the Big Bend

by Nada Hassanein

She wakes up crying from nightmares. She attempted to end her life. She struggles with eating disorders, the deep scars of emotional damage.

For more than a decade, a Tallahassee girl was trafficked by a woman in exchange for drugs. As a child, she was subjected to adult men for sexual activity.

At a court hearing earlier this month, the now 18-year-old girl — whose identity is being withheld because she is a victim of sexual assault — recounted to a judge the impact of the atrocities.

Breaking the heavy silence of the courtroom, she spoke into the microphone. Her victim advocates stood close.

“I will never know who I would have or could have been if this never happened,” she said. “I am different because of what Celeste put me through.”

Celeste Chambers, 37, faces life in prison for her role in the sexual abuse of the girl, which spanned 13 years.

“Celeste was in the room while they did it. She heard me scream, she heard me crying and she sat there,” the girl said. “She watched them beat me unconsciously and she just sat there and did nothing.”

The physical abuse hurt at the time. But the effect on her mind is profound and life-lasting.

"She also killed me inside. My mind is so messed up because of this," she told the judge. "She never gave me a chance to be a normal kid. I never had a happy childhood because of Celeste."

The young woman is far from the only trafficking victim in the Big Bend.

Preying on the vulnerable

Legally, human trafficking is defined as using people by way of force, fraud or coercion. It's often referred to as "modern-day slavery."

Sometimes, victims aren't even aware they're being trafficked.

In the past few years, victims included a group of male migrant farm workers, and a Tallahassee girl living in the south side manipulated by an older man she called her boyfriend. 

On Friday, a Tallahassee man was arrested on charges he trafficked a 14-year-old girl, holding her against her will and forcing her to have sex with men for money. 

The issue knows no age or face. Last year, the National Human Trafficking Hotline received 14,000 calls and 5,147 cases were reported.

Many of the victims come from a lifetime of poverty or troubled homes. The traffickers promise a better life, but deliver one of cruelty and suffering.

"People who are vulnerable are preyed on by traffickers," said Robin Hassler Thompson, executive director of the Survive and Thrive Advocacy Center. Homeless and runaway youth and undocumented immigrants are in particular danger.

STAC works with local agencies and law enforcement to identify victims and connect them with resources to get help. STAC also spreads awareness of trafficking, focusing events in January, which is recognized as Human Trafficking Awareness Month. The group has trained 2,000 residents to identify the signs of the problem.

Other groups that help victims include Capital City Youth Services and the Young Parents' Program, which helps young mothers in the juvenile court system navigate parenting, overcome trauma and empower them to fulfill their goals. Several of the girls in the program are sex trafficking victims.

CCYS offers an emergency shelter, a transitional living program, a street outreach program and a drop-in center to help troubled or vagrant youth.

Taylor Biro, director of the street outreach program at CCYS, runs the center. Youth can come meet with a social worker, wash their clothes and receive free HIV testing and birth control.

Some traffickers set up house at hotels, Biro said. CCYS reaches out to hotel employees in the I-10 and Monroe Street area to train housekeeping staff to detect the problem.

But many victims are afraid to reach out for help due to traffickers' threats. Building rapport with them is key, Biro said.

"A lot of the kids that are groomed for trafficking don't have a positive adult figure in their life," she said. "Trust is a big thing."

A prevalent yet elusive problem

While those close to the issue say trafficking in the Big Bend is alive and well, its prevalence is not widely reflected in official reports.

Though Tallahassee Police Department records show seven human trafficking cases last year, four involving minor victims, a records request to the Leon County Sheriff's Office for the number of human trafficking cases it worked in the past two years turned up no results. The same request of the Second Judicial Circuit State Attorney's Office revealed one case in 2018 and one the year before.

A jury convicted Chambers of one count of capital sexual battery, two counts of lewd and lascivious battery, one count each of lewd and lascivious molestation, lewd and lascivious conduct, child abuse — and human trafficking.

While Chambers was charged with human trafficking, many traffickers are prosecuted for other crimes making the number of cases elusive. 

"It is a uniquely difficult area to prosecute. It's so incredibly hard to track," explained Assistant State Attorney Lorena Vollrath-Bueno. “Sometimes maybe you can prove this person was living off the proceeds, but you can't prove the relationship is that of human trafficking."

The victim could also be afraid to cooperate with law enforcement, Vollrath-Bueno added, or unwilling to testify in court.

"They are afraid of retribution," she said. "(The trafficker) is the boyfriend, the only stable person they've had, or they have kids with them or he has their passport or has threatened their family. A lot of these women have had lives that are incomprehensible to a lot of people."

Still, in other cases, law enforcement may not see the case for what it is.

STAC's Thompson is among those lobbying for better data collection, specifically in Uniform Crime Reports. Activists say data is important to shed light on the problem's existence in a community, and to direct resources.

Outside the courtroom, after telling her story publicly, Chambers' victim lingered by the elevators with her advocates. They clustered around her and chatted as she opened a gift they gave her.

The young woman is still grappling with her trauma, but she graduated high school and landed a job. She's trying to turn a new page in her life.

"After everything, I still have a heart... I do not want anyone to feel the pain I feel," she said. "Celeste Chambers may have taken my childhood and left an impact on my life, and on my adult life. But I will make sure that I'm OK."

How to help:

Donate to STAC:

Donate to Capital City Youth Services:

Donate to the Young Parents' Program: Mail a check addressed to Florida State University's Center for Prevention and Early Intervention Policy Young Parents Project - 1339 East Lafayette Street Tallahassee, Fla. 32301

If you or someone you know is in danger, call the National Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888 or text "HELP" to 233733.