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"News of the Week"  

February 2019 - Week 2
Terri Lanahan
Many thanks to NAASCA's Terri Lanahan, Butte, Montana,
for her research into the news that appears on
the LACP & NAASCA web sites.


List Of Maryland Priests Accused Of Child Sexual Abuse

The Baltimore and DC archdioceses have named priests who are guilty or had credible sexual abuse accusations against them.

by Deb Belt

BALTIMORE, MD — A new wave of lists naming Catholic priests credibly accused of sexual abuse against children has been released in the past two months, including the Baltimore archdiocese. In late December the church posted a revised list of 99 priests and religious brothers facing accusations over the years. The posting includes an initial list of 57 men posted in 2002, along with additions of those later accused, and priests named in a grand jury report released by the Pennsylvania Attorney General in August 2018, who either had an assignment in Maryland or were accused of engaging in sexual abuse of minors in Maryland.

"Many Catholics here in our own archdiocese, as well as many across the country, are rightly dismayed by what they perceive as a lack of decisive action to strengthen protocols of accountability for bishops accused of sexual abuse or misconduct," Archbishop William E. Lori said in November after U.S. bishops met in Baltimore. "Understandably, there is a sense that this was a missed opportunity – and one unnecessarily so. ... We must be held fully accountable – as are priests, deacons, lay employees and volunteers of the Church – in matters of moral and professional conduct."

The Baltimore list was released about a month after the Washington, D.C., archdiocese — which includes Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland — released similarly accused priests. A total of 32 priests were named by the DC diocese, but its list does not specify which parishes or schools they served in. See that list of names at the bottom of the story or online.

The release by the Archdiocese of Washington of priests deemed "credibly accused" of sexual abuse from 1948 onward — along with the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Washington, D.C. archbishop, following criticism of his handling of child sex abuse cases — falls short of what critics say is a comprehensive list. The Survivors Network of those Abused By Priests said the release was a "hastily assembled PR stunt," and only a full list of suspected and convicted abusers compiled by law enforcement would suffice.

"This list is a painful reminder of the grave sins committed by clergy, the pain inflicted on innocent young people, and the harm done to the Church's faithful, for which we continue to seek forgiveness," said Cardinal Wuerl.

SNAP replied that the announcement seems to be an attempt to distract church members from resignation due to his role in sexual abuse cover-ups in the Pittsburgh diocese. Wuerl turned in his resignation letter three years ago when he turned 75 - the mandatory age for Catholic bishops to submit their retirement to the pope. The man CNN labeled one of the world's most powerful Catholic leaders as mentioned prominently in a grand jury report identifying more than 300 predator priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses, including 99 from the Pittsburgh diocese.

Priests of the Archdiocese of Baltimore have no parentheses after their names. Priests and brothers from religious orders or other dioceses have that noted in parentheses after their names. None of the men listed are in ministry in the Archdiocese of Baltimore; some have died and some have been laicized. All have had their faculties to function as a priest in the Archdiocese of Baltimore permanently removed.

Here is the full list of priests, religious brothers, along with where they worked and live, as released by the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The list can also be found online.



Pope Defrocks Theodore McCarrick, Ex-Cardinal Accused of Sexual Abuse

by Elizabeth Dias and Jason Horowitz

Pope Francis has expelled Theodore E. McCarrick, a former cardinal and archbishop of Washington, from the priesthood, after the church found him guilty of sexually abusing minors and adult seminarians over decades, the Vatican said on Saturday.

The move appears to be the first time any cardinal has been defrocked for sexual abuse — marking a critical moment in the Vatican's handling of a scandal that has gripped the church for nearly two decades. It is also the first time an American cardinal has been removed from the priesthood.

In a statement on Saturday, the Vatican said Mr. McCarrick had been dismissed after he was tried and found guilty of several crimes, including soliciting sex during confession and “sins” with minors and with adults, “with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”

While the Vatican has defrocked hundreds of priests for sexual abuse of minors, few of the church's leaders have faced severe discipline. The decision to laicize, or defrock, Mr. McCarrick is “almost revolutionary,” said Kurt Martens, a professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America.

“Bishops and former cardinals are no longer immune to punishment,” Professor Martens said. “The reverence that was shown in the past to bishops no longer applies.”

The expulsion of Mr. McCarrick is the most serious sign to date that Pope Francis is addressing the clerical sex abuse crisis, after facing criticism that he has moved too slowly. In October, the pope laicized two retired Chilean bishops accused of sexually abusing minors. In December, he removed two top cardinals from his powerful advisory council after they were implicated in sexual abuse cases.

Since last summer, when allegations against Mr. McCarrick first surfaced, the church has been plunged into a new chapter of the ever-growing scandal. State and federal investigations across the United States are now underway, and each week a new diocese releases names of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse.

The announcement's timing shows that church leaders hope they can move forward from the scandal before the coming week, when the pope and the presidents of bishops' conferences around the world are meeting at the Vatican to discuss the sexual abuse crisis.

Robert Ciolek, who was abused by Mr. McCarrick in the 1980s, when Mr. Ciolek was a young seminarian and later a priest, said on Saturday that he viewed the defrocking as “as a very positive step.”

He added, “It signals that Rome may finally be serious about taking matters like abuse of power very seriously, with grave consequences for those who engage in that conduct.”

Mr. McCarrick, now 88, was accused of sexually abusing three minors and harassing adult seminarians and priests. A New York Times investigation last summer detailed settlements paid to men who had complained of abuse when Mr. McCarrick was a bishop in New Jersey in the 1980s, and revealed that some church leaders had long known of the accusations.

Pope Francis accepted Mr. McCarrick's resignation from the College of Cardinals in July and suspended him from all priestly duties. He was first removed from ministry in June, after a church panel substantiated a claim that he had abused an altar boy almost 50 years ago.

Mr. McCarrick was long a prominent Catholic voice on international and public policy issues, and a champion for progressive Catholics active in social justice causes.

The Archdiocese of Washington said in its own statement, “Our hope and prayer is that this decision serves to help the healing process for survivors of abuse, as well as those who have experienced disappointment or disillusionment because of what former Archbishop McCarrick has done.”

James Grein, who told The Times that he was 11 when Mr. McCarrick began a sexually abusive relationship with him, said in a statement on Saturday: “For years I have suffered, as many others have, at the hands of Theodore McCarrick. It is with profound sadness that I have had to participate in the canonical trial of my abuser. Nothing can give me back my childhood.”

He added: “With that said, today I am happy that the Pope believed me. I am hopeful now I can pass through my anger for the last time. I hope that Cardinal McCarrick will no longer be able to use the power of Jesus' Church to manipulate families and sexually abuse children.”

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Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said: “The Holy See's announcement regarding Theodore McCarrick is a clear signal that abuse will not be tolerated. No bishop, no matter how influential, is above the law of the church.”

Mr. McCarrick had appealed the Jan. 11 ruling. On Wednesday, the Vatican's doctrinal watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, rejected his appeal, and Mr. McCarrick was notified on Friday of its decision. Now that he has been defrocked, Mr. McCarrick loses church-sponsored housing and financial benefits.

On Saturday, the Vatican spokesman, Alessandro Gisotti, told reporters that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had extended Mr. McCarrick a penal process in which “all his rights were respected” and that his “lawyers played an active role in the course of some of the interrogations.”

The Vatican's news media outlet, the Vatican News, splashed the news of Mr. McCarrick's dismissal from the clerical state across its website and detailed the history of allegations against him. It noted that after the Archdiocese of New York had reported accusations to the Holy See in September 2017, “Pope Francis ordered an in-depth investigation.”

The Vatican News added that ahead of the coming meeting, it was worth recalling the pope's recent call for a unified response to “this evil that has darkened so many lives.” Mr. Gisotti also reiterated an October statement from the Vatican that “both abuse and its cover-up can no longer be tolerated and a different treatment for bishops who have committed or covered up abuse, in fact, represents a form of clericalism that is no longer acceptable.”

Mr. McCarrick's behavior has figured prominently in extraordinary attacks against Pope Francis, which have accused the pontiff of turning a blind eye to abuse in his midst.

In August, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former papal ambassador in Washington, wrote a scathing letter arguing that rampant homosexuality in the priesthood had caused the child abuse crisis and that the Vatican hierarchy had covered up accusations that Mr. McCarrick had sexually abused seminarians. The letter claimed that Pope Francis had empowered the American prelate despite knowing about the abuses years before they became public.

Those allegations, which the Vatican disputes, remain unproven, and the timing of Mr. McCarrick's ascent through the hierarchy coincided with the pontificates of Pope Francis' predecessors, Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II.

The Vatican seemed eager on Saturday to wipe its hands of at least one of those leaders. “On the subject of what McCarrick will do now,” Mr. Gisotti said, “I have no information to give.”

Sharon Otterman, Elisabetta Povoledo and Palko Karasz contributed reporting.


Berlin Film Festival

French priest loses bid to block Ozon's child abuse film

A French court on Monday rejected an attempt to block the release of a film by acclaimed director François Ozon based on real-life victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, two days after it picked up a prize at the Berlin Film Festival.

Ozon, 51, worked for years in secret on "By the Grace of God", which won plaudits and the runner-up Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at the Berlinale on Saturday.

It is the most-high profile dramatisation of the systematic cover-up of widespread sexual molestation by clergy since the Oscar-winning "Spotlight", set in Boston and released in 2015.

Even before the film's Berlin premiere, Bernard Preynat, a priest accused of molesting more than 80 boys, had gone to court to demand that the film be barred from French cinemas until after his trial, which is due to start later this year.

But his plea was rejected by the court on Monday, Preynat's lawyer Emmanuel Mercinier told reporters, paving the way for the film's release on February 20.

In a separate case, a lay voluntary worker for the Lyon diocese, Régine Maire, has also issued a legal challenge to have her name removed from the picture.

The court's decision comes as Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, and five others including Maire await a verdict on charges of covering up the abuse.

'Breaking the silence'

Speaking ahead of the ruling, Ozon – best known for the films "Swimming Pool" and "8 Women" – told AFP the film should be shown for "the public good".

"When you try to break the silence, there is always resistance," he said.

"I don't think this is happening by accident, because it is a film which is trying to break an omerta, and which deals with the silence."

The scandal first broke in 2015 when a former scout, François Devaux, went public with allegations that Preynat had abused him as a child 25 years earlier.

Preynat was suspended by the church later that year and it eventually emerged that the cardinal had confronted him about "the rumours" in 2010 but the priest claimed he had changed.

Four years later Barbarin went to the Vatican about him without contacting the police.

The film traces those events but sticks close to their emotional impact on three victims-turned-activists, who begin to confront their trauma publicly with the generally strong support of their families.

Ozon said he had consulted several members of the survivors' group, La Parole Libérée (Freed Speech), that Devaux set up, which has gathered the testimony of 85 people who claim to have been abused by Preynat in Lyon.

But the director said he tried to be "as even-handed and objective as possible. It is not a film of goodies and baddies, it is much more complex than that for the affected families and the institution itself, and I tried to show that".

"By the Grace of God" centres on Devaux and Alexandre Dussot-Hezez, "a fervent Catholic who discovers at the age of 40 that a priest who abused him is still alive and has access to children" through the church.

Devaux told AFP that Ozon's approach to the victims' painful experiences had been "very humane and very passionate" given the fact that for them and their families, they had been like "time bombs" waiting to go off.

Church stance on paedophilia ‘changing'

Ozon said he wanted to show the "negative repercussions (victims can suffer) and the distressing boomerang effects on their partners, children, families and friends".

Asked about Preynat's bid for an injunction, Ozon insisted there were no major factual revelations in the film for anyone who has been following the case.

"We are facing some pressure regarding the release of the film but everything in it is already well-known in France," he told reporters in Berlin.

"Most of the people attacking us haven't seen the film yet," Ozon added.

The filmmaker hopes his intimate portrait of the victims' fight for justice will spark greater understanding of a difficult subject that mainstream cinema has rarely confronted.

Ozon said the reaction from several French bishops and senior clergy who have seen the film had been positive, adding that he hoped it would provoke debate beyond France.

"The church seems to be changing its stance on the scourge of paedophilia and the silence hanging over it," he said.



Bill requiring religious leaders to report child abuse passes


WINCHESTER — A bill that includes religious leaders on Virginia's list of people required to report suspected child abuse or neglect has passed the House and Senate in the General Assembly.

Senate Bill 1257, sponsored by Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Upperville, would require ministers, priests, rabbis, imams and other religious leaders to report suspected abuse to law enforcement.

Currently, church leaders who know of or suspect child abuse are exempt from a law that requires it to be reported. Other professionals, including health-care workers, teachers and law enforcement personnel, are required to report it.

The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Janet Howell, D-Reston, unanimously passed the House and Senate and now goes to Gov. Ralph Northam to consider.

Vogel said on Friday that she was “relieved and grateful” that the bill passed with support from religious institutions.

“The faith community understands they have a lot of exposure,” Vogel said. “They don't want a state law that gives anybody cover to not report something they know to be a crime.”

Vogel said the bill was spurred by a child sex abuse scandal at The Life Church in Manassas. In that case, youth counselor Jordan Baird was accused of abusing a teenage female parishioner, but when the girl's family confronted the church's pastor he did not tell law enforcement.

Baird was accused later by multiple girls of assault and is serving a prison sentence following several felony convictions.

“It's one of many that you hear about,” Vogel said of the case.

The bill includes exemptions for information that a church's doctrine requires be kept confidential. An example would be a priest hearing confession; the law could not compel a priest to report to the authorities or testify in court about a crime confessed by a parishioner.


West Virginia

Child abuse bill


CHARLESTON — A bill that would impose tougher sentences on child abuse causing injury cases will go the full House for a vote.

Del. John Shott (R-Mercer County), who sponsored the bill, said Friday it was passed out of the Judiciary Committee.

“I can't predict whether the Senate will take it up if it passes the full House,” he said.

House Bill 2933 would revise penalties for child abuse with bodily injury and child abuse with serious bodily injuries. The penalty for bodily injuries would increase from one to five years in prison to two to 10 years. For serious bodily injuries, those convicted would face five to 15 years in prison, up from the current two to 10 years.

The legislation has been pushed by Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler, who asked Shott to introduce the legislation after dealing with cases that presented punishments he saw as inadequate.

“This (the state's) statute provides an insufficient maximum penalty for crimes of this magnitude,” Sitler told Shott when approaching him about the legislation.

Sitler said the equivalent statute in Arkansas carries a penalty of five to 20 years and in Florida, an equivalent act carries a maximum penalty of up to 30 years.

In a message to other prosecutors in the state, Sitler asked for support of the legislation.

“Some of you have tried caregivers of a shaken baby who survived the abuse,” he said. “Brain damage, blindness and lifetime disability often result. These cases are heartbreaking.”

Sitler tried such a case last year that ended in a plea deal that frustrated him and many others.

Sentencing guidelines are “not severe enough given the gravity of the events,” Sitler said of a recent case that ended in a plea agreement.

That case involved Cory Hawks of Princeton who was sentenced to one to five years after pleading guilty to child abuse resulting in injury.

Hawks was indicted in 2017 related to causing“serious bodily injury” by “shaking, striking, pushing, and pulling the infant,” who was only 3 months old when the injuries occurred in 2015, in a way that caused multiple bone fractures, brain bleeds and retinal hemorrhaging in his eyes. The “shaken baby” injuries resulted in many prolonged developmental issues for the child.

Hawks was indicted on a charge of child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury. The infant's mother, Bridgette Hawks, was indicted for child neglect resulting in serious bodily injury.

However, due to a series of various factors, including Hawks' denial he did it and the fact that two other adults and an 8-year-old child were also present at the time of the injuries, a plea deal was eventually accepted by defense, prosecution, guardian ad litem for the child and the judge.

Hawks had also initially offered to plea but then requested a trial rather than a plea deal.

“There could be only four possible outcomes to a trial for Cory Hawks in this matter,” Sitler said. “Guilty of child abuse with serious injury (two to 10 years in jail); guilty of child abuse with bodily injury (one to 5 years in jail); not guilty (in which the jury is unable to determine who inflicted the injuries and the defendant would walk free); and a hung jury.”

Sitler said the state's “reluctant” decision to accept the plea only came after all parties involved agreed and the fact the penalty is a felony conviction and prison sentence as well as a requirement that Hawks be placed on the Child Abuse Registry.

He will also be on five years supervised probation after his release.

“Under the circumstances and with the law and the facts, everybody agreed this plea was appropriate,” Sitler said.

With tougher penalties, that scenario could change.

That is good news for Shiloh Woodard, executive director of Child Protect of Mercer County.

“This is by far long overdue,” she said of the move to increase penalties. “State Code does not give our prosecutors and judges leeway to give a penalty that matches the crime. It is absolutely a step in the right direction.”

Woodard said she hopes it makes its way through the Legislature this year, but is concerned it could get lost in the shuffle and be overlooked.

“We hope it does pass this legislative session,” she said.


West Virginia

Bill that would end 'court-ordered rape' passes Senate

by TAYLOR STUCK The Herald-Dispatch

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Senate on Friday passed a bill to ban a little known but often traumatic practice currently permitted to occur in the state's court system.

Senate Bill 563 overrules a West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals decision allowing court-ordered gynecological and physical exams of victims in sexual offense proceedings. The bill prohibits a court from requiring an alleged victim from undergoing exams of the breasts, buttocks, anus or any part of the sex organs.

This is often referred to as "court-ordered rape."

"The court experience for victims of rape is intimidating and harrowing, but that's just the nature of the beast," said Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, an attorney. "However, this bill, in my view, will take away one of the more onerous court opinions that involve that - and that is a defendant who we presume is guilty is going to force a victim to undergo a gynecological exam. It was just bad law. It's counterproductive."

Woelfel said it was another way for defense attorneys to intimidate a victim into dropping charges.

West Virginia and Kentucky are the only two states where court-ordered examinations were permitted by Supreme Court rulings out of 22 cases identified in the country where the practice was requested, according to a 2018 report by Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law professor of law Michelle Madden Dempsey.

In the 2009 case "State ex rel. J.W. v. Knight," the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled the Mercer County Circuit Court could order a limited physical exam of a 15-year-old sexual assault victim. The defendants, the victim's brothers, were trying to prove no sexual intercourse had occurred.

The court found there was no basis to deny the defendants' request.

"I don't know what the court was thinking," Woelfel said. "I'm glad we've corrected that, and I expect the House will go through with it, we will affirm it and the governor will sign it."

In her report, Dempsey says there are four reasons why court-ordered examinations should be prohibited.

First, it violates the victim's right to privacy, when in criminal proceedings they are just a witness. Second, there is the chance defendants will use the examination to harass and further traumatize a victim, and the mere possibility such an examination could be ordered could deter sexual assault victims from reporting crimes in the first place.

Lastly, Dempsey writes, the order is based on debunked science regarding female body structure, injury, healing and what are "regular" or "abnormal" medical findings, specifically relating to a female's hymen.

Illinois is the only state to have a law that regulates court-ordered examinations. In the 1980s the state's general assembly banned court-ordered psychiatric or psychological examinations of victims of alleged sex offenses, and the Illinois Supreme Court later expanded that to include physical examinations.

The law does not address, however, whether a victim's refusal to voluntarily undergo an examination at the defendant's request should impact the admissibility of other evidence.

Dempsey suggests specific language to address that, which is found in the Senate bill.

The Senate passed the bill unanimously, with Sens. Mark Maynard and Greg Boso absent. The bill was made effective from passage.



Bill sought by child sex abuse survivors rerouted for study

by Katie Stancombe

Individuals who were sexually abused as children will have to keep waiting for justice, now that a bill that could potentially give them more time to sue their abusers has been routed for further study.

Senate Bill 219 would to protect survivors of sexual abuse by giving them more time to sue, Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. The problem, he said, is that often by the time a victim can process what has been done to them, it's too late to fight back.

“These survivors, because of the statute of limitations, are left with no recourse,” Merritt said. “And because those limitations of time have run out, the bill provides adult survivors who have since been barred from that civil recourse with a three-year window to pursue civil action against their abuser.”

Under current Indiana law, a child who was sexually abused must file an action within seven years of the cause of action, or four years after the child is no longer a dependent of the abuser. Merritt's bill would add an additional three years to each, but he said that specific number was arbitrary and up for discussion.

The ultimate goal, Merritt said, was to give survivors a chance to shed light on the darkness of their past.

Forty-two year-old Chris Compton didn't bring his story out of the shadows until last August, after flipping through old family photos triggered suppressed memories. He said he was sexually abused at age 9 by an Evansville Catholic priest. It wasn't until decades later, when Compton had a son of his own, now 9, that he found the courage to tell his family the truth.

“People may ask a victim, ‘Why would you not say something sooner?'” Compton said. “The borderline brainwashing instilled fear in me as a child that no child should ever feel.”

Upon first learning of her son's torment, Kim Compton was shocked and devastated.

“I was the first person he had ever told about the abuse,” she said. “It took him decades to tell me. That's why SB 219 is so important. Sexual assault victims like Chris are often ashamed and afraid when they're young to talk about the issue.”

She testified that many survivors of childhood abuse think that if too much time has passed, they don't have a voice. But she said the measure would prove that Hoosiers are ready to listen.

“It's a chance for them to speak up loud and clear,” she said. “Survivors cannot wait any longer for justice.”

Jennifer Woodward of Westfield agreed, speaking out about the years of sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her gymnastics coach when she was 15. Although she reported her abuse to local authorities and USA Gymnastics, nothing was done.

Twenty years later, the national organization's attorney contacted Woodward, saying her abuse report was found among 17 other uninvestigated cases in a file cabinet. There were two other claims made against her coach, but for Woodward, the statute of limitations had long expired.

“I had done everything right,” she said. “And now I know that there are others that unfortunately followed in my footsteps of sexual abuse. Those are footsteps that could have been prevented if someone had taken me seriously.”

However, Committee Chairman Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, proposed an amendment that the issue be discussed at a summer study committee, raising concerns across the committee's party lines.

“The topic of statutes of limitations has some implications that have not been testified about this morning,” Head said. “If we open up the statute of limitations for everyone, it's possible that victims could get justice … but if we open it up and say there's no statute of limitations ever, there's another set of issues there.”

Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, questioned Head's rationale for the amendment, wondering who would be opposed to the idea of giving survivors extended time.

“I just don't know what's going to be different,” Freeman said of sending SB 219 to study committee. 

Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, had his own contentions, saying he was hurt by the amendment. “There's nothing to study,” Taylor said. “It's sick, it's demeaning, and we should open up the floodgates for these people to be prosecuted.”

The amendment passed by a 6-3 vote, and the bill passed 9-1. The measure will now be recommended to the legislative council for a summer study committee.



Upcoming Legislation: Senate Bill 7 would sentence child sex trafficking consumers to life in prison

by Kelsey Penrose

Senate Bill 7 was profiled on Nov. 14, 2018, and is summarized as, “An act relating to crimes; providing that a person who is less than 14 years of age for prostitution is guilty of sex trafficking; providing a penalty; and providing other matters properly relating thereto.”

Existing Nevada laws prohibit any person from engaging in prostitution or solicitation outside of a legal Nevada brothel.

Senate Bill 7, if adopted, would additionally provide that a customer who violates such a prohibition by knowingly soliciting a child who is less than 14 years of age for prostitution is committing a sex trafficking crime, and therefore is guilty of a Category A Felony.

As the law stands now, anyone who violates this prohibition by soliciting a child for prostitution is guilty of a Category E Felony on the first offense, a Category D Felony on the second offense, and a Category C Felony on a third and subsequent offense, the bill states.

If SB 7 is adopted, a person convicted would be also be required to be punished by life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years.

A fine no more than $20,000 could also be applied.

This bill would also include the following consequences:

1) Authorizing a victim to bring a civil action against any person who caused, was responsible for, or profited from the crime.

2) Extending the period within which a criminal action must be commenced under certain circumstance.

3) Authorizing a court to order the taking and use at trial of a videotaped deposition or testimony of a victim.

4) Making any personal property and conveyances used in the commission of the crime subject to forfeiture.

5) Authorizing application for a court order authorizing the interception of wire, electronic or oral communications to obtain evidence of such a crime.

6) Making the crime constitute a “crime against a child” and a “sexual offense” for the purposes of registration and community notifications.

7) Increasing the punishment for conspiracy to commit such a crime.

8) Providing confidentiality of the identity of a victim.

9) Requiring the reporting of the crime to law enforcement by certain persons under certain circumstances; and

10) Entitling the child to apply for compensation from the Fund for the Compensation of Victims of Crime.

If accepted, this new law would be enacted on July 1, 2019.



Abuse survivor reps travelling to Rome

by Chris Morris

Two men with Dunedin links are winging their way to Rome to join the fight for "zero tolerance'' of sexual abuse and cover-ups within the Catholic Church.

Dunedin-based sexual abuse survivor Darryl Smith is travelling to the Vatican to take part in survivor meetings, coinciding with a gathering of the leaders of bishops' conferences from around the world.

This week's gathering of about 130 bishops, including New Zealand's Cardinal John Dew, has been called by Pope Francis to discuss the sexual abuse crisis engulfing the church.

Mr Smith is hopeful of an audience with Pope Francis while in Rome, and is carrying a letter of introduction with him from Dunedin Bishop the Most Rev Michael Dooley.

Bishop Dooley has helped pay for Mr Smith's trip, using personal rather than diocesan funds.

Also flying to Rome is Dr Murray Heasley, an Auckland-based spokesman for the Network of Survivors of Abuse in Faith-based Institutions and their Supporters.

Dr Heasley is a former head prefect at St Paul's High School - now Kavanagh College - and a University of Otago graduate.

He has been named as New Zealand's representative on the Ending Clergy Abuse Global (ECAG) group, which is holding five days of meetings and events around the bishops' gathering.

The ECAG gathering will feature 45 delegates from 21 countries discussing the church's handling of abuse, as well as the situation in New Zealand.

Dr Heasley told ODT Insight he would table a resolution as part of the meeting, calling on the Vatican to authorise New Zealand's Catholic bishops to make necessary changes to address the sexual abuse crisis.

That should include instructing bishops to open all archives to independent scrutiny, and the naming of all priests, members of religious orders or church lay officials credibly accused of sexual abuse, he said.

It should also include the removal of all "re-traumatising'' triggers, ranging from photographs of offenders on walls to the names of schools, like Dunedin's Kavanagh College, which honoured those under a cloud, he said.

The Catholic Bishop of Dunedin, Michael Dooley, has previously indicated he is considering a public "full disclosure'' of alleged offenders - and the numbers of victims and payouts - within the Dunedin diocese.

He was also still considering calls from some survivors and former pupils for Kavanagh College to be renamed, because of its association with namesake Bishop John Kavanagh.

Much of the historic offending revealed within the diocese since mid-last year had occurred under the watch of then-Bishop Kavanagh, Dunedin's Catholic bishop from 1949 to 1985.

Bishop Dooley would not be drawn on either issue yesterday, except to say he was not aware of Dr Heasley's resolution "but certainly respect[s] his right to express his views''.

He planned to meet Dr Heasley and Mr Smith upon their return to Dunedin to discuss their trips.


New York


Bernstein Liebhard LLP Offering Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Reviews to Adult Survivors Who May be Eligible to File Claims in Accordance with New York's Recently-Passed Child Victims Act

NEW YORK , Feb. 7, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- The nationwide law firm of Bernstein Liebhard LLP is investigating potential clergy sexual abuse lawsuits in light of the recent passage of New York's Child Victims Act.

"The Child Victims Act extends the statute of limitations for filing civil lawsuits against sexual abusers, as well as the public or private institutions that enabled their crimes," says Sandy A. Liebhard , a partner at Bernstein Liebhard LLP.  "Its passage is a great victory for potentially thousands of adult survivors of clergy abuse throughout New York who have long been denied the justice they so truly deserve."

The firm is now offering free, confidential, and no-obligation legal reviews to survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of Roman Catholic priests or other member of the clergy, especially those who may be eligible to seek redress in accordance with New York's Child Victims Act.

What the Child Victims Act Means for Clergy Abuse Survivors in New York

The Child Victims Act was first introduced in 2006. Although it easily passed the New York State Assembly year after year, the bill was repeatedly defeated in the Senate because of fierce opposition from certain powerful interests, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America, and the insurance lobby.

In 2018, a grand jury investigation revealed that Roman Catholic Bishops and other Church officials throughout Pennsylvania had protected hundreds of credibly accused priests for decades. Rather than report allegations to secular authorities, diocesan leaders in Philadelphia , Pittsburgh , Scranton and elsewhere transferred the accused to unsuspecting parishes, intimidated victims and their families into silence, and even convinced law enforcement to drop investigations into credible accusations.

These findings have already prompted attorneys general in nearly a dozen states - including Arkansas , Illinois , Kentucky , Maryland , Michigan , Missouri , Nebraska , New Jersey , New Mexico , New York and Vermont – to launch new investigations into clergy sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.

The revelations also increased support for the New York Child Victims Act, which overwhelmingly passed both houses of the state legislature on January 28th. 

Once signed by Governor Cuomo, adult survivors of child sexual abuse in New York will have until their 55 th birthday to file civil lawsuits against their abusers, as well as the public or private institutions that harbored them.

The Child Victims Act also opens a one-year window in which survivors can revive old claims that would otherwise be barred by the statute of limitations.

Bernstein Liebhard LLP is now offering free and confidential legal reviews to adults who were sexually abused as children by a priest or other trusted member of the clergy.  To learn more about the Child Victims Act or to discuss filing a clergy sexual abuse lawsuit with a member of the firm's legal team, please visit Bernstein Liebhard LLP's website or call 800-511-5092.

About Bernstein Liebhard LLP
Bernstein Liebhard LLP is a New York-based law firm exclusively representing injured persons in complex individual and class action lawsuits nationwide since 1993. As a national law firm, Bernstein Liebhard LLP possesses all the legal and financial resources required to successfully challenge billion dollar pharmaceutical and medical device companies. As a result, our attorneys and legal staff have been able to recover more than $3.5 billion on behalf of our clients. Bernstein Liebhard LLP has been named to  The National Law Journal's  "Plaintiffs' Hot List" 13 times and listed in  The Legal 500  for 10 consecutive years.



LSP: Three arrested for sex trafficking of a child

NEW ORLEANS — Three suspects have been arrested, all charged with sex trafficking of a child, Louisiana State Police said Tuesday.

Troopers were called to the Sheraton Hotel on Canal Street and found a 16-year-old juvenile who was listed as a runaway.

After interviewing the teen, troopers said the juvenile had been beaten, drugged, raped and "pimped" out by several different men over the last few days.

The juvenile was taken to a local hospital for medical evaluation and reunited with her family.

Investigators identified three suspects from St. Tammany Parish involved with the juvenile sex trafficking: 17-year-old Destiny Mears, of Mandeville, 39-year-old Jayson Figueroa and 23-year-old Cordarrell Roudolph, both of Slidell.

Mears was identified as attempting to recruit the juvenile into prostitution. Figueroa and Roudolph were both identified as the individuals who drugged the juvenile with Xanax, opioids, and other drugs, raped her while she was incapacitated and beat her.

All three suspects were located in St. Tammany Parish and arrested. Figueroa and Roudolph were booked for trafficking of a child for sexual purposes, second-degree rape and felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile. Mears was booked for trafficking of a child for sexual purposes.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline is a national anti-trafficking hotline serving victims and survivors of human trafficking and the anti-trafficking community in the United States. The toll-free hotline is available to answer calls from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year in more than 200 languages. The National Hotline can be accessed by emailing, submitting a tip through the online tip reporting form, and visiting the web portal at You can also call the hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text at 233733.



Austin Baptist church holds panel on preventing childhood sexual abuse

by Alyssa Goard

AUSTIN (KXAN) - An Austin Baptist Church hosted a panel Sunday to talk to their congregation about things the church, parents and community members can do to prevent sexual abuse, as well as how to support survivors of abuse to seek help. 

This came in response to a report published last week by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News which found that since 1998, around 380 Southern Baptist Church leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct. Of those, the newspapers verified that 220 had been convicted of sex crimes or received deferred prosecutions in plea deals. 

There are 700 victims tied to those accusations which span from the present back to 1998. Many of those victims were children. 

Back in 2008, survivors and advocates called for changes within SBC to track sexual predators and to prevent congregations from protecting them, but the papers reported that "nearly every" one of those changes was rejected. The papers' investigation aimed to track abuse for the 10 years prior to and the 10 years after that change. 

The investigation also found that more than 100 Southern Baptists described as former youth pastors or youth ministers are either now in prison, are registered sex offenders or have been charged with sex crimes. 

Hillcrest Baptist Church in Austin organized an event Sunday allow a place to talk about concerns the articles brought up regarding other churches around the country.

Around 100 people attended. It was an opportunity for church leaders to communicate the policies that are already in place there to prevent abuse (criminal background checks, never allowing an adult to be alone with one child) and to answer questions about how to protect children and support survivors of abuse in the community. 

"Of course, for quite a number of years now we've heard about that as an issue and a challenge in Catholic churches," explained Hillcrest pastor Tom Goodman during the panel. But he added that with the Me Too movement shining a light on all kinds of allegations which were previously ignored, the congregation shouldn't be surprised by or disillusioned with the new information about abuse within the Southern Baptist Church.  

"When I first heard about this report coming out, I didn't think too much of it because I thought well, each Southern Baptist Church is independent, each church is self-governing and our church has had safety policies in place for a long long time to see to it that these types of traumatic experiences would not happen with our church," Goodman said. "But when I read the article and found out the extent of this problem, I decided we needed to talk about this, we needed to talk about this because if your coworkers or your friends aren't asking you about it yet, they will and you'll want to know how to speak about it in an informed way."

Goodman called the report documenting abuse by leaders and workers within the Southern Baptist Church "heartbreaking."

So he asked Anna Westbrook, one of the members of his church and a survivor of childhood sexual assault, to speak on the panel Sunday. 

As a child, Westbrook was a member of a Southern Baptist Church in Connecticut when she was abused by a volunteer at the church. Westbrook said her church removed her abuser and her family reported him to the police. But she said law enforcement didn't pursue the case and to her knowledge, her abuser has since moved on to an independent Baptist church. 

"I was grateful for the Houston Chronicle for bringing the issue to light and for leaders like the leaders of this church who reached out to me and asked for some manageable action steps," she said. 

Since her abuse, Westbrook has turned her focus to helping others prevent something similar. She has moved on to create "Isabel and the Runaway Train", a jazz/folk musical which works to make the subject of childhood abuse more approachable. 

At the panel she talked about the importance of community resources like SAFE Alliance and Texas and the importance of making sure that when survivors share stories of their abuse, that they are in a safe place and able to access the resources they need. 

She added that for parents hoping to protect their children from abuse, the best strategy isn't just having one conversation with them about the dangers of abuse, but rather having ongoing conversations with them about health and speaking up when they feel uncomfortable. 

"I am hoping that individuals who are worshiping in a Baptist church feel empowered to talk to their leaders about ways that they specifically can prevent abuse and that with that individual empowerment, further systematic change can happen," Westbrook said. 

Karen Oden, the Children's Minister at Hillcrest also spoke on the panel, offering advice for parents. 

"It's important because people aren't willing to talk about this in the church and for us to say, as a Baptist church, we know this is happening, and we know this needs to stop and it's only going to happen if we have this conversation, if we talk about it," Oden said. 

She suggested that parents hoping to talk to their kids about preventing abuse to approach the discussion as just "a normal conversation."

"Talk about it over dinner, talk about it in the car, make it an important conversation, it's not a weird scary thing, it's to support you, to protect you and we're talking about it because we want the best life for you," she said. 

"One of the most important things is telling your kids you have boundaries, you're allowed to say no, even though we're taught to respect our elders and respect adults," she said, adding that it is helpful to have adults model behavior for their children where they say no when they feel unsafe or uncomfortable. 

Anna Westbrook explained "there's not a lot of wins" for survivors of abuse, but for her, being part of that panel felt like a win. 

"It felt very validating and it felt like the church was choosing to empower a survivor and learn from a  survivor instead of covering this up," she said. 

Westbrook said following the panel, several relatives of survivors asked how they should talk with the people in their lives about the abuse. 

"I'm really very encouraged by the questions people were asking," she said. "Because they were focused on supporting survivors as opposed to being focused on the reputation of the church, which is exactly where the focus needs to be."

"I am hoping that community leaders are going to take advantage of the extensive response resources in Texas, " she said. "I hope they realize there are people who have been working in this field for years, all they have to do is ask for help."

Westbrook explained that on the Isabel and the Runaway Train website, there are community resources listed for survivors and those who love them. She hopes this project offers a platform to talk more about both mental health and sexual maltreatment.



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Police investigating alleged child abuse caught on camera

by Whitney Miller

COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX) – A mother's gut instinct has sparked a police investigation. Lynda Fuller says she saw a caregiver mistreating her child.

The alleged abuse was caught on a home security camera.

The College Station mom says she was shocked to see how aggressive her son's caregiver had become. The video shows a young man slamming down and throwing toys at her five-year-old son.

"With his hands slapping him in the back of the head, he throws things at him; he tosses him around a lot,” said Fuller.

She says her son needs around-the-clock care because he has a rare genetic disorder that makes it hard for him to see.

Fuller says the caregiver had been in the home for 30 days before she realized anything was happening. She says sometimes it occurred when she was at the house in another room.

"I watched for a little bit and I could see my son was in distress,” she said.

That day she walked in and confronted the man, she says he didn't offer up an explanation. But she says it was that encounter that made her think to check the video from the security camera.

"I needed to know what was going on. I needed to know what happened to my son because his behavior changed dramatically after this happened,” said Fuller.

Now she's warning all parents with cameras to trust their gut and check their tapes.

"You think that nobody will do anything because those cameras are up, but that is not true. They just don't think you are monitoring,” she said.

The caregiver has not been charged with a crime, but College Station police are currently investigating the claims and reviewing the case.



Director of Ogden treatment center charged with child abuse

by Pat Reavy

OGDEN — The director of a group home in Ogden has been charged with allegedly abusing one of the residents.

Allan David Falls, 38, of Lander, Wyoming, was charged Feb. 12 in Weber County Justice Court with child abuse, a class B misdemeanor.

On Jan. 26, a 16-year-old boy was in the dining room of Canyon River Ranch Group Home, 244 Ogden Canyon, arguing with another boy over rap music, according to charging documents. Falls told the boy to stop, the charges state.

"The victim told (Falls) to shut up and that he could do what he wanted," according to the charges.

According to a search warrant affidavit filed in 2nd District Court and unsealed over the weekend, "The victim felt like Allan was calling him out in front of the group home, so he and Allan got into a verbal argument."

Falls then pushed the teen off his chair, charging documents state.

"The victim advised he stood up and pushed Allan back and told him to get away," the warrant states.

"The victim then began to walk away, but threw a spoon at (Falls) over his shoulder as he left," the charges state.

Falls responded by grabbing the boy from behind and putting him in a headlock and holding him on the ground for about a minute, according to charging documents.

The boy received minor scratches from the scuffle. On Jan. 28, the boy told a counselor at his high school what had happened, who in turn told a school resource officer, the warrant states.

The manager of the treatment center contacted the Division of Child and Family Services about the confrontation, the warrant states, and was aware that law enforcement may be contacting them.

Administrators advised police that there was surveillance video of the alleged incident.

"From watching the video surveillance, (I) was able to see the footage corroborated the victim's account," the officer wrote in the warrant.

Canyon River's website bills itself as a place for helping juveniles with issues such as substance abuse, mental health conditions, criminal behaviors and eating disorders.

According to the website, Falls is the program director and has been with the group home since 2015.



Long before child abuse arrest, McKinney day care worker was a nurse accused of using patients' drugs

by LaVendrick Smith

Years before she was accused of abusing children at a day care, a McKinney woman lost her license as a labor and delivery unit nurse after she admitted she took drugs that were intended for patients.

Records show that Jessica Joy Wiese's nursing license was revoked in 2015 amid multiple allegations that she stole and used drugs while working at two North Texas health-care facilities.

Wiese, 44, is accused of abusing at least eight children at Joyous Montessori in McKinney. She remains in the Collin County Jail, with bail set at $550,000.

She was never charged in connection with the stolen drugs, and the day care center said she passed her pre-employment background checks.

Those checks would have omitted any mention of her troubled past as a nurse because the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which is responsible for the background checks, doesn't include professional license revocations in its findings, the agency says.

Kent W. Starr, Wiese's attorney, did not return multiple calls for comment.

Police say Wiese was arrested Dec. 3 after a 2-month-old suffered broken bones while in her care at Joyous Montessori.

She was fired from the day care after her arrest, and additional victims were revealed when police asked for concerned parents to come forward. Some of the abuse was documented on surveillance video that showed Wiese slamming children on changing tables, inflicting broken bones and bruises on some of them, police documents reveal.

After her arrest, the day care center released a written statement that indicated no red flags were raised before Wiese was hired.

“Unfortunately Jessica Joy Wiese passed all background checks and has no prior history which would lead us to believe she could be capable of something like this,” the statement said.

An employee at Joyous Montessori, who didn't provide a name, said that Wiese's background check didn't turn up problems related to her time as a nurse and that she wouldn't have been hired if she hadn't passed the background check.

According to the Texas Board of Nursing, Wiese lost her license after she admitted she misappropriated painkillers such as Percodan and Percocet while she was working at medical facilities in Frisco and Denton.

Wiese earned a degree in the mid-1990s from a college in Minnesota and became licensed to practice nursing in Texas in 1997, according to documents on file with the state nursing board.

From 1997 to 2007, she worked at Medical Center of Plano. She then moved to Baylor Medical Center in Frisco, where she worked in the labor and delivery unit until the first allegation was made against her.

In November 2012, she was accused of misappropriating drugs from patient accounts at Baylor and tested positive for controlled substances, according to the documents.

She left the center the next month. A few months later, in April 2013, she resumed work as a nurse, at Denton Regional Medical Center, documents show.

The next month, Wiese was accused again of misappropriating drugs that were intended for patients in the Denton Regional's labor and delivery unit.

It appears none of these instances was reported to law enforcement. Records show Wiese had a clean criminal record in Texas before her arrest in December, and officials with the Collin County Sheriff's Office, Denton police and Frisco police said they have no record of investigating Wiese either time she was accused of misappropriating drugs.

In September 2014, Wiese signed a confidential order in which she said her actions were influenced by a substance use disorder. She agreed to join the Texas Peer Assistance Program for Nurses to keep her license. The program provides assistance for nurses who may have substance addictions or mental health disorders.

“It is essential,” said Cindy Zolnierek, CEO of the Texas Nurses Foundation. “There's so much stigma around mental health and substance use disorders. It's time that we recognize these disorders as medical illnesses that people can recover from, just like you can recover from diabetes, or heart disease, or any other chronic illness or something that has to be managed.”

Certain factors such as access to drugs and stress can make nurses vulnerable to substance abuse, Zolnierek said, noting that nurses who enroll in the voluntary program usually participate for three years. They are monitored and given support so they can safely enter the workplace again, she said.

Wiese, however, failed to enroll in the program, according to documents. As a result, her nursing license was revoked in 2015 and her once-confidential order became available to the public.

That order and the allegations of misappropriation were probably unknown to law enforcement, however. Dusty Johnston, general counsel for the state Board of Nursing, said it's unlikely every investigation by the board that suggests misappropriation is forwarded to police.

“We enforce the Nursing Practice Act,” Johnston said. “We're not the local law enforcement authority who pursue criminal matters in the court system.”

When the board receives a complaint about a nurse, Johnston said, it is obligated to investigate and take proper action against a nurse's license. Punishments such as license revocation are required to be reported to a national database for nurses and a federal database for practitioners. Law enforcement agencies have access to those databases, but, Johnston said, "it would be their responsibility to look independently at those."

Disciplinary actions against a nurse's license are also reported to the federal and state health departments, Johnston said. But professional license revocation isn't noted on a background check by Texas' Health and Human Services Commission.

When someone applies to work in child care, the commission checks for a criminal record or any history of abuse or neglect, said John Reynolds, a spokesman for the commission.

“The status of professional licensure is not addressed in either check, so it would not appear in an employee background check,” Reynolds said in an email.

Even if the revoked license were mentioned in a background check, that doesn't mean background checks are without flaws, said Dianna Smoot, director of community education for the Dallas Children's Advocacy Center.

Smoot helps train thousands of people in child care to recognize signs of abuse, and said the work goes beyond passing a background check. Organizations that work in child services need strong policies as well, she said.

"Just because someone passed a background check does not mean your organization is safe," Smoot said. "There are other things that have to be put in place to back that up."

Wiese has been in jail for more than two months on multiple charges of causing injury to a child. Lawsuits have been filed by victims' parents against her and the company that owns the day care



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Law enforcement educates public on sex trafficking, child sex abuse

PORTLAND (WGME) -- Local law enforcement wan to put a stop to sexual abuse and exploitation of children, and Saturday night they reached out to the public for help.

The presentation at St. Pius Church in Portland included experts from Homeland Security, Cumberland County District Attorney Jonathan Sahrbeck and the Knights of Columbus.

They want to educate the public about the epidemic of sex trafficking and child sex abuse here in Maine and beyond.

Experts on the panel said one in five children is sexually abused.

"We believe prevention will be done through educating our community. I believe in the people in Maine," Stop Trafficking US Executive Director Catherine Wilson said.

"So the more we build awareness the more we can help people avoid being trapped in this life," Sahrbeck said.

Panelists want to raise awareness about sex trafficking and also help people better understand the issue as well as be able to spot it.


Los Angeles / Southern California

Experts are skeptical that a Trump border wall would reduce human trafficking


In President Trump's repeated calls for a border wall, he has recently turned his focus to the horrors of human trafficking along the southern border.

“Even one woman or one child trafficked is too many,” Trump said in a Feb. 1 speech at the White House. “But there are thousands and thousands and thousands…”

While a presidential platform is often appreciated on social issues, some trafficking victim advocates say the focus ignores the broader picture of trafficking in the United States.

“Claims that a wall will stop vast amounts of human trafficking are not only inaccurate and misleading,” Bradley Myles, chief executive of Polaris, a nonprofit organization that runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline, said in a statement, “they also harm our efforts to educate the public on the true nature of this crime.”

So what is the relationship between human trafficking and the border? And who are the people being trafficked in the United States?

It's not the easiest population to track, given the hidden, illicit nature of the business. There's also no single clearinghouse for tracking cases. But growing awareness, enforcement and research on the issue have provided some key insights into the situation.

Here is a look at how those findings match up with Trump's statements:

“Much of it comes — in fact, most of it comes — some people would say almost all of it — from the southern border …” (Trump, Feb. 1 speech on human trafficking)

That conclusion is not supported by several global and local organizations that track data on tens of thousands of human trafficking cases in the country. Instead, the data show that the majority of victims are born in the U.S.

Human trafficking is defined as the use of force, fraud or coercion against another person to perform labor, services or commercial sex acts. It sometimes goes hand-in-hand with human smuggling — the transportation of people illegally across borders — but oftentimes does not, the U.S. Department of Justice pointed out in a 2017 bulletin for prosecutors on human trafficking.

The U.S. Department of State's 2018 Trafficking in Persons report names the United States as the top country of origin of federally identified victims in fiscal 2017 followed by Mexico and Honduras. The report does not break down the ratios.

Of the callers into Polaris' national hotline whose nationalities are known — about 14,000 — the breakdown from 2015 to mid-2018 is a near equal distribution between U.S. citizens/legal permanent residents and foreign nationals, said spokesman Brandon Bouchard.

Of the foreigners, those from Mexico topped the list with more than 1,500, followed by the Philippines, Guatemala, China and Honduras.

The Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative, described as a global data hub on human trafficking, drills down similar findings by state. For instance, in California, 61% of the victims in the data set are U.S.-born, 8% Mexican and 7% Chinese.

According to the study co-written by Jamie Gates, director of the Center for Justice and Reconciliation at Point Loma Nazarene and a human trafficking researcher, with University of San Diego researcher Ami Carpenter in 2015, most of the sex trafficking in San Diego County involves American teenage girls and young women who are recruited where they spend much of their time — at school, the mall, trolley stops, on social media — by typically gang-involved “Romeos” who pretend they are romantically interested and eventually manipulate them into prostitution.

“Runaway and homeless youths — male, female, and transgender — are at particularly high risk for becoming victims, though some trafficked youths continue living at home and attending school,” according to the report “Human Trafficking in America's Schools” by the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments. “There is also a strong correlation between sexually exploited youths and childhood sexual abuse, chronic maltreatment and neglect, and otherwise unstable home environments.”

The study estimates an average of 5,000 trafficking victims in the San Diego County.

The San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force primarily works these domestic cases, with 18 detectives from 13 federal, state and local agencies. In San Diego, victim advocates are also seeing reverse trafficking — U.S. citizens, mostly teens, being taken to Tijuana, Rosarito and Ensenada, Mexico, for sexual exploitation.

“They can easily rent a house over there, do things in houses, then come back after the weekend,” said Marisa Ugarte, founder of the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition, a cross-border nonprofit organization based in San Diego.

“You can't take human traffic — women and girls — you can't take them through ports of entry. You can't have them tied up in the backseat of a car or a truck or a van. They open the door. They look. They can't see three women with tape on their mouth or three women whose hands are tied.” (Trump, Feb. 15, Rose Garden speech)

“Human trafficking by airplane is almost impossible. Human trafficking by van and truck, in the backseat of a car, and going through a border where there's nobody for miles and miles, and there's no wall to protect — it's very easy.” (Trump, Feb. 1)

Experts say violent kidnapping to transport victims across international lines happens.

But they add that the vast majority of international trafficking is done through psychological manipulation, fraud and coercion. Victims are isolated, demeaned, intimidated, made to feel dependent upon their traffickers and threatened with dire consequences if the victim tries to leave, according to the 2017 Department of Justice bulletin for prosecutors.

Many victims don't even realize they are being trafficked at first; they are willing participants on the journey, not aware of what lies ahead.

Experts say many of those traveling by air — notably those from Asian, Middle Eastern and African countries — are lured by a tactic known as “bait and switch.”

“People come under legal pretense with sponsors. Then a supposed work relationship turns into a coerced environment and into trafficking,” Gates said. “By far, that's the most common form of international trafficking we see.”

That tactic is frequently used to lure victims to do sex work in massage parlors, or to labor in nail salons, factories, restaurants, as home-health aides or domestic servants.

Worldwide, journeys for labor trafficking victims are more likely to go through official ports of entry, including airports, either with legal or fraudulent travel documents, according to data collected by the United Nations' International Organization for Migration over the past 10 years. Sex trafficking victims, and children, are more likely to enter at non-official crossings.

Airports around the world have recently begun to take the threat of human trafficking seriously, with many posting signs offering help to victims and a hotline number to call. At the San Diego International Airport, the signs are posted near screening points and in the international terminal.

Ugarte, who runs a shelter in San Diego County for foreign victims, said she has seen Filipino migrants trafficked in the healthcare industry, and she recently helped an Indonesian woman who was brought over for domestic servitude.

“I have a 60-year-old Chinese woman with me who doesn't speak a word of English,” she said. “They tell her to work at a massage parlor, force her to do ‘happy endings,' she says ‘no,' she goes hysterical. They take her papers away and pretend she never worked there.”



Will restorative justice help Indian sexual crime survivors where legal system lacks?

While restorative justice is still in its nascent stages in India, civil society workers practising its processes assert that it will only aid the Indian legal system, not circumvent it.

by Geetika Mantri

Sujatha Baliga remembers running away from home in rural Pennsylvania in the United States when she was 13. For a while she stayed with a teacher, who eventually brought her back home. The teacher made Sujatha and her parents sit at their dining table and said, “No one will interrupt each other; we are just going to answer the question: why does Sujatha want to run away from home?”

Sitting around the table, Sujatha remembers that her mother went on a tirade about how their daughter was a problem child. “I was a wild child… shaving half my head, wanting to be a typical American teenager who wanted a boyfriend and go to school dances and all. My mother did not like that, and was very strict,” Sujatha recalls. And when it was teenage Sujatha's turn to talk at that table, she looked her father in the eye and said, “I don't know, why don't you tell us? Why do you think I want to leave home?”

For years, her father had been sexually abusing her. And though Sujatha ultimately did not out him, the abuse stopped from that day.

That conversation, says Sujatha, was her first exposure to a restorative justice process, a model of justice based on listening, forgiveness and acceptance.

Restorative justice (RJ) shifts the way we look at crime -- as harm done to a person or a relationship as opposed to a violation of the law. Instead of punishment, it focuses on how the person who has done the harm can repair it.

Shortly after that dining table conversation, Sujatha's father took ill, and passed away when she was 16.

While Sujatha's mother eventually realised that the abuse was not her daughter's fault, she initially felt that her husband had fallen sick due to the stress of being found out. “We always find a way to blame the victim, don't we?” remarks Sujatha.  

“But even if that was the reason for his illness and ultimately death, I wish that he had a better coping mechanism. I wish he was alive and I could have asked him, ‘What happened to you that you did that to me?'” Sujatha says.

What is restorative justice?

RJ processes can take many forms - it could be a victim-offender dialogue, like the one Sujatha wished to have with her father; a restorative circle, where people can address a number of things like impact of the harm on those involved as well as their families and the community and what needs to be done to set things right. The idea of restorative justice is to listen, find validation, support and ultimately take a step towards healing, as opposed to punitive measures.

In 2015, Sujatha founded Impact Justice, a non-profit organisation in the US which focuses on restorative justice. Sujatha was in Bengaluru in the third week of January for a training session on ‘harm circles' with a few Indian organisations that are using restorative processes with children who have survived sexual violence and with children in conflict with law. Experts say restorative justice processes, when facilitated by trained professionals to aid the legal system in India, have helped both survivors and offenders in a way the criminal justice system never allowed them to.

According to the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP), the concept emerged in the 1970s in Ontario, Canada. However, the practice of "peace circles" by indigenous communities, a precursor to RJ processes, is deeply rooted in Native American history.

Due to RJ's success and positive response from victims, it became popular in North America and Europe in the 1980s and 1990s. Over time, RJ broadened to include families and communities on the sides of victims and offenders as well, and developed several techniques like restorative circles, conferencing and victim-offender dialogue.

Facilitating RJ processes requires time, patience, trust building and formulating a set of common values for all parties involved, Sujatha says. And though it may involve a face-to-face meeting between a person who has caused the harm to the person who they have harmed, it is not a mediation - the needs of the person who has been harmed are always at the core.

Restorative justice processes and how they work

The fundamental bedrock of restorative justice is that crime and harm are violations of people and interpersonal relationships, rather than law, Sujatha explains. “Even if that relationship was developed at the moment of injury, as in the case of stranger violence,” she says. “These violations create obligations, and the central obligation is to set right what you have done wrong. And that family and community are also required to help heal the harm,” Sujatha adds.

RJ can work through many processes. One such process is restorative circle, which Swagata Raha, a legal researcher and a consultant on RJ processes with Enfold Trust, an NGO which works on issues of gender and sexuality with emphasis on child sexual abuse, has been trained.

She explains that there are different kinds of restorative circles – listening circles, harm circles, grieving circles, reintegration circles and so on. Essentially, everyone sits in a circle, and the circle facilitator guides the participants with a question; the facilitator does not control the circle. In sequential restorative circles, a ‘talking piece' is passed from one person to the next and no one speaks out of turn, allowing for active listening and preventing back and forth argument.

There are other methods too, like the conferencing method, where the facilitator plays a larger role by deciding who will speak when. Another method is the Family Group Conference, where the idea is to empower family support groups to make decisions that would otherwise have been made by professionals, IIRP says.

Sujatha's organisation trains and helps NGOs, which work with cases that come through the legal system. They spend weeks working with the person who has done harm “to help them develop a sense of accountability, remorse, identify their own needs in order to repair the harm,” she says. Then, they work extensively with the crime victim. “The person who has been harmed puts forth what they want, and a plan is formulated that has four parts – doing right by the person who has been harmed, doing right by your parents, by your community and doing right by yourself,” she explains

While several organisations practice RJ in the US, the concept is very new in India. Only a handful of organisations – Enfold Trust, Ashiyana Foundation, Counsel to Secure Justice and Leher – are using RJ practices, apart from a few individuals. And due to the difference in legal frameworks, RJ practitioners are looking to aid the legal system than posit it as an alternative, as is the case in the US.

In India, organisations largely use circles. For instance, Ashiyana Foundation, which operates majorly in Mumbai and works with children in the state observation homes, has been using restorative circles since 2015. The year was an important one for those working in child welfare – in May, the Lok Sabha passed the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 which allowed for children between the ages of 16 and 18 who had committed heinous offences to be tried as adults.

“It was this push towards more punitive measures that compelled the child rights community to look for alternatives, because criminalisation and increasing the punishment were not working,” says Nimisha Srivastava, who heads the restorative justice program at Delhi-based Counsel to Secure Justice (CSJ).

The impact of restorative practices in India

Though it's early days, practitioners say that the impact of RJ processes has been profound.

Sachi Maniar, director of the Ashiyana Foundation, recalls that in 2015, at an observation home they were working in, out of the 20 children who were there for heinous offences, 12 cases got transferred to sessions court. Ashiyana started doing restorative circles with them.

“In a forgiveness circle we did, one thing that came up was that while they could forgive those who had harmed them, they could not forgive themselves for the harm they had done and the hurt they had caused to their parents. The bonding inside the home increased. In a listening circle, one child expressed the desire to study. Because we got him enrolled, the others were also interesting and so we started an education program for all of them. There was an increase in their social and emotional skills. And instead of just being a place to lock up children in conflict with law, the home started becoming a place of transformation,” Sachi narrates.

While Ashiyana's experience showed how transformative restorative justice processes could be for those who have done harm, the experience of Counsel to Secure Justice showed how it could help fulfil survivors' needs where the criminal justice system was lacking.

Urvashi Tilak, research and systems change manager at CSJ, notes that for survivors of child sexual abuse (CSA), many of them felt that their needs weren't met even after their abusers were convicted. “Especially in cases of incest, when we spoke to survivors, they talked about how there was so much brokenness in the family, and their family was not supportive of them having reported the abuse,” she says.

In 2016, CSJ attended a workshop on RJ conducted by Sujatha in India, and got acquainted with restorative justice concept and processes. They also decided to interview families of CSA survivors and also adult survivors of CSA, to understand what justice meant to them. Adult survivors had never reported their abusers, but wanted a sense of closure.

It was during these interviews that CSJ also got the idea of doing re-entry circles with families. “When children who have been harmed are placed back with their families after being in shelter homes, no one really talks about the abuse. The survivor's needs are unmet and they still feel unacknowledged by their families. This circle would help the families understand the survivors' needs,” Urvashi explains.

Some adult survivors CSJ interviewed also expressed a desire to meet with their abusers and for them to acknowledge the harm they had done. However, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act does not allow for the same. In India therefore, the restorative justice processes so far are not alternatives to legal redressal as in the US, but simply support the legal system and in rehabilitation of those who have been harmed and those who have done harm.

Those who practice restorative processes in India say that the system is still building muscle and they are working to demonstrate to the authorities how this can work, before it can be institutionalised.

Why restorative justice?

A number of studies have shown that children in conflict with law come from difficult backgrounds. For instance, in a survey of 500 people who have been on the US sex offenders' registry since they were juveniles found that they had all had interventions from child protection services previously, Sujatha says.

This was observed by Indian social workers as well. For instance, Ashiyana did a training in restorative circles with children in conflict with the law at a state observation home. Sachi says they also asked members of the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) members to be part of the circle as well.  

“Everyone sat in a circle on the floor. We asked who inspires them. The JJB members had answers, but none of the children did, except maybe one or two who said their mothers or uncles,” Sachi recounts.

“Then, we asked when you committed a mistake, who was that person in your life that helped you come back on the right track? It became so clear that the JJB members could easily have been the ones in the observation homes had they not had the support they did as children, which these children in the observation homes clearly didn't,” she adds.

The power of restorative circles, observes Kushi Kushalappa of Enfold Trust, is that in a circle, children in conflict with law are not seen as offenders. “When he or she is speaking, everyone listens. The validation and importance that person feels in that space cannot be replaced,” she says.

As Sujatha observes, it is hurt people who often hurt other people. She explains that when a person who has done the harm is confronted with punishment, they make themselves the victim of the system, and of the person accusing them. “If we treat people as humans who make mistakes, then we can have a possibility for reparation,” she says. “People can't talk about how they have done harm unless we give them a chance to say how they have been harmed.”

In one murder case, Sujatha spent two months building trust with the person who had shot his girlfriend, before starting the restorative process. “It was just questions like, which book are you reading? How is jail treating you? If I approached him with an accusation of having killed his girlfriend, a wall would have gone up,” she says.

RJ processes are particularly helpful when in cases of sexual offences where the harm is done by someone who is trusted and close. In India, in 95% of the cases, perpetrators of child sexual abuse are known to the survivors – and this, Sujatha observes, is a pattern that is seen world over.

In these situations, reporting the abuse becomes difficult because of the personal relationship shared by the survivor, their family and the perpetrator. Sujatha says that she too would not have reported her father. “You could say it's because of internalised misogyny, but it could also be because of normal human connection with our parents,” Sujatha says earnestly. “He sexually abused me, but he celebrated when I got good grades. He drove me to violin lessons, and came to my performances. It was complicated.”

Precautions and challenges to restorative justice in India

With RJ being very new in India, there are several challenges before it can be used in a big way to reform young offenders as well as survivors.

It's important to understand what restorative justice is not, experts say. “Restorative justice is not about compromise, it isn't mediation and it is not about brokering a settlement,” Swagata asserts. “It is not about bringing the victim and perpetrator together and asking the victim to forgive and forget. This brokering and compromising is happening already – you see how many victims and witnesses turn hostile in courts because they have been offered a monetary compromise or are pressured in some other way. On the contrary, restorative justice is about ensuring that the questions of the person who has been harmed are answered. The person who has harmed has to accept complete responsibility – there is no minimising, defending or justifying.”

“It is completely rights based. If at any time a survivor feels that the process is not working for them, she can opt out and go for the legal route,” Swagata adds.

It is also crucial that RJ processes be undertaken only by people who are trained. If not done properly or without keeping in mind the survivor's rights, it can re-traumatise them and do more harm than good.

Another misconception about RJ processes, Kushi says, is that perpetrators are being let off easily without punishment. But RJ practitioners insist that the accountability is real. “Sitting in front of the person they have harmed and saying, ‘I am taking responsibility for my actions and want to repair the harm I've done', is much tougher than standing in a witness box and having a third person speak for you,” she argues.

Restorative justice and navigating the Indian legal system

Other challenges to RJ are posed by the existing legal framework. For instance, POCSO mandates that a sexual crime against a child be mandatorily reported under section 19 of the Act. That being the case, accessing RJ options becomes a challenge for those who do not want to report sexual abuse or enter the criminal justice system, Swagata explains.

Incidentally, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act has a provision for creating a diversion under section 3(xv) where measures can be taken for dealing with children in conflict with the law without resorting to judicial proceedings unless it is in the best interest of the child and the society. However, Swagata says that this is not followed as such. “The most that is done is that a child who has committed a petty crime is given a warning by the police and let off. However, if that child is repeatedly committing petty crimes, it shows that there is a bigger problem,” she adds.

In India therefore, this diversion exists only for petty crimes, unlike in the US and UK where restorative processes can also be used in cases of heinous offences. “If we want to use RJ in cases of heinous crimes here, we will have to wait for the legal process to get over, or work with the JJBs to allow for group counselling where RJ processes can be taken up,” Swagata explains.

Reiterating that they are only trying to aid the legal system and not sidestep it, Swagata also cautions that it can be problematic to have RJ processes in sub-judice cases because of fair trial standards and the emotional ramifications for the survivor. What is said in a RJ process cannot be used against the person who caused harm during inquiry or trial.  “For a person to admit their guilt and their obligation in the RJ process and then go to court to defend themselves is extremely confusing and difficult for the survivor,” she says.

There is also the challenge of scalability of RJ processes at this stage. Kushi suggests that one way to aid scalability is to introduce restorative circles in institutions like schools and children's homes.

“Guidelines will emerge with practice. We are working on using restorative justice processes alongside the legal system right now,” Swagata says.

It is important to keep in mind for people practicing RJ processes in cases of child sexual abuse that power dynamics can come into play if there is, say, a huge age difference between the abuser and the child. “In such a case, the child's parents or other family members can be part of the restorative proceedings rather than the child,” Swagata says.  

Limitations of restorative justice

Restorative justice departs from the more popular alternative of retributive justice, reflected in the recently proposed amendments to POCSO. These amendments, if passed, will allow death to be awarded for violent sexual crimes on children, as well as increased minimum punishment for certain offences under the Act. However, there is very little evidence to suggest these measures – which may cathartic for public anger – are effective in preventing such crimes, or even satisfying the survivors.

On the contrary, restorative justice processes from across the world have proven to have a more success in reducing recidivism as well as satisfying victims. For instance, Sujatha says that at Impact Justice in the US, they have shown a 44% reduction in recidivism, and a 91% victim satisfaction rate. “It is making communities safer, it is making victims happier and it is being done at a fraction of the cost,” she says.

However, critics of RJ point out that there are some limitations to the model. This Canadian research paper talks about while survivors may be happy with the agreements reached in the RJ processes, the question remains if they are appropriately compensated or if it's more tokenistic in nature, like community service.

Critics also argue that offenders may feign empathy and remorse to get away without punishment – although that seems unlikely in India at this point, given that organisations are trying to work with the legal system and not position RJ as an alternative.