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"News of the Week"  

February 2019 - Week 3
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.

Sex Trafficking

It's not just the Florida spa investigation allegedly tied to Robert Kraft. Sex trafficking is rampant across US

by Ryan W. Miller

While charges against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft for soliciting prostitution brought national attention to the issue of sex trafficking on Friday, data, expert opinion and cases from around the USA show how widespread the problem is.

Sex trafficking accounted for 6,081 of the more than 8,500 reported cases of human trafficking in the United States in 2017, according to statistics from the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

There is no official estimate of the total number of human trafficking victims in the U.S. Polaris, a non-profit that operates the hotline on human trafficking, estimates that the total number of victims nationally reaches into the hundreds of thousands when estimates of both adults and minors and sex trafficking and labor trafficking are aggregated.

Illicit massage or spa businesses, similar to the ones in the Florida case, were the top location or industry where sex trafficking occurred in 2017, with 714 reported cases, according to the hotline's data.

More than 9,000 illicit massage businesses operate in every state around the country, bringing in a stunning $2.5 billion each year, according to estimates in a 2018 report by Polaris on trafficking in these businesses.

"It's not accurate to understand these cases as local," Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris, told USA TODAY on Friday. "The places are being overlooked and underestimated."

Characteristics of the average illegal spa that Polaris details fit with how prosecutors described ones in Florida.

Ten spas were shut down in Orlando, Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast after a several months of investigation revealed women there were in "sexual servitude," according to arrest records.

At Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida, where Kraft allegedly paid for sexual services, women – many of them from China – lived in the spa and were not permitted to leave, according to Martin County Sheriff Will Snyder. 

Kraft, who has been charged but not arrested, denied the allegation. He is one of hundreds of alleged clients facing charges in the recent Florida stings.

Like some of the spas that allegedly engaged in sex trafficking in Florida, the average illicit massage business is connected to at least one other, according to Polaris.

Myles said most are tied to larger criminal networks that have links to the countries where many of the women at the spas are from. Many of the women are coerced to work in the businesses and often earn no wages and have no autonomy, Myles said.

"These girls are there all day long, into the evening. They can't leave and they are performing sex acts," Vero Beach police Chief David Currey said of the investigation. "Some of them may tell us they're OK, but they're not."

Beyond sex-trafficking at just massage spas, the United States prosecutes hundreds of cases each year and wins scores of convictions on charges of trafficking with respect to slavery and sex trafficking of children by force, fraud or coercion, according to an analysis of federal records by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

In fiscal year 2018, 189 cases resulted in convictions, according to TRAC's data. 

Here's a look at how sex trafficking has affected areas across the country:

'Mecca of sex trafficking'

In March last year, a report estimated  340 young adults and children have been victims of sex trafficking in Milwaukee in a four-year period. 

"We've heard from different sources that we're the mecca of sex trafficking, but we need to be able to measure that," Mallory O'Brien, director of the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission, which participated in the report, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at the time.

"This was our opportunity to do that," she said.

Research found 340 people ages 25 and younger who were confirmed or believed to have been victims of sex trafficking in Milwaukee between Jan. 1, 2013, and Dec. 31, 2016. 

Overall in Wisconsin, child welfare workers confirmed 99 incidents of children and youth sex trafficking statewide from June 2017 through August, 2018, the state Department of Children and Families said in January.

Backpage and effects of its shutdown

The CEO and co-founder of, Carl Ferrer, pleaded guilty in April to charges of facilitating prostitution and money laundering after the Justice Department seized the controversial online classifieds site. 

The website's other co-founders Michael Lacey and James Larkin, as well as five other executives, faced 93 charges involving facilitating prostitution through the Backpage site and money laundering. 

While some praised Backpage's demise as a blow to an abusive industry, sex workers across the United States and Canada swarmed social media to air concerns rarely heard in political discourse: To them, Backpage's demise meant the end of safeguards and a reliable revenue stream in a profession that's not going anywhere.

“They're devastated,” Laura Dilley, executive director of PACE, a Vancouver-based non-profit that advocates for decriminalizing prostitution, told the Arizona Republic in April.

While many sex workers said they would keep posting on smaller websites, they also worried about the future.

"There's a lot of uncertainty; a lot of grief and fear," Jelena Vermilion, a sex worker based outside of Toronto told the Arizona Republic in April. "A lot of people are essentially planning to be homeless, planning how to fall gracefully as much as possible."

On the flip side, Backpage's shutdown affected law enforcement trying to help victims of sex trafficking.

Before Backpage was terminated, Cpl. Chris Heid could locate sex trafficking victims exclusively on the website. 

Backpage was responsive to the Maryland State Police corporal's requests for records and his agency's warrants and subpoenas. When he asked the site to remove advertisements he determined were trafficking-related, moderators complied – sometimes within minutes. 

While anti-trafficking operations by Maryland State Police yielded three more arrests in 2018 (when Backpage was seized) than the year prior, the number of victims police came in contact with dropped 38 percent, from 113 in 2017 to 70 last year, the Salisbury Daily Times reported in February.

'There's a place for them. They just don't know it yet'

Opened in February 2018, Sanctum House became the first human trafficking shelter of its kind in southeastern Michigan.

Survivors who come to live there enter a two-year program that includes drug and alcohol rehabilitation as well as education, counseling, job training and support.

Speaking with the Detroit Free Press, founder Edee Franklin described human trafficking as a snare of tiny strings that pulls victims back again and again. 

One by one, she's trying to snip those strings to free women who want to get out, but have yet to find a way because they don't have a safe place to live or are without access to drug or alcohol rehab, financial security, job training or an education. 

"There are women out there right now that are being raped and brutalized and they are saying, 'Dear God, get me out of this.' And there's a place for them. They just don't know it yet," Franklin said in December 2017. 

"Somebody is going to say to them – whether it's at the jail or the ER or the judge – somebody is going to say: 'Well, you can go to a three-night shelter or you can go to jail or you can go to a detox for three weeks. You can go back to your pimp, you can go to the streets or to your abusive family or you can go to Sanctum House if you would like to change your life."

Need help? See something?

The National Human Trafficking Hotline is confidential, toll-free and available 24/7 in more than 200 languages.

  • Call: 1-888-373-7888

  • Text: “BeFree” (233733)

  • Chat:



R. Kelly remains in jail on criminal sex-abuse charges, unable to post $100K bail yet

by Bryan Alexander and Sara M Moniuszko

R. Kelly remained behind bars Sunday, two days after being charged with aggravated criminal sexual abuse against four people Friday, unable as of yet to post $100,000, or 10 percent of his $1 million bond required for release.100,000 bail required for his release.

Records on the website for the Cook County Sheriff's Office show that the 52-year-old singer is still in custody and has a court hearing scheduled for Monday.  At that time, a judge will be assigned to his case and he'll have the opportunity to enter a plea, reported The Chicago Tribune's Megan Crepeau and City Bureau's  Kim Bellware. 

Kelly's defense attorney, Steve Greenberg, did not immediately respond to a request from USA TODAY as to whether or when he might make bail.  However, he told a judge that the singer's finances are "a mess" during the singer's bond hearing on Saturday.

That judge happened to be John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr., the same jurist who presided over "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett's bond hearing earlier this week.

During the hearing, Greenberg denied Kelly was a flight risk, saying, "Contrary to the song, Mr. Kelly doesn't like to fly," paraphrasing the lyrics of Grammy-award winner's hit "I Believe I Can Fly."

Lyke called the allegations against Kelly "disturbing" and said the bail amount equals $250,000 for each of the four people Kelly is charged with abusing. The singer stared at the floor as the judge spoke.

A prosecutor told the judge Kelly met with one of the people he's charged with sexually abusing during his 2008 child pornography trial. The accuser gave law enforcement a shirt that had Kelly's DNA on it, the prosecutor said.

Kelly, who was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008, has consistently denied any sexual misconduct.

Some of the charges stem from a  newly discovered video found by attorney Michael Avenatti  that allegedly shows Kelly having sex with a 14-year-old girl, according to a copy of the indictment obtained by USA TODAY.

Kelly, 52, surrendered to police at 8:15 p.m. Friday night, hours after being charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.


When Male Rape Victims Are Accountable for Child Support

The best interest of the child is still the court's number one priority.

by Robert T Muller Ph.D.

When Shane Seyer was 12, he was sexually exploited by his 16-year-old babysitter Colleen Hermesmann. She became pregnant with Seyer's child in 1989 and was charged with statutory rape shortly afterward. Instead of being convicted of rape, Hermesmann was declared a juvenile offender under the non-sexual offense of “contributing to child misconduct.” Seyer was subsequently court-ordered to pay child support.

In 1993, at the age of 15, Seyer appealed this decision to the Kansas Supreme Court, arguing he should not be liable for these payments. He maintained that his babysitter (Hermesmann) took advantage of him sexually when he was too young to give consent.

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled against him. The judgment stated that because Seyer initially consented to the sexual encounters and never told his parents what was happening, he was responsible for supporting the child.

This court case set a precedent for male rape victims to make child-support payments. The financial needs of the children outweigh the court's interest in deterring sexual crimes against male minors, even if statutory rape is the cause of conception.

More recently, in 2014, Nick Olivas of Arizona was forced to pay over $15,000 in back-payments to a woman who had sex with him when he was 14. She was 20 years old at the time. Commenting on the Olivas case and others like it, Mel Feit, director of the New York-based advocacy group the National Center for Men, told the Arizona Republic newspaper:

“To hold him unresponsible for the sex act, and to then turn around and say we're going to hold him responsible for the child that resulted from that act is off-the-charts ridiculous… it makes no sense.”

Peter Pollard, a co-founder of 1in6, an organization designed to help male assault survivors, explained in an interview with the Good Men Project why we downplay the severity of male sexual assault:

"We're all raised in a culture that says boys are always supposed to initiate and enjoy a sexual experience and males are never supposed to see themselves or be seen as victims. The easiest default is to blame the victim, to say ‘he wanted it,' ‘he must have chosen that.'”

These attitudes toward male sexual assault are apparent even in the way these men are treated during their court cases.

In 1996, the court heard the case of County of San Luis Obispo v. Nathaniel J in which a 34-year-old woman became pregnant after sexually exploiting a 15-year-old boy. He was also forced to pay child support, and then Deputy Attorney General Mary Roth alleged:

“I guess he thought he was a man then. Now, he prefers to be considered a child.”

Some professionals, such as Mary Koss from the University of Arizona, who published the first national rape study in 1987, even argued that men and boys cannot be raped by women. In a radio interview, Koss stated:

“How would [a man being raped by a woman] happen… how would that happen by force or threat of force or when the victim is unable to consent? How does that happen? I would call it ‘unwanted contact.'”

Research indicates, however, that men can be stimulated and achieve an erection in times of fear and terror, despite not being aroused. Studies range from cases where men report arousal during assault, to scientific experiments that find men have erections under many non-sexual circumstances, including when they are unconscious.

In her research, Myriam Denov, a professor at McGill University who holds the Canada Research Chair in Youth, Gender and Armed Conflict, asserted:

“The professional assumption that sexual abuse by women is less harmful than similar abuse by men has potentially dangerous implications for [male] victims of sexual abuse. If professionals fail to recognize sexual abuse by women as potentially serious and harmful, child protection plans will not be made.”

She goes on to say that, as a result, the experiences of male victims who come forward to disclose sexual abuse by women may be trivialized. These misconceptions can lead to delayed referral to social services or failure to provide victims with the care and support they require.

Until the idea that women cannot rape men and other rape myths are dispelled, cases where victims are misunderstood and mistreated, and even made to pay child support to their former abusers, are likely to continue.



Pope Compares Child Sexual Abuse to Human Sacrifice

by Sabina Castelfranco

ROME, ITALY —  Pope Francis has compared the sexual abuse of children to human sacrifice.

"I am reminded of the cruel religious practice, once widespread in certain cultures, of sacrificing human beings - frequently children - in pagan rites," Francis said Sunday.

He was speaking at the close of the summit of the church's top bishops and leaders, called to design a plan on how to deal with the predatory priests who have sexually abused children and adults for decades.

AFP, the French news agency, reports that the bishops were given a "roadmap" on how to stop the predatory priests that included "drawing up mandatory codes of conduct for priests, training people to spot abuse, and informing police."

Mark Coleridge, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference warned the gathered Catholic clergy and leaders that "We do not have forever, and we dare not fail" as they go back to their dioceses and navigate dealing with reports of abuse.

"We have shown too little mercy," Coleridge warned, "and therefore we will receive the same."

Worldwide sexual abuse by priests

The reports of worldwide sexual abuse by priests have rocked the Roman Catholic Church.

"We will do all in our power to make sure that the horrors of the past are not repeated," Coleridge said.

On Saturday, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, in an extraordinary admission, said that "files that could have documented the terrible deeds and named those responsible were destroyed, or not even created."

Sister Veronica Openibo, a Nigerian nun, addressed the group Saturday: "We must acknowledge that our mediocrity, hypocrisy and complacency have brought us to this disgraceful and scandalous place we find ourselves as a Church. We pause to pray, Lord have mercy on us."

She told the summit; "Too often we want to keep silent until the storm has passed. This storm will not pass by. Our credibility is at stake."


2 Religious Conferences

Pope Francis Calls To Fight Sex Abuse; United Methodists Debate LGBTQ Issues

NPR's Michel Martin speaks with Washington Post religion reporter Julie Zauzmer about two major religious conferences held this weekend.

Heard on NPR's 'All Things Considered'


Two major faith groups gathered this weekend to discuss what could be sweeping reform. At the Vatican, Catholic leaders wrapped up a four-day summit on clerical sex abuse. And in St. Louis, leaders of the United Methodist Church, one of the country's largest Protestant denominations, held a conference on LGBTQ clergy and same-sex weddings. Together, they represent more than 1 billion worshippers around the world, and the outcomes could have significant implications for how congregants view church leadership. To walk us through what happened, we've invited Washington Post religion reporter Julie Zauzmer. She's with us now in our studios in Washington, D.C.

Welcome. Thank you for joining us.

JULIE ZAUZMER: Thanks so much for having me.

MARTIN: So let's start first with the Vatican summit on child sex abuse that started on Thursday. What's happened since then?

ZAUZMER: It's been an intense few days - 190 Catholic leaders from the church around the world discussing the problem of sexual abuse and what to do about it. They're wrapping up without very many concrete suggestions but a lot of bishops promising to go back home and come up with solutions in their own countries.

MARTIN: Well, you know, well, Pope Francis called for a, quote, "all-out battle on clerical sex abuse." So what did that actually mean? I take it he's getting very mixed reactions.

ZAUZMER: Yes. He gave his address this morning, which would have been the time to declare specific policies that he's changing. And he did not do that. At the beginning of this summit, he distributed a list of 21 suggestions he has for concrete reforms or discussion points for how to get to those reforms. The bishops are going to take those home. But this did not result in a worldwide policy change.

MARTIN: Do you have any sense of why? I know that this is all very new, and these remarks were just delivered. But given how high the expectations were for this meeting, this seems like a very oddly ambiguous conclusion. Is there any sense of why?

ZAUZMER: I think he knew all along that they weren't going to be able to reach something that - a solution that works for the entire world in a four-day meeting. He had said beforehand, lower your expectations. If you look at the United States, the United States is a very good example here of a region-specific goal where back in November, the U.S. bishops all got together, and they wanted to address the question of accountability of bishops. If a bishop does something wrong, what do you do about that?

That's not the question in other parts of the world. In some parts of the world, the question is child marriage, for example. There are very different goals when it comes to sexual abuse in different countries. And the U.S. bishops are basically leaving at the same place where they came in. They're leaving with a statement today saying, OK. We had a good meeting. We're going to meet again in June, and we're going to deal with bishop accountability because that's what we wanted to do all along. I think a lot of the bishops are returning to their home countries to deal with their specific issues.

MARTIN: So now let's go to St. Louis, where leaders of the United Methodist Church are deciding whether to permit openly LGBTQ clergy and same-sex weddings. And obviously, this is a very complicated issue. There are lots of different proposals on the table. But briefly, could you tell us what's the status quo? Because I think people know that in some parts of the country, there are LGBTQ clergy. There are same-sex weddings performed. In other parts of the country, not. What's the discussion here - whether to create a national standard, an international standard?

ZAUZMER: Exactly. If you read the United Methodist Church "Book Of Discipline," the letter of the law right now says no gay clergy, no gay weddings. Of course, as you said, there are bishops across the United States who pretty openly ignore that, and there are plenty of gay clergy in the United Methodist Church who perform plenty of gay weddings. The question is - it's not sustainable. The question is, what are they going to do going forward? And the big question is, should they split the church?

MARTIN: What are the different options that they're considering?

ZAUZMER: There are several options which they can modify as they go. One option is to keep their traditional straight couples only definition of marriage and indeed double down on that and punish congregations that don't obey it. A second option is to split the church into three separate denominations - one that affirms LGBT people, one that doesn't and one that lets each church decide for themselves. A third option is to let each church decide for itself worldwide. A fourth option that is somewhat on the table is to remove the language entirely about the morality of same-sex marriage, thereby sort of tacitly saying that we do approve of this and that this is a positive good for our church.

MARTIN: Do you have any sense of where this debate is going? And I apologize if I'm asking you to speculate.

ZAUZMER: I think that there is tremendous desire to get through this meeting with an answer. They've been putting off this question for a long time. There are a lot of Methodist leaders who want to by Tuesday night have a real solution. What that solution's going to be - I think a very popular plan is the - called the one church plan, where they would remain united but would allow each individual local congregation to just choose for themselves whether to do gay weddings and whether to ordain gay clergy, so they stay a denomination without really reaching an answer on the morality of this. But there's obviously other plans that are drastically different.

MARTIN: So, finally, do you see any kind of overlap here in terms of how these religious groups' polities are dealing with these issues?

ZAUZMER: I think this week is a very good reminder for me and probably for many others who follow the religion world fairly closely that these institutions still matter - that we talk a lot about people becoming less affiliated and finding their own spirituality. When you see these huge, very institutional, very rigid organized meetings of the leaders of the Catholic Church, of the Methodist Church, you remember that policy still shapes people's lives, that the policies that come out of these very organized, systematic meetings are going to determine how a victim of sexual abuse in a country where there's no process for reporting that abuse - how that victim can come forward. These policies are going to determine whether people can get married in the churches they love and grew up in. These institutions still shape our day-to-day existence.

MARTIN: That's Julie Zauzmer, religion reporter for The Washington Post.

Julie, thank you so much.

ZAUZMER: Thank you.



California bill would require Catholic priests to report child sex abuse revealed in confession

by Caleb Parke

California state lawmakers are introducing a bill that would strip priests of their legal protection for the Catholic Church's sacrament of confession when it comes to child sexual abuse.

The "Removing Clergy Exemption from Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting" bill, introduced Wednesday by Democratic State Sen. Jerry Hill, removes an exemption in the state's "mandated reporter" law that allows all members of the clergy to withhold knowledge of suspected child abuse from law enforcement if that information is obtained during a "penitential communication," such as Catholic confession.

Priests are just one category of professionals required by state law to notify law enforcement about suspected abuse, but unlike teachers and therapists, clergy members have an exception if they learn about the suspected abuse during confession.

"The law should apply equally to all professionals who have been designated as mandated reporters of these crimes — with no exceptions, period," Hill said in a statement. "The exemption for clergy only protects the abuser and places children at further risk."

This comes as Catholic bishops from around the world are meeting at the Vatican in an effort to put an end to the problem of clergy sexual abuse.

The Golden State will be debating the right to private penance versus a desire to protect children, as both sides make their moral arguments.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has announced an investigation into clergy sex abuse, calling for victims to come forward.

The California Catholic Conference came out against the proposed legislation.

“Inserting government into the Confessional does nothing to protect children and everything to erode the fundamental constitutional rights and liberties we enjoy as Americans,” Steve Pehanich, director of communications and advocacy for the California Catholic Conference, told the Los Angeles Times.

According to the National Catholic Reporter, the seal of confession is considered sacred and “any priest who directly betrays a penitent would incur an immediate and automatic excommunication."

Father John Landry of Massachusetts, who said a priest must honor the seal of confession “even if he's threatened with imprisonment, torture or death," decried the international effort.

California is the latest in a growing number of states to mandate that priests report child sexual abuse to law enforcement, no matter how they learn of it. Connecticut, Indiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia all have similar statutes in place.

“Like the ancient Roman emperors used to try to break young Christian virgins by threatening to expose them to brothels if they didn't capitulate to their whims," Landry wrote in the National Catholic Register, "so still today some leaders and governments try to break priests' fidelity by forcing them to violate the confessional seal.”



God's Work Against Child Abuse Will Be Done By States, Not The Vatican

by Rich Barlow

The moral order has flipped upside down when civil authorities must force religious leaders to honor the Eighth Commandment against lying. Yet we are in such a Bizarro World, as I learned after my native New Jersey was among a half dozen states to investigate Catholic dioceses, following Pennsylvania's searing catalog of decades of abuse of 1,000 children by hundreds of priests.

In the wake of Jersey's probe, Catholic dioceses in the state recently released the names of priests credibly accused of abuse. Monsignor Thomas J. Frain, pastor of my childhood parish, was among them. (He, like many on the list, is deceased.) Though the nature of his abuse and age of his victim(s) weren't specified — priests have preyed on adults, including nuns, as well as kids — I thank God that neither my brother nor I were ever altar boys or left alone with him.

I mention this by way of suggesting, as a practicing Catholic, that attention to the just-ended Vatican summit on child abuse is misplaced. If it's church reform you want, turn your gaze from Rome to U.S. states, where law enforcement, having lost patience with Catholic leaders (as have we in the laity), have started probing abuse.

Post-Pennsylvania, New Jersey was joined by New York, Nebraska, Illinois, Nevada and Missouri in hitting bishops with subpoenas or demands for records. Many abusive priests will escape justice, having run out either life's clock, like Frain, or the statute of limitations. Still, I'd place my faith in prosecutors over prelates.

Four days of Vatican talk about Pope Francis's “reflection points” — including psychological testing of seminarians (that's not being done already?), mandatory conduct codes ( don't molest kids isn't clear enough?), an independent group to receive abuse reports (we already have that. It's called the police .) — ended with no specific proposals, which wouldn't exorcise the abuse demon anyway. Internal reform must be more radical; in particular, the case for ordaining women, never on the table in Rome, was bolstered by recent revelations of widespread sexual assault in the Southern Baptist Convention, which also has an all-male clergy.

Victims as young as 3-years-old “were molested or raped inside pastors' studies and Sunday school classrooms,” according to the horrific Houston Chronicle story that broke the news. The problem, a Harvard professor of Christian morals told the New York Times's Nicholas Kristof, is that “prohibiting women from the highest ranks of formal leadership fosters a fundamentally toxic masculinity.”

My argument for women priests is much simpler. Research shows that pedophiles are overwhelmingly male. Ordain fewer people disposed to pedophilia and you're likely to get, surprise, less pedophilia. (You'd also eliminate the inequity of barring women from clerical leadership.)

Some suggest that discarding the Catholic celibacy requirement for priests is the solution. While I support that change for other reasons, the case for it as the antidote to pedophilia doesn't pass the giggle test. Men who force themselves on children are not just horny guys seeking consensual, adult relationships. Take away mandatory celibacy and they would still crave a form of sex as depraved as it is illegal.

Garry Wills, the Catholic historian whose writings I admire and learn from, agrees celibacy isn't the cure, though his suggestion to abolish the priesthood is even more a moonshot than allowing priestly marriage. Alternative proposals, including some from abuse survivors, suffer the same two defects as the “reflection points:”

One, there are cultures in the world where Catholic leaders either just don't get it, downplaying abuse as non-criminal or the result of homosexuality, or else are preoccupied with other issues like war and poverty. Rules in Jersey won't play in India or Italy.

Two, enforcing rules relies on self-policing by a church that has shown it can't be trusted to self-police. Not when the summit revealed the destruction of church records containing abuse accusations.

I suspect I'd get agreement from the many good men in the clergy. The bishop of Albany, N.Y. asked the local DA to review diocesan records, writing to Catholics in his flock that “in an effort to restore a sacred trust that has been broken again and again, I believe a fully independent investigation, one coordinated by the district attorney, is the only way forward.”

That “only way forward,” ceding investigations to secular law enforcement, will make it easier for those of us who want to stay in the church. Non-Catholics will ask why we bother, to which journalist Margery Eagan had the best answer: Catholics of good will are unwilling to let pedophiles drive us out of our church, which, at its best, nourishes us spiritually, feeds the hungry and heals the sick.

We're also unwilling to let our Catholic brothers and sisters who cringe at female ordination have the sole say in defining Catholicism. Traditionalist deference to the hierarchy and its interpretation of apostolic tradition helped foster the clericalism that landed us in this crisis to begin with. To get out of it, we must look to Caesar's forces, not God's.


Clergy Abuse Recovery

Sexual Abuse in the Church: A Resource Guide for Recovery

by Heather Sells

Sexual abuse has been exposed in recent years as a critical issue in the global Church – in Catholic and Protestant churches alike.

A recent Houston Chronicle investigation revealed hundreds of cases within the Southern Baptist Convention alone. And a CBN News exclusive report examined one church's tragic experience with a pastor who abused countless children for decades before finally being caught.

If you or someone you know has suffered from sexual abuse there are many resources available to help you. 

The National Sexual Assault Hotline receives calls 24/7 at 1-800-656-HOPE. You can also chat online with a hotline worker.

The hotline cites national statistics from Child Protective Services that show as many as 57,329 children were sexually abused in FY2016. Two-thirds of child abuse victims are between the ages of 12 and 17 and one-third are under 12. Perpetrators are usually a family member or someone known to the child.  

For adult survivors of child sexual abuse, survivor advocate Jimmy Hinton recommends Together We Heal which links survivors of child sexual abuse with partners and volunteer therapists.

For those who've been abused by religious or institutional authorities such as pastors, elders, teachers and coaches the SNAP Network offers a variety of resources.

Survivors of abuse within the church who cannot attend church because of their trauma can find help at PorchSwing Ministries.

Hinton also recommends Flying Free Now which offers help to women who've survived spiritual abuse, often from leaders in the church.

Adults who survived abuse as children on the mission field can network with other survivors in the organization MK Safety Net.

Jimmy and Clara Hinton also provide resources on their personal websites.



Vatican child sex abuse summit 'too little, too late', Scottish survivor advocate says

by Bridget Brennan

When Dave Sharp chained himself to a cross for 10 days outside Glasgow's St Andrews Catholic Cathedral, something incredible happened.

During his very public protest in 2016, dozens of other survivors of child abuse came forward to speak to him in the middle of a busy street in Scotland's largest city to disclose their memories of abuse.

He said many told him it was the first time they had spoken out.

Ever since, the 60-year-old has been on a mission to get more victims of clerical abuse to come forward, in Scotland and across the globe.

"The net is closing in," Mr Sharp said.

"Around the world, there are armies of survivors; thousands and thousands are coming forward.

"At the moment, the biggest weapon the authorities have is that many people don't like talking about [sexual abuse].

"We need more to be done."

Mr Sharp has become well known in Scotland as a prominent advocate for survivors of abuse who feel they have been treated cruelly by the Catholic Church.

"You can bury yourself in addiction, or you can try and fight," he said.

But as 190 cardinals, bishops and church leaders from around the world prepare to meet at the Vatican this week for an unprecedented summit on the global abuse crisis, Mr Sharp won't be there.

He was invited by international survivors groups to go to Rome but instead he will stage a vigil in Glasgow at St Andrew's Cathedral.

Survivors in Ballarat, Ireland and Canada will join him to hold a minute's silence for victims of abuse who have since died.

"You're not going to get within five miles of the Vatican," Mr Sharp said.

"When the Pope says he wants to engage with survivors, we don't see any evidence of that in Scotland."

Scotland abuse had links to Australia

In 2017 Mr Sharp became the first person to be compensated by a Catholic order in Scotland — he won a payment from the Christian Brothers, who ran the St Ninian's school at Fife, north of Glasgow.

As a child he was repeatedly raped and molested by a teacher at the school who has since died.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found 22 per cent of the same Christian Brothers across Australia had been alleged sexual predators since 1950.

Mr Sharp said his time living at the school had ruined his childhood and much of his adult life.

"I left the home and I had no family life because of what had happened to me as a child," he said.

A long-running independent inquiry in Scotland is examining schools and homes where an untold number of children were abused.

But Scotland is some years behind Australia when it comes to its reckoning with the impact of child abuse, Mr Sharp said.

"Many of us have been influenced by what's going on in Australia, what happened with the commission, the way the survivors have worked together with politicians and the public.

"It hasn't been that way in Scotland."

Flora Henderson, from Scottish support organisation Future Pathways, said it's likely there are many victims yet to come forward, including those who have since moved to Australia.

"It doesn't matter where in the world you're living now, if you're in Australia, you'd still be eligible for help and support [from Scotland]," Ms Henderson said.

Next month, a delegation from the Scottish inquiry will travel to Australia to speak to victims who were abused as children in Scotland.

A spokesman for the inquiry said "we are grateful to those who have come forward already."

Mass graves of orphans uncovered

Harrowing cases of abuse linked to the Catholic Church are being exposed in Scotland.

Investigative journalist Gordon Blackstock said the abuse was "replicated across Scotland ... and one thing I've learned listening to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry is just how uniform a lot of the abuse is".

"You've got a lot of angry people who have waited a lifetime to get to this point and get answers," he said.

Mr Blackstock helped uncover the dark history of Smyllum Park, a Catholic orphanage at Lanark, south-east of Glasgow.

There is barely a marker to their short lives on the green grass at the back of a nearby cemetery, but it is thought 400 children were buried there by nuns.

Most were from poor, working-class Catholic backgrounds, and died of sickness and neglect at the home run by the Daughters of Charity St Vincent de Paul until it closed in 1981.

Children at Smyllum Park were sexually abused and beaten with leather straps and crucifixes, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry found.

In 1954, Leon Carberry was sent to at Smyllum Park at the age of nine. His younger brother died at the home.

He now lives in Mandurah in Western Australia, but the memories of abuse from more than 60 years ago remain.

"I still dream about it, and think about it," he said.

The three years he spent at Smyllum Park had a severe impact on his life.

"It's made me very angry about the church, extremely angry.

"I want to have nothing to do with the Catholic Church because the church, even to this very day, has not truly acknowledged what happened."

He feels the Vatican's summit this week on the protection of minors in the church is "too little, too late".

"The church knew — it absolutely knew what was going on, and this should have happened several popes ago," he said.

"The popes have only acknowledged what they've been forced to acknowledge.

"And they've not come out and said 'yes, definitely, and we'll make sure that some reparation is put in place', and they haven't."



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.


New York

The Child Abuse Charge Was Dismissed. But It Can Still Cost You a Job.

by Nikita Stewart

In 2017, Ann was working as a home health aide in Brooklyn and Manhattan when she was arrested and charged with child endangerment after hitting her teenage daughter during an argument. She was fired from the job she had held for 13 years.

A judge dismissed the charges, but the arrest had another consequence: Ann's name was added to a New York state database of people who have mistreated children — and by law, it would stay there for another dozen years. Employers could check the list, and most would immediately disqualify her to work with elderly clients. She could not get another job.

Every state maintains a similar registry, which can help track serial child abusers. But in New York, it is especially easy to get on the database and arduous to be removed, amounting to a blacklist for many jobs, lawyers and parents said. Even when allegations are unfounded, names can stay on the registry until the youngest child in the case turns 28, far longer than in most other states.

“People think, ‘Oh, I went to court. It's over,'” said Kylee Sunderlin, an attorney with Brooklyn Defender Services, which provides free representation and legal services to the poor. “It's not over.”

The issue has become especially urgent as more people apply to become home health aides, one of the fastest growing industries in the country. In New York, agencies that work with children or vulnerable adults are required to screen job applicants through the registry. Last year, the state processed more than 316,000 of those background checks.

Parents and their advocates are pushing elected officials to consider reducing the amount of time a name lingers on the register to five years, with some exceptions.

Registers were created decades ago to address the kind of recurrent abuse that can fall through the cracks, often revealed when a child is killed. A previous report of abuse is the strongest predictor of a fatal attack on a child, a 2016 federal commission concluded.

Marie K. Cohen, a former social worker who worked with foster children, said she has empathy for people who are denied jobs, but she believes registers protect children. “I've been taking the child's side because it's not getting enough play. Parents are bigger and more articulate, and the children are defenseless,” said Ms. Cohen, who is based in Washington, D.C., and advocates on behalf of children.

She recalled past cases in which adults had been cleared of abuse charges but went on to hurt a child. “It seems like that would be worth knowing. The red flags were there,” she said.

Some states, like Michigan and Hawaii, automatically expunge names from databases if cases are dismissed in court. Others distinguish between neglect and abuse, or clear records after five or seven years.

Still, many state databases keep names on the lists even after people are cleared of allegations. A single database that would have contained every name nationwide never came to fruition more than a decade ago because of concerns the lists were flawed. In New York in 2010, the state Office of Children and Family Services settled a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of people who were listed in the state register and were not given hearings that could have removed their names.

The state does not keep track of the total number of people in the New York database, which is formally known as the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment, said Monica Mahaffey, the agency's spokeswoman. But the number could be in the millions. One incident, which is recorded as a case, can involve multiple people, Ms. Mahaffey said.

New York is among a handful of states that require investigators to find only “some credible evidence” of abuse or neglect before including a case on the list. That is not the same level of proof needed for a criminal conviction. In 2018 alone, the state ordered investigations into 166,000 complaints of child abuse or neglect and ended up including 47,541 cases in the database.

The database also does not distinguish minor cases from the most egregious ones. A parent who fails to put a coat on a child in winter is treated the same as a person who sexually abuses or continually beats a child. The employer viewing the database cannot see the difference.

“If it's this easy to put my name on, then why isn't it easy to take off?” said Ann, 45, who asked that her last name be withheld.

Only a fraction of people on the New York registry try to get their names removed, advocates said; 1,300 people successfully had their cases removed or sealed in 2017. The process is complicated by paperwork, deadlines and two types of hearings.

Even some people whose jobs are centered on protecting children said the New York law goes too far. Anthony Wells, the president of the union that represents child abuse and neglect investigators in New York City, called the current system unfair, especially because many people are investigated or even charged based on false or exaggerated claims.

“You want to have an open system where people can call in a report, but you want a system that exonerates people when they are not guilty,” said Mr. Wells, the head of Social Service Employees Union Local 371, which represents employees in the New York City Administration for Children's Services.

Richard Heyl de Ortiz, executive director of the Adoptive and Foster Family Coalition New York, said the intention of the list is well-meaning, but foster parents and people who have adopted children are also more likely to be included on it. New York law mandates that teachers, doctors, counselors and people in other professions who come into contact with children report possible neglect and abuse to the state. Adoptive and foster children can act out, prompting calls. “It's almost guilty until proven innocent,” Mr. Ortiz said.

Advocates for parents called the database another layer of discrimination in the child welfare system, which disproportionately affects low-income and black families. Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, a Rockland County Democrat who leads the Committee on Children and Families, said she is reviewing proposed legislation.

Hope Lyzette Newton, 54, said after she was placed on the list in 2004 amid a custody battle, it affected her career decisions for years. Charges against Ms. Newton were dismissed in court, but her name remained on the list for an allegation of corporal punishment, which she still denies.

Ms. Newton had always wanted to work as a high school counselor, but she said she began working at colleges to avoid being run through the database.

Even then, she was suspended from her job at a community college until she proved the charges had been dismissed. In 2016, she moved to seal her record. “It's like a scarlet letter,” said Ms. Newton, who lives in the Bronx and now works with parents whose children are in foster care. “You aren't aware of how low the bar is for some of the allegations.”

State officials said there is nothing in the law to prevent employers from hiring an applicant who appears in the database. But advocates and parents said that is the practice.

In Ann's case, a school counselor called authorities when her daughter said she had hit her with a small stick. Ann admitted she spanked her daughter when her behavior changed and she began getting in trouble at school.

After the criminal charges were dismissed, Ann got the state database report amended and sealed, a six-month process that took an attorney, a paralegal and a hearing. She said she and her daughter get along better now. “It's looking brighter,” Ann said, adding later, “I just got hired.”


Montana / South Dakota - Indian Affairs

Senate wants answers from IHS about child sexual abuse


The U.S. Senate wants answers from the Indian Health Service about sexual abuse accusations against physicians.

At the center of the concerns is an IHS pediatrician convicted of sexually abusing boys in Montana and South Dakota.

Stanley Patrick Weber was sentenced recently to 18 years federal custody for molesting two boys on the Blackfeet Reservation. He faces trial in September in Rapid City, South Dakota, for 12 sexual assault allegations on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee, on which both Montana Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester serve, will be taking up the issue. Staffs for the lawmakers said they were recently briefed by IHS officials about Weber. Complaints of sexual abuse committed by the pediatrician were first made decades ago and yet he continued to practice within IHS.

“I'm deeply disturbed by this report and am demanding answers from IHS on how the agency plans to ensure that something like this never happens again,” said Tester, a Democrat.

IHS officials revealed to committee members that an inspector general investigation about the Weber case is underway. Daines said what's already clear is that IHS for 20 years failed to act on allegations of sexual abuse against Weber.

“While justice is being served in the court of law, accountability must be demanded of IHS and the individuals who enabled Mr. Weber to continue molesting children for over two decades,” Daines said in a letter to acting IHS Director Rear Admiral Michael D. Weahkee.

Senate Indian Affairs will be looking at how IHS allowed Weber to continue unchecked.

Weber is appealing his Montana conviction.

Weber, 70, was convicted of sexually abusing to boys while he worked in Browning from 1992 to 1995. In 1995 he relocated to Pine Ridge, where he worked until 2016.

In the federal trial in Montana, prosecutors accused Weber of using candy, money, alcohol and video games to lure boys into sexual activity.


New Mexico

Bills aim to close child abuse loopholes

by Edmundo Carrillo

SANTA FE – Two high-profile cases of child abuse that have shaken northern New Mexico have inspired bills in this year's legislative session.

Reps. Linda Trujillo and Andrea Romero, both Santa Fe Democrats, introduced House Bill 447, which would give each public school student a unique identification number, and direct the state Public Education and Children, Youth and Families departments to create a system to track students who move between school districts.

And Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, is sponsoring House Bill 488, which closes a loophole in New Mexico's child abuse reporting law. The existing act doesn't require school administrators, teachers and other school personnel to report to law enforcement any confirmed or suspected child abuse by teachers or others at a school.

Thirteen-year-old Jeremiah Valencia was not enrolled in a public school district when he was  killed in November 2017, allegedly by household member Jordan Nunez, 20, after months of beatings and other physical abuse at a Nambé home. Jeremiah's mother, Tracy Ann Pena, had pulled Jeremiah and his sister from West Las Vegas Schools in February of that year.

Pena, who pleaded guilty to one count of child abuse resulting in death for Jeremiah's murder, started paperwork with Santa Fe Public Schools to transfer Jeremiah and his sister to Capshaw Middle School, but they never attended classes there.

Since Jeremiah had fallen off the radar of the education system, there was no alert or check made when he never returned to any school for the spring and fall semesters of 2017.

His buried body was found about two months after he was killed, in January 2018, after Pena – incarcerated on unrelated charges – talked about the boy's death with a fellow inmate at the Santa Fe County jail.

“This (bill) is a response to the really devastating death of Jeremiah Valencia,” Trujillo told the Journal. “There really wasn't anybody making sure he was in school. There wasn't anybody looking for absences.”

Trujillo's bill, which passed the House unanimously and still must get through the Senate, assigns each student a unique identification number that must be on “all forms, student records, transcripts and databases in which a student is identified by name” so the student can be tracked while moving between school districts or services of the Children, Youth and Families Department.

The bill also calls for the Public Education Department and CYFD secretaries to create a task force – comprising public school personnel, CYFD social workers, juvenile probation and parole personnel, and children's court judges – to develop a tracking system that can be used by school districts, PED and CYFD. The task force must report its suggestions to the Legislative Education Study Committee by Dec. 1.

“I feel confident that the task force will be able to come up with the solution,” Trujillo said.

Martinez's bill, which is similar to one introduced last year by now-Lt. Gov. Howie Morales, amends the definition of “abused child” to include “abuse committed by a person who is not the child's parent, guardian or custodian.”

“Every person,” teachers and school officials, medical personnel or members of the clergy, who knows of or has “a reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect “shall report” the matter to law enforcement or CYFD.

Under current New Mexico law, abuse has to be reported only to CYFD or police if it's allegedly being committed by a parent or guardian. Martinez's bill, as of late last week, had passed through one House committee and was headed to another.

Attorney General Hector Balderas has been asking for this kind of legislation since his office filed charges against former Santa Fe and Española teacher Gary Gregor in 2017.

Gregor was convicted in December on several felonies for sexually abusing fourth-grade girls he was teaching at Española, and is awaiting trial for more crimes against students there and in Santa Fe. Despite complaints against him, Gregor was never reported to police or CYFD by school personnel at either district.

Several years ago, a federal judge dropped the Santa Fe school district from a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by parents of Gregor's alleged victims. The judge cited the still-existing child abuse statute that does not require reporting abuse to law enforcement if the abuse was being committed by a teacher.

“That's an example of where the current law didn't work the way it should have,” Martinez told the Journal.

Balderas credits an outspoken victim of Gregor from Española, Nallely Hernandez, for getting the bill drafted. Hernandez testified at the trial in which Gregor was convicted.

“This bill is a result of the bravery and perseverance of Nallely Hernandez, and I am grateful that Representative Martinez will fight with me to protect further New Mexican children from physical and sexual abuse,” Balderas said in a statement.

“We urge New Mexico lawmakers to join with our office and Rep. Javier Martinez in fighting to protect New Mexican children from abuse, regardless of who commits it."



Study finds spike in Pennsylvania child abuse-related deaths

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A new study says the number of Pennsylvania children killed or nearly killed after abuse had occurred spiked recently, increases likely driven by a new definition of abuse and an uptick in its reporting in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky and Roman Catholic clergy child sexual abuse scandals.

The state Human Services Department issued a report Thursday into fatalities and near fatalities during 2015 and 2016.

It shows both types of reports were up sharply after being fairly level for the preceding six years.

The number of substantiated fatalities and near fatalities ranged between 80 and 92 from 2009 through 2014. In, 2016 that number was 127.

The study attributes the rise in part to revisions to the state Child Protective Service Law that took effect at the end of 2014.



‘Virtual' child abuse imagery a headache for gardaí

Sophisticated tech used to simulate child sex and ‘age down' adult pornography

by Conor Gallagher

Gardaí are seizing increasing amounts of virtual or simulated child pornography, in the form of cartoons, text and computer graphic images.

The material, which does not feature real child victims, is frequently seized alongside child abuse material by gardaí under the Operation Ketch initiative, an intelligence-led operation aimed at proactively targeting those who download and disseminate such material, according to Garda and legal sources.

Investigators have also started to uncover images of minors created using sophisticated computer graphics programmes as well as standard adult pornography which has been “aged down”, meaning it has been altered to make the participants appear to be underage.

According to data released to The Irish Times , in 2018 2 per cent of the complaints received by, a tip-line for alerting the authorities to online child abuse imagery, concerned “virtual child sexual abuse imagery”.

This includes “pseudo-photographs where the computer-generated image is almost indistinguishable from that of a real living child”, a spokeswoman said.

Ireland has strict laws in relation to child abuse material, even if it doesn't contain any real children.

For example, several years ago a senior garda was investigated and referred to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), accused of distributing child pornography while teaching an academic course on the subject.

Teaching documents

He had given out teaching documents discussing the legality of the area which contained an example of cartoon characters engaged in a sexual act. The DPP directed no prosecution.

Some cases involving illustrated or CGI material creates problems for the Garda and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in determining whether the subjects are underage or not.

In 2017, the DPP also decided not to prosecute a 17-year-old who was caught with explicit images of child characters from The Simpsons on his phone. He was reported to the Garda after he lost his phone and it was found in a cafe. He told gardaí the images were sent to him as a joke by a friend.

“It essentially comes down to a judgment call, I think,” said one lawyer who has prosecuted similar cases.

“If there is doubt about the illegality of the material, it is left to one side. Most times people are caught with other more blatant child pornography, so there is more than enough to charge them with.”

Much of the simulated child abuse material appears to originate from Japan, with some depicting children being murdered and tortured as well as sexually abused, a garda with knowledge of several recent cases said. Realistic “child sex dolls” have also been seized from several premises.

Unlike several other western countries, including the US and Switzerland, Ireland categorises all types of child sex abuse material, simulated or real, as child pornography. Offenders face up to five years for possession and 14 years for producing or distributing such material.

Text conversations

This extends to text conversations depicting child abuse, as seen in the prosecution of Carl Byrne (28) of Glasnevin Downs, Dublin and Aidan Lawlor (36) of Woodbrook Glen, Bray, Co Wicklow, who both pleaded guilty to the possession, production and distribution of child pornography on 7 March 2013.

One of the men set up a fake profile posing as a teenage girl and exchanged “lurid and obscene” messages with the other man. The judge described as it as a “very unusual” case before giving them each a suspended sentence.

“There hasn't been much case law in the area in the Court of Appeal, probably because the sentences for this kind of thing tend to be quite light and not worth appealing,” one barrister said.

The only time the higher courts have ruled on the topic is the 2016 case of Mark Mulligan of Station Way, Clongriffin, Dublin, who took part in explicit conversations with another man in which he discussed raping children as well as famous Irish personalities.

Mulligan claimed it was “a fantasy conversation” which wasn't covered by child pornography legislation. The Court of Appeal unanimously disagreed, ruling that because the conversation was saved on his hard drive and could be printed off as a document, it counted as child pornography.

These representations can be very violent and commodify children as objects of sexual desire

There has been some international debate on whether material which doesn't involve a real victim should be illegal. Some commentators have even suggested such material could prevent paedophiles from accessing real abuse material.

Strongly rejected

This argument is strongly rejected by Maeve Lewis, executive director of One in Four which treats child sex abusers and as well as their victims. She said her team has come across several recent instances recently of clients being caught with virtual material including “some particularly vicious Japanese material”.

She said there is a “very real” connection between viewing images and then going on to abuse children, especially with younger offenders. “Regardless of whether the victims are real or cartoons, the sexualisation process is similar.”

Ana Niculescu of said people might think viewing such material doesn't hurt anyone, “but that's wrong. These representations can be very violent and commodify children as objects of sexual desire.”

She added that while there is a lack of empirical evidence of a direct link between possessing virtual images and physical abuse, “there is always the risk that its availability and proliferation online might lead to the development of a sense of social acceptance towards child sexual abuse”.


Show Business

Michael Jackson Accused of Child Abuse by Former Maid

Adrian McManus previously made allegations of child sexual misconduct against the King of Pop earlier this year, and has now doubled down on her comments.

LONDON - Michael Jackson has been accused again of being a child sex predator by his former maid Adrian McManus.

McManus previously made allegations of child sexual misconduct against the King of Pop - who passed away in 2009 - earlier this year, and has now doubled down on her comments, claiming she saw him fondling children on several occasions through her time working at his home.

Speaking to Australian TV show 60 Minutes - which aired on Sunday, she said: "They were sitting on his lap. I just saw a lot of fondling. Him maybe rubbing his hands in kids' hair, kissing them. Petting the kids ... kind of by the rear end. I didn't think it was appropriate because they're not his children ... I just didn't think it was right."

Her allegations have been corroborated by another staffer named Melanie Bagnall, who worked as a security guard at the Neverland Ranch, and said she once saw the Thriller hitmaker with a child sitting on his lap.

She said: "[I saw] a child sitting on his lap and he had his hands close to the boy's genitalia. Like, cupping his genitalia."

Meanwhile, in an interview given earlier this year, McManus claimed she often found the underwear of young children in Jackson's room.

Speaking to DailyMailTV , she said: "There was a lot of Vaseline around Neverland, a lot in Michael's bedroom. I didn't question it, because he was my boss and you just do what you're supposed to do, but I would wonder. When I would go in to pick up Mr Jackson's bedroom, many times when there were his special guests there, little boys, they were taking baths with him in his Jacuzzi.

"He had a Jacuzzi in the bedroom and I used to have to let the water out of the Jacuzzi, so I had to put hangers together in order to get to the middle of the Jacuzzi to let the water out. But Michael would have his underwear floating in the water and the little boys' underwear floating in the water together. If they weren't floating in the water, they were outside on the floor around the Jacuzzi. So I would find stuff like that."