How Cardinal George Pell Became the Highest-Ranking Catholic Official to Be Convicted of Child Abuse
He made a name defending the Catholic Church from accusations of sexual abuse. A jury just found he was abusing children
by NICHOLAS LORD
In late October 1996, Cardinal George Pell stood before a panel of reporters in Melbourne, Australia, and apologized. He apologized on behalf of the Australian Catholic Church, who, as it had recently surfaced, was complicit in covering up pervasive and unimaginable child abuse by priests. “I would like to make a sincere, unreserved, and public apology,” Pell said, according to David Marr's The Prince: Faith, Abuse and George Pell.
He had a his peculiar manner of speaking — an Australian accent polished by an Oxford education. “First of all to the victims of sexual abuse, but also to the people of the archdiocese for the actions of those Catholic clergy.” He declared himself an advocate in the fight against child abuse, and announced a new compensation scheme for the victims of his religious brothers.
Yet only a few weeks later, Pell cornered two thirteen-year-old choirboys in the sacristy of St. Patrick's Cathedral and sexually abused them, a jury has found. He forced one boy to perform oral sex while the other flinched away — “crying” and “sobbing” and “whimpering,” as a judge later described. It was a Sunday morning, after mass. The boys had just finished singing hymns. They were on a singing scholarship and came from poorer communities. Pell had just been appointed archbishop.
After years of accusations involving Pell's complicity and direct abuse — and several trials later—Cardinal Pell has been convicted of child abuse on five counts and sentenced to six years in jail. News of the court proceedings was suppressed until only recently, as his case was protected by a strict media gag order common in high-profile criminal cases in Australia.
The verdict was announced formally only days after Pope Francis's Vatican summit to address child abuse within the Catholic Church, an institution that's still grappling with its horrifying history of child abuse around the world. As the global investigations continue, the church is left in a crisis: how to handle the child abuse epidemic, how to ensure it doesn't continue and how to respond to a community left at odds with their faith.
Show Biz News
R. Kelly 'sexual abuse' tape given to US authorities
A US man has claimed to have found a video tape allegedly showing R. Kelly "sexually abusing underage African-American girls."
Gary Dennis told reporters that he handed the tape to authorities after discovering it at his house.
R. Kelly was charged last month with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving four alleged victims, three of whom were minors.
The R&B artist has denied appearing in the video, and all other charges.
If convicted, he faces three to seven years in prison on each count.
Mr Dennis, a nursing home worker, said he came across the footage whilst sorting through a box of old video tapes.
He played one tape with a recording of a football match after finding it had been labelled "R. Kelly". He expected it to have been recorded over with an old concert.
Instead it contained sexual abuse, he alleges.
Whilst not going into detail, Mr Dennis said he saw "[R. Kelly] telling them what to do and what to say, and it appeared that he was in control of the camera."
After the discovery he said he had a "moral duty" to notify law enforcement and contacted Gloria Allred, a lawyer representing women who claim to have been sexually abused by R. Kelly.
The tape was then turned over to the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Ms Allred said Mr Dennis had no personal connection to the R&B singer and had "no idea" how or when he came to possess the videotape, adding that friends had given him tapes of sporting events in the past.
She said the tape appears to show a separate incident from those previously attributed to R. Kelly, but conceded that she could not be "100% certain" the man on the tape was him.
"The doubt here is self-evident," said Steve Greenberg, R. Kelly's lawyer.
"It is not him. The larger question is what the authorities are doing about the Dennis' possession of what they believe is child pornography in their tape collection."
"It is obviously now just open season on R. Kelly," Mr Greenberg continued.
"It is irresponsible to continue to take the speculation of every Tom, Dick and Harry, and report it as if it is fact."
R. Kelly was taken into custody on Wednesday after failing to pay $161,000 (£122,000) in child support to his former wife, Andrea Kelly, and their three children. He was released on Friday after paying the debt.
Earlier this month he gave an explosive interview with CBS This Morning where he tearfully and angrily denied the allegations against him.
"I didn't do this stuff. This is not me," he said, adding that he is "fighting for my life".
Show Biz News
Indianapolis children's museum removes Michael Jackson's hat and gloves but will keep some photos
by Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
(CNN) The world's largest children's museum is removing three Michael Jackson artifacts from display, but it is keeping photos of the King of Pop in an exhibit honoring a young AIDS patient.
The Children's Museum of Indianapolis says it is removing Jackson's fedora and white gloves, which it obtained in an auction, from its American Pop exhibit, and it's also pulling a signed poster from The Power of Children exhibit, spokeswoman Leslie Olsen said in a statement.
We'll never listen to Michael Jackson's music the same.
"We are very sensitive to our audience," she said. "In an excess of caution, and in response to the controversy over the HBO film called 'Leaving Neverland,' which directly involved allegations of abuse against children, we removed those objects while we carefully consider the situation more fully."
It was not immediately clear if the artifacts could be put back on display after museum officials review the situation.
The Ryan White exhibit
The museum will keep photos of Jackson that are part of its re-creation of Ryan White's bedroom. The Kokomo, Indiana, boy became a cause celebre in the 1980s after contracting HIV through a blood treatment. At a time when AIDS was poorly understood and people feared White could spread the disease to other children, residents of his Howard County community fought against his return to school.
Jackson befriended White and spent time with the boy and his family. Alyssa Milano, then the young star on the hit TV show, "Who's The Boss?" appeared with White on "The Phil Donahue Show," where she gave White a kiss to demonstrate that people couldn't contract AIDS from casual contact with a victim.
White died in 1990, just before his high school graduation. More than 1,500 people, including Jackson and first lady Barbara Bush, attended his funeral, while Donahue and Elton John were among the teen's pallbearers. Congress months later passed the Ryan White CARE Act to help impoverished victims of HIV/AIDS, and Jackson recorded "Gone Too Soon" in White's honor and released the song on World AIDS Day in 1993.
The Children's Museum of Indianapolis re-created White's bedroom in 2007 for The Power of Children exhibit. His mother, Jeanne, helped put it together. Among White's toys, doodles, notes from well-wishers and other belongings -- including the fuzzy bear slippers he wore to keep his feet warm -- are signed pictures and posters from John, Jackson and Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis, according to a 2015 article written by the exhibit's curator.
In her statement, Olsen explained that the Jackson items in the White exhibit will remain on display because the singer was such an important part of White's life. White fondly recalled his visits with Jackson in the posthumously published 1992 book, "My Own Story."
"Ryan's family found Michael Jackson's kindness to them to be an important part of Ryan's story and the pictures of Michael displayed in that exhibit will always be an integral part of the Ryan White story," Olsen's statement said.
Documentary spurs backlash
The HBO documentary, "Leaving Neverland," chronicles allegations by James Safechuck and Wade Robson who say Jackson sexually abused them when they were children. HBO is owned by CNN's parent company.
The documentary has sparked a backlash and calls for boycotts, and several organizations have taken actions to avoid the perception that they're honoring Jackson: Radio stations in New Zealand and Canada have dropped his music from their programming; the National Football Museum in Manchester, England, took down its Jackson statue; the London transport authority decided to remove #MJInnocent advertisements from its buses; and "The Simpsons" pulled reruns of an episode featuring Jackson's voice.
The "Thriller" singer, who died in 2009, was accused in 1993 of sexually molesting a boy and charged with seven counts of child molestation in allegations related to another boy in 2003. Jackson settled out of court with the 1993 accuser and was acquitted in the 2003 case.
He maintained his innocence until his death and his family has continued to do so, calling the documentary a "public lynching" and Jackson's accusers "admitted liars." When Jackson was alive, his family points out, both Safechuck and Robson gave sworn statements saying the pop star not molest them.
Founded in 1925, the 472,900-square-foot Indianapolis museum sits on 29 acres and is the largest of its kind. It includes exhibits educating visitors on science, history, world culture, art and dinosaurs, among other topics.
Sports Related News
Sports World: City to compensate child abuse victims
LONDON • Manchester City have launched a compensation scheme for victims of historical child sexual abuse, the Premier League champions said yesterday.
The scheme applies to victims of City's former youth coach, Barry Bennell, who was sentenced to a 30-year jail term last year on multiple counts of child sexual abuse.
The football club added that an independent investigation had also revealed "serious allegations of child sex abuse" against another former junior coach, John Broome, whose alleged victims will also be eligible for compensation under the scheme.
WOODS FIT TO COMPETE IN PLAYERS THIS WEEK
MIAMI • Tiger Woods has dispelled doubts about his participation in this week's Players Championship in Florida after declaring he was in fine fettle.
The former world No. 1 pulled out of last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational citing a neck strain, which raised the possibility that he might also miss the PGA Tour's flagship event, one that he has won eight times.
But the 14-time Major winner told Golfweek it was a case of "not wanting to push it" and he simply "needed last week off".
FA PROBES BEARDSLEY AFTER BULLYING CLAIMS
LONDON • The Football Association has launched an investigation into former Newcastle Under-23 coach Peter Beardsley, who left his job last week amid bullying accusations.
The 58-year-old, who has been suspended since January last year, has been accused of bullying academy midfielder Yasin Ben El-Mhanni, but he denied the claims at the time.
FORMER UNITED BOSS VAN GAAL RETIRES
AMSTERDAM • Former Manchester United and Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal announced his retirement from football on Monday.
The 67-year-old, who won the FA Cup with United in 2016 as well as the Champions League with Ajax in 1995, told Dutch TV show VTBL of his decision to call it a day.
Red Devils forward Marcus Rashford, who was handed his club debut by van Gaal, tweeted a tribute, thanking him for "opening the door".
Priests, other clergy would be mandatory child abuse reporters under proposed New York law
Cheektowaga Assemblywoman introduces new bill
by Charlie Specht
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — In light of horrific sex abuse scandals in the Diocese of Buffalo and across the country, a Cheektowaga lawmaker has proposed a new law that would require Catholic priests and other clergy members to report child abuse in New York State.
Despite some resistance by the Diocese of Buffalo, it appears to have widespread support from lawmakers in Western New York.
Under the bill introduced by State Assemblywoman Monica P. Wallace (D-Cheektowaga), all clergy -- regardless of religion -- would be added to the dozens of professions that are already required by law to report child abuse when they become aware of it in the course of doing their jobs.
"That legislation is what I see as the next essential step in ensuring that we never have the kinds of sex abuse scandals that we're seeing now, in the future," Wallace said at a news conference in downtown Buffalo.
As the laws are written now, Catholic priests and other clergy in New York State are under no legal obligation to report to authorities that a child has been abused.
"Currently, there are 45 other professionals listed" as mandated reporters, Wallace said. "Clergy are not among them."
In fact, New York's current laws include a "clergy privilege" carve-out that exempts them from reporting anything they hear in the course of a confession. The proposed bill would keep that privilege intact for all cases except child abuse, meaning priests and others who are told a child has been abused -- even in confession -- would be required to notify authorities.
Buffalo Bishop Richard J. Malone said in a statement that he will "fully endorse" mandated reporting, but refuses to support the part of the proposed legislation regarding clergy privilege and confession.
"I will never endorse any bill that allows for violation of the confidentiality and inviolability (the “seal”) of confession," Malone said. "The faithful have the right to expect total confidentiality when they confess their sins and seek God's forgiveness. History gives evidence that priests have accepted death rather than violate the seal of confession.”
Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) said, "There can always be exceptions, but the bottom line here is if priests or Catholic teachers were mandatory reporters, I think we would have convictions -- both criminal and civil -- and a lot of pain could have been avoided."
Higgins told 7 Eyewitness News that former Bishop Henry J. Mansell opposed similar legislation that Higgins introduced when he was an Assemblyman in the early 2000s.
"If there's nothing to hide, why would you oppose that bill?" Higgins said. "The Catholic Diocese has demonstrated that it shuns the abused an it protects the abuser. That's a problem."
But he said when it comes to the church's political influence, times have changed.
"I suspect that given what's occurred in the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and throughout the nation and the world, that that bill will pass with overwhelming support of both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and Assembly," Higgins said.
State Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy, D-Buffalo, appears ready to help Wallace make that happen. He successfully championed the recently enacted Child Victims Act, which expanded the statutes of limitation for sex crimes against children.
"This is the next step," Kennedy said. "Any time we can get an increase in reporting measures to get individuals -- those abusers -- accountable, it's extremely important that we're looking at that."
The proposed legislation would also make it a felony for mandatory reporters to fail to report second and third offenses of child abuse. It would also increase penalties for mandatory reporters "who act as part of a plan or scheme to conceal the abuse or maltreatment," Wallace's staff said.
Wallace's staff said 34 states already include clergy as mandated reporters.
"It's time that New York joined them," she said.
Child abuse cases hit record high in Japan
Cases of child abuse and the number of abused children both hit record highs in Japan last year.
The National Police Agency says there were 1,380 cases of child abuse nationwide last year involving arrests or questioning. The number of victims under 18 totaled 1,394.
The figures were the highest since police began taking statistics in 2003.
In addition, police referred 80,252 possibly abused children to child welfare centers. They also took 4,571 children into protective custody in emergencies and at night. Both figures were record highs.
Child mistreatment has been making headlines in Japan.
Last March, a 5-year-old girl in Tokyo was starved to death by her parents. In January, a ten-year-old girl was found dead at her home in Chiba Prefecture, near Tokyo. Her parents were arrested on suspicion of abuse.
The Japanese government plans to submit a bill to the current Diet session for legal revisions to prevent child abuse.
Police across Japan plan to work more closely with schools and child welfare centers to detect signs of abuse early on so that they can protect children.
Southern Baptist Convention grapples with sexual abuse report
After two newspapers rocked the evangelical Vatican, members who work with victims say much remains to be changed
by Josiah Hesse
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), one of the largest Christian organizations in the world, is grappling with allegations that more than 250 of its leaders sexually abused more than 700 congregants over the last two decades.
A months-long investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News, published this month, asserted that dozens of churches within the SBC knowingly hired sex offenders, silenced victims, neglected to fire sexually abusive leaders and declined to report cases to secular authorities, or even document them within their own organization.
The SBC is the closest thing evangelicals have to a Vatican. That has lead to the two newspapers' work being compared to the Boston Globe's 2002 revelations about sexual abuse within the Catholic church, which were retold in the Oscar-winning film Spotlight.
“It's similar to the Boston Globe story in that people have been desperately shouting about this for years and it's only just now receiving the attention has deserved,” said Boz Tchividjian, founder of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (Grace), an investigative and educational organization.
“The 700 victims revealed in this investigation are only the tip of the iceberg, since very few survivors of abuse ever come forward.”
Tchividjian is also the grandson of Billy Graham, the world's most famous evangelical preacher. For him and many others, part of what contributes to the sexual abuse problem within some SBC communities is to be found within “purity culture”, a set of principles that portray women as virginal objects for men to court, educate and marry.
Conversely, women within purity culture are often viewed as responsible for male sexual behavior through the way they dress and behave, and are therefore seen as responsible when a man succumbs to sexual temptation.
“Purity culture can discourage abused women from coming forward for fear that they'll be blamed and no longer seen as pure,” says Tchividjian. “It places distorted value on male leadership, which can lead to a circling of the wagons when a man is accused of misconduct, discrediting the victim and protecting the ministry.”
The SBC was loosely organized in 1845, during a split with northern Baptists over the issue of slavery. It has for years wrestled with efforts to reform its principles, particularly its ban on women in positions of leadership over men.
Its 47,000 churches and 15 million members adhere to a variety of principles that are at times altered in more liberal or conservative directions depending on the tides of leadership. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, leaders such as Paul Pressler and Paige Patterson lead a successful conservative takeover, seeking a literal interpretation of the Bible in all matters, particularly on the issue of women in leadership.
In 1984, the SBC adopted the Resolution on Ordination and the Role of Women in Ministry. It says: “The scriptures teach that women are not in public worship to assume a role of authority over men lest confusion reign in the local church.”
The recent SBC exposé named both Pressler and Patterson as accused perpetrators of sexual misconduct.
Efforts to contact the SBC for comment were not returned. In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, interim president of the SBC executive committee, August Boto, expressed support for the investigation and “sorrow” for victims, but said the organization was unable to create a database of abusers within the church, which would help prevent abusers being fired by one church and hired by another, due to the central tenet that each church retains some level of autonomy.
Asked about his rejection of such a proposal in 2008, Boto said: “Lifting up a model that could not be enforced was an exercise in futility.”
Tchividjian finds this perspective troubling.
“If a SBC church hired an openly gay pastor or denied the divinity of Jesus,” he said, “I sincerely doubt that the church would be allowed to remain within the denomination. This tells me that the SBC has some degree of centralized authority, certainly one that could develop a database and require member churches to contribute to it.”
‘A big, flashing vacancy sign for predators'
According to the Chronicle and Express-News, the limited instances in which secular authorities were contacted about abuse within the SBC resulted in little action. Similar to the #MeToo movement, such failures to hold church leaders accused of sexual misconduct to account via conventional channels have led to social media activism that seeks justice through public outings.
Emily Joy and Hannah Paasch grew up the daughters of pastors in the early 2000s, meeting years later at Moody Bible College. Their friendship blossomed as each reevaluated the purity culture doctrine. Paasch saw how her lack of sexual autonomy played a role in her endurance of a sexual assault and reluctance to report it. Joy came to terms with the romantic grooming she experienced as a teenager from a church youth leader in his 30s, and the way in which her community swept it under the rug.
In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations, Joy and Paasch decided to share their experiences under the hashtag #ChurchToo. By morning, the move had gone viral and the two were inundated with stories of sexual abuse and psychological manipulation at the hands of church leaders.
“It seems theologically tied to the way women are treated,” Paasch said. “When I was growing up there was this idea I should consider the men who expressed interest in me, because they were men of god, they were leaders. There was this idea that men and God were deciding all that behind the scenes for me. I never felt that I had permission to say no.”
Joy said: “People want to pretend that sexual shame and purity culture has nothing to do with abuse. It not only affects how the church responds to abuse, but it's the reason it happens in the first place.
“When you have a church that's mired in purity culture, you have a group of young, naive women who are primed to doubt themselves, to doubt their own intuition, to doubt their sense of their own autonomy. They're primed to listen to men, particularly spiritual men, above their own intuition. And then there's little sex education. They don't know the word ‘consent'. All of this adds up to a big, flashing vacancy sign for predators.”
Paasch and Joy admit that being inundated with horror stories of abuse is triggering and exhausting. But they say providing a space for victims to have their voices heard and believed is an essential process.
Vatican abuse summit shines light on long fight for justice
Tchividjian is similarly troubled by the revelations of abuse throughout protestant churches. But having worked in the field for so long, both as a state prosecutor and the founder and executive director of Grace, he is aware of how much more pervasive and insidious the problem is than the public knows.
He continues to work with faith-based organizations as an independent investigator and abuse prevention specialist. The most common recommendations he gives are for church leaders to listen to and respect victims, to remove reported offenders from positions of authority, and to contact law enforcement whenever anyone is suspected of being sexually abused.
All these are actions that the SBC failed to implement, according to the newspapers' report.
“Churches should be the safest communities in the world for vulnerable people,” Tchividjian said. “Being concerned about whether your child could be harmed by a church leader is the last thing a parent should have to think about, but that is a concern that must always be on our radar screen.
Pollachi 'sex blackmail gang' victim's name revealed
Activists fear victims of an alleged sex blackmail gang terrorising an Indian city will not come forward after the name of one survivor was made public by government officials.
The woman's name was contained in an official document published by the Tamil Nadu government.
It is illegal in India to report the name of a sexual assault victim.
Reports in local media suggest she could be just one of many victims of the alleged gang.
Police in the southern Indian town of Pollachi have been appealing for more victims to come forward since reports first emerged.
But the revelation of the student's name - in an official document handing the case to federal investigators - could deter women speaking out, warns Dr Swarna Rajagopalan, the founder of the Prajnya Trust, which focuses on gender violence.
"When it comes to sexual crimes, the tendency is still to blame the victim, unlike when you are robbed, mugged or stabbed," she told the BBC.
"When it comes to sexual crimes, people tend to recognise a crime, point to it and refer to it by the name of the victim. It becomes your primary identity. So this becomes a massive deterrent to reporting it."
The BBC has contacted the Tamil Nadu government for comment. A court has ordered the document be withdrawn, while any videos of the alleged victims must be taken off the internet, according to India's The News Minute.
What happened in Pollachi?
According to the official police document, the woman, a 19-year-old student, filed a complaint against the men on 24 February.
She told police the men - who she knew - trapped her in a car on 12 February, before removing her top without her permission and filming her on their mobile phones.
They then warned her if she did not cooperate, they would release the video.
Finally, they allegedly stole her $290 (£220) gold necklace.
The teenager only found the courage to tell her family what had happened almost two weeks later, after the men had repeatedly tried to extort money from her.
The official document says the woman's brother was later attacked by the men "with a threat to his life". This allegedly happened when he confronted the men.
The case has now been transferred from the local police to the federal Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
How many victims are there?
It has been claimed this attack was just one in a series carried out by the gang, with some local media suggesting they have been targeting women since 2013.
One man told The Hindu newspaper he allegedly reported the same group to police back in 2016.
Police have reportedly found dozens of videos showing women being abused on the suspects' mobile phones.
Hundreds of people took to the streets earlier this week to demand the police take action, according to The Hindu .
It has emerged the suspects are linked to powerful political families in Tamil Nadu, which has led to fears the women will not get justice in the state.
Protesters demanded a committee of inquiry be set up, led by a female judge.
However, the timing of the case - with a general election just weeks away - has meant it has become a political issue.
Dr Rajagopalan said she was concerned at how candidates were using "this horrible incident to make political capital out of this, blaming each other without any regard for the victims".
"Imagine, what someone who is caught up in this, who is wondering whether or not to come forward, feels like to see what happened to her being discussed in the evening news everyday by someone who just wants to make a political point?" she told the BBC.
"When something like this happens in election season, what chance is there really for justice?"
Geeta Pandey, India women and social affairs editor
It must have taken the 19-year-old woman tremendous courage to speak up and considering how some of the accused are connected to politically influential families, revealing her identity puts her - and her family - at considerable risk.
But this is not the first time a survivor's name has inadvertently been made public.
In the conservative, patriarchal Indian society where victims and survivors of sexual abuse have to deal with lifelong stigma, these repeated mistakes show the callousness with which the police and the authorities often treat cases of crimes against women.
The law expressly bars the authorities and the press from revealing a victim's identity and there have been several reminders from the Supreme Court in recent years to desist from doing so.
In fact, as recently as December, the top court said that police complaints in cases of rape and sexual assault must not be put in public domain exactly to avoid the sort of situation that has arisen now.
It's obvious the police and government in Tamil Nadu need to pay more attention to the top court rulings but, for the moment, they must ensure the safety of the survivor and her family.
I'm a Child Sex Abuse Expert. Here's What I Thought About "Leaving Neverland" and the Michael Jackson Claims
by NADIA WAGER
Since Leaving Neverland—the disturbing documentary film about Michael Jackson and the nature of his relationship with two young boys—aired, many of Jackson's fans have said they cannot believe their idol would commit the abuses alleged by the now adult men.
But others watched horrified as stories from the 1980s and 1990s were recounted. Viewers asked: how could this have happened? How did the parents let their children get into such apparently dangerous situations? And why weren't red flags raised at the time?
I'm not going to speculate on the accuracy or otherwise of the two men's stories. But, true or not, they raise important issues which we need to better understand if we are to prevent abuse happening.
Historically, as a society we have actually found it very difficult to believe allegations or to acknowledge possible signs that child sexual abuse is occurring. Several theoretical explanations have been offered for this including our need to believe in a just world where this kind of thing isn't done by adults to children. Just world beliefs encourage us to conform to the rules and regulations of our communities, since we believe that this will be rewarded with a safe and orderly existence for us and our families. So we find it difficult to comprehend that bad things happen to those who do not deserve it.
There are several common misconceptions about child sexual abuse which can make it hard to believe allegations when they are made. These include the belief that sexual abusers are monsters who are violent and frightening to children. We also tend to believe that parents would know if their child was being sexually abused or that children would tell someone immediately and that they would display fear towards the perpetrator. It's also commonly—and often wrongly—thought that a child's statements about experiences of abuse would remain consistent over time.
‘Best friends,' not ‘monsters'
It is quite natural to think of child molesters as monsters who intimidate and frighten the children they prey on. But while there are various types of offender, many are able to gain access to—and the trust of—children due to their ability to attract children to them and to emotionally and socially connect with them. Such offenders will gravitate towards children who are shy, withdrawn, lonely or rejected by peers. They work to create an emotional bond with the child through becoming their “best friend” and making the child feel “special”.
In this way, the child becomes emotionally dependent on the perpetrator. The dependency is further fueled by isolating the child from others. This grooming process can take between hours and months and the sexual element is often introduced gradually through desensitizing the child to touch using hugs, rough and tumble play or tickling. Rarely, does child sexual abuse involve violence or threats of harm (any threats that are made tend to relate to the consequences for their relationship should they be “found out”).
When offenders do not have a legitimate reason to have unsupervised access to a desired child or the child is so young that they have little autonomy outside of the family, the motivated offender will also groom the child's parents. Indeed, it is reported that the child's parents are often groomed before the child. The abuser will ingratiate themselves with the parents, doing small favors and creating an emotional bond with them. It maybe something as simple as offering childminding to give the parents a much-needed rest. The bond is created by sharing personal information, particularly that that which signifies vulnerability. Their involvement in the family become natural, normal and highly welcomed. Some will come to be heralded as the family's saviour.
This means the parents' natural guard against “strangers” around their children will be lowered, if not dropped. Any suspicions that might arise will be automatically be dismissed or explained away, since they become unable to comprehend how anyone so wonderful could possibly engage in something so abhorrent.
Why don't they tell?
Very few children disclose sexual abuse at the time that it is occurring. Where disclosures do occur, these tend to be where the abuse is a one-off incident perpetrated by a stranger with little by way of grooming. So the abuse is more readily conceptualized as an unwanted assault by both the child and others to whom the child discloses.
There are many reasons for non-disclosure. One reason reported retrospectively by adults who were abused as children, is that they did not know that what was happening was wrong. Some children even feel hurt by the perceived rejection when the abuse ends. Many only come to realize that their experience constituted abuse as they entered adulthood, and they can see the relationship from a new perspective. This realization, which can be perceived as a betrayal of trust, can result in delayed trauma due the abuse only emerging in adulthood.
Despite the new realization of the abusive nature of the relationship, it is not unusual for adult survivors of child sexual abuse to report still feeling a conflicted love for the perpetrator. This has been likened to “Stockholm syndrome”, which has been found to arise in hostage situations, where a deep and immutable bond is established with the perpetrator. So there there can be an ongoing reticence and feelings of guilt for having reported the abuse. Sometimes statements are retracted as a result. This effect has been associated with a phenomenon known as “child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome”.
As I have said, we're not dealing here with any specific case. But, in my experience, the alleged horrors detailed in Leaving Neverland—and Michael Jackson's family denies that they ever happened—appear to conform to the issues I've discussed. What is clear is that the trauma such experiences cause can take decades to emerge and can last a lifetime.
German police officer still on duty after conviction of child abuse
(AP) A German prosecutor's investigation into the child sexual abuse case involving police in Germany's Lugde has revealed gross negligence by the authorities following an array of scandals erupting one after another related to the case.
The latest incident involving a police officer is what many deemed negligence by the German authorities – following an array of scandals erupting one after another related to the Lugde case.
A special investigator who looked into the abuse case in Germany's Ludge, in which at least 32 minors aged between 4 and 13 were exposed to sexual abuse, has discovered that during his investigation a police officer who has a criminal record for child pornography was still on duty.
The discovery came amid an ongoing investigation into crimes allegedly perpetrated by three suspects who are accused of sexually abusing 27 girls and 4 boys for almost a decade between 2008 and 2018.
The police officer in question was found guilty of possessing and procuring child pornography in 2011, according to a report published in Kolner Stadt- Anzeiger, a German media outlet, which cited the North Rhine-Westphalian Interior Ministry.
The prosecutor who filed the charges against the officer had asked the court to remove him from duty, yet the court handed down a relatively lenient judgment against the officer and decided that a demotion would be sufficient.
After the sentence was delivered, the officer was relegated and transferred to the Lippe district police department.
Ministry spokesperson confirmed that the officer remained on duty but added that the officer in question had no links to the Ludge case.
The latest incident involving a police officer is deemed by many as another negligence by the German authorities – following an array of scandals erupting one after another related to the Ludge case.
At least 31 children, aged four to 13 were exposed to sexual abuse between 2008 and 2018 at a campsite in Lugde, a town in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Three suspects were detained as part of the investigation into widespread child exploitation who were accused of perpetrating 1,000 individual offences against children.
The incident morphed into a scandal after it became public that the primary suspect of the investigation was given consent to adopt a minor from an orphanage – who later became another victim of the suspect's.
The scandal grew bigger when a suitcase of evidence went missing from police evidence room causing an uproar in the country. The scale of the case had already led the German public to question how such mass abuse could have continued without authorities knowing about it.
In a bid to alleviate the tensions, the minister said that the suspects could still be convicted despite the missing evidence.
Further offences revealed
According to Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger, after it became public that the police officer in Lippe committed the crime he was convicted of, the interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia issued an order to investigate further sexual offences within the state institutions.
During the investigation, the special investigator found out about another case in which an officer had secretly installed a camera in his private bathroom.
Additionally, another incident was revealed, in which a female commissioner had been harassed by her superior in 2013. The report claims both officers are still on duty.
The ministry reportedly instructed the authorities in the district of Lippe "to take into account officers' background" before assigning them for a specific task.
For instance, the officers that were implicated in crimes related to sexual abuse will not be working in areas that deal with sexual offences.
In addition to the police department, social institutions are also under fire on the grounds of neglect pertaining to the foster daughter of the chief suspect Andreas V.
According to local sources, lawyer of the victim intends to file a lawsuit against Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia States alleging that "If the authorities had done their work properly, my client and other children would not have gone through all this suffering.
School boards should examine their child-abuse reporting policies
Elementary School is charged with failing to report the suspicious behavior of a teacher charged with multiple accounts of sexual assault of a child. Nelson's attorney says in court documents that Nelson did properly report the matter.
Safety and security should be as high a priority for schools as is providing education. School employees and administrators have an all-important obligation to report allegations of child sexual abuse to proper authorities.
This requirement isn't merely common sense — it's a mandate specifically set forth in Nebraska state law. If school employees, of whatever level, witness or suspect alleged abuse, they must report the matter, or cause a report to be made, to law enforcement or to the Nebraska child abuse hotline at 800-652-1999.
The reporting policies in place at Omaha- area school districts vary considerably, however, The World-Herald's Joe Dejka found. Some districts hone closely to the wording of state law. Others do so only partially.
Some districts say a school employee can take up to 24 hours to report, but state law doesn't mention such a delay. Waiting 24 hours could put a child at risk, the county attorneys for Douglas and Sarpy Counties say.
Although state law allows an employee to “cause” a report to be made, the law does not define how that should be done, nor does it mention telling a school principal, as is stated under Omaha Public Schools policy.
“The confusion there is if somebody thinks, ‘Well, I have reported because I've told my supervisor or I told somebody at (the school district's) HR,' ” said Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine. “Well, that doesn't meet the statute.”
A current case involving OPS school personnel shows the importance of understanding and following state law on this issue. Eric Nelson, the principal of Fontenelle Elementary School, is charged with failing to report the suspicious behavior of Gregory Sedlacek, a teacher charged with sexually assaulting six students. Nelson's attorney says in court documents that Nelson did properly report the matter.
School boards would do well to examine their reporting policies and training procedures to make sure they're in line with state law on this issue. Complying fully with the law's requirements is an important step in keeping children safe.
Opinion: Not vaccinating your kids is a form of child abuse
The Project host Jesse Mulligan delivered a clear message to so-called anti-vaxxers.
In 1796, when Edward Jenner injected pus from a cowpox into young James Phipps' arm, he made one of the greatest medical discoveries of all time.
The discovery was that by injecting someone with cowpox, you could inoculate them against smallpox - a once-major killer, especially of children.
It was the world's first vaccination.
Jenner's findings were ridiculed at the time, mainly by the church who thought it was ungodly to inject stuff from an animal into a human.
They tried to discredit him, but they couldn't argue against the fact that eventually Jenner's immunisation all but eradicated smallpox.
Since then vaccinations have wiped out a number of diseases, including polio - another crippling childhood condition.
A number of other childhood afflictions such as whooping cough, tetanus, measles and mumps are nowhere near as prevalent as they once were.
Yet, despite this, some parents still refuse to vaccinate their children, and of more concern is the rise of the anti-vaxxer movement.
If you refuse to protect your children against potentially fatal diseases that could not only threaten their health but the health of children around them it is, in my book, a form of child abuse.
Parents who refuse to vaccinate their children when there is no sound medical reason not to should be held accountable. Don't punish the child, it's not their fault they have stupid parents.
There is no argument not to vaccinate.
Vaccinations are not a medical conspiracy or a way to generate money for drug companies. It is not better for your child to build up their immune system naturally.
Vaccinations do not cause autism. My son is both vaccinated and autistic and there is no connection between the two.
The only advantage I can see to not eradicating killer diseases through vaccination is in case we get invaded by aliens, who will have no inbuilt resistance and will be wiped out by the common cold. Aside from that unlikely scenario I can't see any other good reason to not vaccinate.
The issue has raised its head in New Zealand again as we face another outbreak of measles. The fact that 26 cases is considered an outbreak these days is testament itself to the power of vaccinations.
While the vaccination rate in New Zealand is good - around 93 percent of kids are vaccinated - it is low in some areas.
Should we follow the example of countries such as Italy and Belgium and make vaccinations mandatory? Health Minister David Clarke thinks not, telling The AM Show on Thursday he didn't think we should.
He also disagreed with shutting unvaccinated kids out of school saying it is unfair to punish the child "for the decisions of their parents".
Italy has also brought in legislation where parents who bring unvaccinated kids to school can be fined, which is sensible. France has similar punitive laws and we should do more here than just rely on education on vaccinations to protect children.
Some parents are sucked in by the scientifically unfounded theories peddled around by the anti-vaxxer movement. The movement, like flat earthers or the chemtrail conspiracists, is pure fantasy.
You can't punish people for being stupid enough to believe these theories, but you can punish them for putting their child's life at risk.
'Thousands of US child migrants sexually abused'
The US health department has received more than 4,500 complaints of sexual abuse against detained migrant children from 2014-2018, documents show.
The Department of Justice reportedly received an additional 1,303 sex abuse complaints against unaccompanied minors during the same period.
Congressman Ted Deutch, who released the figures , said at least 154 claims are against facility staff members.
A spokesman for the health department said it takes the claims seriously.
"These documents demonstrate over the past three years there have been 154 staff-on-unaccompanied-minor - let me repeat that, staff-on-unaccompanied-minor - allegations of sexual assault," Congressman Deutch said during a House Judiciary Committee hearing.
The hearing, which focused on the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy that led to thousands of immigrant children being separated from their families, featured testimony from Jonathan White, the deputy director for children's program's at Health and Human Services' (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
"This works out, on average, to one sexual assault by HHS staff on an unaccompanied minor, per week," Mr Deutch continued.
Mr White clarified that those allegations are not against HHS staff, but rather against the contractors who are paid by HHS to run the underage migrant detention facilities.
"I will make that clarification. It doesn't make what happened any less horrific," Mr Deutch responded.
Caitlin Oakley, a spokeswoman for HHS, said the shelters are run by childcare service centres that are licensed by state officials.
"These are vulnerable children in difficult circumstances," she said in a statement to Axios , which first reported the documents.
"When any allegations of abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect are made, they are taken seriously and ORR acts swiftly to investigate and respond."
The allegations include sexual relationships, showing pornographic videos to children and forcible touching, according to Axios.
The figures were revealed as Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform voted to issue subpoenas to Trump administration officials involved in the now-suspended policy of separating parents from their children after they illegally cross the US-Mexico border.
“The Smile of the Child” Int'l Conference Against Sexual Abuse of Children
During the International Conference entitled: “Child Sexual Abuse: Next Steps in the Holistic Support of Children”
“The Smile of the Child” united its forces with the Greek and international scientific community in organizing the International Conference entitled: “Child Sexual Abuse: Next Steps in the Holistic Support of Children”, held on Thursday, the 28th of February in Athens. The conference was organized under the aegis of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and with the kind support of the Embassies of Sweden and the United Kingdom.
The conference shed light on the dramatic increase of the phenomenon on a global scale. Indicatively, according to the BECAN survey on the violence against children, 1 out of 6 children in Greece will fall victim of sexual abuse at a certain point in their lives, 1 out of 13 children will be subject to physical abuse from a perpetrator, whereas 1 out of 30 children will experience a rape incident or a rape assault. At the same time, according to the World Health Organization 1 out of 4 adults has fallen victim of abuse as a child, on a global level, while in 80% of the cases the abusers belonged to the family or wider family environment of the child.
A key conclusion of the more than 700 participants who took part in the conference, among them distinguished Greek and foreign scientists, public officials, representatives of national authorities, international organizations and non-governmental organizations, the judiciary, the law enforcement, health and other professionals in the field, was the fact that the cases of child sexual abuse are not reported. In Greece alone only 1 out of 1.000 cases is estimated to be reported to the authorities or child protection services, whereas in 2018 “The Smile of the Child” received only 4 reports on sexual abuse cases out of 729 reports that were made in total to the National Helpline for Children SOS 1056.
The conference was opened by the Prosecutor of the Supreme Court, Mrs. Xeni Dimitriou, while addresses were made by the Rector of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Professor Meletios-Athanasios Dimopoulos, Her Excellency Kate Smith, Ambassador of the UK in Greece, Her Excellency Charlotte Sammelin, Ambassador of Sweden in Greece, and the Greek Deputy Ombudswoman for Children's Rights, Ms. Theoni Koufonikolakou.
“Today we unite our voices against the abuse of children, combining the knowledge of the most distinguished scientists from Greece and abroad with the precious experience of professionals working on the frontline. Sadly, child sexual abuse remains mostly a Secret. Children fear to speak out about what is happening to them, suffering from the horrible consequences, whereas adults prefer to keep their mouth closed”, said the President of the BoD of “The Smile of the Child”, Mr. Costas Yannopoulos. In the opening speech of the conference Mr. Yannopoulos referred to the global efforts against the phenomenon, while he put emphasis on existing gaps, problems and challenges in the child protection system in Greece, and the need to enhance cooperation and promote very specific measures on the institutional level.
The President of the Organization announced that the main conclusions of the conference will constitute the Declaration of Athens, promoting the urgent need for concrete measures on a global scale for the holistic support and protection of children from sexual abuse and violence. The Declaration of Athens will be announced soon from “The Smile of the Child”.
The conference gave the opportunity to participants to analyze the social policies for tackling and preventing child sexual abuse. Professor of Sociology at the University of New Hampshire in the USA and world leader in this field for over 40 years, David Finkelhor referred to the positive progress over the past decades in the field of prevention of the phenomenon. “The evidence from the prevention programs to treat victims and the mental health consequences of sexual abuse is good. However, some of the more popular and expensive policies for sex offenders have not been shown to be effective, whereas treatment of offenders does not seem to reduce re-offending”, he added.
Similarly, Carl Göran Svedin, Professor at the Linköping University in Sweden, emphasized the importance of following a multi-professional approach, work and collaboration for protecting the vulnerable children, whereas Vasiliki Artinopoulou, Professor at Panteion University in Greece, focused on the right of children to judicial protection and the crucial role of proper education and training of all the professionals in the field. Sia Kakarouba, Coordinator of the Child Hotlines/Helplines of “The Smile of the Child”, presented the experience of the Organization, highlighting the persistent problem of underreporting of child abuse cases. In 2018 alone, the National Helpline for Children SOS 1056 received only 4 reports of child sexual abuse cases.
Dr. George Nikolaidis, Psychiatrist, Scientific Responsible of ‘House of the Child' Day Center of “The Smile of the Child”, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Social Welfare at the “Institute of Child Health” and Chairperson of the Lanzarote Committee/ Council of Europe, pointed to the fact that the available data on the extent of the phenomenon in Greece is quite shocking. In this regard the Lanzarote Convention, ratified by the Hellenic Parliament since 2007, proposes a number of measures for the effective prevention of the phenomenon, the provision of proper therapy and support services to the victims and the prosecution of the perpetrators, as well as the participation of children at all stages of alleviating the consequences of their victimization.
Professor Kevin Browne from the University of Nottingham in the UK analyzed the role of the child as a witness in the process of interviewing children to obtain valid and reliable reports of sexual abuse and assault, noting that that memories from repeat abusive incidents result in the confusion of victims. However, these facts need to be taken into account when interviewing children without meaning that victims are unreliable.
Focusing on the process of judicial testimony, Chris Newlin, Executive Director of the US-based National Child Advocacy Center (NCAC), highlighted the importance of a multidisciplinary approach, offering the successful example of the Child Advocacy Centers in the United States. He also referred to the initiative of “The Smile of the Child” to establish a similar Center in 2014 in Greece in cooperation with the US National Center and the support of the US Embassy in Athens. This Center is the first facility of this kind in the country and was set at the disposal of the Ministry of Justice and the competent authorities.
On the margins of the conference workshops will be held from the foreign guests of the conference at the Center of Education & Training of “The Smile of the Child” focusing on the issue of child sexual abuse and with the aim to offer knowledge and useful training to professional working in the field.
For decades, a sexual predator doctor groomed this community to believe he could do no wrong
“They really circled the wagons and supported Dr. Barto,” one victim said. “You know how predators groom victims? Well, he groomed a community to believe he could do no wrong.”
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — More than 20 years later, it's the ribbons that stick out in Erika Brosig's memory of the day when it seemed like the entire town showed up at the high school football game to support Dr. Johnnie Barto.
Though Brosig, who was 15 and a member of the Richland High School color guard, does not recall the color of the ribbons, she remembers with a still-sickening clarity the feeling when she pinned one on her uniform.
“I remember that ribbon burning a hole in my chest,” Brosig, 36, said.
A 65-year-old Johnstown mother, who asked not to be identified, said she also remembers being at Herlinger Field on that crisp fall day in 1998 and how she waved off a volunteer who tried to give her a ribbon.
“There I am in the stands and I'm surrounded by all these people who think Barto is Mr. Wonderful,” she said.
Jennifer Goetz, 42, recalls being home from college and hearing about the ribbons and how the whole Johnstown area was rallying behind Barto, after three former patients had accused him of sexual abuse and the state had moved to suspend his license to practice medicine.
“I remember seeing the coverage on TV and I just wanted to throw up,” Goetz said.
All three women intend to be at the Cambria County Courthouse on Monday when Barto, 71, is sentenced to spend what's likely to be the rest of his life in prison for sexually abusing a total of 29 children, including two relatives when they were minors.
HE COULD HAVE BEEN STOPPED DECADES AGO
Prosecutors say Barto has admitted to sexually assaulting more than two dozen children during the four decades he practiced medicine, and that most were victimized in the examination room of Laurel Pediatric Associates, his practice in the Johnstown suburb of Richland Township.
Brosig, Goetz and several other women interviewed by NBC News said it is time for the horrible truth to come out about the doctor who preyed on several generations of Johnstown children. They said it's time for a reckoning for a man who fooled so many people for so long.
Brosig said she was 12 when she was assaulted by Barto in 1994 and remains haunted by what happened to her.
“He just stuck his hand down my pants, digitally penetrated me, and he moaned,” she said. “The sound of that moan will never leave me.”
The other Johnstown woman said her daughter was 11 when Barto assaulted her during an examination in the 1990s. She asked not to be named to protect her daughter's privacy.
“I feel such guilt that I exposed my daughter to a pedophile,” she said. “But I didn't know. I didn't question what he was doing because he was a doctor.”
Goetz said Barto violated her in 1984 at his old practice in Johnstown when she was about 8. As a result, she said, she avoids male doctors. She said the time for exposing the secret that she has been hiding is long overdue.
Jennifer Goetz holds a photo of herself from around the time when she said Barto violated her.Justin Merriman / for NBC News
“He's not getting away with it this time,” she said.
Barto pleaded guilty in December to multiple counts of indecent assault and endangering the welfare of children, the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office said.
It took accusations from “family members who were minors” to get Barto to finally own up to his crimes, the AG's office said.
“Dr. Johnnie Barto used his position of authority — as the pediatrician who families relied on — to feed his own sick desires and take advantage of parents and children seeking basic health care,“ Attorney General Josh Shapiro said.
Barto targeted girls and boys, most between the ages of 8 and 12, Shapiro said. The youngest victims were a toddler and a two-week-old infant.
What continues to gall the survivors is that the State Board of Medicine was confronted with evidence against Barto almost two decades ago that investigators called a “pervasive and prolonged pattern of abuse” — and still chose to restore his medical license.
“We thought they got him,” Goetz said. “Instead, they let him go back to molesting children.”
Most of the assaults Barto is accused of happened after he got his medical license back after 2000, the AG's office said.
‘HE GROOMED A COMMUNITY'
When a reporter visited Laurel Pediatric Associates recently, Barto's name was no longer listed on the glass front doors.
“I could have been the last victim,” Lee Ann Berkebile, 29, of Johnstown, one of the first patients to file complaints against Barto in the 1990s, said in a brief telephone interview.
Other Barto accusers who just came forward, such as Amanda Dorich, 33, said she wishes now her family had filed a complaint back in the 1990s when she told them Barto assaulted her.
“The guilt weighs on me too,” Dorich said, adding she was 9 when she found herself in Barto's examination room after suffering an asthma attack.
Dorich said Barto insisted that she undress so that he could check her for scoliosis and that he needed to check her for a possible vaginal infection. Afterward, she said, she told her mother what Barto did and the mom complained to the office manager at the practice. But they were stymied from the beginning.
“We just got blown off, they kept dismissing us,” she said. “I wish we had done more, gone to the police. When I think of all those kids who were hurt after me, that's what kills me. All those kids.”
“You were just a child yourself,” Brosig comforted Dorich at a recent meeting with a reporter at Victim Services Incorporated in Johnstown, where Brosig is the clinical director.
Goetz, who was also at that meeting, said she told her mother that Barto hurt her but didn't tell her how until after the first accusations against him were leveled in 1998. She said they didn't dare tell anybody else.
Goetz said she told her mother that Barto hurt her but didn't tell her how until after the first accusations against the doctor were leveled in 1998.
“I didn't come forward because I could see how the town was reacting to the charges and I didn't want to put my family through that,” she said. “We thought (the state) got him.”
Brosig said it's no wonder so many victims like her stayed silent.
“They really circled the wagons and supported Dr. Barto,” she said. “You know how predators groom victims? Well, he groomed a community to believe he could do no wrong.”
“I suspect this is an accurate metaphor,” said James Hawdon, director of the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention at Virginia Tech university, who studies mass shootings and their effects on the communities in which they happened.
In essence, Hawdon said, Barto “was a type of con man who, instead of gaining someone's confidence to steal their belongings, gained the town's confidence to exploit the town's youth.”
“This would take ‘grooming,' if you will,” he said.
THOUSANDS RALLIED AROUND HIM
Barto, who is being held in the Cambria County Prison, has made no public statements since his guilty plea. Neither did his lawyer, David Weaver, when NBC News reached out to him.
Everybody called Barto by his nickname, Jack, and there were no more active do-gooders in Johnstown than the popular pediatrician and his wife.
Barto was a pillar of the community who sang in the choir at St. Benedict's Roman Catholic Church and served for more than a decade on the Richland Township school board.
From 1991 to 1993, he was the school board president — his name is still on the plaque on a wall near the library in the Richland School District.
Barto was also involved in the district's music boosters program, coached baseball and softball teams in town, and opened his home to foreign exchange students.
“Linda did the yearbook and many of her relatives worked within the district,” Brosig said. “Her family, immediate and extended, was and is still very well respected in the community.”
From the outside, Barto appeared to be a devoted father of four. But two years before he and his wife celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary, their marriage was tested the first time by accusations that he molested the three girls at his practice in Johnstown.
An ad in the 1999 Richland High School yearbook for Johnstown Pediatric Association where Barto practiced for two decades.Justin Merriman / for NBC News
“Kids' doc under investigation,” was the front page headline in the Oct. 11, 1998 edition of the local Johnstown newspaper, The Tribune-Democrat.
Prosecutors working for the state's Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs charged that Barto fondled a 4-year-old in 1994, a 13-year-old in 1995, and 3-year-old that January — right in front of her mother, the paper reported.
“I was stunned,” Kelli Bowman, mother of one of the victims, told the newspaper. “I didn't want to believe it was true.”
But in that same article, another doctor named David Hershberger rose to Barto's defense.
“He's a class act,” Hershberger said, noting that his three daughters are Barto's patients and he has no plans to take them to a different doctor. "I'm very pleased with him.” Hershberger could not be reached for comment.
Then on Oct. 23, The Tribune-Democrat ran eight letters to the editor, all of them in support of Barto.
“Case against doc cannot be true,” was one of the headlines.
Some 2,000 people wound up signing a petition in support of Barto, the paper reported.
Forced to defend himself, Barto had in his corner grateful moms like Denise Mihalick who traveled to Harrisburg to testify on his behalf.
“As a mother, I always ask for Jack,” she said, according to the newspaper.
‘DAMN RIGHT I FEEL BETRAYED'
But in March 2000, the state board stripped Barto of his medical license, which he held since 1974.
Barto “abused both his minor patients' trust in him, and their parents' trust, that he would behave inappropriately with their children for his own gratification,” state medical license examiner Suzanne Rauer wrote.
In a move that would be unimaginable in today's #MeToo era, Barto's disbelieving backers rallied behind their favorite doctor. The drive was led by grateful parents like Patty Brett, whose last name back then was Katarski and who brought her 15-month-old daughter to an April 2000 rally at a local restaurant that drew 350 people.
“I have said before, and I will say again, that my life has been devoted to the welfare of children,” Barto told the crowd, the local paper reported. “I have never, and would never, act in any way to harm a child.”
Brett said she believed Barto back then.
“I am the mother of three and the reason I was so devoted to him is he saved my daughter's life,” said Brett, who is now divorced and living in Pittsburgh.
“He diagnosed her with diabetes when she was 8 months old. At 9 months, she was on an insulin pump,” she said. “He advocated for me and for her with specialists. We had a wonderful rapport and there was never any inkling that he was doing anything wrong.”
How does she feel about Barto now?
“He personally called me and asked me to speak at that rally,” she said. “You're damn right I feel betrayed.”
Barto vowed to appeal the loss of his license to the Pennsylvania Board of Medicine and then caught a lucky break.
The doctor and one of his daughters were attending a Barry Manilow concert at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pennsylvania, when they realized the prosecuting attorney and the administrative judge who had been presiding over his case were sitting together right behind them.
“So his daughter turns around and takes a picture of them,” Walter Cohen, who was Barto's attorney at the time, said. “I remember his reaction to me was, ‘There is a God.' I mean, the stadium seats 16,000 people. What are the odds the judge and the prosecutor would be sitting right behind them.”
Armed with photos of the pair, Cohen made a motion to have the judge recuse himself and the prosecuting attorney dismissed, thus sending the matter to the state Board of Medicine, which is made up mainly of doctors who are in charge of licensing and discipline.
In a 7-2 vote, the board dismissed the claims of Barto's accusers and restored his license.
“I'm sick about it,” one of the dissenters, nurse practitioner Vivian Lowenstein, told the Associated Press last October.
Barto went back to work, this time at the clinic in Richland Township. He told the local paper he was grateful for all the support and relieved his ordeal was over.
“I've gotten a lot of hand-drawn cards from some of the kids,” Barto said at the time. “Some of them told me they said prayers for me. Kids are great.”
But the rumors about Barto persisted. And because Johnstown and the rest of Cambria County (population 144,000) is a small place, people who say they were victimized by the doctor often found themselves rubbing shoulders with others who thought the world of him.
Dorich, who is a teacher, said she found herself in the uncomfortable position of working with some of Barto's relatives at the Richland Township School District.
“It was awful, every time I saw her, it all came back to me,” Dorich said of one relative in particular.
Dorich said she was also faced with a dilemma when she found out her friend was taking her kids to Barto's practice. “I kept pleading with her not to take them there,” she said.
Later, Dorich said she got another shock when her parents moved to a home just a couple doors down from the compound where Barto lived.
“He would stand at the end of his driveway and wave at my children,” she said. “I couldn't even go take a walk in my parents' neighborhood.”
The chain of events that ended with Barto finally in handcuffs began Dec. 21, 2017, when a 12-year-old girl told her mother that at the end of an examination, the doctor had her sit on his lap while he molested her, according to a probable-cause affidavit.
Summoned by the Richland Township police, Barto demonstrated to a detective that he had been “holding the child with his hand directly over the vaginal area,” the affidavit states.
Barto was arrested by the Richland Township police Jan. 18, 2018. That same day, The Tribune–Democrat reported, a “Support for Johnnie ‘Jack' Barto” page went up on Facebook, complete with testimonials from local parents whose children were his patients.
Barto pleaded no contest to charges of indecent assault, corruption of minors and endangering the welfare of children, the paper reported.
Later, the state Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs suspended Barto's license to practice medicine stating that he posed “an immediate and clear danger to the public health and safety.”
Barto posted bail but he was prohibited from having any contact with juveniles without supervision.
Convinced that the 12-year-old was not alone, Attorney General Shapiro urged other potential victims to come forward. And a trickle of calls quickly turned into a torrent.
In March 2018, Barto was charged with two counts of indecent assault, one count of corruption of minors, and with endangering the welfare of children after a 29-year-old woman came forward and said the doctor molested her at age 14 while she was sleeping on a couch in his home back in 2002.
Barto pleaded guilty in that case. A month later, Barto admitted inappropriately touching a young relative numerous times and pleaded guilty to more indecent assault and child endangerment charges.
Barto's bail was revoked, the pro-Barto Facebook page came down, and his name was scrubbed off the glass door of Laurel Pediatric Associates. Staff at the practice declined comment.
By July, the number of Barto accusers had risen to 69 and the pediatrician was now a pariah. The community that had stood by him for two decades and was ready to do so again was stunned.
“I'm devastated that other people were hurt,” a distraught Donna Vickroy said. “I would have staked my life for this man.”
Vickroy said that back in 1998, when she was working to get the community to support Barto, she got an unsigned letter with no return address that she wished she had taken seriously.
“It said, ‘You seem like such a nice person, but this man is evil,” she recalled. “He did this. He did this.”
Now, said Vickroy, “I'm ashamed of myself.”
Virginia Tech's Hawdon said Vickroy probably has plenty of company.
“We know that people who survive acts of mass violence experience survivor's guilt,” he wrote. “In this case, I would think (Barto's) defenders would have an even greater sense of guilt since one could argue they did facilitate his continued criminal misconduct.
United Kingdom - ChildLine
Esther Rantzen speaks out over sexual abuse she suffered as child
Continued need for vigilance in entertainment industry, Childline founder says
Esther Rantzen, the television personality and founder of Childline and the Silver Line telephone support services, has spoken about the sexual abuse she suffered in childhood.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs about the scandal surrounding the paedophile Jimmy Savile's crimes at the BBC, Rantzen said television executives needed to remain alert to prevent children from being targeted.
“Paedophiles need access to children, so they will persuade the people who guard the threshold to let them through it. So in the entertainment industry we have to be aware.”
She spoke about the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of a older male in childhood. “He was not a blood relative. I can still see him now. He used to call me ‘Bright Eyes'. It was not the most serious of assaults, but horrible. I told my lovely mum and she didn't really believe it. She cared about the social circle and not creating problems. She probably wanted me to carry on meeting him, which I did until I was 18.”
There will always be a need for a charity like Childline, Rantzen argued, despite greater recognition of the prevalence of child abuse in society. “I reckon we will have to be there for ever. Children will always need to talk to a stranger about something they can't say at home.”
Rantzen also spoke about the value of being a member of a minority ethnic community. Choosing the score to the Steven Spielberg film Schindler's List as one of her allotted eight tracks, she told presenter Lauren Laverne she had come to realise “how much I owe my Jewish heritage”. “It is important to be a member of a minority, I think, because it teaches you so much about tolerance,” Rantzen, 78, said.
She also recalled her father's working experiences. A Jewish engineer and inventor, he suffered discrimination in some jobs, but found a safe harbour working at the BBC for many years under the corporation's first director-general, Lord Reith.
A #MeToo HAREDI Hero
by MENACHEM SHLOMO
Chabad Rabbi Avremi Zippel speaks about the sexual abuse he faced and how he is rising above it to empower survivors in his community and the world.
They seem to have nothing in common: Mormon kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart, Olympic Gold Medalist Aly Raisman and Utah Chabad Rabbi Avremi Zippel.
But the three, in fact, share a powerful bond – the experience of being powerfully violated as children, sexually assaulted when they had barely any understanding of what sex was and taken advantage of by adults who used their bodies and their innocence for their own pleasure.
Earlier this month, Zippel's story spread across the world as the 27-year-old father of two stood in court with his kippah and his wispy brown beard to testify that his former nanny, 69-year-old Alavina Florreich, had sexually abused him from age eight to 18.
Smart, a victim of horrific rape by her kidnapper when she was just 14, stood in the courtroom in order to offer her support to the rabbi. Raisman offered hers via Twitter.
“Thanks for your bravery and courage Rabbi Zippel,” the Olympian wrote. “You will inspire so many others to share their stories. Thank you for speaking your truth! I support you!”
Zippel said that he had been inspired to come forward thanks to the #MeToo movement and after seeing the courage of Raisman to testify against Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics doctor who had allegedly abused hundreds of young girls.
Not long after his powerful story spread across the ocean and around the world, Zippel told The Jerusalem Post Magazine that he felt incredibly inspired by the positive responses he received from people from within his community and from without, while also feeling that a huge responsibility had fallen onto his shoulders. A responsibility, he explains, that he is more than ready to embrace.
“Since the story came out, I feel so relieved to be able to talk about it and I can finally move on and heal,” he says. “But at the same time, it sets a precedent for me and it reinforces the responsibility I have for others to help them come forward. It both felt really good and like I took on a really big commitment.”
Despite sexyal abuse being a topic not often or easily talked about within the haredi community, this rabbi stressed that he felt the need to come forward in order to spread awareness of the epidemic of child sexual abuse and to empower people to overcome the shame so often felt by victims.
Studies show that child sexual abuse is rampant across all societies and cultures. Research published by the National Institutes for Health in 2009 showed that nearly one in five girls and one in 12 boys have been sexually abused before the age of 18, with experts saying that there is little division among class, race or religion.
Another study published by the institute in 2018 found that there was no indication that sexual abuse was more or less prevalent among the religious Jewish community. It did, however, find a link between experiencing sexual abuse and leaving the community. In fact, the study found that individuals who were raised in the Orthodox community and then left are more than four times as likely to have been molested as children than those who stay in the community.
As the founder of Jewish Community Watch (JCW), an organization that works to combat child sexual abuse within the Orthodox Jewish community, Meyer Seewald described slightly different findings within his organization regarding the statistics.
“By us, in our community, I have found there to be more male victims than females. Because of the separation between the sexes, male predators don't necessarily have as much access to females unless they are family members or close friends. But with males we see many cases of boys having been abused by their male teachers, rabbis, mentors, camp counselors or other children.
“Furthermore, when a child is abused by someone well-respected within a tight-knit community, there are real risks that the child faces by coming forward and telling people. The community may ostracize him or call him a troublemaker. People often cannot believe that someone they respect can be guilty of such a heinous crime.”
This was not exactly the case for Zippel.
“My story is different from many others, especially within the religious Jewish community,” Zippel told the Magazine. “I wasn't abused by a Jew and I wasn't abused by a rabbi, but a lot of the experience of what survivors go through is universal.”
To indicate this point, Zippel explained the feeling he had as he watched Raisman's testimony in court against her abuser.
“Aly's story really touched me,” he said. “It seems to me that Aly's life would have been fine without coming forward. She was already a gold-medal gymnast with or without this. She could have lived a perfectly happy life without talking about this.
“But she got up there – first, because she thought it would be healing to herself and second, she came forward to empower others to not feel ashamed to tell their stories.
“There is a certain level of lack of control that survivors of abuse go through because you never know when you'll encounter your abuser. There is a certain level of power that your abuser holds over you. They have this secret and you have this secret and its that power of secrecy that they hold on you.
“To break through that cycle and to get that secret off your chest, it breaks the power. Every minute Aly talked, it felt like buckles were busting and ropes were coming undone; it gave me the thought that I can also do it myself one day.”
Zippel had lived with the shame of the abuse for years, saying the fear of people finding out about his past haunted him. He felt that because he experienced pleasure during some of the encounters and that sexual activity before marriage was sin, he was a sinner and a bad person.
“Most of my childhood I thought I was going to die imminently because I was doing these terrible sins. To me, the world was simple: there are good things and there are sins. I was like Satan in my head… so I lived in this turmoil,” he told Deseret News.
It is xactly for this reason that it's crucial for rabbis like Zippel to come forward and talk about these topics and for there to exist organizations like Jewish Community Watch, which has created a space within this community where haredim can learn about the extent to which sexual abuse causes harm and to provide an outlet for those who have been abused so that they can come forward and share their story and begin the journey toward ridding themselves of the shame.
JCW has created dozens of educational events in synagogues and schools within haredi communities both in Israel and around the world where people can hear from survivors of abuse, government officials and experts in the field of mental health. The events act as an education for parents who need to know what to look out for in their children and to create a conversation so that those who have been abused feel comfortable to come forward.
However, while private organizations like JCW exist to help haredi survivors of abuse, a representative from Jewish Community Watch explained that there is not enough being done by the government of Israel to fight this epidemic within this sect.
The blind spot of the government toward this issue became abundantly clear recently when the police announced they suspect that Deputy Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman, head of the haredi United Torah Judaism Party, worked with a psychiatrist to create documents saying that suspected child molester Malka Leifer was psychologically unwell and therefore unable to be extradited to Australia to face a trial.
Leifer is accused of having sexually abused numerous young girls while she was principal of a religious Melbourne girls' school.
It was, in fact, the privately funded Jewish Community Watch that hired a private investigator to research Leifer and uncovered that she had been faking her psychological diagnosis.
Despite the efforts to combat sexual abuse by groups like JCW, Zippel, a father to two young children, believes that the most important message to take from his story is one of love.
“I've had people respond to me, telling me that since they heard my story they have fired their babysitters and installed cameras in their homes and schools, but I really don't think that's the solution. Doing this is almost lulling ourselves into a false sense of security. It's the natural human reaction to flail out at everything in arms reach, but this is not going to be that simple.
“To a certain extent, you can't prevent this from happening. I know that sounds pessimistic, but I believe it's true. My abuser was loved and cherished by my family. Nobody would have considered that she was a sexual predator. Short of locking your kids in your home, you can't keep them in bubble wrap.
“What you can do is put the infrastructure in place that the first time something happens to them they aren't comfortable with, they can come to you and tell you. We need to instill in our children that no matter what happens, nothing can blemish who you are and hurt who you can become. We have to show them that we love them unconditionally despite anything that could have been done to them or that they could have done.
“I always thought abuse meant torture and I couldn't accept that what I had been through was abuse because as a child, it felt ‘consensual.' We need to tell children that you never have to feel ashamed to talk about anything to us. You should never hide anything.”
Seewald also believes that to a certain extent it is impossible to truly prevent children from being abused.
“Can you actually prevent every single incident? No, you can't. But when there are murders on the street, you hire more police officers and it slows it down. This is why JCW exists. To give victims the support they need to bring their abuser to justice – to hold abusers accountable. The knowledge that they may run into us and be exposed in front of the community offers some deterrence.”
But the most impactful way to help those who have been abused is to show them that it is okay to talk about what they have gone through.
“It is very important for victims of child sexual abuse to come out and tell their story,” says Seewald. “It is especially heartening to see a rabbi do it. By talking about his abuse, Rabbi Zippel is paving the way for the next person to come forward and talk about what they have been through. By bravely expressing his pain and everything he went through, Zippel is empowering others to use their voices and know that it is OK for them to tell their story.”
The weight of the responsibility is not lost on the rabbi.
“I don't know why me. I don't think I'll ever know why me,” he told Deseret News about everything that he had been through. “I believe that God gave certain people a certain journey in life for a reason. I believe that when you are given a certain path in life, you have a spiritual responsibility, a spiritual opportunity, to walk that path. It's an inescapable part of my past and now I have the opportunity to do something about it – to walk that path and to bring some good into the world as a result of it.