National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

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"News of the Week"  

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


Priest in Oakland Diocese arrested on suspicion of child abuse

Hector David Mendoza-Vela, a priest at Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Fremont, was being held on $900,000 bond.

by Alex Johnson

A priest in the Catholic Diocese of Oakland, California, was being held Sunday on charges of lewd and lascivious acts with a child, according to court records.

Hector David Mendoza-Vela, 42, the parish administrator at Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Fremont, was being detained in an Alameda County jail on $900,000 bond pending an arraignment on Tuesday.

Alameda County sheriff's Sgt. Ray Kelly said Sunday that Mendoza-Vela was booked Friday on 30 counts of suspicion of abuse of a single child over an 18-month period beginning in 2016, when Mendoza-Vela was working at St. John's Catholic Church in San Lorenzo. Kelly said investigators knew of no other cases in San Lorenzo involving Mendoza-Vela and of no cases in Fremont.

Diocesan records show that Mendoza-Vela emigrated to the United States from El Salvador in 2008 and studied at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park, California.

Michael C. Barber, the bishop of Oakland, said in a letter to parishioners that Mendoza-Vela was immediately suspended pending the investigation.

"While we do not have all the details, the alleged behavior is in clear violation of the Diocese's code of conduct and the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," Barber said. He said that under diocesan policy, he would have no further comment.



"It's heart-wrenching."

Child abuse investigation underway at Escambia Westgate School

by Danielle Apolinar

ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. (WEAR-TV) — A mother is heartbroken as an investigation into the abuse of her son is under way.

The incident took place at Escambia Westgate School according to the Department of Children and Families.

Deputy Superintendent Norm Ross confirmed Westgate teacher, Rachel Payne is on paid administrative leave as the investigation continues.

Kiara Jordan says her son Jace Rounds is autistic and non-verbal.

"My son is on the lower end so he needs a lot more attention," Jordan said.

On Tuesday, he turned 5 -years-old and spent his day at Escambia Westgate School.

"He can't speak yet but he can communicate, he's a loving kid and I don't think he deserved this," she said.

A day later, on Wednesday, Jordan said she got a call from an investigator with DCF.

"They supposedly have video of him being slung across the classroom by his teacher," she described.

DCF confirmed an investigation is underway at the school. Since the case is under investigation, Jordan said she has not been told she is not allowed to see the video.

"To sit and wait for answers it's heart-wrenching," said Jordan.

Jordan said she was not notified until a day after the alleged abuse took place. She said she is beyond frustrated.

"I don't want to have to worry about sending him to school and wondering if he's safe or not," she said.

Deputy Superintendent Norm Ross said that delay might have had something to do with the time this incident was discovered, which was later in the day.

Ross said state law dictates how abuse claims are reported at schools. He said if any abuse is suspected, typically the school employees will notify DCF first. He said the first call will go to enforcement if the child is in immediate danger.

From there, Ross said DCF will determine if the next call should be to law enforcement. He said every case is different. In this case, DCF said law enforcement was already notified before they got the information.

"I guess we just play the wait game," said Jordan.

Now, Jordan says she and Jace are taking one day at a time. She is waiting for answers as to what happened to her son.

"It's so many mixed emotions right now, it's like the world getting flipped upside down, shaken up for a minute." she said.

Jordan says she does not feel comfortable sending Jace back to school and is waiting for more answers before she does. She is also looking into the possibility of him attending a different school.



Pope signs law to prevent child abuse in Vatican and its embassies

by Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Friday made it compulsory in law to report the sexual abuse of children within the Vatican and in its diplomatic missions worldwide.

Although the city state within Rome is tiny, and very few children live there, the sweeping legal changes reflect a desire to show that the Catholic Church is finally acting against clerical child abuse after decades of scandals around the world.

The changes signed by the pope - who is Vatican head of state as well as head of the Church - make it obligatory for superiors and co-workers to report abuse allegations; punish failure to report with dismissal, fines or jail; and offer assistance to victims and families.

There are also provisions to protect vulnerable adults.

It is the first time a unified and detailed policy for the protection of children has been compiled for the Vatican and its embassies and universities outside the city state.

The law sets up procedures for reporting suspected abuse, imposes more screening of prospective employees, and sets strict guidelines for adult interaction with children and the use of social media.

The Church's credibility has been badly tarnished in much of the world by abuse scandals in Ireland, Chile, Australia, France, the United States, Poland, Germany and elsewhere, in which it has paid billions of dollars in damages to victims and been forced to close parishes.

"Laws that make even one child safer should be applauded," said Anne Barrett Doyle of the U.S.-based abuse tracking group

"While the action is no-risk and limited in scope, it is constructive. It's a baby step in the right direction," she said, calling for the pope to undertake "bold, broad reforms" by changing universal Church law.

Senior bishops from around the world met in the Vatican last month to chart a strategy for ending abuse. Victims said the meeting merely produced a restatement of old promises.

The scandals have reached the upper echelons of the Vatican itself. Cardinal George Pell, jailed this month for six years for abusing boys in his native Australia, had served as the Vatican treasurer and a member of the pope's innermost council of cardinals.

Vatican diplomatic missions have also been involved in scandals in the past. In 2013, Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, the Vatican's ambassador to the Dominican Republic, was charged with paying boys for sex. He was recalled and kept in detention in the Vatican but died in 2015 before his trial.


South Carolina

Catholic church reveals names of SC priests credibly accused of child sex abuse

COLUMBIA, SC -- The names of 42 Catholic priests with South Carolina ties and who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse or misconduct with children were made public late Friday afternoon by Diocese of Charleston, which oversees all Catholic churches in South Carolina.

Thirty-one of the 42 alleged child sex predator priests have died, the church said in a Friday afternoon news release. No one on the list is currently a priest.

The list included only priests who had credible, or believable, accusations against them, the church said.

Although the church listed the names of accused abusive priests, in most cases, it did not reveal cases the specific S.C. churches or schools the offenders were associated with.

Nor did the church provide an estimate of the number of victims the priests had abused. Child sex abuse experts say the number of children a molester victimizes before he is caught can run into the hundreds.

The allegations covered on the list date as far back as 1950.

“It is my fervent hope and prayer that publishing this list will help bring healing to the victims and their families who have been so grievously harmed by the betrayal of priests and Church leadership,” wrote the Most Rev. Robert Guglielmone, Bishop of Charleston in announcing the list.

Guglielmone asked anyone with a sexual misconduct allegation to contact local law enforcement in the area where the abuse occurred.

“The church should always be a safe environment — not only a place where no one will be abused going forward, but also a place where those who have been abused in the past can find understanding, healing and hope,” he said.

There are approximately 200,000 Catholics in South Carolina. Many attend the state's 34 Catholic schools and 116 Catholic churches.

The list contains four categories of priests: S.C. priests with a credible allegation against them in South Carolina, visiting priests who allegedly molested at least one child in the state, S.C. priests who allegedly abused children outside of South Carolina, and priests who were accused of abuse in class action lawsuits.

The list did not include the names of three priests who are the subject of pending civil lawsuits, the name of one priest who is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation and two priests whose behavior is undergoing review by an independent sexual abuse advisory board.

For decades, the Catholic church in the U.S. and other countries has been under fire for widespread child abuse by priests, none of whom are permitted to marry. Last year, a Pennsylvania grand jury issued a report saying more than 300 “predator priests” had been credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 children in six dioceses in that state since 1947.

Only in recent years has the church has begun to take serious steps to address the problem, although critics say it must do more. The publishing of the names of alleged child abusers, as the S.C. church did Friday, is one such step the church is taking to make itself more transparent and accountable.

Just this week, Pope Francis issued a law in Vatican City requiring officials of the city-state to immediately report instances of abuse to Vatican prosecutors, the New York Times reported.

Along with the actual abusers, other high-ranking Catholic church clergy across the nation have been accused of covering up priests' crimes against children. Meanwhile church dioceses, or governing bodies, have paid out tens of millions of dollars to Catholic victim-survivors across the country, many of whom have grown into adulthood bearing serious emotional and psychological wounds.

The Catholic church is not alone in allegations of child abuse by those who work with youth. In a recent investigation, the Houston Chronicle found that over a 20-year period, hundreds of pastors and other leaders at numerous Southern Baptist churches abused some 700 victims.

Among the names of alleged Catholic child abuser clergy:

Msgr. Roy Aiken, of Columbia, former editor of the Catholic Banner, the Catholic newspaper of South Carolina. Before dying in 2006 at the age of 87, Aiken taught at Ursuline and Cardinal Newman high schools in Columbia, as well as St. Angela Academy in Aiken. He was also a priest at St. Peter Church in Columbia and St. John Church in Summerville.

John Simonin, of Mt. Pleasant, who died in 2010 at the age of 88. He was a priest at St. Peter's in Beaufort, St. Anthony's in Ridgeland and St. Mary of the Annunciation in Charleston.

William Burn, of Charleston, who died in 2009 at the age of 87. His obituary says he pastored at “various Catholic parishes throughout South Carolina” as an assistant and a pastor.

A priest not on the list was the Rev. Javier Heredia, who worked at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Columbia from mid-2014 to the end of 2016. He was placed on leave last year by the bishop and faces criminal charges of improperly touching a girl at a public wave pool. Heredia has denied the allegations.

The list can be found at:

The names of the priests are Roy Aiken (died 2006), John Bench Jr. (died 2009), Peter Berberich (died 1997) William Burn (died 2009), Eugene Condon (died 2014), Basil Congro (whereabouts unknown, not allowed to be a priest), Raymond DuMouchel (died 2006), Thomas Evatt (died 2003), Justin Goodwin (died 1995), Frederick Hopwood (died 2017) and Walter Pringle Lee (died 1981).

Also: Frederick McLean (died 2010), George Frederick Moynihan (died 2004), Daniel Francis Murphy (died 1998), James Robert Owens-Howard (died 2015), Gerald Ryfinski (defrocked 2007 — he had an allegation of possessing child pornography), Paul Seitz (retired 2002), Charles Sheedy (died 1989), John Simonin (died 2010) and Hayden Vaverek (defrocked 2016).

Visiting alleged predator priests were: Juan Carlos Castano-Mejia (served a prison sentence and deported to Colombia), Roger Collerett (whereabouts unknown, perhaps Canada), Anthony William Johnson of New Jersey (died 2012), James Nyhan (of Boston, whereabouts unknown), Cesare Palatore Belfiore (visiting Costa Rican priest) and James Sharples (died 1974).

Other priests with credible sexual abuse allegations are: Robert Joseph Kelly of Altoona-Johnstown (status unknown), Francis Landwermeyer (died 1918), John Mitchell (died 1996), Augustine “Austin” Park (died 2013), Gabriel “Gabe” Smith (retired), Robert Spangenberg died 2006), and Thomas Tierney (died 1972).

Other priests on the list: John Eccleston (visiting priest from Washington, D.C., died 2012), Leon Joseph Hubacz (died 1999), ernest Kennedy (died 2017), James McElroy (died 1971) Anthony Plikunas (died 1973), Bill Richardson (left priesthood in 1983), Frederick Suggs (died 1998) and Creston J. Tawes (died 1980).


Signs of Child Abuse

12 Subtle Signs of Child Abuse That Are Easy to Miss

by Stacey Feintuch

Look beyond just physical bruises. Changed behavior, aggressive role play, lack of boundaries… these are all red flags.

The tragic scope of child abuse

Every year more than three million reports of child abuse are made in the United States, according to ChildHelp. Child abuse is when a parent or caregiver—whether through action or failure to act—causes injury, death, emotional harm, or risk of serious harm to a child. Forms of child maltreatment include neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, and emotional abuse. It's important that everyone in a child's life be able to recognize the possible signs of abuse or neglect, so kids in these situations can be removed from harm's way.

Bruised stomach

Physical abuse often happens on body parts you wouldn't expect, such as the stomach or back of the legs. Bruises may be symmetrical. They may look like a belt buckle, handprint, or cigarette burn. Kids may be dressed in unseasonable clothing to hide such marks. It is important not to jump to conclusions based just on clothing, however, as kids don't always want to dress for the weather. “Don't be trigger happy and call authorities without ‘reasonable suspicion,'” says Fran Walfish, PsyD, (Dr. Fran), a child, couple, and family psychotherapist in private practice in Beverly Hills and author of The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with Your Child.

Acting out abuse through play

Very young children often haven't developed the language skills to tell their story, so they may use play to help them communicate, process, and come to terms with what they're seeing or experiencing. While playing house, the child who is playing “daddy” may say: “You're a bad girl; I'm going to smack you.” Or the child playing the sister may say: “Mommy don't use the belt on me. I'll be good.” These are red flags. Sometimes a child may use dolls or stuffed animals to show what's been done to them; for example they may spank a doll with a stick or throw the doll against the wall. These are also red flags. “Young children often process their real lives through reenactment and role play,” says Betsy Brown Braun, a child development and behavior specialist, author of two best-selling parenting books, and founder of Parenting Pathways. “It's their effort to have mastery over what may have been emotional or difficult for them.


When kids are experiencing abuse, they may regress when it comes to behaviors they had once mastered. A child who had learned to go the bathroom on his own but is suddenly wetting the bed at night or having accidents during the day may be a victim of child abuse. They're regressing to a time when they felt safe. “If a child victim of abuse regresses by daytime or nighttime wetting, it's a sign of the child letting go of, or releasing, extreme levels of anxiety,” says Dr. Walfish. She cautions that you want to be sure that the child had been dry without an accident for a consistent and sustained time before leaping to conclusions. And also make sure nothing else is going on at home that may be causing the regression, such as the arrival of a new sibling or a pending divorce.

Knowing a lot about sex for their age

An abused child may have been exposed to sex in a way that they shouldn't be. “A young child who has been consistently abused may not know that their experience is abnormal or inappropriate,” says Catherine Pearlman, PhD, LCSW, founder of The Family Coach and author of Ignore It!: How Selectively Looking the Other Way Can Decrease Behavioral Problems and Increase Parenting Satisfaction. So they may have a level of understanding of sex that's inappropriate for their age—for example, a child who demonstrates or describes oral sex. “They show through their play, vocabulary, and interactions their advanced knowledge,” she says. They may place objects near a stuffed animal or doll's private areas. They may know explicit terms related to sex or genitalia. It's their way of processing and coping,” says Dr. Pearlman. When a child knows a lot about sex compared to other children their age, that's a red flag.

Touching people inappropriately

Kids who have been abused may lack boundaries when it comes to their body or other people's. They may touch themselves, other children, or adults in a way that's inappropriate and not seem conscious that it's wrong. “They may think it's normal to touch other people's privates,” says Dr. Pearlman. “This includes both adults and children.”

Avoiding a certain person or situation

Abused kids lack the awareness or sophistication to defend themselves when the abuse is happening, and they don't know how to stop it from happening again. They may simply try to avoid their abuser. If a child stops wanting to visit a person or place they used to enjoy, that's a red flag. Maybe they used to love going to school, but now suddenly they don't want to go. Or they seem terrified of visiting a relative's house, when they once loved going there. “The child may be trying to stay safe and escape the abuser,” says Dr. Pearlman. “Sometimes, children are conflicted because a parent may have a close relationship with the abuser. It makes it complicated to come forward. Or worse, the child did report something, but the parent didn't believe the child due to the close relationship. In those cases, the child's only defense is avoidance.”

Withdrawn personality

Children who are reluctant to interact with others or who used to be more engaged may have experienced physical or emotional violence. Of course, not every child is outgoing; some kids are shy by nature. So, just being withdrawn isn't a sign of child abuse. “Kids who've been abused may become mute, or refuse to speak,” says Dr. Walfish. A well-trained professional can evaluate what's going on, figure out the cause, and ensure that parents aren't wrongly accused of child abuse—which happened with this family.

Unable to concentrate on school work

Children who have trouble focusing on their schoolwork may be diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Be aware that abuse or trauma can also make it hard for kids to pay attention in class or process information, leading them to fall socially and academically behind their peers. “If the abuse is something new, you'll notice a change in behavior—where a child who was previously more focused is now having difficulty staying on task or completing assignments,” says Elizabeth Jeglic, PhD, a professor of psychology at John Jay College in New York and coauthor of Protecting Your Child from Child Abuse: What You Need to Know to Keep Your Kids Safe.

Drastic behavior changes

You may notice that a child has stopped eating and is losing weight. Or maybe he's eating more than usual and gaining weight quickly. At night, a child who once slept soundly may be suddenly experiencing nightmares or insomnia, have trouble falling asleep, or not want to sleep alone. Maybe a child who used to love books now doesn't care about reading, says Dr. Pearlman. “Changes in eating, sleeping, toileting, and general behavior are all ways children try to manage the emotional pain that accompanies the abuse,” says Dr. Pearlman.

Low self-esteem

Victims of abuse may think that what has happened is their fault. They feel unworthy of love or help. “Abusers will often tell a child that the abuse is their fault, that they were the one who wanted it, or that their parents will be angry if they tell,” says Dr. Jeglic. “The abuser does this as part of the grooming process to avoid detection. However, it causes the child to feel that he's responsible. He feels like he's done something bad and he's ashamed.” Only through working with other victims many years later as an adult, was this woman who survived child sexual abuse finally able to regain self-esteem and find peace.

Delayed development

“Children who've been abused may not meet their milestones in a typical way,” says Dr. Pearlman. “Their development may be halted.” She says, for example, children deprived of food by their abuser can have chronic malnutrition that may lead to growth delays or failure to thrive. Their social development or academic achievement may be halted, she adds.

Often feeling ill

Some children will have physical symptoms as a result of abuse, says Dr. Jeglic. “You may see increased stomachaches, headaches, and generally not feeling well.” The symptoms may result from difficulty eating or sleeping, which can lead to aches and pains. When you see an increase in symptoms like these, that can be a red flag. The abuse may not always be coming from an adult. Even peer to peer teasing that's intended to be playful can cross the line and become hurtful. Watch for subtle signs that your child may be being bullied.



Shifting gears to prevent child abuse

State, local agencies focus on prevention, not discipline


La PORTE — Just as in health care, the best way to solve cases of child abuse and neglect is to prevent them from happening in the first place.

That's the approach Indiana Department of Child Services Director Terry Stigdon has taken since assuming the helm of the state agency more than a year ago — and the path she recently encouraged La Porte County child welfare advocates and professionals to follow as well.

The director shared her department's evolving philosophy on combating child abuse with nearly 100 people in attendance at Dunebrook's Child Abuse Prevention Month Kickoff Breakfast on Friday at Portofino Grill in La Porte.

The event is the first of several that Dunebrook will host over the coming weeks to raise awareness of the monthlong national campaign, which has become famous for encouraging people to place blue pinwheels around their homes or businesses.

Since Gov. Eric Holcomb appointed the former Riley Hospital official to take command of DCS in December 2017, Stigdon has overseen a tremendous change in how the agency tackles child abuse and neglect in Indiana, the director said.

DCS' new focus is addressing the factors that lead to child abuse before they result in family separation by “working with the right child, at the right time, in the right way,” she said.

The practice of separating parents from children has led to a “generation of confused and disconnected people, which is not OK,” Stigdon said.

“The days of removing first and asking questions later are officially in past for this agency. We were tearing apart families at a fierce rate and limiting their ability to be able to heal, to improve and to just be a family with minimal assistance, when that was the best option.”

The state's new mindset falls in line with the federal Family First Prevention Services Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in February 2018. FFPSA provides funding for services that help prevent children from entering the foster care system, such as programs that teach parenting skills or help treat substance abuse or mental health problems.

Stigdon also wants to strengthen DCS' partnerships with state and local entities in order to provide struggling families the coaching, support and resources they need to resolve problems before further intervention is needed.

Stigdon told attendees to ask themselves what they can do, individually and collectively, to improve the level of support they offer children and families.

“Don't only plant the pinwheels and go on with your day,” she said. “Engage in the tough conversations about how we can do better as a Hoosier community to prevent child abuse. We can do this. We must do this.”

Dunebrook Executive Director Jeanne Cannon later led a panel discussion about what La Porte County leaders are doing to tackle the issue on a local level. Participating in the talk were Circuit Court Judge Thomas Alevizos, La Porte County DCS Director Michelle Goebel, Prosecutor John Lake, Swanson Center Director Dan Peck and Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Ron Heeg.

When asked what challenges local leaders face when tackling issues related to child abuse and neglect, the panel gave a number of different responses, from problems with unemployment and homelessness to parents who, instead of paying attention to their kids, let smartphones and social media sites raise their children.

Alevizos said drugs also continue to play a massive role in the breakup of local families.

“You'll always have your traditional abusers, but a lot of people are so strung out on drugs they just don't have the ability to parent, quite frankly,” the judge said.

Heeg said law enforcement agencies are also hampered by constraints in technology and funding when it comes to pursuing potential child abuse cases.

“At the sheriff's office, we have two investigators that are assigned to child abuse and sex crimes,” he said. “We could double that and it still wouldn't be enough to handle the amount of cases we receive on a daily basis.”

Cannon also asked the panel what county child welfare agencies can do to better collaborate.

Goebel thinks La Porte County already has a strong network of organizations working together to prevent child abuse, with DCS representatives in other parts of the state mentioning the region as a positive example of the power of collaboration, she said.

Many members of the community actively report suspected child abuse cases, including educators, Goebel said. Over the years, representatives of child welfare agencies have established a number of common values, including early intervention, rehabilitation instead of punishment, education and outreach, she said.

“As we continue to grow, I've just seen so much excitement,” Goebel said. “I know I get excited at meetings as well. We'll be talking about something and I'll get really excited because there's a solution. … If we just work together, we can solve some of these issues.”



Child abuse CRACKDOWN

Do you recognise this? The public have been asked to identify objects in child abuse images to help trace their origin.


The initiative launched by Europol has released censored images from child abuse crimes as part of their Stop Child Abuse - Trace an Object campaign.

Followers of the campaign have helped by identifying objects from the background of sexually explicit material or geolocating the surrounding area. The public have sent in 18,300 tips since 2017 about the origin.

Europol have so far located eight victims and prosecuted one offender.

The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement said out of 70 objects identified, 25 have been identified to one or a reasonable number of likely countries of production.

A spokesperson said: “This means that we are almost certain that the image containing child sexual abuse was produced in those countries.

“All of the tips for these 25 objects have been transmitted to these countries and several investigations are currently ongoing.

Up to 25 images have been identified since the campaign was launched

“These investigations are very complex and can take months, even years, but these tips are very important as they can be the vital clue that acts as the starting point for an investigation or links other pieces of evidence.”

The images include relatively unique versions of objects such as backpacks, jumpers and parks.

After images are shared on social media, users suggest locations where the picture was taken.

Europol currently hold more than 40 million images of child sexual abuse from across the world.

Anyone can help by contacting Europe with relevant information

The spokesperson added: “The most innocent clues can sometimes help crack a case. The objects are all taken from the background of an image with sexually explicit material involving minors.

“We are convinced that more eyes will lead to more leads and will ultimately help to save these children.

“Once the origin of an object is identified, we will inform the competent law enforcement authority of the involved country to further investigate this lead and hopefully speed up the identification of both the offender and the victim.”

Anyone can help by contacting Europol with relevant information.

The public are urged not to share any personal information recognisable online.



French Couple Falsely Accuses Catholic Priest of Child Abuse

In the department of Marne, a septuagenarian couple was given a suspended sentence on February 28, 2019 of three months of prison, for having falsely accused a priest of pedophilia, the director of the Foyer de Charité in Baye, a spiritual retreat center, for 20 years.

In March 2018, Marie-Jeanne and Jean-Louis Martin reported the supposedly “deviant” conduct of the priest to the police, the ecclesiastical authorities and victims' associations. The investigations ordered by public prosecutor Eric Virbel rapidly exculpated the priest.

The only supposed victim named by the accusers denied that he had ever been assaulted in any way. The parents quoted by the couple denied as a group that they had ever spoken of any abuse. The case was therefore closed in October 2018 without further action.

The public prosecutor of Châlons-en-Champagne then announced his decision to launch “proceedings against the couple for the offence of libellous accusations.” It appeared then that the accusers were engaged in a real estate dispute with the priest.

“There could well have been a conflict between the priest and the couple,” a source with knowledge of the case told Le Figaro. The Martins had indeed obtained lodging in a building belonging to the Foyer for a nominal sum, in exchange for specified work.

Over time, this arrangement no longer suited the couple and a legal dispute ensued. The court established that the accusations were made with the sole intent of harming the priest.

The couple was given a suspended sentence of three months of prison on February 28, 2019, and made to pay a fine of 500 euros.


West Virginia

Governor vetoes bill, harsher penalties for child abuse cases

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice signed numerous bills on Wednesday, but House Bill 2933 wasn't one of them.

HB 2933 unanimously passed in the West Virginia House of Delegates and the Senate. If it passed, the bill would provide harsher penalties for child abuse crimes resulting in injury.

But Governor Justice vetoed the bill due to a technicality, with the word “misdemeanor” needing to be removed from the bill altogether.

The Governor wants that part of the bill corrected, before moving forward.

“His office expressed, they're completely in support of the intent of the law and the bill,” said Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler. “If that one word is removed, the bill can be taken up in a special session.”

“It's certainly an important bill,” said John Shott, West Virginia Delegate representing District 27. “We've had some horrific situations around this area involving abuse of children. Hopefully, this bill will serve as a deterrent. Sitler's concerned because of cases where he has to explain to families why he can't punish people more harshly, based on the severity of what they've done.”

There is no confirmation yet as to when the special session will take place.



Arizona nonprofit: Here's how to identify and report child abuse


PHOENIX — In the wake of a shocking report of child abuse in Maricopa, one expert says it's important to keep an eye out for children who may not be leading normal lives.

Last week, authorities in Arizona charged Machelle Hobson, 48, with abuse of her seven adopted children, accusing her of pepper spraying them, locking them in a closet and more if they did not perform well in YouTube videos.

She was booked into the Pinal County Jail last week on suspicion of molestation of a child, child abuse and unlawful imprisonment and child neglect.

The children had not attended school in years, police said.

“I think that one of the things that is particularly relevant today are situations where in a given neighborhood … people who live there, know that children who may live in a certain house or a certain location are simply not playing outside, are not attending school, are not doing what most kids do who live in neighborhoods with their families,” Rebecca Ruffner, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Arizona, told KTAR News 92.3 FM last week.

“And that is not in and of itself a sign of abuse or neglect, but … a person might want to reach out to those families and just see if there's anything that they can do to help, or have a friendly chat at the mailbox, or whatever.”

The organization's website also lists unexplained injuries, fear of touch, weather-inappropriate clothing, antisocial behavior, uncontrolled aggression, bad hygiene and untreated illness as possible signs of physical abuse, emotional abuse or neglect.

Anyone can report child abuse by calling 1-888-SOS-CHILD or 911 if a child is in immediate danger, according to the website.

Ruffner said regulating home schooling to include periodic visits from authorities is important, “so that we don't have the kinds of situations that we've seen recently both in California and Arizona with large families who are actually maltreating their children at home and have that home-school protection.”

She said there's no “rational explanation” for why some people abuse children, and it's impossible to predict who will be a good parent and who will be an abuser.

“In those situations, what we often see is mental illness in the parents as well as criminality,” she said.

“A possible way to understand it is that the parents themselves have a history of severe maltreatment and they don't have the skills and the resiliency to overcome that early trauma themselves.”

Ruffner said the Maricopa case shouldn't affect how people view foster parents or parents who choose to home school, as Hobson was an “extreme outlier.”

“The vast majority of foster parents are good people going out of their way to try to protect and nurture children who can't be with their parents,” she said.



Former IHS doctor convicted of child abuse could still get pension, sparking outrage


A former Indian Health Service pediatrician convicted of sexually abusing two Blackfeet Indian boys is still eligible to receive millions in retirement benefits, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Convicted pedophile Stanley Patrick Weber retired with honors from IHS and remains eligible for a full pension, the Journal reported Thursday. The report prompted Republican Sens. Steve Daines, of Montana, and John Hoeven, of North Dakota, to ask the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to deny Weber benefits by whatever means necessary.

Weber was convicted in January of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, and two counts of attempted aggravated sexual abuse of a child, all felonies stemming from his 1993 to 1995 employment as an Indian Health Service pediatrician on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Working in Browning, the doctor engaged in sex with a boy younger than 12 and attempted to have sex with another boy younger than 16, according to prosecutors.

He was sentenced to prison for 18 years, four months and fined $200,000 by U.S. District Judge Brian Morris. The case has been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

In South Dakota, Weber is scheduled for a September trial on 10 charges of sexual encounters with children at Pine Ridge between 1998 and 2011, the year he retired. Weber is jailed in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Weber's time with the IHS is part of a PBS Documentary “Predator on the Reservation” by the Wall Street Journal and Frontline.

“We are appalled by Mr. Weber's actions and the manner in which IHS repeatedly turned a blind eye to the reported suspicions raised by his behavior,” Daines and Hoeven wrote to the head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “We understand you and Admiral Weahkee are looking into this matter and we appreciate your current efforts to clean up the egregious systemic breakdown that enabled Mr. Weber to abuse children for decades. While investigations are ongoing and justice is being served, we urge you to take whatever action necessary, within your authority, to prevent Mr. Weber from receiving his pension.”

Michael Weahkee is deputy director of the Indian Health Service. In February, Indian Health Service officials briefed members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee about Weber. Both Montana Sens. Daines and Jon Tester, a Democrat, serve on the committee. Daines and Tester told Lee Montana Newspapers last month that the Senate Indians Affairs Committee wants to make sure that nothing like Weber's actions happen again in IHS.

Monday, the Trump administration announced that it was creating a task force to investigate how Weber managed to sexually assault children within IHS.



More needs to be done to fight child abuse

Amendments to the laws on child welfare and measures against child abuse, submitted to the Diet by the government earlier this month, explicitly prohibit corporal punishment of children by their guardians. That is a response to the repeated excuse reportedly uttered by parents accused of abusing their children: they were just trying to “discipline” them. It's undeniable that compared with many other countries corporal punishment by parents has long been condoned as a means to discipline children in Japan. The nation's Civil Code carries a provision stating that people with parental authority can discipline their children “to the extent necessary” for their custody and education.

In that sense, legally banning corporal punishment may constitute progress since it can be difficult to draw a line between where corporal punishment in the name of discipline ends and child abuse begins. The proposed amendments state the Civil Code provision on disciplining children should also be reviewed within two years. However, simply banning corporal punishment — without punitive provisions for offenders — won't do much to stop child abuse, which claimed the lives of at least 36 children last year. Also crucial are efforts to beef up the system that responds to suspected cases of child abuse, deals with the parents, intervenes in families to protect abused children, and punishes those responsible for harming the children.

The amendments call for steps to strengthening the functions of child welfare centers nationwide to separate the children from abusive parents when necessary for their safety. They also stipulate confidentiality obligations for school and municipal education board officials dealing with child abuse cases in light of the criticism that in the January death of a 10-year-old girl in Noda, Chiba Prefecture, local education board officials acted inappropriately when they disclosed to her father, who has been arrested for physically abusing the victim, that the daughter had complained of the father's violence in a questionnaire at her school — a development that could have exacerbated the victim's situation.

The measures also call for a greater role for police in dealing with child abuse cases. In the Noda case, officials reportedly felt “intimidated” by the overbearing attitude of the father, who insisted that the girl be returned to the family's home. As of last April, 34 police officers and 192 retired officers were deployed at child welfare centers, and the government plans to station more at those facilities. It is hoped that the involvement of the police will help in dealing with parents who won't cooperate with child welfare officials.

As for fortifying the functions of the child welfare centers, a clear division of roles will be stipulated between workers who take charge of intervening to take children into protection when abuse is suspected, and those who provide subsequent support/guidance for the parents. The separation of these functions was called for in light of criticism that in many of the fatal cases of child abuse officials hesitated to take action that could cause problems with parents with whom they need to stay engaged to provide support for the family. The government also plans to front-load the already planned increase in the number of child welfare officers — experts assigned to these centers to counsel and guide the parents and children — by roughly 2,000 by fiscal 2022.

Aside from these steps, what's also needed are measures to improve the quality of child welfare officers and other staff at the centers. In the Noda girl's case, such officers had been assigned to the local child welfare center, where efforts to increase staffing has been taking place in recent years, for an average of about four years. Those officers need to have enough experience and training to gain the expertise to make proper judgments on the risk of children being abused. In the Noda girl's case, the welfare center's decision to place the girl back in her parents' care despite the suspected risk of abuse has been questioned.

Bolstering the network of child welfare centers — which number 210 nationwide — will be another challenge as their staff are over-stretched in dealing with the growing number of suspected abuse cases referred to them, which topped 130,000 in fiscal 2017. Currently each of the 47 prefectures and major designated cities is obliged to set up such a center. To increase their numbers, a provision attached to the amendments calls on the government to provide manpower support for other 54 medium-size cities as well as Tokyo's 23 wards so they can also set up such centers. Those medium-size cities have in fact been empowered since 2004 to launch such facilities in their jurisdiction, but only two of them have so far done so. The government should consider more far-reaching steps, including greater fiscal support, to beef up the welfare centers, their functions and manpower.



Cities, ISU back campaign to prevent child abuse

Child Abuse news conference

by John O'Connell Idaho State Journal

CHUBBUCK — Throughout April, Shannon Fox hopes to see a lot of people in Southeast Idaho with a single thumbnail painted blue.

The unusual fashion statement is especially likely to take hold among employees of Idaho State University and the cities of Pocatello, Chubbuck and Blackfoot, she explained.

Fox, coordinator of Bannock Youth Foundation's Communities Aligned in Prevention Efforts program, said the gesture is a symbol of Child Abuse Prevention Month. The hope is that participants' painted thumbnails will stimulate conversations throughout April regarding the need for adults to undergo free training sessions teaching them to identify the signs of child sexual abuse. City and university leaders have challenged their staffs to purchase some nail polish and participate.

“We encourage everybody to paint a thumb blue to show support in education of preventing child abuse,” Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad said. “Our fire departments and police departments and city employees are focused on this.”

Bannock Youth Foundation will offer its Free Community Training for Stewards program from 4 to 6 p.m. April 12 and from 1 to 3 p.m. April 27.

Both trainings will be hosted at the Bannock Youth Foundation Family Resource Center, 403 N. Hayes Ave., and anyone interested in registering may call 208-220-4048.

“One out of 10 children will experience child sexual abuse,” Fox said. “Most of that is not strangers. It's people you know and trust.”

Statistically, Fox said it's likely that 2,400 children in the Pocatello and Chubbuck areas will be harmed by sexual abuse.

Fox said 4,300 people have taken the training during the past three years. She said her program hopes to eventually have at least 10 percent of the region's population trained to recognize the sexual abuse warning signs.

Idaho State University has planned events to be hosted during a related Child Abuse Prevention Week, in partnership with the Student Athletic Advisory Committee. At 2:30 p.m. April 8 at Reed's Gym, ISU will host a proclamation and rally kicking off the week, offering free Jamba Juice.

On April 9-10 at the Pond Student Union Building, people will be invited to sign a trauma prevention banner. From 7 to 9 p.m. April 10, the Bengal Theater will host a fundraiser, with free food, raffle items and a screening of the film “Resilience.” Fox said the movie offers background on both physical sexual abuse of children.

The events will culminate with the April 12 Bannock Youth Foundation training, where free pizza will be served.

“At ISU we are all in on helping with this effort,” said ISU President Kevin Satterlee.

The training receives financial backing from the state-supported Idaho Children's Trust Fund. The fund provides revenue to several Idaho programs that seek to prevent child abuse.

“These (trainings) are proven to be successful,” said Brenda Stanley, a member of the Children's Trust Fund board. “It's something we really hope people will take advantage of.”

Stanley said the American Falls Police Department was among the first entities in Idaho to have its members take the training, and she'd like to see other departments follow suit.

Chubbuck Mayor Kevin England encouraged the public to support Bannock Youth Foundation and similar programs financially.

“I think it's important you get involved to the point that you get educated and understand what you can do to help,” England said.

Blackfoot Mayor Marc Carroll said children represent the future of the community and must be protected.

“Anything any of us can do as adults we should do to ensure the health and safety and welfare of young people,” Carroll said.



Brotherhood aims to raise awareness, prevent child abuse

It's trauma that involves the youngest of victims, but it's a community problem that a local fraternal order hopes to raise awareness about and prevent the violence from happening.

The Kings of Hearts fraternity will have its inaugural fundraiser from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 30, at The Burn for Bridges of Hope and to end adverse childhood experiences.

"They approached us," Caleb Hall said of the nutrition-based business in Baxter. "They were looking for local organizations that were trying to get involved and be present in the community, and they had heard about us just from us trying to spread our message."

Fraternity brothers strive to "take good men and make them better," whose motto is "a voice for the voiceless," and values "honesty, integrity, secrecy, brotherhood," among other things.

"We've had a huge support from the community, from The Burn, and people really appreciate our message and our mission. And I think that they like to see that there is a group willing to stand up for what's going on in the community," said Hall, a co-founder of Kings of Hearts.

Hall is an account representative/vice president of social marketing at Bang Printing in Baxter.

"We've had offers to help out with other things, but there's a lot of other great organizations that can have a helping hand at that, and we really want to stay focused on the child abuse in the community."

Almost 40,000 children in the state were suspected of being abused or neglected in 2016, which represents a 25 percent increase from the prior year, according to a report released two years ago by the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

"Raise awareness for the prevention of child abuse has been our main focus," Hall said. "I haven't seen any strictly men's groups that are willing to take a stand on the particular subject of child abuse ... and are willing to be a voice and a face in this particular community."

Struggling and impoverished families stressed by unemployment and addiction without social support are particularly at risk, according to the Human Services Department.

Hall is the former president of Kings of Hearts, which meets twice a month. He said all of the fraternity's members are "hand-selected," with about a six-month background check and discussion beforehand to decide if those interested in joining the order should be welcomed.

His goal last year, when the fraternal order was founded, was to raise $1,000 but the fraternal order raised $750 with internal donations from the order's members, which now number at a baker's dozen.

"Our 2019 goal is to raise $5,000, and we believe we're on track for that," Hall said in part because of Saturday's fundraiser, of which $5 of each ticket sold goes directly to the fraternal order to benefit the Brainerd-based Bridges of Hope.

"The Burn—opening up their doors, to be able to offer a great, delicious health shake—they are actually going to split the proceeds with us, 50-50—and then we're going to take those funds and in turn invest them into raising the awareness about child abuse for the community."

According to the 2017 report released by the Human Services Department, of the more than 39,500 children who were the subject of suspected abuse, 16,400 were part of child maltreatment investigations, a 43 percent increase over the previous year.

"Part of the self-healing communities model is bringing together new ways of solving problems by looking at how we can build solutions around existing resources," said Amy Wyant, Bridges of Hope Self-Healing Communities Project co-coordinator in August.

Community organizations took a new tact in August dealing with issues such as suicide, juvenile offenses and dropout rates by partnering with Bridges of Hope for a "self-healing community."

"We also have a meeting with the sheriff's office next week at some point, and we're going to be talking about how we can assist them," Hall said of his brothers. "You can say so much about standing up to child abuse, but we want to know what we can physically do."

The self-healing communities model aims to build a community's capacity to improve outcomes for health and social issues by reducing and preventing adverse childhood experiences such as abuse, neglect and household dysfunction, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

"We're going to be attending the adverse childhood experience conference on Monday, April 8, and I think that's where we're going to have a strong arm in getting more involved," Hall said of the fraternity and the free, public event from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Bethlehem Lutheran Church.



CASA calls child abuse an ‘everywhere problem'

Volunteers are needed to meet demand of children in the system.

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Ahead of Child Abuse Awareness Month, an East Texas organization is calling for volunteers to help make a difference in a child's life.
“This is not a Dallas problem, this is not a Houston problem, this is a problem everywhere,” said East Texas CASA Executive Director Shelly Smith. “Whether you talk about it or don't talk about it, it exists.”

Court appointed special advocates are trained volunteers who may not be willing to foster children in their homes, but still have a desire to find safe homes for children who have been removed from their own.

Smith explained one of the most important things a foster child needs upon entering the system is an adult who has taken the time to know them on a personal level. These adults are then able to speak for these children's best interest as court appointed representatives.

“Not everybody has that capability to be a foster parent, but you can give your time, your 10 hours a month to be able to make a difference in a child's life,” said Smith. “We are dealing with children who have had their lives turned upside down.”

Smith said her mission for East Texas CASA is having a volunteer for each child they serve across Gregg, Rusk, and Upshur county. She explained they need more help before they can reach that goal.

“Right now we're serving about 56 percent of the children that are in care for the three counties that we serve,” said Smith. “We need about 77 more volunteers to serve all of the children in care.”

When speaking about CASA volunteers, Smith describes them more like extended family rather than a standard volunteer. She said those who choose to take on this role have a real opportunity to change lives with the power they hold in court.

“Their opinion is so valued in the courtroom,” said Smith.



Online child sex abuse case 'overwhelming Met Police'

LONDON -- Met Police Officers are managing more than 100 registered sex offenders each, in some areas.

A surge in online child sex abuse cases has "overwhelmed" Britain's largest police force, a watchdog has warned.

The Met Police was "not able to provide the service victims need and deserve" amid staffing pressures and a backlog of cases, inspectors said.

A review of 34 online cases found issues with the way 29 were handled, with 15 sent back to the force.

While the report focused on Scotland Yard, it acknowledged the issue was a "national problem".

The report, by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), branded the force's handling of child exploitation "ineffective".

An audit of 303 cases found that child protection practice was good in 93, required improvement in 127 and was inadequate in 83.

The watchdog said the Met's arrangements for investigating online cases involving indecent images of children and sexual exploitation were "not working".

'Missed chances'

Its found there was limited capacity in specialist teams, backlogs of work and resourcing pressures, and that officers in some areas were managing more than 100 registered sex offenders each.

Increasing use of social media platforms and channels to distribute, and access child sexual abuse images was a complex challenge in need of a response at a "national level", according to the report.

It said police and internet companies needed to "understand and exploit opportunities to reduce the access to, and availability of, such images".

The watchdog first highlighted shortcomings in the force's response to child abuse and sexual exploitation in a highly critical report in 2016.

While fewer cases were judged inadequate than in previous inspections, HMICFRS said the results indicate that consistency of effective practice "remains weak".

Opportunities to act quickly and decisively to protect children and prevent offending are still being missed, according to the report.

It added: "We found that lack of supervision, along with the high workload of investigators, is contributing to drift and delays in investigations."

Cdr Richard Smith, the Met's head of safeguarding, said: "We are pleased to see measurable improvement in our investigations since the last HMICFRS report was published.

"However, we know that we still have a lot more work to do before our child protection arrangements are consistently as effective as they should be.



Child Abuse Prevention Month brings out blue thumbnails

CHUBBUCK — April is child abuse prevention month, and the Idaho Children's Trust Fund is teaming up with the Bannock Youth Foundation and Idaho State University in helping spread that message throughout eastern Idaho.

“There's not any room for it. There's no room for people or kids to feel unwelcome or uncomfortable or youth in our communities to feel threatened in any way,” said Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad during a news conference Monday.

As usual, you'll see many blue pinwheels spread throughout the community in front of businesses and buildings, but this year there's a new twist.

Idaho Children's Trust Fund started the ‘Thumbs Up” Idaho campaign encouraging people to paint their thumbnails blue in support of the cause showing unity, and using it as a way to start conversation.

“Anything that we can do to protect the most helpless of our communities, we have a responsibility to do. And this a real problem amongst us, and it won't do any good for us to ignore it. We've got to educate about it so people understand exactly what it is,” said Chubbuck Mayor Kevin England.

The mayors of Pocatello, Chubbuck, and Blackfoot were joined by ISU President Kevin Satterlee who together kicked off the campaign by painting their thumbnails and pledging support to the program.

The organizations will put on many events in support of the cause this month, including child abuse prevention training, which has taught over 4,300 people in our region over the last few years.

“I join with the other mayors, and with President Satterlee, in challenging county commissioners, city employees, everybody, to participate in this training and find ways that we can benefit our youth,” said Blackfoot Mayor Marc Carroll.



'Child Abuse'?

Mass. Therapy Ban Means Parents Could Lose Their Kids if They Try to Help Them

Massachusetts lawmakers are considering a therapy ban that would not only make it illegal to counsel children about unwanted same-sex attraction or gender confusion but also punish parents who allow it by taking custody of their children.

Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, told CBN News that the bill "categorizes the treatment itself as child abuse."

It appears that Massachusetts is the first state to consider defining such therapy as abusive and allow for the option of taking away parental custody.

"This is a bill that would allow the state to take, for example, your daughter, and make her someone else's son," Beckwith said.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, a powerful LGBTQ advocacy organization, 15 states and Washington, DC have already passed therapy bans for youth. Beckwith says Massachusetts could be the first to add the abuse definition.

Lawmakers in Maine and Colorado are also considering therapy bans for youth right now. LGBTQ advocates have argued for years that therapy that allows youth to discuss their concerns about unwanted same-sex desires or gender identity issues is harmful.

Massachusetts lawmakers first introduced a youth therapy ban bill in 2013. Beckwith say proponents appear to have an "aggressive timeline" right now.

Last year, Beckwith says lawmakers couldn't agree on the abuse provision and delayed a vote until the end of the session in June.

This year, they're already taking action. Lawmakers held a hearing on Tuesday to consider testimony from those the measure would impact.

Parental custody is already an issue in transgender cases involving children across the country. Recently, Ohio officials stripped parental rights from a couple that opposed medical treatment for their teenage daughter who wanted to become a boy.

In Texas, a divorced father and mother are fighting over medical treatment for their 6-year-old son. The mother says he identifies as a girl and wants to pursue medical treatments to help him change. The father says the boy identifies as a boy and opposes the treatments.



Child abuse may change brain structure and make depression worse

Brain scans could reveal signs of childhood mistreatment

by Ruby Prosser Scully

A study of over a hundred people's brains suggests that abuse during childhood is linked to changes in brain structure that may make depression more severe in later life.

Nils Opel at the University of Münster, Germany, and his colleagues scanned the brains of 110 adults hospitalised for major depressive disorder and asked them about the severity of their depression and whether they had experienced neglect or emotional, sexual or physical abuse during childhood.

Statistical analysis revealed that those who experienced childhood abuse were more likely to have a smaller insular cortex – a brain region involved in emotional awareness.

Over the following two years, 75 of the adults experienced another bout of depression. The team found that those who had both a history of childhood abuse and a smaller insular cortex were more likely to have a relapse.

“This is pointing to a mechanism: that childhood trauma leads to brain structure alterations, and these lead to recurrence of depression and worse outcomes,” says Opel.

The findings suggest that people with depression who experienced abuse as children could need specialised treatment, he says.

Brain changes can be reversible, says Opel, and the team is planning to test which types of therapies might work best for this group.