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"News of the Week"  

April 2019 Week 1
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.


Jehovah's Witness

A Secret Database of Child Abuse

A former Jehovah's Witness is using stolen documents to expose allegations that the religion has kept hidden for decades


THE ATLANTIC -- In March 1997, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the nonprofit organization that oversees the Jehovah's Witnesses, sent a letter to each of its 10,883 U.S. congregations, and to many more congregations worldwide. The organization was concerned about the legal risk posed by possible child molesters within its ranks. The letter laid out instructions on how to deal with a known predator: Write a detailed report answering 12 questions—Was this a onetime occurrence, or did the accused have a history of child molestation? How is the accused viewed within the community? Does anyone else know about the abuse?—and mail it to Watchtower's headquarters in a special blue envelope. Keep a copy of the report in your congregation's confidential file, the instructions continued, and do not share it with anyone.

Thus did the Jehovah's Witnesses build what might be the world's largest database of undocumented child molesters: at least two decades' worth of names and addresses—likely numbering in the tens of thousands—and detailed acts of alleged abuse, most of which have never been shared with law enforcement, all scanned and searchable in a Microsoft SharePoint file. In recent decades, much of the world's attention to allegations of abuse has focused on the Catholic Church and other religious groups. Less notice has been paid to the abuse among the Jehovah's Witnesses, a Christian sect with more than 8.5 million members. Yet all this time, Watchtower has refused to comply with multiple court orders to release the information contained in its database and has paid millions of dollars over the years to keep it secret, even from the survivors whose stories are contained within.

That effort has been remarkably successful—until recently.

A white Priority Mail box filled with manila envelopes sits on the floor of Mark O'Donnell's woodpaneled home office, on the outskirts of Baltimore, Maryland. Mark, 51, is the owner of an exerciseequipment repair business and a longtime Jehovah's Witness who quietly left the religion in late 2013. Soon after, he became known to ex–Jehovah's Witnesses as John Redwood, an activist and a blogger who reports on the various controversies, including cases of child abuse, surrounding Watchtower. (Recently, he has begun using his own name.)

When I first met Mark, in May of last year, he appeared at the front door of his modest home in the same outfit he nearly always wears: khaki cargo shorts, a shortsleeved shirt, white sneakers, and sweat socks pulled up over his calves. He invited me into his densely furnished office, where a fan barely dispelled the wafting smell of cat food. He pulled an envelope from the Priority Mail box and passed me its contents, a mixture of typed and handwritten letters discussing various sins allegedly committed by members of a Jehovah's Witness congregation in Massachusetts. All the letters in the box had been stolen by an anonymous source inside the religion and shared with Mark. The sins described in the letters ranged from the mundane—smoking pot, marital infidelity, drunkenness—to the horrifying. Slowly, over the past couple of years, Mark has been leaking the most damning contents of the box, much of which is still secret.

Mark's eyebrows are permanently arched, and when he makes an important point, he peers out above his rimless glasses, eyes widened, which lends him a conspiratorial air.

“Start with these,” he said.

Over the past couple of years, Mark O'Donnell has been leaking stolen letters and other papers documenting instances of child abuse. (Lexey Swall)
Among the papers Mark showed me that day was a series of letters about a man from Springfield, Massachusetts, who had been disfellowshipped—a form of excommunication—three times. When the man was once again reinstated, in 2008, someone working in a division of Watchtower wrote to his congregation, noting that in 1989 he was said to have “allowed his 11yearold stepdaughter to touch his penis … on at least two occasions.”

I was struck by the oddness of the language. It insinuated that the man had agreed to, rather than initiated, the sexual contact with his stepdaughter.

After I left Mark's house, I tracked down the stepdaughter, now 40. In fact, she told me, she had been only 8 when her stepfather had molested her. “He was the adult and I was the kid, so I thought I didn't have any choice,” she said. She was terrified, she told me. “It took me two years to go to my mom about it.”

Her mother immediately went to the congregation's elders, who later called the girl and her stepfather in to pray with them. She remembers it as a humiliating experience.

Her stepfather was eventually disfellowshipped for instances that involved “fornication,” “drunkenness,” and “lying,” according to the letters. But according to the stepdaughter, his alleged molestation of her resulted only in his being “privately reproved,” a closeddoor reprimand that is usually accompanied by a temporary loss of privileges, such as not being allowed to offer comments during Bible study or lead a prayer. The letters make no reference to police being notified; the stepdaughter said her mother was encouraged to keep the matter private, and no attempt was made to keep the stepfather away from other children. (Calls to the congregation's Kingdom Hall—the Witness version of a church—for comment went unanswered.)

By the time the letters were written, the man was attending a different congregation and had married another woman with children; he is still part of that family today. Near the end of the final letter in Mark's possession is a question: “Is there any responsibility on the part of either body of elders … to inform his current wife of his past history of child molestation?”

Mark O'Donnell's childhood was an isolated one. His parents, Jerry and Susan, had started attending Jehovah's Witness meetings in the mid1960s. Another couple from Baltimore had told them of Watchtower's prediction that the world would end in 1975, bringing death to all nonWitnesses and transforming Earth into a paradise for the faithful. In 1968, just after Mark was born, Jerry and Susan were groupbaptized in a swimming pool in Washington, D.C. Mark was an only child, and he inherited his father's peculiar love of recordkeeping. Mark would show up to meetings at the Kingdom Hall with a briefcase full of religious texts.

As in any religion, there's some variation among Jehovah's Witnesses in how strictly they interpret the teachings that govern their faith; Mark's upbringing seems to have been especially stringent. As a child, he attended at least five meetings a week, plus several hours of private Bible study. On Saturday mornings, he joined his parents in “field service,” knocking on doors in search of converts. He was taught that most people outside the organization were corrupted by Satan and, given the chance, would try to steal from him, drug him, or rape him. Mainstream books and magazines were considered the work of Satan. If he broke any of the religion's main rules, he could be disfellowshipped, meaning even his own family would have to shun him.



Let Victims Speak, German Child Abuse Inquiry Says

BERLIN (Reuters) A girl on an East German cooperative farm beaten by her father, then raped and traded for sex by her brother. An emotionally troubled boy undressed in "counseling sessions" by a priest at his boarding school. A swimmer abused by his instructor.

These are just three of hundreds of stories revealed by Germany's Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, which issued an interim report on Wednesday after three years' work.

The 350page report, based on testimony from 1,690 people, called for an end to taboos around discussing abuse, so people who had been failed as children should not suffer in adulthood.

But inquiry chair Sabine Andresen, an education professor, warned the inquiry had more to do, with the disabled and children in competitive sport being vulnerable groups the inquiry had not yet reached.

Whether because of their identification with a sport, or their successes in it, such children were often reluctant to come forward, her colleague Brigitte Tillmann said.

Abuse was often hereditary, the inquiry found, with family memories of war or Nazi crimes often at the root of abuse generations later.

Recommendations to the government centred on building support networks for victims to share stories and letting them pay for therapy with health insurance.

The inquiry, part of a global wave of accounting for abuse suffered by children at the hands of institutions of power and prestige, from the Catholic Church to university sports teams, was set up by the German government.

Some 83 percent of the victims it identified were female and more than half had suffered abuse within their family. Almost half were less than six when the abuse began.

The inquiry was originally intended to run for three years but has had its mandate extended to investigate other areas and come up with more concrete proposals for remedies.

"For people like me who had to experience sexual abuse as children, the work of the commission gives us hope," said Hjoerdis Wirth, a member of a victims' advisory board. "Finally to be noticed, to have the effects on our lives acknowledged."

For many victims the inquiry was a chance to address decadesold pain, as was the case with "Andreas" (a pseudonym), who was abused by his swimming instructor.

"I've never swam since then, even though it was my favourite thing," he wrote. "But the worst thing is that years of my childhood are missing. I know what he did back then, but I can't remember the two years before and after. I don't remember the good things."



Children and parents reported sex abuse for years. Why did no one believe them?

Rumors had swirled around Andreas V. for years; locals whispered about his behavior with children, to whom he offered pony rides and quad bike tours.

But few had any idea of what police now say was taking place inside his cluttered camper van in the heart of the Luegde Forest in central Germany.

Police in nearby Lippe say they believe Andreas V. abused dozens of children over decades, even using his sixyearold foster daughter as “bait” to lure in his young victims. In December, German police arrested Andreas V—German privacy law does not allow police to give the full names of suspects—and he remains in police custody, while the list of his alleged victims continues to grow.

His lawyer declined to comment on the allegations.

The story of Michaela

One alleged victim, who we'll identify only as “Michaela” to protect her and her family's privacy, said she first met Andreas V. 30 years ago when he was 16 and she was 9.

“My father had a camper with my grandparents at the camping site, adjacent to Andreas' family van. We were there a lot. It was a real camping community. Like a big family,” she told CNN in a phone interview.

“My father allowed him to stay at our house and, for some reason, Andreas always slept in my room. That's when he touched me for the first time.”

She says she was 11 when the abuse began.

“I told my father: ‘I don't want Andreas to sleep with me because he touches me.' But my dad said: ‘No, that's not true. He would not do that.' He just ignored me,” she told CNN, her voice breaking. “And if you are not believed as a child, you give up hope at that age of 16 or 17. So, I kept silent for all those years. I did not tell anyone.”

Michaela says her father has since been questioned by the police. Prosecutors have confirmed that the father of one victim had been questioned, but would not confirm if it was Michaela's father. CNN's attempts to contact him have not been successful.

German police believe Andreas V. went on to become the ringleader of a pedophile gang that used his family's camper van as its base of operations for decades, abusing dozens of children and recording their crimes for profit on the dark web.

Authorities say they collected ten computers, nine mobile phones, more than 40 hard drives and more than 400 additional data carriers as evidence from Andreas V and two other men.

The case has scandalized the nation, especially after police recently admitted that some of the data confiscated as evidence has been “lost” while in police hands.

Germans are left wondering how both law enforcement and social services failed to stop the abuse, despite numerous red flags.

Hiding in plain sight

In November of last year, police received a report that Andreas V. had sexually abused a sixyear old child who had gone to his home for a playdate with his fosterdaughter; he was arrested several weeks later.

When investigators broke the lock on the camper van where he lived, they found a jumble of furniture and clothing, along with 15 terabytes of data stashed in various hiding places, including a USB stick embedded in the joint of a chair, police said in a press statement following the arrest.

Two other men, a 48year old and a 33year old, were arrested on suspicion of exchanging child pornography with Andreas V.

“The investigations so far give reason to fear that the perpetrators have committed more than 1,000 acts of abuse, going back to the year 2008,” police said in an initial statement.

“In addition to investigating allegations of serious sexual abuse, more lines of investigation have emerged including child pornography, extending to the internet. Furthermore, the offices responsible for child care in the district of Lippe are being investigated for possible criminal acts,” said the statement.

But that was only the beginning.

More cases come to light

Parents had tried to raise the alarm about Andreas V. before.

In 2016, a local father, Jens Ruzsitska, said he had seen Andreas V. groping children at a birthday party. Ruzsitska punched him and accused him of “feeling up” the children before storming out.

Police confirmed to CNN that Ruzsitska filed a police report of the incident at the time but say no further action was taken.

Asked why no action was taken back then, the local prosecutor told CNN: “All evidence is being pursed and taken seriously.”

Despite this allegation against him, Andreas V. was granted permission to become the guardian of a sixyearold foster daughter that same year.

The local Youth Welfare Office has now launched an investigation into how Andreas V. was allowed to become a foster parent.

When contacted by CNN, the Youth Welfare Office confirmed Andreas V. had been reported twice in 2016 for “possible child endangerment,” even as Andreas V was regularly being assessed by youth welfare officers. In October of that year, however, the youth welfare office found no evidence of child endangerment and granted him guardianship of the foster child.

However, District Administrator Tjark Bartels, who has responsibility for overseeing the Youth Welfare Office, told CNN there is now evidence that Andreas V.'s application to become a foster parent had been manipulated and “beautified.”

“An employee has admitted that he subsequently manipulated the files of the Youth Welfare Office, adding a note to complete the file,” Bartels said in a statement sent to CNN. Bartels would not clarify how the file had been manipulated, citing the ongoing investigation.

The employee has been suspended and is currently under investigation by the state prosecutor to find out what links, if any, he has to Andreas V.

Police now believe that Andreas V. not only abused the foster child he was supposed to look after, but that he also used her to lure other child victims.

According to investigators, there are at least 40 victims, aged four to 13 at the time of the abuse, including his foster daughter. Police have warned that the number of victims will likely rise as they continue to sift through his cache of recordings.

“This foster child was used as bait, to lure and attract other children,” said Roman von Alvenleben, a lawyer who represents the family of one 10year old girl allegedly abused by Andreas V. “They got to know each other at birthday parties and play dates. That's what my client's mother did. She was not aware of what was really going on.”

Police lose evidence

As if failing to act on reports of child abuse wasn't bad enough, now police have admitted that evidence — at least 155 CDs and DVDs confiscated from Andreas V.'s home — has been lost while in police custody. The material was kept in an aluminum suitcase and a black folder that was supposed to have been sealed as evidence. It was reported as missing weeks later.

The state prosecutor launched an investigation which he said “assumes the evidence cannot be found due to careless handling and that it was not stolen, although, such a possibility cannot be excluded.”

In a statement to the press, Lippe Police Chief Axel Lehman said the lost data amounted to only a small fraction of the evidence against Andreas V. and would not affect the prosecution case.

Still, he admitted, “These are blatant mistakes that have been made by police in Lippe. This stuns me and clearly it should not have happened. I express my apologies to all those who were affected.”
Parents lose trust in police

For Michaela, the lost evidence is only the latest breach of trust by police.

“I have had enough about the lies. The police. The youth welfare office. The evidence that suddenly goes missing.” She told CNN. “So many children suffered sexual abuse here — children who are now psychologically scarred, for the rest of their lives. I know because that's what happened to me. That's why I'm speaking up now.”

Her own painful experience seems to be part of a traumatic pattern that has unwittingly been repeated in her own family.

Last summer, she allowed her 16yearold daughter to spend the weekend with other teenagers at the Luegde campsite, the community's main summer retreat, on the condition that she stay well away from Andreas V.'s camper van.

Weeks later, her daughter broke down in tears and told her she had blacked out after drinking alcohol and woke up to find an adult man on top of her while another man watched.

Michaela says she immediately filed a police report and informed the Youth Welfare office but the case was dismissed for lack of evidence. In a letter seen by CNN, the local prosecutor informed Michaela and her daughter last year that “there is no evidence of rape by the accused,” adding that there was no evidence the teenager had either verbally or physically resisted the alleged assault.

“But does a girl fight back when she's incapacitated?” asked Michaela. “When there are two men in the room? How is she supposed to fight back?”

It was only after Andreas V.'s arrest weeks later that Michaela discovered that the two men her daughter had identified had also been arrested and linked to Andreas V.'s alleged pedophile network.

Police have now reopened the case, but it has only fueled her anger and distrust of the police.

“We don't know if the evidence police have — or whatever they lost — contains any pictures of my daughter,” Michaela told CNN. “Or even myself. It is a nervewracking situation. It could well be that they discovered evidence from all those years ago.”

Abuse on the dark web

Police are now investigating whether Andreas V. operated a business recording the abuse and selling videos of it on the dark web.

German prosecutors have just concluded the trial of several administrators of Elysium, one of the largest chat forums in the world for child abuse and pornography. Based in Germany, the site had racked up more than 110,000 users before it was shut down in 2017. Four men were convicted on various charges of child pornography and operating an illegal site, with each sentenced approximately to 10 years in prison.

For families of the Luegde victims, there are too many troubling questions that have not yet been answered, including whether their abuse was recorded on the videos and photographs now held by police.

“Why are CDs disappearing? Who was on those CDs? Is someone being protected? We have to ask these questions,” said lawyer Roman von Alvensleben.

“Fifteen terabytes of data were found, reportedly videos were sent out and possibly a business was operated. It must become clear who had access to that data and who else was involved. I suspect there are still many other connections,” von Alvensleben added.

A trial date for Andreas V. has not yet been set; the investigation continues to expand as new victims come forward, and investigators have warned that the number of victims is likely to rise.



German society failed to protect children, abuse commission says

Commission calls for greater research and information campaigns to break taboos Victims were isolated or given partblame for abuse, the head of Germany's federal child abuse commission said.

by Derek Scally in Berlin

Germany's federal child abuse commission has warned that society's ongoing silence on the issue exacerbates survivor suffering and perpetuates child exploitation.

Presenting its report on Wednesday, commission head Sabine Andresen said all of German society had failed to protect its children.

“Responsibility must be taken for this and responsibility means owning up to the causes and consequences of child sexual abuse,” she said.

Instead of solidarity, German child abuse survivors were rejected by families and institutions where abuse took place.

“Instead of believing and supporting them to end the abuse, they were isolated or given partblame for the abuse,” she added.

Almost 1,700 people contacted the commission after it began its work in 2016. Some 857 hearings were held while it received 292 written reports. Given the work was dependent on testimony from people who came forward, the results are not representative.

Some 56 per cent of testimony heard involved abuse in families, the most frequent context. In its report the commission called for greater research and information campaigns to break taboos.

“The problem is that no society will allow its families to be the object of investigation,” said Prof Barbara Kavemann, a commission member.

Institutional abuse

Other abuse took place in German state institutions (17 per cent) and the survivor's social circle (12 per cent), while 10 per cent of abuse took place in organised structures such as the Catholic or Lutheran churches.

“My father abused me when he came to wish me a good night,” said Nicole, in survivor testimony. “My father was a pastor . . . and nothing could be allowed disturb the Lutheran family as an image of the holy family.”

After three years investigating child abuse in East and West Germany, the commission has been granted a twoyear extension to investigate abuse in sports clubs and of people with mental and physical disabilities.

Among the commission's close contacts were Mr Justice Seán Ryan, author of the 2009 report into child abuse in Irish institutions for children.

“He was a great help and encouragement,” said Matthias Katsch, who went public in 2010 with abuse he suffered from Jesuit priests at a prestigious Berlin school. “Ryan said there is never an ideal time to start this work, the main thing is to start.”

The report notes that abuse is often transferred to the next generation and calls for easier access to therapy, as well as further probes into the roles of social services and family courts.

Looking at abuse in Germany's two main Christian churches, the report encountered a “deepseated defensiveness” in the Catholic hierarchy towards investigating abuse in their own ranks. Of 914 cases dealt with, 49 dealt with the Catholic Church. In 2018 Catholic bishops revealed more than 3,600 cases of sexual abuse in its files over seven decades, involving 4.4 per cent of all religious.

Commenting on abuse in East German (GDR) children's homes, commission member Christine Bergmann said: “Child abuse in the GDR was more taboo than in the west. It didn't fit into the socialist ideal.



Pope Issues New Edict Requiring Vatican Officials To Report Sex Abuse Allegations

Pope Francis unveiled a new mandatoryreporting edict on Friday. It requires any Vatican official who learns of an allegation of abuse within the citystate or by Vatican officials to report it to Vatican prosecutors.

by Andrew Medichini/AP

Pope Francis issued a new decree making it mandatory for Vatican City officials or its diplomats around the globe to immediately report allegations of sexual abuse to authorities or face possible jail time.

The edict, called a Motu Proprio and which goes into effect on June 1, comes after an international summit of church leaders convened at the Vatican in February to address the abuse and protection of minors. It is the first set of concrete protocols established by the Holy See in response to the sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the Roman Catholic Church to its core.

"The protection of minors and vulnerable persons is an integral part of the gospel message that the Church and all its members are called to spread throughout the world," Francis wrote in the decree, which applies to "the Roman Curia and [the] Vatican City State."

"We all have the duty to generously welcome minors and vulnerable people and to create a safe environment for them, taking their interests first," he added.

The compulsory mandate applies only to Vatican personnel within the 110acre citystate and its network of embassies around the world. It requires all personnel who learn of an allegation of abuse to pass the information on to Vatican prosecutors "without delay." Failure to comply can result in a fine of more than $5,500 or, for a Vatican police official, up to six months in prison.

Francis also introduced a statute of limitations for anyone victimized as a child that extends to 20 years after the minor turns 18. Additionally, he provided clarity on the definition of vulnerable people, writing that the classification includes any person in "a state of infirmity, of physical or mental deficiency, or of deprivation of personal liberty" that limits their comprehension or their ability "to resist the offense." Vulnerable persons are considered equivalent to minors for purposes of the new guidelines.

The decree and accompanying guidelines have no legal impact on parishes or congregations in other nations. Archbishop Charles Scicluna said in an interview with Vatican News that the edicts "are not intended to be for the rest of the world, they actually contemplate the concrete situation of Vatican City State; a number of minors, who either live there, work there, or visit ... always within its jurisdiction."

The Vatican's editorial director, Andrea Tornielli, acknowledged "very few children" will ultimately be affected but said that while the edict is limited in scope, the pope wants it to serve as a model for the entire church. The new requirements "contain exemplary indications that take into account the most advanced international parameters."

But Anne Barrett Doyle, codirector of Bishop Accountability, a watchdog group that monitors clergy sexual abuse cases around the world, said the Vatican's attempt to frame the legislation as an example for others to emulate is "disingenuous."

"The pope could force the church to permanently remove all guilty clerics. He is their superior and he doesn't need to model for them or coax them into following his example. It is reinforcing this fiction that the Holy See's control over clergy is limited to those who are citizens of the citystate," Doyle said.

Additionally, Doyle said, relative to most developed countries the new policy is weak. "The only place this might look like progress is in certain countries in the developing world where they have yet to issue any policies at all."

The U.S. Catholic Church, she said, has a onestrike policy, wherein guilty clergy are permanently removed from public ministry. In contrast, the policy announced Friday says "the person convicted [of] having abused a child or a vulnerable person is removed from his duties and, at the same time, he is offered adequate support for psychological and spiritual rehabilitation, also for the purpose of social reintegration."

"It doesn't specify for how long or where he will go," Doyle said.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests was critical of the provisions. "Instead of encouraging Church officials to report to each other, the Pope should instead be telling Church staff to make reports to local police and prosecutors first," SNAP said in a statement.

But the group did recognize several "good things" about the new protocols, including the acknowledgment of abuse by clergy of vulnerable adults. "Abuse at any age is devastating and there is no doubt that the abuse of adults is more widespread than can be imagined."

Other positive steps: "We are also glad to see the inclusion of requirements for background checks and training on sexual abuse prevention, as well as the provisions aimed at ensuring that victims and whistle blowers do not face retaliation.



Vatican Allows Guam Archbishop to Keep Rank Despite ChildAbuse Verdict

“Zero tolerance” approach to sex abuse adopted by U.S. bishops is far from universal in the Catholic Church

by Francis X. Rocca

ROME—An archbishop in Guam who was found guilty of sexual abuse of minors by a Vatican court and permanently removed from his post remains a priest with the rank of archbishop, underscoring wide inconsistencies in the Catholic Church's approach to abuse around the world.

The sentence, in the latest abuse case involving senior Catholic hierarchy, contrasts with the recent expulsion from the clergy of a former archbishop of Washington, and shows that the “zero tolerance” approach to sex abuse adopted by U.S. bishops is far from the norm in the Catholic Church as a whole.

The Vatican announced Thursday that an appeals tribunal had confirmed last year's verdict against Archbishop Anthony Apuron, finding him guilty of an unspecified number of counts of sexual abuse of minors. The decision is final and no further appeals are possible, the Vatican said.

“I am deeply saddened by the decision of the Holy Father to confirm the decision of the court,” Archbishop Apuron said in a statement provided by his lawyer. “I believe that the facts and evidence presented demonstrated my total innocence.”

The pope appointed an administrator to lead the Archdiocese of Agaña in 2016, when Archbishop Apuron was suspended after being accused of having abused altar boys when he was a priest. Subsequent charges against other priests have led to more than $100 million in lawsuits against the archdiocese, which filed for bankruptcy in January.

The Vatican confirmed that Archbishop Apuron had lost his post as leader of the archdiocese, which includes the entire territory of Guam, and was forbidden from residing there, even temporarily.

In addition to those penalties, which had been announced after the lowercourt verdict last year, the Vatican said Archbishop Apuron will be prohibited from using the “insignia attached to the rank of bishop,” such as a miter, pectoral cross, ring or “zucchetto” skullcap.

But he will still be allowed to refer to himself as an archbishop and there are no other restrictions on his movements.

On Thursday, a prominent activist against clerical sex abuse voiced dissatisfaction with the sentence.

“The announced penalties for Apuron are belated and underwhelming. Why did this take so long, and why is he allowed to remain a priest?” said Anne Barrett Doyle of, a Bostonbased group that tracks abuse cases. “The penalties are not proportional to the crimes.”

Guam is a territory of the U.S. in Micronesia, but the Archdiocese of Agaña isn't part of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and therefore not covered by strict disciplinary rules for sex abuse enforced by U.S. bishops.

Those rules require the permanent removal from ministry—either through dismissal from the priesthood, commonly known as defrocking, or seclusion for life in “prayer and penance”—of any clergyman found guilty of even one instance of sexual abuse of a minor.

In February, Theodore McCarrick became the first cardinal in modern times to be defrocked after a church trial found the former archbishop of Washington guilty of sexual abuse of minors and sexual misconduct with adults.

The “onestrike” rule is the centerpiece of the “zero tolerance” approach to sex abuse that U.S. church leaders advocate for the church globally. But except in a handful of mostly Englishspeaking countries, few Catholic bishops have embraced such an approach and the Vatican hasn't recommended it for the church at large.



People & Places: Child Abuse Network turns to superheroes for help

by James D. Watts Jr. Tulsa World

When it comes to making a difference in this world, it's hard not to turn to a superhero or two.

The Child Abuse Network, marking its 30th anniversary as Tulsa's only child abuse crisis center, has renamed its signature fundraising event, the CANdlelight Ball, to the Superhero Soiree.

The event will also be held in conjunction with the organization's increasingly popular Superhero Challenge obstacle course event.

The Child Abuse Network created the Superhero Challenge, a familyoriented event held at the POSTOAK Lodge, six years ago as a way to help children and families learn about the organization and its role in the community, while providing an array of fun activities for all ages.

“We tend to leave children out of our community awareness campaigns, but they are the reason CAN exists, and we want to involve them in our mission and advocacy work just as much as their parents,” said CAN Superhero Challenge cochairs Tara O'Mahony and Taheerah Salim. “When the Superhero Challenge event was created, we were optimistic about the community's reception but never anticipated the success and growth we've seen.”

Event organizers are expecting the 2019 Superhero Challenge to attract some 7,500 participants.

CAN wanted to capitalize on the success of the awareness event by adding a true fundraising component to it. Rather than cannibalize their CANdlelight Ball, which in the course of its sevenyear history has raised more than $1 million to help fund the organization's child abuse intervention services, it was decided to change it from a blacktie formal event to a superherothemed cocktail event happening the same weekend as Superhero Challenge.

“Due to the success of the Superhero Challenge, we wanted to build on this wonderful theme of the everyday superhero — that everyone can be a superhero for kids, for causes and for their community,” said Superhero Soiree cochairs Carrie and Carley Williams.

The new Superhero Soiree will take place at 6 p.m. Saturday, April 27, in the ballroom at the newly refurbished Tulsa Club Hotel, 115 E. Fifth St. The Superhero Challenge will start at 1 p.m. Sunday, April 28, at POSTOAK Lodge, 5323 W. 31st St. North.

The Child Abuse Network began as a project in 1986 with the Junior League of Tulsa before becoming an official organization in 1988. It provides collaborative services to Tulsa County's most vulnerable children who are involved in a child abuse investigation or an assessment. In the 2018 fiscal year, CAN provided services for nearly 2,000 children, averaging more than 150 children per month.


Trinidad & Tobago

Psychiatrist: Child abuse a problem for far too long in T&T

by AnnaLisa Paul

“Imagine, while other children get excited when their fathers reach home, these children cringe and want to hide.”

“When they hear the door of their bedroom open at nights these poor little girls shake with fear.”

This is according to psychiatrist Dr Varma Deyalsngh who has described the epidemic of child sexual abuse in T&T as, “A problem which we have been living with for far too long.”

As secretary of the Association of Psychiatrists of T&T (APTT), the Independent Senator lamented, “Sometimes when adults come to see me with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Only after a level of trust is built up would they mention that they were sexually abused as a child.”

He said often times, these persons are, “Filled with disgust, shame and helplessness.”

While this is particularly disturbing, Deyalsingh said he had observed a worrying trend in that, “Some do not even recognize the dire effects child sexual abuse has had on their mental health.”

He explained, “In the home where they should feel the safest…getting away from the world in which they have no safe space now becomes the issue as it is a prison.”

“When the love and the respect for the dad who is supposed be protecting me but is instead hurting me…when that love collides with the hate and the fear, these intense continuous and conflicting emotions are churned around in the mind thus fueling mental illness.”

Deyalsingh said in some instances, these situations can continue for years.

He added that some persons do not even know it is wrong initially because, “Some girls who grow up in a home where it is accepted and don't even know it is wrong until they see a show or hear about sexual abuse and incest.”

He said, “I have found that they only experience the emotional trauma after knowing a wrong has been done to them.”

He claimed yet another traumatic experience faced by some was, “When they go to their mothers to complain…they are often scolded, beaten, blamed and ignored.”

“The other protector in the home failed them so they learn the hard way that they have no one.”

Deyalsingh said, “These children feel all alone in the world and grow up not trusting others. Some cut themselves, abuse drugs to cope with their feelings, turn promiscuous or the opposite to become frigid adults, suffer post trauma stress such as panic attacks and depression, and ultimately, some kill themselves.”

Claiming that the figures provided by the Children's Authority for 2015 to 2018 which indicated there were 14,581 cases of child abuse was, “Just a drop in the bucket and is a gross underestimation,” Deyalsingh was critical as he said, “Of the cases that make it to court, only two per cent result in an actual conviction.”

He warned, “Human beings are creatures of habit and those who escape conviction, may turn to other children for their sexual gratification.”

“A father who abuses his daughter would, if not stopped, turn to other siblings or even nieces and other innocent children.”

A visibly upset Deyalsingh said, “There are many more cases of this hidden epidemic of abuse.”

“In 2008, a study on school children exhibiting violent behavior found that 40 per cent mentioned sexual abuse in the home and in 2002, a study done in Tobago on 676 young adults found that 13 per cent of those between ten and 14 years had sex, and six per cent had sex with a father, a stepfather, an uncle, or older people.”

Declaring the relevant authorities had to stop abuse in the embryonic stage, Deyalsingh suggested a renewed role for parents and guardians as he said these persons had to start “singing” at the first inappropriate touch - to let children know it is wrong and also for others to be aware and for the perpetrators to know they are being monitored.

Applauding the Ministry of Education's “Good Touch, Bad Touch” program which utilizes posters and teaching tools to help children distinguish what is a good touch and what is a bad touch, Deyalsingh recommended using the alphabet and counting, “So we teach them that certain areas of the body are private.”

He said, “This educational tool can be done in a child friendly way and adapted to different ages. All early learning centers should be mandated to teach this.”

Meanwhile, Deyalsingh also expressed concern over mothers who turn a blind eye to certain situations because of financial commitments.

He said, “Mothers have to look out, not for stranger danger but the father molester…the nephew…the uncle.”

“You have to look out for your new boyfriend. The man could be going through you to get at your daughters.”

In his daily practice, Deyalsingh admitted, “Part of the pain my patients have is not get­ting the support of their mothers.”

He in turn urged, “If you want to be a mother…you have a duty and responsibility to your child. If a child under your care is allowed to be sexually abused and you remain silent, this should be a crime as you have been negligent in your duty.”

“If persons are saying mothers/parents should be blamed for allowing their young sons to join a gang…then so too, if they allow their daughters to be raped. I have seen too many mothers having children with different fathers and not protecting these innocent beings whom God has put in our care. Being a parent is a privilege.”

Deyalsingh also urged parents to reassure children so they know that despite speaking out, they would be safe as some abusers use threats and even attempt to hurt other family members in order to make them keep quiet.

He said in this regard, “If any one even touches them inappropriately, they would raise an alarm. They could tell their teacher, aunt or someone…and once informed, they can send social workers into the home so the father, uncle, brother or neighbor would know he is being monitored and this can be one way to stop this behavior before it escalates. We would be empowering our children.”

Proposing to bring legislation to the Parliament to ensure these recommendations become law, Deyalsingh expressed uncertainty as to why some mothers were not coming forward to report incidents of abuse.

He cited shame, fear, cultural acceptance, and financial dependence as the four major factors inhibiting the process of reporting.

Shame he claimed while understandable, was unacceptable.

He explained, “This would destroy many families and they want to maintain their status quo, but failure to stop this could produce an individual who is psychologically destroyed.”

“To force these delinquent mothers to act, I support putting their names in the sexual offenders register as this would be a bigger shame that could motivate other mothers to come forward. Put them in as non-reporters just as other proposed professions like doctors, nurses, and teachers who fail to report sexual activity in children.”

In the case of fear, Deyalsingh said, “Some do not complain because they are scared of the man, but just as we encourage the domestic violence victim to flee and go to a safe house, the same principle can be applied here.”

Claiming it was time to change accepted norms and practices, Deyalsingh said it was time to stop the cultural acceptance of situations where some mothers themselves were abused and see nothing wrong with this and downplay it to their daughters.

Lastly, he called for the immediate cessation of situations where stepfathers/boyfriends are allowed to interfere with young girls because he showers the mother with gifts and money.

He said, “This maternal pimping must be punished.”

Declaring that 2,500 teenage pregnancies a year was too much, Deyalsingh spoke of the challenges he faced with patients who present with a mental illness brought on by child sexual abuse - including the lack of belief by family members who accuse the patient of imagining things because of mental illness and not believe it is the abuse which caused the illness.

Another impediment to a victim's quest for justice he said, was the lack of action/ability to reach into the past to punish these offenders.

He said, “As it stands now, we depend on other family members to come forward but this is not always reliable.”

“We need something like the ‘Me Too' movement to name and shame these shadow figures, if only to warn others to watch out for these men who may have gone on to new victims.”

Deyalsingh concluded, “The existing system is failing our children.”

“We have to give a collective apology to all those persons waiting years for justice as many cases take ten years and more to be heard. But even as we wait, we need to reach out to the majority those of being raped and ravaged by their relatives in their homes and who can do nothing. These are the silent victims we need to help.”



Mass child abuse at two extremes

by Tope Fasua

What has the world turned into? That is a very popular clichéd question we ask when we contemplate how yesterday is better than today. Even the thought that yesterday is always better than today is documented in psychology as a cognitive bias. In truth, yesterday is not always better than today. The ‘good old days' weren't really as good in many ways compared to today. Imagine a time when there was little in terms of human rights, when people were summarily slaughtered at the behest of a king, when all land belonged to some sovereign, when little villages engaged in endless, meaningless wars, when there was no antibiotics or advances in medicines, and people died of the simplest of infections, when there was zero freedom of expression, and technology wasn't available to help human beings. When you travelled you were gone. No communication, until you showed up again. People got lost forever. Imagine a time when you had to trek over hundreds of kilometres for trade, and tens of kilometres to get to the farm or market, your back bent with loads and stuff. No; those weren't particularly days of joy and prosperity for those who suffered and survived through them.

But so also is today not perfect. And certainly, if human beings do not destroy the earth entirely – even though we are trying hard to do so and to end times – there will come a day in the future when the inhabitants of this earth will wonder how we pulled through without the innovations of their times.

I am however concerned with something sinister going on in our world today. In the ‘developed' world of the UK, US, Canada and other ‘enlightened' countries, their fixation right now is how to get the teaching of ‘sexual diversity' into the curriculum of 5 yearold children. The justifiers of this position talk about how the world has changed and that children need to be taught that parents could either be two men or two women. They say it is important to start them young, so that children do not grow up into ignorant adults and misfits in their modern world. I had cause to take on one popular former CNN, now ITV UK presenter on twitter last week. That was Pierce Morgan. For some reason, the unquestioned acceptance of such positions is now equated with modernity, liberation, enlightenment, and anyone who says ‘slow down, are we on the right track?' is labelled as all sorts. Pierce had taken umbrage at the subtle rejection of the idea that children should be taught these sexual preference subjects at a young age, by a young Muslim Briton, by stating condescendingly that ‘this is not Islamabad!'. I was shocked. Anyhow, my comments on Twitter were also greeted with a lot of misplaced aggression, including one which advised I should go and take care of female genital mutilation in my country. It is obvious that those who are pushing this preposterous position are not stable human beings.

My position remains that 5 yearold children should be allowed to play and evolve without being prodded in some certain sexual directions. A 5 yearold child just wants some normal toys, enough space to play, a certain amount of freedom for their brains to grow. There is so much information for such a child to explore especially in today's information age. Sex is certainly not on the mind of a 5 year old child. Well, let me speak for myself. I would cringe if you told me about sex, and two daddies or two mummies when I was 5, or 8, or even 10. Heck, at 18 or 20, one still had one's heart in one's mouth just to talk to a girl. And I don't believe there's anything wrong with that – a mild fear and lots of respect for the opposite sex until you come to your own, and the role may change! But sex and sexuality at 5? It could only be the prelude to an agenda to destroy the world. Something terribly sinister is afoot in this world. We had better be aware, and be prepared to respond. But here we are, we usually walk into any tornado, blissfully unaware. For the next agenda is to come to Africa and shove it down our throats.

There is no way to describe and understand this impending mass hijack of the minds of little children in school, than to see it as mass child abuse on an industrial scale. I see it as a victory for the practitioners of ‘alternative sexuality' who are all out to recruit as many as possible into their camp and what is better than to catch them young. They also know that we are myopic and slow in this part of the world and so before you know it, they are all over us here, threatening cancelation of aids and grants and whatnot if we do not accede to their requests. Luckily our culture is a bit strong but how long can the culture hold up? One of the first questions they ask new politicians is their take on same sex marriage. While I was contesting, I was never invited to the ‘hip' programs where these questions were asked though – perhaps because my opinions are already known. Stations that had already conformed with those ‘wannabe' attitudes gave poor me a wide berth. My simple answer is to tell them we have so many serious, existential issues here than to be bothered with who is sleeping with who, and how, so long as they are consenting adults. And that if we threw the question to a referendum here, it will be roundly defeated by our people.

In the same UK, the public space is full of rhetoric that paint men as weak, confused, useless, outofcontrol, while women are incharge, liberated, firm and so on. A few movies that have come out lately have towed that line, including one titled ‘The Favorite' which painted Queen Anne who ruled England in the late 17thCentury as a serial Lesbian. That is the one extreme, and the cross being carried by the west. We will explore that in detail soon. To cap this, just last week, the Independent newspaper in the UK carried a report that hundreds of child sex dolls were seized at their border. It is only natural that with the path they've chosen; this experimental path for want of a better word, they will see stuff like men seeking little children to sleep with. Now they have small dolls to depict children ready to sleep with! A German PhD holder gave a TEDX talk the other day claiming that truly, just like homosexuality, paedophilia was innate and not a choice that people made. Perhaps the world is truly coming to an end. I just want to be awake through it all. I don't want any conjobs.

The other extreme, is the mass manufacture of ignorance in parts of Nigeria, especially by the exclusion from any meaningful functional education that makes people productive in the 21stcentury. This is in total and direct contrast to this approach which seeks to reduce global population. How will we be saved from these extremes? We will explore mass illiteracy and ignorance next week, and try to find some solutions.



Child abuse CRACKDOWN: Do you recognise this? Identify images to fight abuse, public asked

The public has 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 of the objects.

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.

“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.

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.



Finnish Police Uncover Child Abuse Video Network

HELSINKI (REUTERS) Finnish police have uncovered a child abuse ring in which suspects filmed boys as young as six being sexually abused in Finland and then distributed and exchanged footage over the internet, the National Bureau of Investigation said.

Chief investigator Sanna Springare said the investigation spread to 17 Western countries, most of them European, without elaborating.

The investigators said five men had been arrested on suspicion of violently abusing and raping their victims six boys aged six to 15 who were sometimes sedated over the course of 14 years between 2004 and 2018.

"The mildest form of abuse that took place in Finland was showing adult porn to a (child) victim and the worst was raping a drugged child for 10 hours," she said.

The main suspect is accused of leading the men in producing footage which they distributed internationally, sometimes on live internet broadcasts, in order to receive similar material from other countries in exchange, police said.

The illegal material received from abroad and redistributed by the Finnish ring included footage of a child being killed during the abuse, the investigation team said.

Springare declined to give details about the suspects or places where the crimes had taken place, to protect the victims' privacy.

The police will now hand the case over to the prosecutor who will consider whether to bring charges against the suspects.



Catholic Church

Child sexual abuse in the institutional Church


There are serious and profound changes taking place in the Catholic Church to acknowledge and prevent child sexual abuse by clerics and lay people, prosecute the perpetrators and help the victims in their healing process. It is the belated result of generations of historical clerical child sexual abuse and the denial and coverup of their crimes by some bishops and cardinals around the world. It has become a crisis for the Church as an institution.

Pope Francis approved recently a new law to protect child victims and prosecute any clerical suspects accused in the Vatican State. Before this, there was no such law protecting children in the Vatican. But the new law is a model for others and is a zerotolerance law. Every complaint of child abuse must be reported and investigated immediately.

In the Philippines, the arrest and detention of an American priest, Fr. Kenneth Hendricks, 78, in Naval, a town in Biliran province, on Dec. 5, 2018 for allegedly sexually abusing dozens of boys has focused attention on the culture of silence, coverup and inaction by fellow clergy, officials and Catholic townspeople.

The alleged crimes were first reported to authorities in the United States who carried out a quiet investigation and filed charges against Hendricks in Ohio, where a judge issued an arrest warrant.

The fact that no local people dared accuse the priest despite local knowledge and complaints by several alleged victims indicates the fear of retribution of going up against a priest of the Catholic Church. That era of fear and impunity is coming to a close in many countries, but not yet in the Philippines.

Most cases of child sexual abuse by clergy are rarely exposed, and Archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle says they are investigated internally. So no civil punishment for the abusers and no justice for the victims. Impunity reigns it seems and that will have to change.

For some Catholics, the worldwide shame and widespread history of clerical child abuse has weakened and challenged their faith. Some have even left the Church. The nonabusing clergy are deeply ashamed by the terrible crimes against children that many of them allowed to happen either by their ignorance, inaction or silence. They were afraid or ashamed to report a fellow priest and cowardly shied from protecting the child victim. That silence is a form of consent. Now, dioceses have strict rules and regulations to report child abuse and prosecute the offender in civil courts.

Are we shocked by the serious wrongdoing by clergy, bishops and cardinals around the world? They are supposed to give good examples of Christian living by a life of virtue, love of justice and protecting children. But many of them have failed. Is our faith shaken, weakened and rendered useless? For some, the answer is yes. For others, no, because their faith is not primarily belief in the Church as a human institution but in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and his Gospel values.

It is a time of challenge for all us, Christian Catholics, especially bishops and priests, to examine our faith and ask if it is faith in the person of Jesus and if we have a personal relationship with him. Do we have a strong commitment to his simple but profound teaching?

Is our faith in his moral principles, in the human dignity of every person? Do we believe and live out his values on social justice, human rights, compassion and love, and especially in the innocence and protection of the child and the stranger? Does our faith express itself daily in action for justice and protection of the child and the stranger? If it doesn't, then as St. James says, our socalled faith is dead. (Letter of James 2:26)

The Church as founded by Jesus is a community. It is the People of God, all believers and nonbelievers of goodwill gathered in the one faith and practice of what Jesus has taught and done, his principled way of life, which we are called upon to imitate and follow.

As an institution, the Church is a human creation with a hierarchy; a chain of command, a bureaucracy; a system of law; discipline, rules and regulations; and a sacramental practice from which salvation flows, we are told. But faith in action is what brings us closer to Jesus Christ in daily life.

This institutional, very human, Church has in many incidents betrayed Jesus and his teachings. From Chile, to Brazil, the US, Ireland, France, UK, Germany, Austria and elsewhere, scandals of child sexual abuse and other serious failings of clergy and bishops are evident. Some have failed to listen to victims and respond immediately. They have failed to have compassion and care for child victims and get healing and justice for them. Some priests and bishops hid the crimes, transferred priests, allowing them to abuse children again. That is a crime in itself.

Many bishops have resigned for their failure to act according to the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 18:18. Jesus says a child is the greatest in the Kingdom of God, not the adults.

That kingdom may also be here on earth. Justice must be delivered for the child victim, and Jesus said that a symbolic millstone be tied around the neck of a convicted abuser and he or she be thrown into the ocean. Strong words indeed, yet Jesus underlines the innocence of children and how serious it is to abuse them. To accept and protect one is to accept Him. That is why healing and justice are so important for victims of abuse.



Report: Emergency survey on child abuse across Japan

Japan's government says its emergency survey on child abuse across the country has led to placing 170 children under protective custody nationwide by separating them from their guardians.

This was reported to a meeting of a government taskforce on child abuse on Thursday.

The welfare ministry carried out a monthlong survey until March 8, covering about 37,800 children and their parents or other guardians handled by child welfare centers nationwide.

Officials separated 170 children from their guardians after confirming bruises and other signs of abuse.

Twentysix children were admitted to care facilities and 144 were put under temporary protection at child welfare centers.

Officials were unable to meet 2,626 children.

Another survey carried out by the education ministry covered children who were absent from a kindergarten or school for two consecutive weeks through February 14.

Officials reported cases of about 12,500 of the children to welfare centers and police, judging that they cannot deny the possibility of abuse.

The surveys followed a fatal abuse of a tenyearold girl in January in Noda City in Chiba Prefecture, just outside Tokyo. Her parents were arrested.

The welfare and education ministries plan to confirm the situation of the children whom they could not reach.


Show Biz

Michael Jackson's Family Responds to Leaving Neverland in a New Documentary

Neverland Firsthand features interviews with Jackson's inner circle—and harshly rebukes the pedophilia allegations made in the HBO film.

In the new documentary Neverland Firsthand, Michael Jackson's family members and former colleagues push back against Leaving Neverland, the shocking, twopart HBO documentary that highlighted pedophilia claims made against the late singer. The doc is a direct response to the allegations made by Wade Robson and James Safechuck, two men who say that Jackson sexually abused them for years when they were children. Jackson, who died in 2009, denied all claims of sexual misconduct when he was alive. He was criminally charged with abusing children, but acquitted after a trial in 2005.

Neverland Firsthand, directed by Eli Pedraza and uploaded to YouTube on Saturday, features interviews with Taj Jackson (the singer's nephew), Brandi Jackson (the singer's niece), and Brad Sundberg, the longtime technical director for the late singer, who also worked on Neverland Ranch.

“Not in a million years did I ever see a child around Michael Jackson that looked like they had been distressed, hurt, abused,” Sundberg says in the film, in an interview with producer Liam McEwan. “[Neverland] was such a peaceful, safe, fun place.”

Brandi, meanwhile, speaks directly about Robson, whom she met when she was a child and claims she dated for over seven years. “He has always been a bit of an opportunist,” she says, claiming Robson went public with his claims for financial gain. “He knows how to position himself into different situations that will benefit him in a financial way.” In a previous statement to Billboard, Robson's attorney Vince William Finaldi said: “Ms. Jackson was not with Wade and Michael Jackson when the sexual abuse occurred, and as such, she has nothing relevant to say about the topic.”

Taj, who has repeatedly defended his late uncle and has set up a GoFundMe for a rebuttal doc, says Jackson is the victim in this situation. “When you have a certain niceness, people take advantage of it,” he says of the various lawsuits that piled up against the singer. The 30minute film can be seen below.

In the wake of Leaving Neverland, Robson and Safechuck have stood by their allegations and have sat down for a handful of interviews, including a lengthy chat with Oprah Winfrey. The television icon hosted an hourlong discussion with the pair, as well as Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed, after the second part of the documentary aired.

There has been a slow backlash to the newly revived allegations against Jackson; radio stations in Canada and New Zealand have stopped playing Jackson's music, while the creator and two producers of The Simpsons permanently shelved an episode that featured Jackson. The singer's estate has responded by denouncing the documentary and filing a $100 million lawsuit against HBO.



Jiujitsu champ battles Philippines' sex abuse scourge

Filipina martial arts star Meggie Ochoa is teaching selfdefence to victims of sexual abuse in a bid to give them tools to better recover from such trauma, but also to better protect themselves in the future.

Abandoned and sexually abused as a young girl, Angelica, like thousands of minors in the Philippines a global blackspot for child abuse struggled to cope with the horrors of her past, but a new campaign run by a sporting champion is giving her and other survivors fresh hope.

Filipina martial arts star Meggie Ochoa is teaching selfdefence to victims of sexual abuse in a bid to give them tools to better recover from such trauma, but also to better protect themselves in the future.

Children's charities have branded the Philippines a key hub for both the livestreaming of child sex abuse and for sex tourism, estimating that 60,000100,000 children are involved in prostitution rings.

"Some of the kids that I've gotten to know... they saw themselves as worthless because of what they experienced. For me that's so heartbreaking," the jiujitsu world champion told AFP of her decision to launch advocacy campaign Fight to Protect.

In just two years, she has taught hundreds of sex abuse survivors. She offers two courses one for those who wish to learn the sport, and another focused purely on selfdefence.

"Jiujitsu taught me to be disciplined, confident and to face my fears," Angelica, now aged 15, told AFP.

"I can face the problems I encountered before and I am now comfortable interacting with people," she added.

Poverty in a nation where tens of millions get by on less than $2 per day, as well as increased internet access and fluency in English, make the Philippines vulnerable to both online and realworld sexual predators.

Parents abuse children

Advocacy and legal aid group International Justice Mission (IJM) says Philippine children are at risk of being forced into live streamed sex abuse, where paedophiles pay to direct socalled "shows" online.

"Easy access to the web and money transfer services make the country a global hotspot for this problem," said IJM, noting that it is often parents or family members that organise or even commit the abuse.

Children's charity Terre des Hommes drew attention to the problem using a computergenerated girl nicknamed "Sweetie" that hung out in chatrooms and was approached by about 20,000 people mostly men in a matter of weeks.

"It's just horrible, not just sexual exploitation but also sexual abuse which is happening in the homes of many Filipino children. I was just so bothered," Ochoa explained.

"There's so much that can be done. The sport actually gave me a voice," the 28yearold added.

Competing in a relatively new sport for her basketballmad country, Ochoa made history as the first Filipino to win a gold medal at the JiuJitsu International Federation World Championships in Sweden last year.

She is also a threetime world champion in another federation and a bronze medalist at the 2018 Asian Games.

A figure of national sporting pride, Ochoa realised she could use her success to help others after reading about Karla Jacinto, a young Mexican girl who estimated she was raped 43,200 times.

She was horrified to find there were likely many victims in the Philippines too.

"Somehow part of me felt guilt," Ochoa explained, adding: "I'm doing jiujitsu. I am pursuing my dream and yet this is happening."

Trauma therapy

Critics have long seen possible pitfalls of teaching selfdefence to those who have been abused, including the risk of retraumatising victims by exposing them to close bodily contact.

But similar initiatives around the world in recent years have won plaudits, including one by American Olympic judo athlete Kayla Harrison, herself a victim of abuse by her coach.

Taekwondo black belt Lina Khalifeh, a Jordanian, has taught selfdefence to thousands of women. Her work prompted a 2015 invite to the White House from thenUS president Barack Obama.

Ochoa says jiujitsu can help abuse survivors because it is a discipline where technique trumps size, noting her "five feet small" frame is effective even against much larger opponents.

Also, the grappling aspect of the sport helps the act of touching another person feel normal again.

"For somebody that has gone through that kind of trauma specifically, it makes you more comfortable with the right kind of contact... Contact that is not abusive," she said.

One of the most devastating and longterm impacts of sexual abuse is the destruction of victims' selfworth, which can be a barrier for them taking on risks or challenges.

She has seen it firsthand with her students, especially one girl who has thrown herself into training and then competition.

Ochoa said."When she competed, the heart is there. She wouldn't give up. But what struck me is even after she would lose, she would say 'It feels so good to fight.'"



‘Against her will': Amazon sells exploitative books glorifying rape and sexualising children

Each week, Australian women face the threat of abuse, murder and domestic violence.

by James Hallnews

Ecommerce giant Amazon has been slammed by Australian women's rights advocate groups for selling books promoting rape and sexual torture of women and children.

The online retailer has more than 100 graphic titles for sale from an author known as Sarah Sethline.

Please Don't, Against her will, and Passing her around are just a few from the long list of disturbing pornographic fictions Collective Shout, a grassroots movement against the objectification of women, has highlighted as sexually exploitative.

Amazon has a long history of selling products that objectify women and sexualise children, says the group's campaign manager Caitlin Roper.

“These books depict victims, including children, as sexually enticing and therefore deserving of rape,” she said.

“They emphasise the victims' vulnerability, their unwillingness and their pleas, treating their resistance as something erotic and sexy.”

A number of the books follow a particularly disturbing theme of fertility, including one titled Keeping the brat in line: A Forbidden Baby For Her Belly.

The synopsis for this story, which is now not shown on the retailer's site, reveals a disturbing premise.

“God, how he wanted to go over there and f**k her until she shut up, just to teach her a lesson,” it reads.

The violent narrative continued in the description, “If she happens to get pregnant from it, she can consider it a lesson doubly learned.”

Director of the violence prevention project Reality and Risk, Maree Crabbe, said the major retailer associating itself with the material was disturbing.

“Lots of pornography contains deeply problematic messages about gender power and aggression,” she told

“Having Amazon stock materials that legitimise gendered aggression, degradation and nonconsensual experiences provides a level of mainstreaming that is quite concerning.”

Ms Crabbe said having this material readily available at the click of a finger normalised the heinous crimes depicted.

“Amazon, by promoting these titles, appears to be condoning the sorts of messages that are conveyed,” she said.

“And the sorts of messages that are conveyed are consistent with some extreme experiences of abuse and violation that women and children around the world experience.”

The director told there was evidence an association with the consumption of porn and violent attitudes towards women was enhanced the more aggressive the material was.

“So titles that are overtly promoting and celebrating violence and inequality are a real risk of having an impact in people's lived experiences,” Ms Crabbe said.

“It's likely that people who have a predisposition to these approaches to relationships and sexuality are going to be purchasing that content, which might for them further normalise and justify this kind of treatment of other people.”

The backlash comes just a week after Amazon was forced to remove pedophilethemed baby onesies with the slogans “Daddy's little f**k toy” and “I just look illegal”, Ms Roper said.

“It's time for Amazon to start exercising basic corporate social responsibility and to wake up to the realworld impacts of the rape books they are profiting from,” she said.

“Amazon's despicable promotion of rape and child sexual abuse as sexy or somehow warranted undermines global efforts to address an epidemic of men's sexual violence against women and children.”

Amazon told it was investigating the titles that contained aggressive pornography.

The major retailer also said while it didn't endorse the content of the books, it wanted to offer a wide selection of content for its customers.

It says it employs a variety of tools, including automated and manual reviews, to monitor for content that infringes their guidelines.


United Kingdom

Are sexual abuse victims being diagnosed with a mental disorder they don't have?

The lack of recognition for complex PTSD by the psychiatric establishment means it is difficult for sexual abuse victims who might suffer from it to receive the right diagnosis

by Alexandra Shimo

Suppose, for the sake of a thought experiment, that a new psychological disorder was discovered. It is supported by dozens of studies and recognized by some of the world's leading psychiatrists and psychologists, but not by the North American psychiatric establishment. And let's say the refusal to accept this new disorder had devastating consequences for #MeToo survivors.

That claim is asserted by a growing number of sexual abuse victims, psychiatrists and psychologists worldwide.

The disorder is called complex PTSD. It was identified in 1990 by American psychiatrists studying the experiences, behavior and symptoms of sexual abuse victims and other patients who have experienced extreme trauma and neglect, usually at a young age. A decade later, new science – in the form of brain scans – revealed this was a distinct condition affecting certain areas of the brain.

While the condition is referenced and discussed in peerreviewed publications, North America's official bible of psychiatry – The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) – doesn't recognize its existence. The DSM determines how mental illness is defined, and is the key to insurance coverage, special services in schools, disability benefits and treatments.

Someone who is dealing with complex trauma will be told they are having a problem regulating their emotions

This lack of recognition means it is difficult for sexual abuse victims who might suffer from it to receive the right psychological diagnosis.

Rather than being diagnosed with complex PTSD, many will be misdiagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), says Sly Sarkisova, a Torontobased psychotherapist who specializes in trauma.

BPD and complex PTSD are different disorders, but have similar symptoms. But one major indicator sets them apart: the latest research shows that BPD is 55% inherited whereas complex PTSD is not caused by genetics but prolonged exposure to traumatic events, usually in childhood. While BPD is defined primarily by risktaking symptoms (such as suicidality, impulsivity, selfharm, anxiety, emptiness, difficulty with relationships, and extremes of volatile emotion), complex PTSD patients tend to be less impulsive, frantic, unstable and less likely to engage in selfharm, according to a 2014 study in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology.

This misdiagnosis affects sexual survivors more than anyone else because they commonly display the psychiatric symptoms common to both disorders, such as anxiety, mood swings, depression, emptiness and displaced anger. As a result, “Someone who is dealing with complex trauma will be told that they are having a problem regulating their emotions,” Sarkisova explains.

This means that sexual abuse victims have to wrestle with receiving a BPD diagnosis that is pejorative and stigmatising (they are told their personality is “disordered”; they are called “difficult”; and as the condition can't be cured, some psychologists avoid treating them.)

“The borderline diagnosis for sexual abuse survivors is nonsense and misleading because it suggests that the problem is within the personality of the survivor rather than a result of what has happened to them,” explains Gillian Proctor, program leader of the psychotherapy and counselling master's program at the University of Leeds and a clinical psychologist in private practice.

For others, it's political. BPD has become associated with a “parody of supposed feminine characteristics”, explains Glyn Lewis, the head of psychiatry at University College London. “BPD is a label that is often misused and applied especially to women, or people who were assigned female at birth, to pathologize them for emotional expressions of suffering,” Sarkisova says.

There is little hope of rediagnosis with complex PTSD because therapists are reluctant to diagnose patients with a condition that isn't recognized by the DSM -- ‘It was sexist'

Concerns about the misdiagnosis of sexual abuse victims surfaced early on. BPD was added to the DSM in 1980, and to the UK's International Classification of Diseases (ICD) in 1996.

As these changes were happening, Bessel van der Kolk, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and Judith Herman, a Harvard professor of psychiatry, began to wonder if the developments were correct. What if these patients didn't have disordered personalities, but were suffering the psychological consequences of childhood abuse?

They began to interview male and female patients with a BPD diagnosis and published their findings in 1989 in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Their hunch proved right: 81% of patients diagnosed with BPD reported severe child abuse, including sexual, and/or neglect, usually before the age of seven. Van der Kolk and his team proposed that these people be rediagnosed as having complex PTSD.

For this to happen, the American Psychiatric Association would have to add complex PTSD as a new diagnostic category to the DSM. Van der Kolk and his team travelled to New York in 1990 to present their case to Robert Spitzer, one of the founders of the DSM and professor of psychiatry at Columbia University. Victory seemed in sight: in 1993, the American Psychiatric Association's PTSD committee voted to accept Van der Kolk's changes and add complex PTSD to the next version of the DSM.

Twentysix years later, nothing has happened.

Our field was dominated by men, and the men were seeing these women as ‘difficult'

“It was sexist,” argues New Yorkbased Katherine Porterfield, a child psychologist at New York University's Medical School. “Yes, this was happening to women because they are more likely to be abused, but it was also because our field was dominated by men, and the men were seeing these women as ‘difficult'.”

Those attitudes may have affected the science: many are reluctant to further explore a psychological condition that isn't recognized in North America, explains Audrey Cook, a Vancouverbased family therapist who has worked with sexual abuse victims since 1994, so instead these patients are labelled “difficult to treat”. Without research money, there are no studies on complex PTSD cure rates or most effective treatments.

Dr Van der Kolk, who went on to become one of the world's leading trauma experts and the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, says that misdiagnosis is now the norm. “The diagnosis determines the treatment that you can get, what insurance companies will pay for,” he explains. “As long as complex PTSD does not exist, [medical] insurance companies will not reimburse you for [psychological] treatments that might work.” Instead, he argues, “patients are likely to receive pejorative diagnoses and labels that make their lives only more difficult”.

‘It's easier for the world to flush us down the toilet'

“It's powerfully and deeply ironic to me that women who experience profound trauma [ie sexual abuse] are pathologised as having a personality disorder,” explains Winnipegbased freelance journalist, artist and resilience coach Lisa Walter, 50, a sexual abuse victim who says she has been misdiagnosed with BPD. “I think it makes it easier for the world to flush us down the toilet.”

Historically, a BPD diagnosis was made if women were considered resistant to treatment and on the “borderline” of psychotic. Later, the incurable part of the disorder was explained through genetics. Although the modernday definition does not mention psychopathy or sociopathy – which are different psychological disorders – the term is still used by some therapists and the public to imply someone irrational, inconsiderate and beyond control.

However, psychiatrists and psychologists in UK and North America are divided on the BPD diagnosis question. Some, like Dr Proctor, believe the label is never helpful, especially for sexual abuse victims who she believes are actually suffering from complex PTSD. Others, such as Dr ChoiKain, director of the Massachusettsbased McLean Hospital Borderline Personality Disorder Training Institute, believe they are separate conditions: comorbid, yes, but a person can suffer from both.

“When you tell [BPD patients]: ‘this is something millions of people have; you are not alone; there are good treatments and outcomes'; it's a really positive, clinical message,” Dr ChoiKain says.

But because studies have linked BPD to increased criminality, it has meant that some sexual abuse survivors won't disclose what has really happened to them to mental health professionals for fear of being diagnosed with it.

For a long time, Andrea Nicki hid that she was sexually abused as a young child by an adult male family member. “Normally I'm reluctant to talk about sexual abuse because as soon as you say it, people think BPD,” explains Nicki. “They think she's unstable, she's got a personality disorder.” Then, in 2008, the Vancouverbased poet and business ethics professor revealed it to a psychiatrist, whom she just saw once.

He diagnosed her with BPD even though she did not fit the BPD psychological profile: she lacked most of its symptoms except anxiety and minor depression due largely to financial troubles. A misplaced laugh (when her psychiatrist said “I really care for you”) might have tipped the balance: it prompted him to write down she was emotionally volatile.

‘Stuck in individualising, pathologising diagnostic ghettos'

A number of scientific developments have improved the understanding of complex PTSD. Thanks to growing interest and funding for neuroscience and neurobiology, there has been an explosion of scientific imaging tools, such as Functional magnetic resonance imaging and electroencephalography, that have allowed scientists to peer inside the brains of complex PTSD patients. The scans have allowed scientists to determine which parts of the brain are impacted by prolonged trauma, an advancement useful to trauma therapists hoping for possible cures.

Still, misdiagnosis remains common and affects the success rate of psychological treatments, according to Van der Kolk. Complex PTSD usually requires different treatments from those given to patients with BPD. Sexual abuse should be treated with some form of traumarelated therapy, Van der Kolk says, while BPD requires learning to control one's aggressive urges, improve one's relationship with others, moderate difficult emotions and compulsive behaviours.

Once misdiagnosis occurs, a patient can face stigma from the public and healthcare professionals

In a 2015 study in British Journal of Clinical Psychology, an actor was videotaped having a panic attack. When doctors were told she had BPD (she didn't), they rated her problem as worse and gave her less hope for recovery.

Lisa Walter, the Toronto writer, was diagnosed with BPD in 2008 after going through a depression and a period of selfharm. She too is a survivor, molested by a neighbour at eight and raped at 21. After diagnosis, she researched the condition, and found some of the symptoms did not fit. Her psychiatrist downplayed her concerns, and told her not to protest, because the BPD diagnosis was the only way of accessing a free, sixmonth course combining several therapies.

But with the BPD diagnosis on her medical chart, medical professionals approached her differently, she said. Nurses seemed less compassionate when she selfharmed. An ER doctor appeared irritated by the diagnosis and attempted to stitch up a selfinflicted leg wound without an anesthetic.

Her BPD diagnosis also led to dismissive treatment away from medical situations. While giving witness testimony in a case alleging police brutality at the 2010 G20 Toronto summit, the defense lawyer used the BPD diagnosis to humiliate her, holding open a book of mental health disorders and suggesting that because she had it, she had behaved irrationally angrily and aggressively at the protest. (She later sued the police and they settled.)

“As soon as you say BPD, people think irrational, angry woman,” Walter says. “There are extremely negative connotations with that phrase.”

In the UK, the situation is changing, albeit slowly. Last year, the National Health Service formally recognized complex PTSD as a psychological condition. Preliminary versions of the UK's bible of psychiatry, the ICD11, also includes it and most expect the final version, scheduled for publication in 2022, to do the same.

However, some UK therapists are still skeptical. “The new ICD11 diagnosis of complex PTSD was expected to revolutionise how we see and treat patients,” explains Dr Jay Watts, a clinical psychologist who has written extensively about Complex PTSD. It does not, she says: the diagnostic criteria are “so limited” that most people who have Complex PTSD will not qualify and instead be “stuck in individualising, pathologising diagnostic ghettos”.

In North America, there are still no plans to include complex PTSD in the DSM. Research into effective cures for sexual abuse survivors and other complex PTSD patients remain stymied by the institutional rigidity, misdiagnosis and lack of funding.

“Survivors of trauma and sexual violence should get appropriate support,” Wood says. “They should be treated with care and respect, not shamed and stigmatised further by this dehumanising label.”


United Kingdom

The dark world of a suburban paedophile found with thousands of abuse images

James Husband was caught with so many sickening pictures that police stopped counting


An "isolated" paedophile who was caught with thousands of sickening images, some of which showing "drugged" children, has dodged jail.

James Husband was tracked down by police through his email address and had even hidden a mobile phone crammed with images inside of a computer tower when officers raided his home.

The 42yearold had horrific images of children as young as eightmonthsold being abused in his possession with some clearly "intoxicated".

Husband appeared at Teesside Crown Court on Wednesday to be sentenced for making indecent images.

Harry Hadfield, prosecuting, said on October 26, 2016, police were informed that indecent photographs of children had been uploaded to the internet.

60s singer PJ Proby's Teesside gig cancelled after controversial 'underage girl' boasts

"A police investigation established that had been done by an email address relating to (Husband's) address", he said.

Officers later went to his Guisborough home and seized devices including "two computer towers, a mobile phone and an external harddrive" where "indecent images were found."

But as officers were removing the devices from his home, they were astonished when the side of a computer tower popped open, revealing a hidden mobile phone.

Indecent images were found on that too.

The court heard that as there were so many sickening images discovered, officers stopped counting when they reached a certain point.

Mr Hadfield said there were "193,000 plus images" discovered, among that were 748 in the worst category.

There were also 929 in category B and 258 in category C.

One harrowing image showed a child as young as eightmonthsold being "held down".

The still images, which showed very young children in "pain and distress" dated as far back as April 4, 2014.

Mr Hadfield added that some of the children "appeared to be intoxicated or drugged."

Michele Turner, defending said Husband would work well with rehabilitation and was a man who "has had some degree of trauma himself".

She said that the suicide of Husband's brother at a young age caused him to become the "leader of the family" while his "parents relied on him".

She said he had a "demanding job with a significant amount of pressure and stress" which caused him to "drink to excess".

Ms Turner added that he has started to "seek help" and was "full of remorse" and accessing the images was the result of leading an "isolated" life .

Judge Howard Crowson gave Husband, of Poplar Place, Guisborough, a 10 month prison sentence, suspended for two years.

He was given a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for 10 years and will be on the sex offender register for the same amount of time.

Husband, who is now jobless, was also ordered to pay £250 costs and £140 surcharge.



Illinois bill to remove statute of limitations on adult sexual abuse cases advances

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WIFR) An Illinois bill intended to remove the statute of limitations for cases involving criminal sexual assault and abuse of adults passed House vote on Friday.

HB 2135? is cosponsored by Rep. Maurice West II (DRockford). The bill allows for prosecution of these offenses to take place at any time.

“Survivors of assault deserve to receive justice, regardless of when law enforcement is able to track down the abuser,” West said. “Survivors have to live with the trauma of an assault for the rest of their lives, and there is no reason why a criminal should be able to avoid prosecution because a few years have passed.”

Under current law, prosecution is required take place within three to 10 years after abuse is reported. The current law only allows for the prosecution of sexual assault crimes any time if the survivor is under 18 years old.

“We have to prioritize the health and wellbeing of survivors of assault,” West said. “Not only does this include ensuring that they have resources available to assist with their mental and physical health, we have to stop offenders from hurting more people.



Calgary, Canada

It's time to support adult male survivors of childhood sexual abuse


Our thanks to the author of the March 2 oped on male victims of female sexual abuse. What extraordinary courage it took for you to write about your terrible experiences.

Like 95 per cent of survivors, the writer knew and trusted his abuser, making this a double tragedy — a rape and a betrayal. He talked about his abuse being a secret, which most pedophiles demand of their victims, a demand usually accompanied by threats.

As a result, he explains why most male survivors “kill themselves figuratively and literally to escape a reality they can scarcely describe because men aren't taught to communicate or to be open.”

This resilient survivor describes his life of agony, which robbed him “of safety, security, selfworth, meaningful connections, intimacy and even cognitive abilities. It steals fathers from children, husbands from partners, children from childhood and men from themselves.”

His words sadly match the experiences of many adult male survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Their pain, their shame and their guilt often drive them to selfmedicate. The Calgary and Area Child Advocacy Centre (which helps survivors up to the age of 18) reports that 72 per cent of addicts in recovery centres have unresolved childhood abuses. In addition to a high addiction rate, unemployment or workaholism, dysfunctional personal relationships, depression and anger, there's suicide.

Of the 500 suicides in Alberta last year, 75 per cent were men between the ages of 30 and 69.

National and international studies state that one in six men have been sexually abused before the age of 18. This could translate into approximately 70,000 survivors in Calgary. Yet the writer of the article feels alone. He feels ashamed about being abused as a child by a female.

He is not alone and he should not be ashamed.

As he says, healing is possible. There are four dedicated treatment centres in Canada — including in Montreal, Vancouver and Victoria. In Calgary, the Canadian Centre for Male Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (cc4ms) is working hard to provide treatment and support.

So what can you do? Begin by talking about the issue. Tell survivors you believe them. Use the hashtag #IBelieveThemToo to bring greater awareness to this issue. Discuss it with all candidates in the upcoming provincial election.

Without a mandate from the public, both municipal and provincial levels of government have declined to fund us. The need is there but the commitment is not. However, imagine the savings to our healthcare and justice systems if these survivors heal.

Help survivors directly by making a donation to cc4ms or by encouraging others to do so. Attend our May 9 Magnificent Men! Fundraising Lunch honouring George Brookman, an accomplished Calgarian who is not a survivor but who supports us.



Show Biz

Why Streisand's comments on sexual abuse are so troubling


Last weekend, Barbra Streisand got herself into trouble with a series of disparaging remarks about the adults who have accused the late Michael Jackson of sexually molesting them as children.

In a wideranging interview the Times of London published last Friday, Streisand said of Jackson's accusers: “You can say ‘molested,' but those children, as you heard say, they were thrilled to be there.” Streisand went on: “They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them.”

The reading public, perhaps reeling from what it learned from the documentary film “Leaving Neverland,” was not thrilled with Streisand's commentary; she has since apologized at length.

Streisand's comments were alarming in part because children are understood to represent a special class of sexual abuse victim, deserving of the strongest protection and redress. Children are credulous, children can't defend themselves, and there is not even a possibility of a child rendering consent — all legitimate reasons to understand child sex crimes as a distinct category of offense.

But we are entering a period in which we are going to hear more reports of childhood sexual abuse — not necessarily from children themselves but from now grownup adults who are prepared to come forward about their pasts.

How we greet and treat these victims and their claims matters. Yet, as we hear more from adult victims of childhood sex abuse — R. Kelly's accusers, for example, or Jeffrey Epstein's, or any of the hundreds of victims of sex abuse in the church — it's already clear that the special status reserved for child victims of sex crimes is eroding. Defenders of R. Kelly have blamed his accusers for being “fast.” Epstein's victims have been called liars and fameseekers in light of their coming forward. Some victims of abuse by Catholic priests and Protestant pastors have been cast as gold diggers.

Kids who report their abuse while still young may be protected by the special respect set aside for children, but it increasingly appears that as adults, suspicions about experience, motives and culpability will be aired and lodged. In that sense, adult victims of childhood sexual abuse can expect to be treated a lot like victims of sexual offenses who were adults at the time of their abuse.

We should know this by now: The unique dispositions of individual adults have never been a good reason to doubt otherwise credible reports of sexual abuse. Nor should they constitute a reason to doubt adults who come forward about incidents that occurred when they were children.

I have interviewed dozens of adult victims of childhood sexual abuse in my work for The Washington Post. I have found these survivors to be just as varied and unique in their motives, attitudes and intentions as anyone else. Some of them are angry about what happened to them and absolutely want to see their abusers exposed and punished; some are shy and frightened of public scrutiny, and just want to forget what happened to them. Some want money — which is fair, not only because we use money as a universal means of settling accounts in civil law but also because survivors of sexual abuse are oftentimes in need of money to cover ongoing health expenses, therapy and other costs associated with lifelong trauma. Some of them don't mind the fame that comes with highly publicized accounts of abuse, which can be refreshing after many years of secrecy and shame; others want nothing to do with the media, or are only comfortable participating in stories if their names and faces are not used.

And none of those motives and explanations has any bearing on whether their allegations are credible. In the coming years, as further investigations and independent probes of individuals and institutions provide new opportunities for adult victims of childhood sexual assaults to come forward, we have a chance to redress old wrongs and build a public and legal culture that is, overall, more capable of rendering justice. Whether that promise pans out will have a great deal to do with whether we can reverse the attitudes that have made reporting these crimes difficult from the beginning.

We might as well start now.



Former student, Somerset school district settle lawsuit in sexual assault case


A former student and the Somerset Area School District have settled a 2016 federal lawsuit for $5 million, which will be paid by the school’s insurance carrier and have no monetary impact on taxpayers.

The student claimed former school administrators did nothing 17 years ago to prevent her from being “sexually assaulted, tormented and stalked” by the school’s thenscience teacher, Stephen Shaffer.

“The plaintiff and the school district reached a settlement after more than a dozen depositions consisting of thousands of pages of testimony under oath,” said Joel Feller of Ross Feller Casey LLP of Philadelphia, the attorney for the plaintiff. “Discovery was completed and we were fully prepared and willing to proceed to trial; however, the parties were able to reach a settlement.”

The school’s insurer carrier, CM Regent Insurance Co. of Mechanicsburg, provided an attorney for the process. The case was monitored by the district’s solicitor, whose expenses did not exceed what was already budgeted by the school board. The insurer proposed the amount, and the school board signed off on the agreement at its June meeting.

The settlement will not raise the district’s insurance premiums, which were already set to rise slightly, according to Superintendent Krista Mathias.

“The district and the plaintiff were able to come to terms on a settlement without the admission of any liability on the part of the district,” Mathias said in an interview Monday at the Daily American.

School district officials said the agreement should not be seen as an admission of liability on the school district’s part.

“It is expressly understood and agreed that this is a compromise settlement of disputed claims, the liability for which is expressly denied by the school district,” the agreement reads.

The settlement includes a standard clause where neither side can represent itself as the prevailing party.

“The school district is in no way admitting that they or any of their employees, agents or representatives have treated (the plaintiff) unlawfully or wrongfully in anyway. The school district expressly asserts that no unlawful or wrongful conduct of any kind has occurred,” the agreement reads.

The document was obtained by the Daily American through a RighttoKnow request of the school district.

The conduct was alleged to have occurred nearly two decades ago, Mathias said.

“It goes without saying that the passage of time made the defense of this suit difficult,” she said.

The student, now 31, claimed she suffered from physical and mental abuse from the teacher, who began sexually abusing her when she was 14 and in the eighth grade. The abuse continued for years, according to the lawsuit.

Shaffer taught in the school district from 1988 until his retirement in 2005. In 2008 he was charged with rape, statutory sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, endangering the welfare of children, indecent exposure and corruption of minors.

After a jury trial in 2009, the same year Mathias became superintendent, Shaffer was convicted of indecent assault, endangering the welfare of a child and corruption of minors. He was found not guilty of rape, statutory sexual assault and sexual assault. He was sentenced in 2010 to 18 months to seven years in state prison followed by three years of supervised probation.

“Mr. Shaffer was criminally prosecuted and convicted (by a jury) for his unspeakable actions toward my client that began when she was in eighth grade,” Feller said.

Attorney Michael Barbera, of Barbera, Melvin, Svonavec & Sperlazza LLP in Somerset, the school district’s solicitor, said the criminal and civil cases had different elements.

“The focus (in the civil case) is on what did the district do or (not) do,” he said.

The lawsuit alleged that school administrators were aware of allegations of inappropriate conduct involving Shaffer and female students since 1991, but allowed him to continue to teach at the school.

Mathias said the administrators responsible for supervising Shaffer at the time have either died, retired or found other employment. John Baraniak, who was superintendent at the time, died in September following a battle with brain cancer.

She said that rules and procedures on how to report and deal with alleged abuse are much different now than at the time Shaffer was employed by the school district. She cited changes in the law brought about by the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State and steps the school district has taken to better screen applicants, including “copious reference checks” and social media reviews.

Everyone in the system, including volunteers, is trained in policies that include immediate reporting of anything that approaches inappropriate behavior with any student, she said.

“It is my first priority to keep students safe and to have appropriate relationships with the children,” Mathias said.

Feller said there were two purposes and goals behind filing the lawsuit.

One goal “was to shed light on the responsibilities of school district officials to put safety and the wellbeing of students ahead of the reputation of the school district or school teachers,” Feller said.

Another goal was “to demonstrate that a school district cannot create a hostile educational environment and violate a student’s right to an education free from sexual harassment and abuse,” he said.

“My client was extremely courageous throughout this entire process,” Feller said. “She is pleased with the settlement and is hopeful that her case achieves her goal of bringing attention to this issue of protecting innocent children and making sure that this never happens again to another child.”

Mathias said the administration has ensured that every current school district employee has completed training to “identify and report any suspected child abuse.” She said she does not want this specific matter to influence people’s perspectives of the district, its employees or its students.

“Students are flourishing in our District,” she said in a prepared statement. “We are proud of them and of our teachers, administrators, and support staff who work hard to keep them safe and help them succeed.”



Why Are Memories of My Past Trauma Coming Back Now?

by Lisa Nosal, MFT

“I've been fine for years. Now I have nightmares every night and can barely function at work. What's going on?”

“I thought I was over it. I even went to therapy as a kid! Why is it all coming back again?”

“I feel like I'm falling apart, but the abuse was years ago. Does this mean I'm getting worse?”

One of the first things survivors of sexual abuse ask me when they come into my therapy office is, “Why now? Why are these feelings and memories coming back now?” Often, the underlying question is, “I was fine before, but now I'm struggling. Am I going crazy?”

If you're having this experience—being suddenly overwhelmed by a past trauma—let me reassure you the same way I reassure the people I work with in my office. No, you're not going crazy! As difficult as it may be to believe, a sudden reemergence of old feelings is often a sign that you're ready to heal on a deeper level.

Recovery from Trauma Happens in Stages

Healing from a trauma such as sexual assault or abuse happens in stages. In the first few days after an assault, we tend to shut down because the emotions feel so overwhelming that we can deal with them only in small doses. For ongoing sexual abuse or molestation, this shutdown state may last for the entire time the abuse occurs. Eventually, in the days, weeks, and months after an assault occurred or the abuse ends, we usually find ways to “put the past behind us,” to regulate our emotions and to build a stable life. We may still experience some triggers or have some nightmares, and we don't typically forget about what happened, but over the years we start to feel “normal.”

Then, sometimes, all those feelings come roaring back. What's going on?

In my experience as a therapist, what's happening is that some deep, inner part of you finally feels safe and stable enough to address the leftover emotional fallout that's been patiently waiting for years. Your job right after the trauma and in the years since the trauma occurred has been to find stability. You developed successful coping mechanisms that let you function in the world without falling apart. Those are invaluable skills that are going to get you through the next part of your recovery.

You are Strong Enough to Feel Vulnerable Now

When the fear, the anger, the sadness, the helplessness, the heartache—all the emotions that were perhaps too painful, too complicated, or just “too” in the immediate aftermath of the trauma—suddenly reemerge, your new task is to sit with those emotions and let them have their say. They've been patiently waiting for you to develop the strength to cope with them successfully, and if they've shown up for you now, after all this time, they think you're finally ready. You are strong enough to feel vulnerable for a while.

So what do you do? How do you cope without getting overwhelmed?

  • Know that you are not regressing or going “crazy.” Reassure yourself that these seemingly new emotions are a normal part of the traumarecovery process and that they won't stick around forever. These emotions don't mean you're moving backward in your healing or that you'll always feel this way. There is an end!

  • Recognize that “the only way out is through.” These emotions will go away, but only after you let yourself feel them. Emotions give us valuable information about ourselves and the world, so you need to learn to listen to them. This is your opportunity to learn that skill.

  • Go slowly. If all these emotions feel overwhelming and scary, you can take them in small doses. I often recommend setting a timer for 15 or 10 or even five minutes every day, and using that time to feel whatever you're feeling right then. When the timer goes off, stop. (This is where your strength comes in!) It may be hard to feel at first, or hard to stop feeling, but that's why you're practicing. This exercise helps you build confidence that you can turn off the flood of emotions, which can help reduce anxiety about letting yourself feel.

  • Give yourself credit for your progress. As you work through this stage of the healing process, you may find yourself caught up in one emotion for a while. You may go through a weeklong period of sadness, for example, or a month of feeling really angry. People sometimes feel stuck when this happens and forget that they haven't always felt that way and are therefore not likely to feel that way forever. Keeping a journal or talking about your feelings with a supportive loved one can help you see that you're moving forward.

If you need additional support or resources, a therapist specializing in trauma recovery can help. If you need immediate help regarding sexual assault or abuse and you're in the United States, you can call the 24hour National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1800656HOPE (4673) for support, resources, and referrals.


The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author, Lisa Nosal, MFT, therapist in Sonoma, California.