National Child Abuse Awareness Month
Children's Advocacy Center attempts world record for National Child Abuse Awareness Month
A massive pinwheel garden was created at Naples Pier to attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the Largest Toy Pinwheel Display in the World.
by MORGAN HORNSBY
The first pinwheel was planted in the sand not long after the pink and gold hues of sunrise gave way to a bright, wispy-clouded sky.
Dozens of volunteers gathered at the beach beside the Naples Pier on Saturday morning to create what they hoped would be a wondrous display.
With every pinwheel planted, their yards-long creation took shape.
First came the petals, then the stem, then the pot. Crowds gathered on the pier to take pictures and watch as the image came together.
The end result was a massive pinwheel made to look like a potted flower. The volunteers used thousands of pinwheels large and small, in silver, white and shades of blue. The colorful toys hummed and spun in unison every time the wind picked up.
When the final pinwheel was planted in the sand about an hour and a half after the first one, the volunteers and observers erupted in cheers and applause.
The Children's Advocacy Center of Collier County has planted pinwheel gardens at the beach before. They've done it every April since 2016 to raise awareness about child abuse during National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Most of their staff volunteer for the event.
"I think it's important for the community to understand that abuse can occur anywhere," said Jackie Stephens, CEO of the organization. "We tend to think of Naples as a beautiful, safe place, and it is, but child abuse can happen in any place, in any socioeconomic group and in any walk of life."
The pinwheel has become a national symbol for child abuse prevention, according to the nonprofit Prevent Child Abuse America.
Stephens said each pinwheel CAC planted used to symbolize the children the organization helped during the previous fiscal year. Now, she says, it's a symbol of hope for a childhood that is free of stress and fear.
"They should be happy and healthy and free from abuse in their lives," Stephens said.
The pinwheel is also a symbol of strength to Valeria Zerbini, a senior case coordinator with the organization.
"It's the resilience to keep spinning," Zerbini said.
Saturday's event wasn't the average community awareness event. And the pinwheel garden wasn't the average pinwheel garden.
This year, the Children's Advocacy Center is trying to break a Guinness World Record for the largest display of toy pinwheels.
They planted a total of 4,435.
The current world record-holder is a renewable energy provider in Melbourne, Australia. The company planted 2,401 pinwheels for a miniature indoor wind farm display at the Melbourne Museum, according to the Guinness website.
Stephens said the day before the event, she and some of her staff went to the pier, stared off into the distance and asked themselves how on earth they were going to pull off planting that many windmills, let alone in a bid to beat a world record.
Ex-pope Benedict XVI blames sexual abuse on swinging sixties
Retired pope Benedict XVI has ventured out of retirement to publish an essay blaming the Catholic church's sexual abuse scandals on the sexual revolution of the 1960s and “homosexual cliques” among priests.
The analysis by Benedict, who abdicated as pontiff in 2013, was immediately criticised as “catastrophically irresponsible” and in conflict with efforts by his successor, Pope Francis, to lead the church out of its crisis.
“Why did paedophilia reach such proportions? Ultimately, the reason is the absence of God,” Benedict wrote in the 6,000-word essay published on Thursday in the German monthly Klerusblatt, the Catholic News Agency and other conservative media.
Benedict traced the start of the crisis to the 1960s, citing the appearance of sex in films in his native Bavaria and the formation of “homosexual cliques” in seminaries, “which acted more or less openly and significantly changed the climate”. He also attributed it to failures in moral theology in that era.
“Perhaps it is worth mentioning that in not a few seminaries, students caught reading my books were considered unsuitable for the priesthood,” the conservative theologian wrote. “My books were hidden away, like bad literature, and only read under the desk.”
Benedict also faulted church laws that gave undue protection to accused priests. During the 1980s and 1990s, he wrote, “the right to a defence [for priests] was so broad as to make a conviction nearly impossible”.
As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict spearheaded reforms of those laws in 2001 to make it easier to remove priests who abused children. Benedict took a hard line against clerical sex abuse as the Vatican's conservative doctrinal chief and later as pope, defrocking hundreds of priests accused of raping and molesting children.
Francis has blamed the scandal on a clerical culture in the church that raises priests above the laity.
At his retirement in 2013, Benedict had said he would devote his remaining life to penance and prayer, leaving Francis to guide the church. He said in the introduction to the essay that Francis and the Vatican secretary of state had given him permission to publish. The Vatican confirmed it was written by Benedict.
Church historian Christopher Bellitto questioned if Benedict, who turns 92 next week, was being manipulated by others. He said the essay omitted the critical conclusions that arose from the pope's February sexual abuse summit in Rome, including that “abusers were priests along the ideological spectrum, that the abuse predated the 1960s, that it is a global and not simply western problem, that homosexuality is not the issue in pedophilia”.
“It is catastrophically irresponsible, because it creates a counter-narrative to how Francis is trying to move ahead based on the 2019 summit,” he told Associated Press in an email. “The essay essentially ignores what we learned there.”
Let Victims Speak, German Child Abuse Inquiry Says
by THOMAS ESCRITT
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 350-page 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 decades-old 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."
Catholic Leaders in Japan to Conduct Survey on Sexual Abuse
by Makiko Inoue and Mike Ives
TOKYO — Catholic bishops in Japan plan to conduct a nationwide survey on sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy, church officials said Monday.
Archbishop Mitsuaki Takami of Nagasaki, the leader of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan, shared the plan on Sunday during a gathering in Tokyo where a man spoke of being abused as a young boy at the hands of a German priest.
“Japan's Catholic Church is small, and we are not sure what we can do” about child sexual abuse, Archbishop Takami said by telephone on Monday. “But we think we have to pay attention to this issue.”
According to The Mainichi Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper, bishops from around the country agreed last week to carry out the survey in all 16 dioceses. The survey method has not yet been decided.
The Roman Catholic Church faces accusations around the world of covering up child sexual abuse.
In December, Cardinal George Pell of Australia became the highest-ranking church leader to be found guilty of sexual abuse, after he was convicted of molesting two boys in the 1990s.
Abuse by church officials has also been reported in India, the Philippines and elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific, a region the church considers important for its continued growth.
In Japan, the bishops' conference said in 2002 that it had found incidents of child abuse in its ranks. It issued behavioral guidelines for bishops the following year, and has updated them several times since.
“Concerning this problem we must confess that we have not adequately fulfilled our responsibility,” the conference said in a statement in 2002. “To those who have been harmed we promise now that we bishops will respond to the problem in all sincerity, and that any priests or religious who are guilty will be dealt with severely.”
Nationwide questionnaires of bishops, conducted in 2002 and 2012, found that at least five “damage reports” had been filed over church sexual abuse, The Mainichi Shimbun reported on Monday. The newspaper quoted Archbishop Takami as saying in an interview that the church would consider conducting third-party investigations into child sexual abuse cases “as necessary.”
In February, the newspaper said, Archbishop Takami was among the bishops who traveled to the Vatican for a four-day meeting of Pope Francis and other church leaders to discuss child sexual abuse. Francis is planning to visit Japan in November, which would make him the first pontiff to do so in nearly 40 years.
Archbishop Takami said on Monday that he had been invited to the recent gathering in Tokyo by Katsumi Takenaka. The Mainichi Shimbun said Mr. Takenaka, 62, was a public servant who had identified himself as a victim of sexual abuse.
At the gathering, Mr. Takenaka said that he had been sexually abused as a fourth-grade elementary student by a German priest at a foster care facility in suburban Tokyo.
“We are sorry we've not been able to do enough and caused you to suffer,” Archbishop Takami told Mr. Takenaka as they shook hands, according to the newspaper.
On Monday, Archbishop Takami said by telephone that the church should listen to victims' voices and “think what we can do” to prevent other children from suffering.
“It took decades for him to be able to speak out,” he said of Mr. Takenaka. “It must have been very difficult.”
Vienna State Opera's ballet academy hit by abuse scandal
Austrian magazine alleges pupils were subjected to physical, mental and sexual abuse
by Jon Henley, European affairs correspondent
The Vienna State Opera has launched an investigation and promised far-reaching reforms after allegations that students at its prestigious ballet academy were subjected to physical, mental and sexual abuse by two teachers.
“Things have happened that are unacceptable,” the State Opera's director, Dominique Meyer, said on Wednesday after the Austrian magazine Falter published a detailed exposé of the alleged abuse based on interviews with students and staff.
The article said pupils at the academy were hit, kicked, scratched until they bled, pulled by their hair and subjected to a stream of humiliating comments about their bodies. They received no psychological or nutritional support and some developed bulimia or anorexia, Falter claimed.
Meyer, who is in his final season in Vienna and a candidate to take over as director of the Paris Opera, told Austria's ORF broadcaster that the teacher accused of most of the abuse had been warned about her behaviour two years ago and was eventually dismissed in January.
Meyer said he had ordered a “full explanation of everything that has gone wrong”, adding that child protection officials were also investigating the allegations and that it was “clear that a teacher has behaved very badly here”.
A second teacher at the academy – which was granted a royal charter by the Empress Theresa in 1771 and at present has 110 pupils aged from 10 to 18 – was accused by one student of sexual assault and suspended pending the outcome of an investigation by Vienna public prosecutors.
Jolantha Seyfried, a former director of the school, told the magazine of a “slave mentality” inside the renowned institution, which attracts applications from around the world. Pupils were seen as “just a commodity, to play in the opera”, she said.
A former prima ballerina, Gabriele Haslinger, said the sacked teacher, who was of Russian origin, had imported “Soviet-style drills” to the school, whose alumni dance for some of the world's best-known dance companies including the Royal Ballet in London, St Petersburg's Mariinsky and the American Ballet Theatre in New York.
“Parents believe that they are leaving their children in the safest hands possible at the academy, but it's just not true,” Haslinger said. Another former teacher, Sharon Booth, said the teacher's educational methods were “those of the 19th century”.
The Vienna State Opera, whose website says it “takes particular care of the physical and emotional wellbeing” of students, said in a statement that its own investigation had “uncovered very unpleasant incidents, which are completely intolerable and which we greatly regret”.
The students affected “have our deepest sympathy”, it said. The academy aimed to build a “positive, trusting, respectful and healthy working environment” and was already implementing “significant reforms in several areas”, it added.
Nuns sexually abusing minors could become next Catholic Church scandal, experts say
by Hollie McKay
It wasn't until Rev. Cait Finnegan gave birth to a baby girl more than three decades ago that the full trauma of all she had withstood was fully unleashed.
“It was my protective instinct, I just didn't want my daughter to be alone. I stayed with her from the day she was born,” Finnegan, 67, a Catholic school student in 1960s New York and once an aspiring nun, told Fox News. “Because I had been abused in many places to many degrees. This was every day in school, weekends, she would come to my home.”
Starting at just 15, Finnegan alleged that she was repeatedly raped by a Catholic nun and for years, after finally escaping, lived a life on the edge of falling apart. She said she spent much of her life trapped in a state of rage, depression, and agoraphobia, unable to leave the house or be away from her daughter, now 36.
They lived in poverty as Finnegan said she was only able to take on odd jobs at night, as her marriage strained under the emotional weight.
“When my daughter was 12, we thought it would be good to register her at a Catholic School,” Finnegan recalled. “But then the nun opened the door, I had a flashback, I grabbed her and ran.”
Finnegan said her abuser died more than four years ago. But the deep, dark memories she has carried since adolescence remain.
“The pain is still there, still haunting,” Finnegan, who was married to a Catholic Priest but is now widowed and has dedicated her days to supporting other survivors and serving as the minister of the Pennsylvania Celtic Christian Church, continued. “But I am never going to shut up, I am going to do everything I can to help heal some of the sad memories my daughter had to endure because of this.”
But she is hardly alone in what some experts predict might be the next big blow for the Church to grapple.
Last month, a Minnesota-based law firm that represents survivors of clerical abuse unveiled a long list of those who have been credibly accused of child molestation. The 185-page “Anderson Report on Child Sexual Abuse in the Archdiocese and Dioceses,” which focused on Illinois and mostly on priests, also named six nuns among the 390 alleged abusers.
Of the six nuns named, three are reported to now be dead and the whereabouts of the remaining three is not clear, the report stated.
Some of the appalling claims date back half a century, but it's an issue that investigators believe is very much prevalent today and shrouded in the secrecy of survivors.
Patrick J Wall, a former Roman Catholic Priest and Benedictine Monk who is now an expert in canon law and clergy sexual exploitation, rallying on behalf of other survivors at the Anderson firm, said that almost all cases involving nuns as perpetrators have been wiped from the vaults.
“The cases I remember, the nun was moved, or a couple of times sent off for treatment,” he said. “There is no public record, just quietly settled. Most states have no record of the cases being settled.”
Wall said that such cases he came across during his tenure in the Church were all quietly settled and that many accusations since have had “statute of limitation problems.” He also said there is next to no data specifically looking at the issue of sexual abuse by nuns, and there may not be any officially compiled anytime soon.
“The Church has such a gigantic problem with the Bishops now,” Wall conjectured. “They likely are not concerned about the nuns.”
And Mary Dispenza, a director at the St. Louis-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), a support group for anyone harmed by institutional and religious authorities, told Fox News that it wasn't until recently – the age of 78 – she too acknowledged that she was a victim of nun sexual abuse throughout her 15-year tenure.
“It was an awakening for me, a story I carried around for so long, one of such confusion,” said the former Southern California-based nun turned survivor advocate.
Since federal authorities opened a probe into allegations of abuse at several dioceses in Pennsylvania last October, Dispenza noted that 67 individuals from across the United States have reached out to her with their own horror stories of misconduct – 56 of them documented sexual abuse by nuns, four claimed physical and emotional abuse, two were concerned nuns themselves seeking information on how to improve their orders, and the remaining endured priest abuse.
“This number could be multiplied several times over, a few thousand around the world,” she cautioned. “It is another significant problem the church is yet to face.”
While the majority of those who reached out to Dispenza for guidance were female, she said some were male recounting their childhood horrors.
“The men carry a great deal of shame, which has kept them from coming forward or speaking out,” she observed.
The Holy See has been forced to deal with a dizzying fall from grace over the past year as massive numbers of priests around the world have been exposed as sexual abusers and predators. Pope Francis has also had to acknowledge that some nuns were also abused by clergymen.
But no word has been uttered publicly.
In February, church leaders worldwide convened in Rome for a four-day conference to address the amplifying abuse scandal, and carve a structured, more transparent way forward to aid survivors and resolve the profound stains on the Church's image.
But Dispenza said the nun matter wasn't mentioned.
“No one wants to touch the nuns,” she contended. “The nuns have been sacred and by and large, they are mostly wonderful and dedicated women who have nurtured and cared for children throughout the years. But this is a current issue that has not yet been addressed.”
The Vatican did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
While mostly a silent crime through the passage of time, small spouts of justice have been brought to the surface from time to time.
In 2004, a former nun accused of molesting a 10-year-old Catholic school student 15 years earlier was convicted in a Virginia Beach court of two felony sex crimes and was sentenced to a 10-year suspended sentence.
A year earlier, for the first time locally, a nun was identified as an alleged abuser amid a wave of allegations leveled against the Catholic Church in San Diego by a male identified only as John Roe, and claimed to be just 10 years old when he said the predatory crimes began.
But space for survivors to slowly step out of the shadows, with or without the Vatican's lead, is now opening.
“(We) recognize that there have been incidents where Catholic sisters have sexually abused persons entrusted to their care,” said Sister Annmarie Sanders, a representative for the Chicago-founded Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which brings together the leaders of Catholic nun congregations across the U.S. “These actions are horrific and we join with women religious throughout our country who deeply regret the suffering that has resulted for the survivors and, often their loved ones as well.”
Sanders pledged that healing efforts will continue.
“We are grateful for the courage of the survivors who have come forward. Because of them, our own understandings of the long-term effects of sexual misconduct have expanded and deepened,” she added. “We agree with the survivors who are calling upon women religious to keep working for the healing of victims and the prevention of further abuse.”
'A Spiritual Rape': Female Survivors Say Sex Abuse by Nuns Has Been Overlooked by Public
by JEFF TRUESDELL
Two women who have been sexually abused by nuns are speaking out, saying that amidst the well-documented scandal of widespread abuse of boys by priests, their traumas have been overlooked.
“It's a spiritual rape, it really is,” survivor Anne Gleeson tells HuffPost in an exclusive video interview. “It steals your faith. I envy people who have faith.” (A 4-minute clip of the interview is shown above.)
Another survivor, Patricia Cahill, tells the outlet, “The boys thought they were the only ones for a hundred years. The girls [who were abused] think they're the only ones. They don't have any other survivors to see.”
Several nuns were named among those credibly accused of child molestation in a report released earlier this month from Jeff Anderson & Associates, a Minneapolis-based law firm that has brought civil actions in child sex abuse cases across the country. Although the so-called “Anderson Report” focused on the Archdiocese of Chicago and other dioceses in Illinois, its inclusion of female abusers suggests a potential next wave of accusations.
“Nuns kind of get a free ride,” says Gleeson, who said her abuse at the hands of Sister Judith Fisher, her 8th grade homeroom teacher at a Catholic school in suburban St. Louis, began when she was 13.
“She always, always described it as ‘God's love' — ‘this is God's love, nobody else is going to understand it,” Gleeson tells HuffPost.
“You think of women as being nurturing, and you trust them more,” she says. “And when it's done gently, and sweetly, and they paint it to your benefit, you believe it. It's a true form of brainwashing. I have to believe that, because how else could I have been so blinded?”
Cahill says her abuser, Sister Eileen Shaw, whom she met while a student in Catholic school in New Jersey, started to abuse her when Cahill was 15 and Shaw was 36 “and had taken the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. She stole from my body, my mind and my soul. The woman was a thief who did not keep her vows.”
Cahill already was a victim, alleging that she earlier had been raped by her uncle, a priest. As an adult alcoholic, Cahill initially blamed her drinking on that incident. “And yet [Shaw] was the first person that gave me alcohol and drugs. Continually,” she says.
She recalls that while in a 12-step program, she deliberately protected Shaw by initially refusing to talk about her. “My sponsors, they were the first ones that said ‘this is not a relationship.' I thought they were crazy,” she says.
“She told me she loved me. She bought me presents. She took me all over alone, camping, sleeping in the same sleeping bag. They said, ‘That's not a relationship. That's sex.'”
After Cahill reported her abuse by Shaw in 1994 to the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, she was paid a $70,000 out-of-court settlement, reports CBS News.
A response from the Sisters of Charity obtained by HuffPost says an investigation by the congregation's response team “substantiated the sister's improper conduct,” and that Shaw had been removed from ministry and barred from working with anyone under age 21. “She accepts responsibility for her actions and the harm that they have caused. She continues to pray daily about this,” it said.
PEOPLE reached out to the Sisters of Charity, which confirmed the statement.
Dozier School for Boys: Dozens more suspected graves found
Forensic anthropologist Erin Kimerle wants justice for the children who died at the Dozier school
Excavators have found up to another 27 suspected graves near the grounds of a notorious reform school in Florida.
Workers hired to clear up a fuel storage site detected new "anomalies" buried near the state-run Dozier School for Boys, officials said.
The school became infamous for the alleged abuse and murder of children over its 111-year history.
It was one of the largest institutions for young offenders in the US, eventually closing in 2011.
If confirmed, the latest finds would bring the total number of known burials on the campus to 82 - although researchers believe more than 100 children could have died at Dozier School.
Contractor New South Associates was preparing to clean up pollution in Marianna, Florida, using ground-penetrating radar in March when workers found what could be more burial sites near the school.
Their report, obtained by Florida newspaper the Tampa Bay Times, said the possible graves did not follow any pattern .
"This randomness might be expected in a clandestine or informal cemetery," the report says.
New South recommended treating the area as a graveyard until a more thorough investigation could be conducted.
Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis has asked state authorities to "develop a path forward" to understand the findings.
A group of former students known as the White House Boys first brought claims of abuse at the institution to the public eye in the 2000s.
"We've been trying to tell the state of Florida that there's more bodies out there for a long time," Bryant Middleton told the Tampa Bay Times.
Another former Dozier School student, Terry Burns, told Action News that if they scanned the entire campus, "I guarantee they will find another 200 to 300 dead boys buried on them grounds".
Nxivm: 'Why I joined a cult - and how I left'
by George Wright
BBC News --
Last Monday, US actress Allison Mack pleaded guilty to charges linked to an alleged sex trafficking operation in the suspected cult Nxivm.
Pronounced 'nexium', the group started as a self-help programme but its leader is accused of overseeing a "slave and master" system within it. Prosecutors also allege members had to pay thousands of dollars for courses to rise within its ranks.
But what leads people to join such groups? And how do they reintegrate into society once they leave?
You may find some of the details below distressing.
From the outside looking in it looked like the perfect life. I grew up in Florida and on a boat in the Bahamas with my parents and twin brother, but I always felt empty inside and sad. I didn't really fit in. Most of my family died before I was 15 and then my father died. I was always seeking for what happens after we die, why are we here?
When I was 33, I wandered into a tantric Buddhist meditation seminar and I sat down to meditate. I was expecting an older woman with long grey hair, a white robe and spa music. Instead it was a young woman and what looked like an Armani business suit and stiletto heels.
She put on techno music and she said "let's meditate" and put on her sunglasses. I closed my eyes to meditate and had this incredible experience. Everything goes white and there's so much peace. I realised this was what I had been searching for my entire life. I thought: "I don't care who this woman is, I don't care what she says, I'm home."
It took a while but now I realise it's like any toxic relationship. If you go on a first date and somebody hits you, you don't go on a second date. But they start with the romance, they seduce you, lure you in and that's what they did.
Then what happens is they start giving you so many tasks that so much of your time is consumed in the group that you start distancing yourself from friends, family and activities you loved. Without realising it, my support structure started to disappear and the groupthink started to set in.
Then, after the two-year mark, they started introducing self-doubt.
They would say you're evolving into this enlightened version of yourself. Everything from the old you no longer applies. They'd say it's just like an alcoholic. Once an alcoholic gets clean they can't really hang out with their old drinking buddies at the old bars.
The more money we made, the more money we paid. They'd justify it by saying everything is energy, including money. The more money you spend and give to the teachers the more empowerment you'd get.
It was all abusive, my whole life was theirs. Then the guru seduced me as a consort, where a spiritual teacher takes his student as a lover. He slowly but surely started criticising me. Nothing I did was good enough.
With cults, like any abusive relationship, the red flags are there all along and denial is such a powerful thing. The teachers would say: "Your ego is so big you don't want to change" and I would explain I did want to change and become enlightened, not even really understanding what enlightened meant.
Eventually everything came crashing down. I was at rock bottom and then had a near-death experience snowboarding and after that I started to hear clearly but didn't want to admit it to myself.
Almost seven years after I joined, I allowed myself to realise.
It was really hard at first. I left New York and moved to Colorado and thought I'd move someplace quiet and I'd be fine. Instead, I fell apart even more and pretty much couldn't leave the house. I was suicidal, barely eating, sleeping all day for six months.
Then joy started coming back into my life. It really took me five years, only recently in October, to feel like I was reintegrating.
I was doing my PhD in consciousness and spirituality. I went to a talk and there was a Hindu monk talking very eloquently about consciousness and the mind so I started training with him.
Before I knew it I was completely hooked. Then he said: "I can't teach you any more, you need to go to my guru in India who's absolutely enlightened. This is your chance."
The reason I was vulnerable was that my own childhood had made me long for a family where I actually felt that I mattered and this was very much sold to me. I was aware that I wanted to get rid of the pain I was carrying emotionally.
After three days at the ashram in India, I'd eaten lunch and I remember slowly, slowly trying to hang onto the wall and my fingernails scratching the wall, slipping down and losing consciousness. The next thing I knew I was in the room they had given me and he was on top of me. I didn't get out of that room for three months.
The thing that confused me when I came home is that I couldn't explain to people what had happened. He'd be on top of me, I'd freeze, disassociate, and an hour or two later I'd be sitting there thinking: "This is not what I came here for, I thought he was supposed to have my best interests at heart."
Then he'd accuse you of not behaving properly. You wouldn't believe the mind tricks they play. He'd say: "It's because of your Catholic upbringing that you don't like this."
That was Autumn 1987. Eventually I realised I was probably going to go mad and die there if I didn't think of a really good plan.
My first attempt to escape didn't work and it made things worse, so I pretended to him that I thought it was wonderful that I was there. I said: "Look, you want the monk from England to come over and your second favourite, NV Raghuram from Bangalore, and we can all celebrate that I'm your consort and how wonderful this is." He believed me.
Eventually these two came and I explained to the English monk what was happening. I also said: "I've lost loads of weight, I'm ill, I'm sure my mind is beginning to go and I need help." He replied: "You have to do what the guru tells you to do, always."
I thought at that moment: maybe I have got it all wrong.
The next night I talked to the monk from Bangalore, NV Raghuram, whom I had never met. I had to say: "Look, I'll be in the bathroom at this time if you'll come and talk to me." When I told him, he explained this had happened before, and they had hoped the guru had stopped. He got me out of there and he looked after me.
He told me about the girl it had happened to before had been the same age I was. She'd gone insane and been put in a mental hospital. Her brother who had walked in on it had hung himself.
What people don't understand is when you sit in front of a man or woman with all the pomp and all the incense... and they say you need to be more loving and kind and do these prayers and help all sentient beings, you feel your heart open, you feel: "Yes, I want to be that pure person, I am so grateful to you."
That very pure open feeling is actually all your own doing but you think this guru has done something to you.
For me, the coercive control was really relentless - 24/7 - and the dynamics of manipulation and gaslighting were similar in my family of origin, so it all felt very familiar.
If you are emotionally secure with a secure childhood where you felt like a cherished and important person and that your feelings were genuine, I think you wouldn't be so easily hooked.
How do you help someone who is in a cult?
The Cult Information Centre, a UK-based charity that gives advice to cult members, their family and friends, offers 22 "do's and don'ts" to people who want to help a loved-one.
Always welcome the cult member back into the family home no matter what is said
Record all the names, addresses and phone numbers of people linked with the cult
Do not say: "You are in a cult, you are brainwashed
YouTube star in Arizona arrested for allegedly abusing 7 adoptive children
by Morgan Winsor
A YouTube star is accused of physically abusing her seven adoptive children, who told authorities they were pepper-sprayed, beaten and deprived of food and water if they didn't participate in her videos.
Machelle Hobson, 48, whose YouTube channel "Fantastic Adventures" has garnered almost 800,000 subscribers and 250 million views since 2012, was arrested last Friday following a welfare check at her home in Maricopa, Arizona, about 35 miles south of downtown Phoenix, according to the complaint filed in Pinal County Superior Court.
A 19-year-old woman told the Maricopa Police Department on March 13 that her younger adoptive stepsister disclosed being abused by her mother, Hobson.
Officers then conducted a welfare check at Hobson's residence, where they found seven children "who appeared to be malnourished, due to their pale completion, dark rings under their eyes, underweight, and they stated they were thirsty and hungry," according to the probable cause statement.
All seven children were removed from Hobson's custody.
Police interviewed two of the children and attempted to speak with a third but "she was visibly nervous, shaking, and it appeared she was too scared to answer any questions," according to the probable cause statement. The four other children were not questioned.
One child told police Hobson locked her in a closet for days at a time without food or water and made her wear a pull-up diaper, not allowing her to use the bathroom.
The child alleged her adoptive mother would spray her and her six siblings with pepper spray, spank them and force them to take ice baths. She allegedly would further punish them if they resisted, according to the complaint.
The child told police she was once pepper-sprayed between her legs and was in pain for several days.
Another child told police, "I either get beat with a hanger or belt," "or a brush," "or get pepper-sprayed from head to toe," according to the probable cause statement. He also alleged Hobson would grab his "privates" and, on numerous occasions, pinched him with her fingernails until he bled.
Hobson denied the allegations, saying the only forms of punishment she uses are grounding, spanking and making the kids stand in the corner, according to the complaint. Hobson's attorney, Richard Scherb, told ABC News, "The state's case is without merit."
All of the kids mentioned having to partake in their mother's YouTube series, which featured the adopted children in different scenarios, according to the complaint. The kids told police they were punished if they forgot their lines or didn't follow Hobson's directions.
"This is one of the reasons their mom took them out of school, so they can keep filming their series and they mentioned they have not been in school for years," the probable cause statement reads.
The YouTube channel was still up on the video-sharing site as of Wednesday morning but later appeared to be taken down. YouTube will terminate accounts upon discovery of repeated violations of its community guidelines.
"We work closely with leading child safety organizations and others in our industry to protect young people. When we're made aware of serious allegations of this nature we investigate and take action," a YouTube spokesperson told ABC News in a statement Thursday morning. "We immediately suspended monetization when notified of the arrest. In cases where there are Community Guidelines violations, we may take additional actions, including terminating the channel."
The Pinal County Attorney's Office called the allegations "highly disturbing and alarming."
"Children are our community's most precious resource, and this office is committed to holding those individuals who choose to harm them fully accountable for their actions," Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
Hobson and her two adult sons, Logan and Ryan Hackney, were taken into custody by local law enforcement at their residence on March 15, according to the complaint.
Logan Hackney allegedly admitted to police that the children would be locked in the closet for long periods of time as punishment and that he had knowledge of the alleged pepper spray and ice baths. He also told police he observed physical injuries on the kids and heard them scream and cry, according to the complaint.
Logan Hackney claimed he had a discussion with his brother about reporting the child abuse, and the children told police Ryan Hackney would sneak them food when they were locked in the closet.
Hobson and her two sons had their initial court appearance on Saturday. Hobson's bond was set at $200,000 secured and she remains in custody, according to the Pinal County Attorney's Office. She was booked on two counts of child molestation, seven counts of child abuse, five counts of unlawful imprisonment and five counts of child neglect.
Hobson has a preliminary hearing scheduled for March 26. The attorney appointed to Hobson did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment Thursday morning.
Hobson's last name was listed as "Hackney" in the initial complaint by the Pinal County Attorney's Office, which later changed it.
Logan and Ryan Hackney, Hobson's biological children, were booked into Pinal County Jail on seven counts each of failing to report child abuse. They were released on their own recognizance on Tuesday and are due back in court April 8.
Logan and Ryan Hackney have hired a private attorney, who did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment Thursday morning.
Zeb and Tawny Schnorr, a couple in Scottsdale, Arizona, run their own YouTube channel starring their 10-year-old and 6-year-old sons called "Extreme Toys TV," which has amassed over 4.1 million subscribers and over 2.1 million views since 2015. The Schnorrs told ABC News they have never met Hobson but her two adult sons contacted them about a year ago for help with filming and editing content. And just a few weeks ago, Logan and Ryan Hackney brought over Hobson's seven adoptive children to the couple's house to film a collaboration.
The Schnorrs told ABC News they didn't notice anything out of the ordinary with the seven children, who appeared to be well-behaved and playing normally with their two kids. The parents said they were shocked to learn of the allegations.
"I just wish that there was something I would've seen," Tawny Schnorr told ABC News in an interview Wednesday. "I was one-on-one with these kids, and there was no sign they were in danger."
"I had those kids in my house, twice they were here, and I just feel like it was my responsibility as a mom to help them and I feel like I could've saved them," she added, in between tears. "The things those kids had gone through and were going through, my heart breaks for them because nobody deserves that."
Mass child abuse on grand scale
by Tope Fasua
So last week we looked at the on-going case of mass child abuse in some developed countries in the name of sex education. The push is for children as young as 4 years to be taught about same sex marriages, so that it becomes normal for them to see two dad or two mum families. We know how fecund the minds of young children can be. Questions upon questions will come from them. I imagine children then asking ‘so where did the other dad s..t the baby from?' Or how come the other dad has no breasts?' Confusion. I wish these countries luck because for me it seems like a turning point, a point of diminishing returns when societies overplay their hands.
By every means, children should be left alone in this high-octane game of sexuality that some nations have found themselves. Pushing sexuality down the minds of children who just want to play and see life gradually through their own innocent eyes, is definitely child abuse. Of course I also informed that in the UK (one of the chief promoters of this idea), incidences of child sex offense may rise as some are being caught bringing in child sex dolls! See Hundreds of child sex dolls seized at UK borders, sparking legal crackdown. And also we have seen tentative attempts by some, to justify paedophilia in the name of science.
But having said that, we also have an extreme and that concerns us here in Nigeria. It is actually a fact that at some point we brainwash our children with tribal and religious prejudices. Children who have always had open minds about the world begin to see those from different parentage and tribe and religion as those they were born into as ‘different'. They often stop playing or talking to those ‘other' children, and start suspecting them. Some grow into teenagers and become aggressive about it. Radicals. Fanatics. Some are even ready to kill and maim in the name of their tribes, creed, and religions. We all seem to forget that these things are accidents of birth. No one chose to be born into Nigeria, or their particular families – Christian, Muslim, idol worshipper, north, south, east or west. We just found ourselves here. I personally do not believe that God, in his infinite mercies will punish us for what we are unable to change. So I urge that we be careful – especially the Christians and Muslims – with this usual mutual recriminations about who is worshipping God and who isn't, or who is heading to Hell and who is Heaven-bound.
But the mass child abuse that concerns me today is what I see as an elite conspiracy around the mass illiteracy in some parts of Nigeria. It is now clear that we have a class system in Nigeria which we all need to begin to scale down. Nigeria in particular needs all the intelligent human capital that it can find. Nowhere else in the world are they manufacturing ignorance on industrial scale as we seem to be doing in Nigeria. While I was campaigning, I made a point to walk into public schools randomly in the North, West, East and South of Nigeria. And this shaped my opinion to a great extent. In states like Kebbi, Katsina, Zamfara, I saw that most of the public schools had no teachers. The largest number of personnel I saw in any of the random primary schools I visited was three. In one large school in Katsina, I was glad to find a teacher in a creche kind of class, and she taught the children rhymes, in English. This is a good innovation from the ministry of education but I never saw another creche in any other public school I visited.
'Strong' case against alleged swim school sex abuse accused in Australia
by Sally Rawsthorne
Detectives investigating the alleged repeated sexual abuse by Australian swimming school coach Kyle Daniels are examining his time as an instructor at Sydney's Ravenswood School for Girls.
The clean-cut 20-year-old is facing a litany of charges relating to the alleged sexual abuse of the girls he was entrusted to teach to swim at the Mosman Swim Centre over a nine-month period.
Police arrested Daniels at his parents' AU$2.3 million (NZZ$2.4m) home in the suburb of Balgowlah on March 12 and charged him with the sexual abuse of two young girls.
Following further inquiries, the number of alleged victims is now at 10, with the South African-born university student facing 36 charges, including 12 counts of sexual intercourse with a child under 10.
Before starting at Ezyswim, Daniels had spent 12 months working as an instructor at Ravenswood School for Girls.
The Sun-Herald understands that police have made inquiries there although no complaints have yet been made relating to his time there.
Kyle Daniels, 20, is accused of sexually assaulting children he was teaching to swim.
Court documents before Manly Local Court reveal magistrate Daniel Reiss considers the case against the 20-year-old as "strong".
He remains on strict conditional bail, but The Sun-Herald understands police will seek to revoke his bail when he returns to court in May.
Sources close to the Daniels family say the charges have rocked them. Daniels' mother Janine does not believe the charges against her son, multiple sources say, and plans to fight to clear his name.
Barely out of his teens, Daniels seemed to have the world at his feet after a well-travelled childhood saw him living in his native South Africa, then Singapore before the family settled in Sydney.
A graduate of the prestigious Knox Grammar, Daniels was in the second year of his sport science degree at the University of Sydney and worked at the Mosman Swim Centre casually for $27 an hour.
His identical twin Liam also worked at the centre but quit the day his brother was taken into custody.
The Daniels family were teary in court for his bail application, mouthing "Love you! Love you!" at the young man as he appeared via audio-visual link.
Daniels has returned to his studies after being granted bail.
"We have met with Mr Daniels to discuss his return to studies in a way that is safe and appropriate both for him and our whole university community," a statement read.
An exclusive suburb with a taste for gossip, Mosman has been lit up with rumours and innuendo about the swimming school since the allegations came to light.
"It's the talk of Mosman," one local said. "Nobody knows who the [alleged] victims are, but everyone is talking about them," the source said.
A letter from NSW Police to swimming school parents implores them to "not attempt to contact other parties involved ... including witnesses" if their child discloses inappropriate behaviour.
The request seems to have had little impact, those familiar with the Mosman grapevine say.
"That's the first thing I'd be doing," said one parent who has removed their child from Ezyswim.
"Our daughter hasn't said anything to us, but we've still spoken to other parents about her lessons they were there for and talked about it with them. We're all talking."
People are particularly angered, Mosman locals say, by the fact that a parent complained about "inappropriate holds" as far back as August last year - before some of the alleged child abuse happened.
"Nobody is very forgiving of that," the parent said.
Court documents show that Daniels is also charged with four counts of sexual intercourse with a person under 16 on one day. All four charges relate to the same child, aged 7.
He is also charged with one count of sexual intercourse with a six-year-old girl on Valentine's Day this year. The charge sheet says that, less than two weeks before that, he intentionally sexually touched her sister.
Multiple sources have told The Sun-Herald that the police case rests not only on the girls' testimony but will also use CCTV of the alleged incidents.
Police say that the offences took place "in and around" the pool, in some instances during swimming lessons as parents sat poolside.
Daniels denies all the allegations and intends to plead not guilty.
Human Trafficking Is an Epidemic in the U.S. It's Also Big Business
by JACLYN GALLUCCI
Slavery is alive and well in the land of the free. With human trafficking now a multi-billion-dollar industry worldwide and cases increasing in the United States, activists are trying to squash the myth that most women who work as prostitutes do so because they want to.
“Prostitution isn't people deferring entrance to Yale while they prostitute to raise money for tuition—that's not the reality of what it looks like,” said Nicole Bell, who worked as a prostitute after being trafficked as a teen. “We're looking at people in poverty, people of color, people coming out of the foster care system.”
Bell, who spoke alongside a panel of activists at the Women in the World Summit in Manhattan Friday, is now the founder and CEO of Living in Freedom Together (LIFT), a survivor-led organization that helps individuals exit the world of commercial sexual exploitation.
“We look at prostitution and trafficking as two different things, but most people in prostitution have experienced trafficking in some form,” Bell said. “Most were brought into this before they were old enough to consent to have sex—never mind to being sold for sex.”
Human trafficking is estimated to bring in global profits of about $150 billion a year—$99 billion from sexual exploitation, according to the International Labor Organization. Nearly 9,000 cases in the U.S. were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline and BeFree Textline in 2017—a 13% increase from the prior year, according to the Polaris Project. But this data is incomplete, as cases are severely underreported.
“This is not only a dominant issue, it's an epidemic issue,” Cindy McCain, who chairs the McCain Institute's Human Trafficking Advisory Council said. “It's also something that is hiding in plain sight. It's everywhere—it's absolutely everywhere.”
President Donald Trump has said his proposed wall at the Southern border would have a huge effect on ending human trafficking, but McCain said the problem is within our own borders.
“He's living in Disneyland,” McCain said. “These kids that are being trafficked are domestic. They are within the United States and they're going from state to state.”
A Pipeline of Vulnerability
Some of the biggest factors that lead vulnerable children to become vulnerable adults are poverty, homelessness, abuse at home, the foster system, and glamorization of the sex industry, what is essentially a “pipeline of vulnerability,” said Dr. Sharon Cooper, founder and CEO of Developmental and Forensic Pediatrics.
“What we see is that children are at great risk to be brought into what's referred to as ‘the life',” said Cooper. “They are really groomed, sometimes by society, by the advertisements, by what they see on social media, and therefore we have to be very proactive to make this stop.”
Through LIFT, Bell works with incarcerated women, another group hugely vulnerable to sex trafficking.
“When you're looking at our prison system, it's literally a fish pool of vulnerabilities,” said Bell. “Women with substance abuse disorder, people who don't have any family support, homelessness—if you want to find a victim, all you have to do is go through the court transcripts … and offer them a way out.”
And don't think your state is immune. Of the 5,147 human trafficking cases reported in 2018 through the National Human Trafficking Hotline, not one state was excluded.
“The general public thinks that trafficking of girls occurs in inner cities,” said Cooper. “We've seen cases where girls were taken to farms and sold to migrant farmers, drugged in order to become compliant. We've seen girls who have been living in homeless shelters, and who come out of the homeless shelter just to walk down the street, but that homeless shelter has been cased by traffickers who will then drive down the street and say, ‘Hey I have a job for you and you can get the tips.' This is the kind of thing if you offered to a homeless child they would will absolutely believe is authentic and is an okay thing to do.”
Prostitution vs. Sex Trafficking
Dr. Cooper often treats sexually traumatized children and testifies in court to help prosecute those who victimized them.
“When I'm testifying in a trafficking case, which is fairly common these days, it's really clear that judges and juries do not really understand the difference between prostitution and sex trafficking,” said Cooper.
While prostitution is defined as the exchange of sex for money, drugs, or influence between two consenting adults—where consent can be given—human trafficking means there is third-party control.
“Whenever someone else is getting that money on the backs of those individuals—often children who are having to perform 10, 12, 15 sexual acts, and actually being sexually assaulted, at a time—that constitutes sex trafficking,” she said.
And these children often end up the adult prostitutes, who many assume are just making a job choice, said Bell.
“The difference between a child victim of sex trafficking and an adult victim of sex trafficking is 60 seconds,” she said. “Nothing changed as I turned 18 years old. I was still being victimized. It still was not something I wanted to be doing. I spent the majority of my adult life involved in prostitution, sometimes with a third-party exploiting me and sometimes because I didn't feel like I had any other options or any other worth in this world.”
Bell is working to decriminalize the act of prostitution, and advocates instead for harsher penalties for those who purchase sex, because while female sex workers often face jail time, johns are often given educational intervention.
But things are starting to change.
“We take their cars away from them now,” said McCain, referring to the state of Arizona. “So these guys have to go home and explain to their wife, their significant other, to their boss, whatever it may be, why they don't have a car anymore. And it's working beautifully.”
In other cities, like Los Angeles, those who get arrested for buying sex might find their names printed on billboards. And Bell said her organization, LIFT, sends bright yellow postcards to the homes of those caught buying sex.
But the best way to end sex trafficking, activists say, is preventing it.
Making sure our prosecutors, judges, schools, doctors, first responders, are trained on what to look for and what to do when they see human trafficking, is the most important piece of combatting it, said McCain—but that can be harder than it sounds.
Schools aren't always welcoming when it comes to speaking to children about sex, even when it is a safety issue.
“I've run into this everywhere I go,” said McCain. “This is not sex ed, this is saving lives.”
The McCain Institute is supporting research to get more complete and reliable data on human trafficking in the U.S., in order to better target awareness and prevention training. McCain also encourages people, especially women, to be proactive in their communities and see what resources are available to both prevent sex trafficking and help victims.
“This is very much a man's issue,” said McCain. “Women, we need to take hold of this.”
Show Biz - Michael Jackson
Donna Rice Hughes: Coming to terms with my own sex abuse in a 'Leaving Neverland' moment
Michael Jackson was my childhood hero. But the credible allegations against him evoked the memories of when I came to terms with my own abuse.
by DONNA RICE HUGHES
As I watched Wade Robson and James Safechuck accuse pop legend Michael Jackson of sexual abuse in the new documentary “Leaving Neverland,” I found myself believing them. I could recognize my own story, and the story of so many other children, in what they had to say. As these men exposed Jackson's alleged secret world, the more convinced I became that my childhood idol was guilty.
Jackson and I were both born in 1958. At a young age, he captured my heart with his charm, music and dancing. While all the signs of an unusual attraction to young boys were apparent as he reached adulthood, his popularity, likability and shy demeanor provided an effective veil that kept his private life hidden in plain sight. He never had a childhood of his own, many of us reasoned at the time, and used his wealth and fame to provide a fantasy world for children to play, laugh and love.
Was the Neverland Ranch the perfect setup — a predator's playground for grooming and sexual abuse to unfold and flourish? As the world looked on and applauded Jackson's generosity, had we become his enablers?
Jackson was formally charged with child molestation in 2003 and, as the long trial commenced, my gut told me that the accusations were likely true. However, when some of the boys in his orbit testified that there was no wrongdoing and Jackson was acquitted of the charges in 2005, I dismissed my discomfort, just like I had done as a 7-year-old girl.
There's a 'Neverland' in every community
I will never forget the elderly couple who lived across the street from my childhood home in Florida — their home was beautiful, surrounded by stunning gardens. It attracted children like me who loved to wander through the endless paths of flowers. It wasn't Neverland, but a grooming playground all the same.
The biggest draw was the readily available cookies and marshmallows for neighborhood children who visited their home. If the husband was home, his wife encouraged us to sit on his lap to watch TV. After all, he loved kids and they didn't have children of their own. But once the wife was out of the room, and after I reluctantly sat on his lap to eat my treat, the husband fondled me under my summer dresses.
When I told my parents, they told me not to go over there again unless the wife was home. But she always was, so I did. The lure of sweets kept us neighborhood kids going back. It wasn't until I had been working for over a decade as an internet safety advocate that my own “aha” moment came.
More than a decade ago, I was preparing to give a speech on protecting children from online predators when the speaker before me, former Miss America 1958, Marilyn Van Derbur, chronicled the horrific incest she suffered at the hands of her own father. Van Derbur explained that abuse could range from child rape to fondling. She then challenged audience members to stand if they had been a victim of child sexual abuse.
My own denial melted away, and I reluctantly stood as tears streamed down my face. It was that moment of public acknowledgement when I realized I, too, was a survivor.
Innocence lost can't be regained
While Jackson's alleged grooming tactics were more elaborate due to his celebrity status, they followed a typical grooming pattern.
Grooming is a process that can take place on or offline, over short or extended time periods. Children are led to believe that no one else can understand them, relate to their emotions or their situation like the groomer. Flattery, gifts, compliments and manipulation all come into play. The predator might isolate the child by driving a wedge between the child and the parents, thereby deepening the child's dependence on the predator. Sexually explicit conversations and pornography are often introduced to lower inhibitions, test boundaries and sexualize the child. Blackmail with child pornography is sometimes used to silence the child.
Denial and guilt are part of a shame syndrome that results from the confusing sexualization by the abuser. And when that abuse is not taken seriously by a parent, as in my case, the child minimizes the abuse.
Jackson still has many defenders. Despite Barbra Streisand's callous remark that sex abuse "didn't kill" Jackson's alleged victims (she later backtracked), the invisible wounds of childhood sexual abuse are deep, boundaries are dismantled and a pattern of vulnerability to other forms of sexual exploitation later in life often develops. One thing is certain: Innocence lost can never be regained.
Prevention is paramount. In the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente, nearly 25% of women and 16% of men reported childhood sexual abuse. Too many children are not getting the protection they need.
Especially in today's digital world, no child is immune from sexual exploitation. Being the trusted adult for your child and keeping the lines of communication open are the first line of defense. Parents must know and teach their kids that predators can appear to be anyone, even people they know and trust, including a family member. Parents need to be familiar with tools to prevent exploitation. If a parent suspects their child is in the process of being groomed or has already been sexually exploited, talk and listen to your child, and most important, believe him or her. Get the child appropriate professional help and report the offender to the proper authorities.
You might not always be able to save an abuse victim's childhood, but you can be in a position to help the child heal and prevent further abuse by the offender.
The Uncomfortable Truth About Child Sexual Abuse
Institutional child sexual abuse and high-profile cases like George Pell attract the headlines, but abusers are most likely to be close to a child's family
by Dr Gemma McKibbin, University of Melbourne, and Jessica Laird, Deakin University
The conviction of Cardinal George Pell for child sexual abuse is a watershed moment for victim-survivors, but tackling child sexual abuse in institutionalised settings like the Catholic Church, is only part of the problem.
Beyond the headlines around Pell's conviction, the uncomfortable truth is that just five percent of child sexual abuse can be considered institutional. Only about 10-15 per cent of sexual abuse is perpetrated by strangers. The majority of child sexual abuse happens in or close to the family.
And child sexual abuse is more common than we are led to believe by the few high-profile cases that attract media attention. It is far from being rare.
In Australia 18 per cent of women and 4.7 per cent of men report having suffered sexual abuse before they had turned 15. An international analysis suggests the rates are even higher at 19.7 per cent for girls and 7.9 per cent for boys.
LOOK FOR PERPETRATORS CLOSER TO HOME
It means that watching out just for strangers or paedophile priests may not be the most effective way of protecting children from potential sexual abusers. Parents need to be looking at people who are known to their children, mostly men and boys. We know that around 90 per cent of perpetrators are male.
We also know that most child sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone known to the child. The 2016 Personal Safety Survey carried out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicated that for men and women who have been sexually abused before the age of 15, the most common perpetrator was a non-familial, known person like a neighbour or “family friend”.
And child sexual abuse isn't only perpetrated by adults. Researchers predict that between one third to a half of all child sexual abuse is carried out by other children and young people under the age of 18 years. However, it is important to refer to children who abuse not as perpetrators but as exhibiting “harmful sexual behaviour” because in the case of children their behaviour can reflect the immaturity of their development.
It's quite different to the predatory nature of abuse perpetrated by adults. Also, many children who sexually abuse do so because they suffered abuse during their own childhoods.
Child sexual abuse also overlaps with child sexual exploitation, a largely misunderstood, over-looked and unaddressed form of child sexual abuse. Child sexual exploitation is carried out by adults and young people, involving the abuse of a child or young person's vulnerability, power or trust by offering things like gifts, shelter, substances, money, protection and/or affection in exchange for sexual activity.
Historically this has been labelled “juvenile sex work” or “child prostitution”, which sadly misrepresents the victimisation of young people and children, who by the Rights of the Child must be protected against every form of exploitation.
By refusing to label children like these as “perpetrators”, or worse, “prostitutes”, we provide space for a child or young person to be seen as someone needing therapeutic support, rather than being labelled a psychiatric case or criminal.
Again, the narrative of child sexual exploitation is shaped predominantly by media reporting of paedophile rings, online child abuse material and child sex trafficking. However, this focus overshadows the evidence that child sexual exploitation is more widespread than these stories suggest.
Child sexual exploitation has been reported as affecting up to 2.8% of Swedish high school students, while a massive 47% of a UK university student sample said they'd been approached by an adult in a sexual manner when they were under 16.
Furthermore, the internet provides convenient and fast distribution of exploitative material, with device-mediated communication accessible via computer, phone and gaming consoles, making the targeting and procuring of young people and children easier for perpetrators.
Gone are the days where perpetrators need to lurk outside of schools, as grooming cannot only occur online, but also anonymously without easy tracking by the authorities via the use of the ‘Dark Web' or internationally hosted sites.
FOCUS ON EARLY INTERVENTION
Although it is a relief for victim-survivors of institutional child sexual abuse to see Pell convicted, we cannot rely on legal and treatment responses after abuse occurs – it is too late.
We need to be focusing more of our efforts on early intervention for young people and adults who are worried about their thoughts and behaviours in relation to children, but who haven't yet abused.
An early intervention Stop it Now! telephone and online service could be easily implemented in Australia to support the prevention of child sexual abuse.
Evaluations in the UK and Netherlands have already shown that the service works and a recent scoping study (unavailable online) undertaken by Jesuit Social Services has recommended that, in line with the Royal Commission on Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, a Stop It Now! program should be established in Australia.
In addition to early intervention, recovery programs for young people affected by child sexual abuse are equally important to prevent re-victimisation and prevent the devastating domino effect of abused young people going on to abusing their siblings or peers.
Few interventions are available despite a 2018 systematic review of 21 studies that reported hopeful evidence that sexually abused or exploited children and young people can experience recovery through a range of interventions. These include psycho-educational therapy groups, case management, and focused health and/or social services.
The message then that the public needs to hear and which will be most helpful for protecting our children, is that child sexual abuse is most often carried out in the family context by someone known to the child.
Children and young people sexually abuse as well as adults, and child sexual abuse is more prevalent than commonly thought. Further, and very sadly for the vast majority of the wonderful men and boys out there, most sexual abuse is carried out by males.
So, pay attention to anyone forming a relationship with your child, look for signs that your child or family is being groomed, and know it's never too early or too late to reach out for help.
Don Lemon Talks Safe Horizon and Being a Child Sex Abuse Survivor
Don Lemon will be honored by Safe Horizon, the largest victim services nonprofit organization in the United States, at its 24th Annual Champion Awards in New York City on Tuesday.
The organization offers a variety of services to survivors of crimes including domestic violence and sexual abuse. Lemon, a survivor of child sex abuse, will be honored among other champions and advocates during the ceremony, as will actress/producer/activist Alyssa Milano.
During a 2010 interview, the CNN anchor revealed to supporters of Bishop Eddie Long, who was accused of coercing young men into having sex, that he was a victim of sexual abuse as a child. The church-raised Baton Rouge, Louisiana native added that he was too frightened to tell his mother about being a “victim of a pedophile” until he was an adult. One year later, in his memoir, Transparent, he disclosed to the public that he was gay.
A couple of weeks before receiving his Safe Horizon honor, Lemon spoke to EBONY about raising awareness for victims of abuse and how marginalized groups suffer from being silent about their pain.
Can you describe the moment you found out you would be honored by Safe Horizon?
I don't remember exactly when it was when I [found out] that they would like to honor me, but I was really excited. I was just surprised as I am when anyone wants to give me an award, and I am humbled by it.
What do you want people to know about Safe Horizon?
I just think that there's so much room for awareness out there for organizations like [Safe Horizon] that help victims of violence, sex trafficking and sexual abuse among children. ?I want people to know that they can get help and there are resources, because when I was growing up, had I known of a place like Safe Horizon or [if I] could have called and been anonymous [or] called a hotline where people would have given me advice and talked to me,?I'd probably would have done it.
I kept the stigma of childhood sexual abuse to myself until I was in my 30s. I didn't really tell anyone about it. Obviously, when you're a child, you don't really know [how to handle it]. So I think that if there were a place where I could call and get support anonymously, I would have done that. And I think that would have helped a whole lot of kids who were in my same position or worse.
Why did you choose to share that you were a child survivor of sexual abuse, because you could have just lived with your story.
I'm a journalist and you know, I hold people accountable to tell the truth. Not that you have to tell me anything about yourself personally, but if I were going to have that standard for the people I was interviewing and the people I'm holding accountable, I wanted to have the same standards for myself. Ultimately, I believe that honesty and transparency are key, and they're the way to go. While it was a frightening experience, I'm glad I did it because you end up helping people whether you realize it or not.
Other survivors often speak about how hard it is to share their stories or say it's a task that needs to be lived every day. Do you agree?
Everyone has their own truth. Everyone has their own testament, and they carry with them what they carry with them. I don't consciously deal with it every day, but I'm sure there are certain things that have manifested in my spirit or my psyche and the way I conduct or handle myself, or how I go through life. I'm sure there's some residual [effects] there, but I choose not to think about it every day. There are lasting effects, like people sometimes have low-grade depression for their entire lives. Some people isolate themselves, some have trouble with intimacy and on and on. I don't think that every day I go around saying, “Oh, my gosh; I was a survivor of childhood sex abuse.” ?I'm sure there are things that happen in my life and there are character traits I have that come from being a survivor of childhood sex abuse.
Why do you feel like stories like yours are often shunned or silenced within marginalized communities?
I think that usually for anyone who is in a group that has been discriminated against—or as you put it, a marginalized group—you already feel like you are being discriminated against or there is a possibility that you [would be] for one thing. You don't need another thing to give someone you don't know ammunition to discriminate against you for.
There's a general stigma about these issues that we don't talk about. I think especially in the Black community, we don't want to talk about mental health issues. We think you can go to church and you can pray for things or you to talked to a preacher. But we just need to stop that, and we need to realize that there are organizations/resources that have our own better interests or best interests at heart. [We] need to get out of the [notion] of keeping it to ourselves and not talking about or not sharing family business publicly. I'm not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, nor am I a historian. I can't tell you why, but I know it is there, and I know that's something that we need to get over.
The conversation about domestic violence and child sexual abuse is usually geared toward heterosexual relationships. How do you think we can better include the LGBTQ community?
We [must] remember, the mere fact that you're a survivor of child sex abuse puts you in a certain community. It pushes you in a certain group in society, in a society that has a stigma against it. We have to realize that whether you're a woman or whatever minority you may be or whatever part of the marginalized group you may be, people who are discriminated against and have those issues should stick together. That means members of the LGBTQ community, so if you are not aware of that, then you should become aware because if one person is allowed to be discriminated against, if one person's story is about to be swept under the table, it means all of our stories and all of our rights can be swept under the table. I think we need to be more open-minded, especially those of us who have been discriminated against.
What are some of the ways you think we can help victims of domestic violence or children who are victims of child sexual abuse?
Awareness and resources. The main thing that keeps the abuse is silence. Don't be silent; bring it out into the open and don't be in the dark about it, even if it hurts. As much as you think it hurts, tell your story. Encourage people to tell their stories. Shout your stories from the rooftop. Becoming part of an organization like Safe Horizon, I think, is the best way to do it because as long as you keep it a secret, the person who is committing domestic violence against you or the person who is committing sexual abuse against you, the person who may be trafficking you, that gives that person the power to be able to do it.? They're afraid of being found out, and once they are found out, then they no longer have that power over you. That is their biggest fear, so don't give them that power. That is how I believe we can overcome this.
Key School creating therapy fund for survivors of sexual abuse
Carolyn Surrick asked three things of Key School, her alma mater: publicly acknowledge years of sexual abuse of students by teachers, ensure the safety of current students and help survivors pay for therapy.
In January, the Annapolis private school released a report that described decades of unchecked sexual abuse. Independent investigators retained by the school did not find evidence of current abuse at the school.
Now, the school is creating a therapy fund to provide support for alumni as they continue to heal “from the abuse inflicted by former faculty members,” officials said in a letter Monday. Backing for the fund will come from the school. This comes in the wake of a proposed bill designed to give survivors of child sexual abuse more time to file lawsuits failing to pass in the Maryland General Assembly.
Survivors of abuse at Key School have requested this kind of support for years. The measure also comes under the guidance of anti-sexual abuse organization RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
“The thing they have yet to do is take care of the survivors. There are emotional costs, but there are also real costs to this,” said Surrick, a Crownsville resident and abuse survivor. “I'm very grateful that Key is moving forward to help the healing process for survivors and the entire Key community.”
Board of Trustees President Joe Janney and Head of School Matthew Nespole announced RAINN will help guide the school as it reckons with its past. School leaders are still determining the details for the fund, like how much will be poured into the fund and who can benefit from the money.
An eight-month investigation revealed harrowing details about the school's history; investigators identified 10 adults in positions of authority who engaged in sexual misconduct or inappropriate relationships with at least 16 students from the 1970s until the 1990s.
Some of the most serious allegations were brought against five male teachers. One woman told investigators a teacher raped her when she was 14 years old. Another said teachers kept photos of students in “nude and sexual positions.” Nearly every witness interviewed described “extremely predatory” behavior that went on for years.
Since making the report public, Key School officials have shared information about safeguards put in place to protect the community, including a third-party hotline for reporting misconduct and FBI national background checks for employees. Officials in June will hold “trauma-informed” listening sessions for alumni, Janney and Nespole said.
The school also plans to incorporate RAINN's sexual misconduct training into faculty and staff professional development, officials said. School leaders have asked RAINN to review the institution's policies and identify areas for improvement.
“We believe it is through listening, and truly hearing, that we have the best opportunity to reckon with the ills of the past and move Key forward,” Janney and Nespole said.
Key School's announcement came after Maryland senators opposed a bill that would have eliminated the statute of limitations for child sex abuse cases. Surrick and other Key survivors rallied behind the legislation. Surrick testified in front of delegates in March.
“The Hidden Predator Act of 2019” passed the House in March. Del. C.T. Wilson, the bill's sponsor, also wanted the legislation to open a two-year lookback window for survivors to sue their abusers.
The legislation died in the Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee on April 3 in a 5-to-5 vote.
In a last-ditch effort to get it through Senate, delegates on Saturday tacked elements of Wilson's bill onto Sen. Justin Ready's “Laura and Reid's Law.” That legislation, prompted by the 2017 murder of Laura Wallen and her unborn child she planned to name Reid, would allow for longer sentences for those convicted of crimes of violence against pregnant women.
Ready won passage Monday by a unanimous vote, but the amendment to alter it to include language from the Hidden Predator Act failed.
“I appreciate the House for doubling down on the message that we care,” Wilson said. “If the Senate doesn't (care), the House does.”
Wilson's proposed legislation represented a pathway to justice for survivors, Surrick said. She helped pen a letter to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller to bring the bill to the Senate floor days before it died in committee. But when she found out the effort failed she wasn't surprised. I It still stung.
“It took my breath away,” she said. Surrick was raped and impregnated by a Key School teacher at the age of 14.
Decades pass before the average survivor comes forward about their abuse; the guilty should be held accountable no matter how much time has passed, Surrick said.
Wilson called the vote a “let down.” He has spoken publicly about the sexual abuse he endured as a child at the hand of his adoptive father.
“The pedophiles won again,” he said.
Wilson in 2017 pushed a bill through that extended the state's statute of limitations for child sex abuse crimes by 13 years, and let victims file lawsuits against their abusers until the age of 38. It also said survivors over the age of 25 must prove gross negligence in civil cases, a burden of proof considered more difficult to prove than ordinary negligence.
The final version of that bill included a provision called a “statute of repose” that was “snuck in” as a Senate amendment, Wilson said. The language prevented past abuse victims from filing lawsuits.
David Lorenz, director of Maryland's chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said he is focused on helping his fellow survivors heal.
“There's a whole lot of people licking their wounds and hurting,” he said.
Jena Cochrane, a Gambrills resident, is one of them. She called the Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee's decision a “slap in the face.”
Cochrane testified in front of Maryland senators in March. She carried a photo of her 12-year-old self — the age at which she was sexually abused by her step-father — and wore white “in honor of lost innocence,” she said.
“I am very dejected and this has basically murdered the chance for so many victims and survivors to have justice,” Cochrane said. “Maryland took that away from us.”
Surrick said she doesn't know when she'll talk to leaders at the Key School again.
“I think that they had no idea when the report came out, it was going to be so damning of what happened there,” she said. “I feel like they're really working to do the right thing.”
Kathryn Robb, executive director of Child USAdvocacy, said school employees need to be screened and trained to detect and prevent sexual abuse in schools.
“In schools, we have coaches who have to sit down at a computer and take an hour or two-hour class on concussions and it's mandated,” Robb said. “Certainly it should be mandated how to spot possible behaviors that are suggesting that something is going on.”
Key School in January announced it retained Praesidium, a firm that provides employee sexual misconduct training. The school has also shared updates about its screening procedures for new employees, state-level background checks.
Employees who engage in romantic or sexual relationships with students — even if consensual — will be terminated immediately.
Theologian, survivor argues that Jesus himself suffered sexual abuse
by Elise Harris
ROME - Rocio Figueroa, a theologian and sexual abuse survivor, has reached a conclusion some may find shocking or hard to accept, but which she insists is abundantly supported: That Jesus himself was a victim of sexual abuse, a concept survivors who participated in her study said could be helpful for the Church.
Among other things, survivors said that while seeing Jesus as a victim would likely help priests and church hierarchy sympathize with abuse survivors, there may still be a fear of putting Christ and sexuality in the same box due to what they called an ecclesial cultural “taboo” on sexuality.
Speaking to Crux, Figueroa said that faced with the current clerical sexual abuse crisis rocking global Catholicism, the Church “is compelled to review and reassess” its theological approach to sexual abuse.
As part of her own effort to do just that, Figueroa conducted a study with theologian David Tombs titled, “Recognizing Jesus as a Victim of Sexual Abuse: Responses from Sodalicio Survivors in Peru.”
Tombs was among the first to publish on the concept of Jesus as a victim of sexual abuse in 1998, but the topic never gained much traction. However, Figueroa said that the study she and Tombs did together has drawn considerable interest since its publication earlier this month.
Figueroa is a former member of the Marian Community of Reconciliation (MCR), a pontifically-recognized Society of Apostolic Life. Layman Luis Fernando Figari, who founded the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (SCV) in Peru in 1971, was sanctioned by the Vatican in 2017 after it was revealed that he and other high-ranking members had perpetrated years of sexual, physical and psychological abuse inside the community. Figueroa has reported being abused by one of the high-ranking members of the male branch of the SCV when she was 15.
Currently a lecturer in Systematic Theology at Good Shepherd College in Auckland, New Zealand, and an External Researcher at the Centre for Theology and Public Issues at Otago University, Figueroa has spent the past four years researching the spiritual impact of clerical abuse.
Published earlier this month in English and in Spanish, her study on Jesus as a victim of sexual abuse follows a research project called “When Did I See you Naked?” launched in 2018, which focused on survivors of the SCV and the consequences of what they experienced.
In the recently published study, Figueroa and Tombs highlight the reactions of eight victims of sexual abuse within the SCV to the idea of Jesus as a victim. Referring to the small number of victims included in the study, Figueroa said it was “not a quantitative study, but a qualitative” one.
“We didn't want to make general conclusions,” she said. “We wanted to go in-depth into the answers of the survivors.”
Figueroa said there were three main questions she and Tombs wanted to address, the first of which was whether Jesus' torture and crucifixion involved some form of sexual abuse. The second two questions focused on victim reactions to the historical proofs, and the impact the idea would have on the Church and the general understanding of God's compassion in the world.
According to Figueroa, after exploring the historical context of the Gospels, the answer to the first question came out to be a clear yes.
In reading what are known as the “Passion narratives” of the Gospel, which describe Jesus' arrest, trial and crucifixion, at various points they recount how “Jesus suffered forced stripping.”
“Three times he was forced to take off his clothes, and it was in front of a cohort of 500 soldiers,” Figueroa said, adding that the purpose of this was “sexual humiliation.”
She stressed that there is a difference between sexual humiliation and sexual assault. While both are considered abuse, “there are different forms of abuse,” including both sexual humiliation, which includes forced nudity, mockery, stripping or touching, and sexual assault, when the physical act takes place.
In the case of Jesus, Figueroa said it was common practice for both the Jewish community and the Roman Empire to humiliate their victims as part of the torture process.
“It was also a common practice to crucify prisoners absolutely naked,” she said, and referring to the scene of Jesus' crucifixion in the Gospel of John, she noted how the evangelist writes that Jesus was stripped and the soldiers cast lots for his clothing.
“The reality is that Jesus died naked. The aim was not just to kill the victim, but was also to humiliate, to sexually humiliate,” she said, explaining that although artistic representations of Jesus on the cross always depict him covered with a cloth, that likely was not the case.
“Perhaps they felt it was too scandalous, too strong, too shocking to see Jesus so human, so realistic,” she said.
According to Figueroa, survivors' responses varied. While all were somewhat shocked about the idea of Jesus being a victim of sexual abuse, they agreed he likely was given practices at the time.
Answers differed to the question of whether seeing Jesus as a victim of abuse would help survivors, with some saying it would only be helpful for survivors who still practice the Christian faith, while Jesus would be irrelevant for those who have left the Church.
However, she said all of the victims agreed that recognizing Jesus as a victim of sexual abuse would be good for the Church.
“They said the problem is that the Church has never faced the reality of sexuality in a healthy way (and) if they are not able to also see the sexuality of Jesus, the sexuality of human beings, they are not able to see the perversion that's sexual abuse,” she said.
Survivors, Figueroa said, predicted that it might be difficult for the Church to accept Jesus as a victim of sexual abuse, but said doing so would help the Church to be less “Puritan,” forced to face the full extent of Jesus' humiliation, and it would also help priests and hierarchy to be more sympathetic with victims who come forward.
“If you follow Jesus and you see the victims, you will see the countenance of Jesus in the victims, that Jesus has suffered the same thing,” she said.
Figueroa said part of the reason for the study was to foster a more precise understanding of human sexuality and sexual abuse. Even though sexuality is an important and “essential” aspect of human nature, she said, “it has been dodged in many Christian realms as something accidental and only acceptable for married people. Or worse, as a dark source of a multitude of sins.”
“It seems that when the scriptures affirm that when Jesus was tempted in everything, all sexual dimensions of his life were excluded as if sexuality were incompatible with the figure of a human Jesus,” she said, explaining that in her view, the Church often continues to have a “Platonic and negative” concept of the body and of sexuality.
Speaking of the abuse crisis, Figueroa voiced belief that “all these deviations bring sexual abuse, because if you are repressed, if you don't have a healthy vision of your sexuality, you can also deviate your sexuality and that is what has happened.”
Figueroa voiced her belief that the Church also can at times foster a warped understanding of virginity, seen in the veneration of saints such as Maria Goretti known as martyrs of purity, having died in order to preserve their virginity.
While resisting unwanted advances and the veneration of people who have chosen to give up their lives rather than allow themselves to be violated is admirable, she said that to some extent the Church is promoting the idea that “the value of virginity in a woman is more valuable than her life itself.”
When it comes to Jesus, Figueroa said, “If we see Jesus in his human reality, and that he himself suffered sexual humiliation and he felt what a victim could feel, that's powerful. He also felt ashamed in his body. He felt mocked, he felt vulnerable, (like) a victim feels when their body is exposed without respect.”
As a victim of sexual abuse herself, Figueroa said that when she first read Tombs' 1998 article outlining the case for Jesus as a victim of sexual abuse, “I felt absolutely consoled.”
“When you're in that crisis, you think that God abandoned you,” she said. “So when you see that Jesus suffered, Jesus knows what I have lived, it's a source of big consolation.