National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

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"News of the Week"  

May 2019 - Week 2
Terri Lanahan
Many thanks to NAASCA's Terri Lanahan, Butte, Montana,
for her research into the news that appears on
the LACP & NAASCA web sites.



Bill extending statute of limitations on child sexual abuse crimes likely to become law

by Holly Meyer

A bill that would extend the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse crimes in Tennessee is headed to the governor's desk.

The Tennessee General Assembly passed the legislation Thursday, the final day of this year's legislative session. It is expected to become law since Gov. Bill Lee said Thursday evening during a news conference that he has no plans to veto any bills that made it out of the state legislature. 

Criminally, the changes to the statute of limitations include, among others:

  • The statute of limitations is eliminated if the victim is under 13 years of age at the time of the offense.

  • The statute of limitations is eliminated if the victim is between the ages of 13 and 17 at the time of the offense and reports the abuse within five years of turning 18. 

  • If the 13- to 17-year-old victim does not report the abuse within five years of turning 18, the statute of limitations is extended to 25 years after they turn 18 years old. If the 25-year deadline passes, the prosecution must produce "admissible and credible evidence." 

The legislation also stiffens the penalties for those who intentionally fail to report them. 

On the civil side, the legislation would extend the statute of limitations to 15 years after the victim turns 18.

The bill also would require admissible and credible evidence for civil actions filed against someone other than the accused if it is brought more than one year after the victim turns 18.

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, who was a big supporter of the bill, praised lawmakers in both the House and Senate who helped pass the bill for "standing for victims" in a Thursday tweet.

But that acclaim was proceeded by an earlier tweet critical of the House as both chambers were trying to square their different versions of the bill. 

"A few members of the @TNHouseReps are trying to weaken a bill to remove the statute of limitations on child sex abuse. They want to remove serious sexual offenders from the bill and make it harder for victims to get justice. @tnsenate will stand firm behind victims," McNally tweeted.

It was a rare move for the leader of the Senate to weigh in on social media to urge the House to take action.

Eventually, the bill passed.

It was welcome news for others who pushed for the legislation, which comes as big institutions across the U.S., like the Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Church, face their own child sexual abuse crises.

The passage of the bill was praised by Bob Benning, who is a part of a group of parishioners at his Catholic church in Oak Ridge advocating for the state laws to change. McNally attends their church, too. 

"Passage of this bill means that there are more opportunities for justice for the victims of child sexual abuse in Tennessee. This was clearly our goal," Benning said in an email.



Poland's Kaczynski Promises Harsher Sentences for Child Abuse

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), delivers a speech during the party's convention in Szczecin, Poland

WARSAW (Reuters) - The leader of Poland's conservative ruling party promised harsher sentences for child abuse on Sunday, as the release of a documentary about pedophile priests created a fresh battleground in an election campaign marked by debate on religion and sexuality.

The film "Just don't tell anyone", which features victims confronting their abusers, has reignited criticism of the Catholic Church's handling of such cases and had over 3 million views within 22 hours of being posted on YouTube.

"We prepared changes to the penal code meaning this crime (child abuse) will be punished very severely ... there will be no suspended sentences, there will be severe penalties, maybe even up to 30 years in prison," said the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party's head Jaroslaw Kaczynski at a rally.

Currently, sexual abuse of a child under 15 is punishable by up to 12 years in prison.

Kaczynski's words came amid tensions between liberals who feel the church wields too much power in Poland and conservatives who see the Catholic faith as a key element of national identity whose influence must be protected.

On Monday, a woman was detained by police for posting images near a church of the Virgin Mary with her halo painted to resemble the rainbow flag of the LGBT community.


PiS, which leads most opinion polls, has made protecting traditional values a key plank of its bid to win European elections on May 26 and parliamentary elections in the autumn.

"Does this (stance against child abuse) mean that the crimes ... of a small number of priests give the right to attack the church, to offend Catholics? No, that is no justification," added Kaczynski in the northern city of Szczecin.

The film, by brothers Tomasz and Marek Sekielski, shows elderly priests, including Franciszek Cybula who was the chaplain of former president Lech Walesa, being confronted by people they abused as children. It presents allegations that known pedophiles were shifted between parishes.

"I am deeply disturbed by what I saw in Tomasz Sekielski's film. The enormous suffering of those who have been hurt gives rise to pain and shame," Poland's most senior archbishop Wojciech Polak said in a recorded statement. "I am sorry for every wound inflicted by people of the church."

Anna Frankowska of the charity "Have no fear", which supports abuse victims, said the Catholic Church in Poland had not taken concrete steps to bring pedophile priests to justice.

"This is just another apology, it almost appears as if the statement was prepared before the church officials saw the movie," she told Reuters



Pope Francis Stops Hiding From the Church's Sexual-Abuse Epidemic

The leader of the Catholic Church has issued rules creating worldwide accountability for reporting allegations of abuse. But he still faces deep cynicism from the body faithful.


Before this week, the Roman Catholic Church had no global policy requiring priests and bishops to report and investigate allegations of sexual abuse. No formal measure held bishops accountable for misconduct and cover-ups, despite a number of high-profile, horrific cases of wrongdoing by the Church's top leaders. With story after story exposing new abuses around the world, Catholics have grown cynical about the Vatican's willingness to face the global sickness of sexual abuse, and many have abandoned the Church entirely.

On Thursday, Pope Francis took a significant step toward changing that.

The pope's moto proprio, which will take effect in June and remain in place as an experiment for three years, is a definitive and concrete step forward for the Church, demonstrating that Pope Francis is taking sexual abuse seriously. The new law is not a panacea, however: It does not detail specific punishments for Church leaders who violate these norms, and it does not mandate the involvement of authorities outside the Church. After years of paralysis on this issue, the Church must grapple with the crisis of confidence among the faithful, along with skeptics who believe the Catholic Church is not capable of policing itself against abuses of power.

The new law institutes a detailed mechanism for reporting allegations against bishops, and offers protections to whistle-blowers. The pope's definition of sexual abuse is expansive enough to cover children, seminarians, nuns and women in religious orders, and people with mental disabilities—all of whom have been victimized by Church leaders. (It also condemns the possession or production of child pornography.) Perhaps most important, it demands that alleged victims are offered support services ranging from therapy to spiritual counseling, and promises to protect their confidentiality.

These accountability measures for bishops matter in part because a few of these leaders played notorious roles in covering up sexual-abuse scandals across the world, especially in moving accused priests to different posts when allegations arose.

Pope Francis has been working toward this moment for several months. In February, he hosted the leaders of bishops' conferences from around the world at the Vatican for an unprecedented summit on the Church's failure to address sexual abuse, where he called for “concrete and effective measures.” In March, he issued a law mandating that Vatican officials and diplomats quickly report and address any allegations of sexual abuse or face possible jail time. This motu proprio, called “Vos Estis Lux Mundi”—Latin for “You are the light of the world”—is the culmination of years of advocacy from inside and outside the Church. “The law is important because it gives a clear statement of an obligation,” said Archbishop Charles Scicluna, a longtime Vatican official and member of the small task force that led the February meeting on sexual abuse, in an interview with reporters after the announcement of the motu proprio. “It is a very strong message that disclosure is the order of the day, and not silence


United Kingdom

Social media: Senior police officer calls for boycott over abuse images

A boycott of social media sites could force firms to take action to safeguard children, a senior police officer says.

Chief Constable Simon Bailey said the companies were able to "eradicate" indecent imagery on their platforms.

Mr Bailey, the UK's lead officer for child protection, said websites would take notice of "reputational damage".

The Internet Association, which represents tech firms including Twitter and Facebook, said the industry spent millions removing abusive content.

The number of images on the police's child abuse image database has ballooned from less than 10,000 in the 1990s to 13.4 million currently.

Starting on Monday, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse will hold two weeks of hearings focusing on internet companies' responses to the problem, during which Mr Bailey - and executives from Facebook, Google, Apple, BT and Microsoft - will give evidence.

Mr Bailey is the chief constable of Norfolk and also leads on child protection for policing body the National Police Chiefs' Council.

He told the Press Association that the government's online harms White Paper could be a "game changer", but only if it leads to effective punitive measures.

Published last month, the White Paper sets out plans for online safety measures and is currently open for consultation.

The White Paper suggests, among other things, that internet sites could be fined or blocked if they fail to tackle issues such as terrorist propaganda and child abuse images.

Mr Bailey believes the really big platforms have the technology and funds to "pretty much eradicate" indecent imagery - but did not think they were "taking their responsibilities seriously enough".

"Ultimately, the financial penalties for some of the giants of this world are going to be an absolute drop in the ocean," he said.

"But if the brand starts to become tainted... maybe the damage to that brand will be so significant that they will feel compelled to do something in response.

"We have got to look at how we drive a conversation within our society that says 'do you know what? We are not going to use that any more, that system or that brand or that site because of what they are permitting to be hosted or what they are allowing to take place'."

'Ensure safety'

In response to the calls, the Internet Association said online companies had invested in content moderators and developing technology to remove abusive content.

A spokesperson said the companies also work with organisations around the world, including Internet Watch Foundation, a UK-based child abuse watchdog, to remove these images from the internet.

"Internet companies are working hard to get this right and continue to engage with the government's recent online harms White Paper, but we must ensure that any new measures are proportionate and do not damage the significant benefits that the internet brings to the UK."

Facebook says it has removed 8.7 million "pieces of content" that violated its policy around child nudity or sexual exploitation of children between July and September last year.

Its global head of safety, Antigone Davis, said: "Like Chief Constable Bailey, we think the safety of young people on the internet is of the utmost importance.

"We have strong policies, we are using the most advanced technologies to prevent abuse, we work with experts and the police, and we educate families and young people on the precautions they should take.

"Families and young people find social media valuable and we want to make sure we are doing our utmost to ensure their safety."



The world we live in

It was never just about the Catholic Church.

Yes, the church's role in harboring clerics who abused children – and then in shamefully covering up those crimes – delivered a profound shock to the public conscience, but does it matter to a child if the adult sexually abusing him or her is a priest or a camp counselor or a relative?

Or a Boy Scout leader?

Pedophiles being what they are, there could have been no doubt that some would have wormed their way into organizations such as the Scouts, there to pick off the children they knew to be the easiest to mislead and control. There have been reports in the past of child abusers within Scouting but, now, with New York having changed the law to allow those who victimized long ago to seek justice, terrible stories are starting to emerge.

The expectation of experts is that many more are to come.

The Boy Scouts, to their credit, appear to have been more aggressive about referring abusers in their ranks to law enforcement than the Catholic Church, which for decades was more interested in protecting its reputation than children. Nevertheless, there was a level of denial – as there was among Americans, generally – both about the scope of the problem and how best to deal with it. Reputation, it seems, factored into the Boy Scouts' response to child sexual abuse, as well.

Why else would Bob O'Donnell have to sue the Scouts at age 54 for criminal sexual assaults he suffered more than 40 years ago?

O'Donnell, of the Town of Boston, was abused by a Scout leader in the mid-1970s. “The guy pretty much raped me, more than once, by giving me enough alcohol so that I didn't even realize what was going on,” O'Donnell told News reporter Jay Tokasz. He said he was assaulted at least 10 times.

As an abuser of children, Ronald C. Williams knew his dark territory well. Not only was he a volunteer Scout leader, but at that time, when O'Donnell was a Scout in Blasdell, Williams was also a police officer. He was, in fact a K-9 officer, with a dog that he brought to Scout meetings.

Like priests who have molested children, Williams preyed upon them by playing on the faith that parents would have had in so sterling a citizen: police officer, Scout leader, putative role model. If trusted organizations valued their reputations more than the safety of children, they got away with it, in part, because parents were naïve.

In truth, most Americans were in those days. The country then had an elevated trust in politicians, media and even celebrities, viewing them with a level of deference and admiration that today seems almost incomprehensible.

And the church? The Scouts? Few people in those days would have thought that such organizations offered so ready a hiding place for pedophiles. But they did. Over the past 28 years, Williams – police officer, Scout leader, putative role model – served prison sentences in three states for felony convictions of child sexual abuse.

As of today, at least 25 Boy Scout leaders from the Buffalo area have been charged with molesting children or morals crimes involving children or were barred by the Boy Scouts of America from registering as Scout leaders due to allegations involving children. The number is expected to climb quickly.

After years of failure, New York State in February approved the Child Victims Act. The law extends the statute of limitations to allow felony charges against sexual abusers of children until their victims turn 28. The new law also allows victims to file civil lawsuits until they turn 55.

Perhaps most significantly, for the one-year period that begins on Aug. 14, victims of child sexual assault will have a “look-back” window allowing them to file civil lawsuits, regardless of when the abuse occurred. They should take advantage of it.

The Scouts in April apologized to the victims of abuse and encouraged them to come forward. Chief Scout executive Michael Surbaugh also said the organization will pay for unlimited counseling by a provider of the victims' choosing. It's the right thing.

In the meantime, parents have a terrible challenge: They must protect their children without teaching them to be fearful. We have always lived in that world, apparently. It's just that now we know it.


Los Angeles

L.A. Startup Builds Digital Tools to End Online Child Abuse

Backed by the former president of eBay's foundation, Thorn has identified 18,000 victims of online child abuse and human trafficking

by Skoll Foundation

“We want to create a world where every child can simply be a kid, thrive in their innocence, in their playfulness, in their curiosity.” – Julie Cordua

As CEO of Thorn, a Los Angeles-based non-profit committed to defending children from sexual abuse and sex trafficking through technology, Julie Cordua is making great strides toward this ambitious goal.

The sexual abuse and sex trafficking of children is horrific. As internet technology became more advanced over the last few decades, it created a vast new community for this viral content and its producers, the abuse and trafficking have proliferated at an alarming rate around the globe. Thorn's engineering, product, and data science team is combatting this explosion of exploitation. And their results are impressive.

Thorn's product Spotlight has helped law enforcement to identify victims of human trafficking. In the last three years, this tool has helped identify over 9,380 child victims of sex trafficking. This is an average of eight child sex trafficking victims identified every day. Spotlight also helped law enforcement officials identify nearly 11,000 traffickers.

Currently, thousands of law enforcement agencies from 38 countries are employing these tools and improving collaboration to speed up investigations. These tools can accelerate the identification of victims and perpetrators by as much as 65 percent.

“Every single day we know it's working by the stories we hear of the children who are identified, who now have a better chance at life,” says Cordua, who has played a crucial part in Thorn's growth since its inception in 2012.

The organization builds technology that utilizes smart algorithms to support law enforcement in their investigations. They also work closely with tech companies like, Facebook, Microsoft, as well as nonprofit partners to achieve their mission.

For all their groundbreaking work as “digital defenders of children,” Julie Cordua and the Thorn team are being recognized. Along with recipients from four other organizations, Cordua was presented with a 2019 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. The Skoll Foundation, founded by former eBay president Jeff Skoll, grants the annual award which includes a $1.5 million prize to help social enterprises expand their impact.

This month, Thorn was also named one of eight organizations to share in over $280 million of funding through The Audacious Project, housed at TED. Each year, The Audacious Project identifies and invests in global changemakers with actionable ideas with the potential to affect millions of lives. Thorn's audacious goal is to eliminate child sexual abuse material from the Internet by empowering those on the front lines with the technology and data they need to find children faster and end the viral circulation of violent abuse content before it starts.

Moving forward, Thorn will also build on the development and distribution of its state-of-the-art technology tools as well as its programmatic work, further empowering it to realize a world where the depth of child sexual abuse is infinitely exposed, the systems that support it crumble, and abusers are exposed and punished. Thorn is working for a future where every child can just be a kid


Church of England

C of E abuse survivors dismayed as ‘seal of confessional' upheld

Campaigners say the church continues to hide abusers under a ‘cloak of secrecy'

Survivors of sexual abuse by priests have expressed dismay that the Church of England is set to uphold the confidentiality of confession against the urging of the archbishop of York.

A C of E working party, originally commissioned in 2014, has decided against the abolition or qualification of the “seal of the confessional”. Unless C of E bishops decide differently when they consider the group's report, confessions of criminal acts will not automatically be passed on to the police.

The seal of the confessional came under scrutiny last year at the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse's hearings into the Anglican church. Concerns are expected to be raised again at further hearings in July. Lawyers have said clerical abuse could have been prevented if priests had reported confessions.

In 2014, John Sentamu, the second most senior cleric in the C of E, argued the seal should not apply in child abuse cases. “How can you hear a confession about somebody abusing a child and the matter must be sealed up and you mustn't talk about it?” he said.

Presenting the working party's report on Wednesday, Mark Sowerby, the bishop of Horsham and deputy lead bishop on safeguarding within the church, said there were “legitimate concerns” about the seal of the confessional.

But the working party failed to reach “a common mind” on the issue. Instead, it recommended training for priests on how to deal with disclosures of criminal acts.

The church's guidelines say that if someone discloses in confession that he or she has committed a serious crime such as child abuse, “the priest must require the penitent to report his or her conduct to the police or other statutory authority. If the penitent refuses to do so, the priest should withhold absolution.”

A responsible priest would “take the opportunity to influence” a penitent to ensure a criminal disclosure was shared with the police, but the priest would not report a crime themselves, said Sowerby.

It was rare for people to disclose they had committed a crime in the course of confession, he added. Far more frequent was survivors of sexual abuse “bearing an inappropriate sense of guilt” who needed a secure and confidential space in which to talk, often for the first time, about their abuse.

The Welsh government introduced a legislative duty to report child abuse and neglect in 2016. There is no such law in England or Scotland.

In a foreword to the report, Paul Butler, the bishop of Durham, said: “We all finally agreed that seeking to find an ‘exemptive' clause relating to child abuse, or abuse more generally, would not be legally workable; although some had hoped and thought this might be an outcome…

“We all agreed that either the ‘seal' had to be abolished altogether or upheld. If it were abolished, it would be replaced by the normal legal rules about confidentiality, which apply in professional, commercial and other relationships where there is an expectation of privacy, and which permit the making of disclosures that are in the public interest.”

However, he said, the group could not agree.

The archbishop of York, John Sentamu, argued in 2014 that the seal of the confessional should not apply in child abuse cases.

Phil Johnson, of the church abuse survivors' network Macsas, said the church had “missed an opportunity to take the moral high ground”.

He added: “It would be easy for the church to insist that absolution of the sins of child abuse must involve the matter being reported to the statutory authorities. The law requires that a priest must disclose admissions of terrorism or money laundering in confession but not the sexual abuse of children.”

All institutions should be legally obliged to disclose admissions or allegations of child abuse to the police or social services, with sanctions for failing to do so, he said.

“Churches, private schools and sports clubs have repeatedly demonstrated that they are more concerned about reputational damage than they are about the welfare of children or the victims of abuse.”

Gilo, a survivor of sexual abuse and campaigner for reform within the church, said the confessional seal “continues to hide abusers under a cloak of secrecy that has for so long bedevilled the church's culture. Any child protection policy qualified in this way with ring-fencing of religious ritual is bonkers.”

Richard Scorer, a lawyer at Slater and Gordon who acts for victims of C of E abuse at the independent inquiry, said: “The lack of recommendation for change is a head-in-the-sand approach from the church. Given that there is already a legal obligation to report information relating to terrorism, there is no justification whatsoever for exempting child abuse now. Yet again the church has placed religious privilege above the protection of children.”

David Greenwood, a solicitor with Switalskis who also represents abuse survivors at the independent inquiry, said: “Protecting conversations held in the confessional from being reported to the police is one of the characteristics which makes the C of E a safe place for child abusers, a place in which they can avoid detection.”

The hearing of confessions by a priest is less common in the Anglican church that the Roman Catholic church. Anglican congregations take part in “general confession” during services, but individuals may approach a priest to make a private “special confession” of sins and ask for absolution.

Both churches share a common tradition of the “seal of the confessional”: confessions must not be repeated or disclosed by the priest under any circumstances.

C of E bishops are expected to discuss the working party's report next week



A Child Is Abused Every Four Hours In India. Banning TikTok Won't Fix That.

Panic over child sexual abuse online has led to TikTok being banned. But disturbing videos of children are still available on the app.

by Nishita Jha

NEW DELHI — A ban on new TikTok users in India over fears that the app was exposing children to porn and sexual predators will do little to address the country's crisis of child sexual abuse, while an abuse epidemic continues IRL.

The Chinese-owned video-sharing app, hugely popular with teens in the US and the world over, was pulled from the Google and Apple stores by the Indian government late on Tuesday, but that leaves 120 million people in India who have already downloaded it free to use the app as normal.

Before the ban came into effect BuzzFeed News found material that violates the app's own guidelines, including videos of children set to sexualized songs and lyrics, videos of semi-clothed children, children performing violent acts on each other, and adults enacting violent situations with children and animals. TikTok itself purged 6 million videos earlier this week.

This material, while disturbing, is also available on other social media platforms and Indian TV. What makes the ban on TikTok particularly charged is the app's massive following in India — TikTok users in India account for a quarter of its total global downloads, making it the app's largest market. BuzzFeed News has spoken to some of the app's most avid creators for an insight into the app's popularity, and to understand why TikTok videos are an entire cultural moment in India.

The problematic videos that remain on the app despite the purge of offensive material can be found by using hashtags like “#cutebabies” (which returns almost 700 million videos), “#desikids,” “#cuteIndianbabies,” or by simply following the algorithm of trending hashtags.

But these videos barely scratch the surface of India's crisis of child sexual abuse, and point to the difficulty of tackling real-world problems with a digital ban. According to the latest official statistics, a child is abused every four hours. Banning TikTok is not going to solve that problem.

TikTok's popularity in India raises questions about what happens when the so-called “next billion” — a whole new strata of Indians, who own cheap smartphones with massive data plans — starts using the internet, with little to no digital literacy or awareness of personal rights. And at a time when many in the West are struggling to contain the deeply invasive ways in which social media affects the rights of women and children, TikTok's appeal adds a new dimension to the debate.

Even before the ban came in TikTok was in crisis-management mode. TikTok wants to manage not only its public reputation, but also what is said about the company by its most prominent creators. In almost every phone conversation that BuzzFeed News had with TikTok's content creators ahead of the ban, its PR company, Allison+Partners, insisted on vetting questions beforehand and being present on the call.

Likewise, Indian courts and the government have been in an increasing state of panic, culminating in this week's ban. Ministers had even suggested TikTok was a Chinese ploy to gain access to Indian data, while judges have said they are sick of children wasting time and are worried about strangers exploiting them on TikTok.

The ban on TikTok is not the first time India has tried to address a crisis of sexual violence with an internet ban. Last year the government banned hundreds of porn sites, arguing it would help tackle the country's epidemic of sexual assaults on women.

TikTok has also already run into serious trouble in other countries. In March, ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, was fined $5.7 million for violating child privacy laws in the US. The same month, a BBC investigation into TikTok in the UK found hundreds of inappropriate comments, posted on videos of children performing otherwise seemingly innocent videos.

On a call with BuzzFeed News, TikTok's international communication lead, Belle Baldoza, revealed that the company hoped to replicate what happened in Indonesia, where the app was banned for a week in July last year. Since then, the company has been working with the Indonesian government to tighten security on it's app and make sure all content is culturally appropriate.

ByteDance said it would challenge the court's order. Sumedhas Rajgopal, TikTok's entertainment and strategy lead in India, told BuzzFeed News that for now, it was “business as usual,” with celebrities and regular app users uploading new videos every minute despite the ban. “Safety has to be a community effort, we trust our creators to flag content that makes them uncomfortable, and out content moderators to remove it.”

Like all social media, TikTok is designed to be addictive. When you open the app, your phone's entire screen displays a seemingly endless scroll of scenes — weird, earworm-y and mesmerizing videos — of people lip-synching, miming, dancing, or performing scenes from movies.

And while sites like Facebook and Instagram are used by non-English speakers in India, if you speak one of the country's many regional languages the chances of going viral are far higher on TikTok. TikTok's easy interface, which works on the cheapest of phones, is perfect for people who live in the country's smaller cities, towns, and villages.

Despite India's unemployment crisis, optimistic, Bollywood-obsessed young people still believe in the dream that, with enough talent and determination, with the right audition or dance moves, anyone can beat the odds. Many users of TikTok are the same Indians who show up on TV dance contests, talent hunts, and comedy shows, hoping that a casting agent finds their profile, or that the internet does its magic and one day makes them go viral.

TikTok is also incredibly egalitarian, ideal for a country in which millions of people live in poverty. While TikTok's creators act, dance, and lip-synch their hearts out in the hope that the content they make will eclipse their backgrounds and their lack of polish, class markers are visible in nearly every video: cracking plaster on exposed brick walls, women with their heads covered, food cooking on fires instead of kitchen appliances, and clothes hanging off clothes lines inside bedrooms that double up as store rooms and kitchens.

This is what the new, new internet looks like — it lacks the filters and artifice of Instagram and the political engagement and armies of trolls on Twitter, and there is no fake new crisis like on Facebook.

Amid a culture struggling with masculinity and violence, TikTok users can find the Indian subgenre of boys who cry passionately. The country's most marginalized community — the Dalits — can be seen performing joyous, victorious dances praising the man who wrote the Indian constitution. Young girls whose lives are policed in a million different ways strut with complete abandon at home. Couples living in cramped, tiny homes with parents, children, cousins, and grandparents steal moments of intimacy making videos of themselves performing romantic duets.

In the hills of North India, Mujeeb Khan, a 25-year old musician, said he had hoped to use TikTok to get noticed and sign a deal with a record label, and take himself to New Delhi or Mumbai. That never happened, but he did find fame of sorts. TikTok's algorithm taught him what the internet really wanted — cute kids.

Khan's first #cutebaby video featured his 5-month-old niece Amyrah, the two of them dancing a sweet two-step to a Bollywood song. Within minutes of posting it last year, the video had received thousands of views. In two days, the figure had passed 1 million.

“I knew something special was happening then,” said Khan in a phone interview, while two of TikTok's PR agents listened in. “Amyrah is lucky for me.”



Archdiocese ready to implement sexual abuse report system

by Matthew Haave

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Today, Pope Francis issued new rules on how the Catholic Church will handle and report cases of abuse. With his orders, dioceses will also need to come up with their own systems of reporting abuse and cover-ups.

Omaha's Archbishop George J. Lucas says they're ready to do so.

Omaha's Archdiocese released the following statement regarding the Pope's orders:

Pope Francis has relied on a rarely used pontifical tool to make it mandatory for dioceses and religious orders throughout the world to come up with a reliable and public system for reporting cardinals, bishops, priests and deacons suspected of sex abuse of minors and adults.

The new Catholic church law, titled Vox estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world”), was issued motu proprio, or by the pope's own initiative.

The phrase motu proprio does not refer to a document itself, but rather the manner in which a document is released.

A pope releases a document motu proprio to signal special personal interest in a subject or when he wants to change or enact existing church law.

Vox estis lux mundi is one of the concrete measures called for by Pope Francis at the February 2019 meeting on the protection of minors in the church.

The procedures are designed to ensure quick and just verification of allegations. Special emphasis is placed upon the possibility lay people assisting with investigations.

The new law mandates the creation, where they do not already exist, of systems to report:

• sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by all dioceses of the world;

• the use of violence or intimidation (whether with minors or adults) to engage in sexual acts;

• the possession or distribution of child pornography;

• alleged misconduct and the cover-up of sexual misconduct committed by cardinals, bishops and heads of religious orders

The law also mandates policies to protect victims and people who report under the new system; the requirement to provide assistance to victims; and the requirement that dioceses observe civil laws governing mandatory reporting of abuse.

“The Holy Father is demanding that bishops, priests and deacons be held accountable for misconduct, and he has given the Church a structure for reporting and investigating,” said Archbishop George J. Lucas. “He is making sure victims world-wide will be heard, receive the care they deserve and that offenders are held accountable. I look forward to working with the bishops of the U.S. in June to spell out how bishops are to be held accountable.”

Nothing in the new law changes or interferes with systems established by the U.S. bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and adopted by the Archdiocese of Omaha in 2002.

A review board of clergy and lay members already assists the archdiocese in examining sexual abuse allegations against priests and deacons. A new ministerial conduct board will be constituted in June to review allegations of adult sexual misconduct.

The archdiocese has a system in place of reporting allegations of sexual abuse of minors to local law enforcement agencies. Victims also know they can make a report to the archdiocese's victim assistance manager.

The archdiocese's existing framework also includes victim outreach and a zero-tolerance policy.

Over 40,000 adults and children have received the archdiocese's safe environment training, which includes a criminal background check for adult volunteers and employees.

The archdiocese training program is used in more than 40 dioceses across the nation and hundreds of Protestant churches.

Dioceses world-wide without a reporting system must establish one by June 1. .


United Kingdom

Prince Charles Misused Influence to Shield Cleric, Abuse Inquiry Reports

In an unusually tough rebuke of Prince Charles, an inquiry concluded that “the actions of the Prince of Wales were misguided.”

by Ellen Barry

LONDON — Prince Charles misused his influence to shield Peter Ball, a former Anglican bishop and old friend, from punishment after the cleric had admitted sexually abusing a young novice, an independent inquiry found this week.

In an unusually tough rebuke of the future king, the inquiry concluded that “the actions of the Prince of Wales were misguided.”

“He should have recognized the potential effect that his apparent support for Peter Ball could have had upon decision-making within Lambeth Palace,” the headquarters of the Anglican Church, concluded the Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse, which was led by a professor of social work, Alexis Jay.

The prince has expressed “deep personal regret” that he was deceived by Mr. Ball, and said he had not been aware that any abuse had taken place.

“As he made clear in his voluntary witness statement to the inquiry, at no time did he bring any influence to bear on the actions of the church or any other relevant authority,” a spokesman for Clarence House, the prince's administration, told the Press Association.

The report details a powerful old-boys' network that mobilized to defend Mr. Ball, who was first accused of sexual misconduct in 1969 but continued to rise through the church hierarchy for two decades.

Upon being appointed bishop of Gloucester, in 1991, he was warned that “there should be no more boys,” the inquiry found. In 1993, Mr. Ball admitted to an act of gross indecency with a 19-year-old and accepted a police caution, which allowed him to avoid a criminal trial. He was forced to step down as bishop, but returned to the ministry within two years.

Only in 2015, after the investigation was revived, did Mr. Ball plead guilty to indecent assault and misconduct in public office in connection with the abuse of 16 boys and men who had come to him for spiritual guidance. He was sentenced to 32 months of imprisonment, but was released on parole after serving half the sentence.

The report offers a kind of anatomy of social influence in Britain's power structure.

Mr. Ball, 87, who attended Lancing College and Cambridge University, was friends with headmasters of many of the country's most prestigious boarding schools, and belonged to a private dining club called Nobody's Friends, which met twice a year at the home of the archbishop of Canterbury.

He was close with the archbishop, George Carey, and Lord Lloyd of Berwick, an appeals court judge. But the most powerful of his friends was Charles, the Prince of Wales. He lived in one of the prince's properties from the late 1990s — after he had been forced to step down — until 2011, and preached at the funeral of the prince's second father-in-law, Bruce Shand.

Wayne Murdock, a police detective assigned to the investigation in 1993, anticipated early on that the suspect's powerful friends would try to quash it.

“The jungle drums will start going and the phone calls will start,” he said, according to the report.

The report quotes correspondence suggesting that, after Mr. Ball was forced to step down as bishop of Gloucester, the prince lobbied for him to be returned to the ministry.

“I wish I could do more,” the prince wrote at one point. “I feel so desperately strongly about the monstrous wrongs that have been done to you and the way you have been treated. It's appalling that the archbishop has gone back on what he told me, before Xmas, that he was hoping to restore you to some kind of ministry in the church. I suspect you are absolutely right — it is due to fear of the media.”

When questioned as part of the inquiry, Prince Charles played down the significance of their correspondence, saying he answered Mr. Ball's letters, “believing it the polite thing to do.”

Investigators, who pored over a large file of correspondence between the two men, said “the replies are suggestive of cordiality rather than mere politeness.”

They noted, as well, that the prince's private secretary had made inquiries about Mr. Ball's reinstatement with a top aide to the archbishop of Canterbury.

Within six weeks of his resignation, the archbishop publicly said that he hoped to see Mr. Ball returned to the ministry.

The inquiry concludes that Mr. Ball's supporters were not knowingly covering up crimes, but failed to consider that someone they knew and liked might also be an abuser.

“It is likely that they genuinely believed in Peter Ball's innocence,” the inquiry says. “These individuals could not conceive of the possibility that someone like Peter Ball could be guilty of such offending behavior.”

They “thought they knew more than they did and, in fact, knew nothing about the extent of the allegations faced by Peter Ball,” it continued.

Mr. Ball's victims, many of them teenagers, described approaching him for spiritual guidance and being asked to strip naked, take cold showers while he watched, masturbate him, submit to beatings, or sleep naked with him.

One cleric, who had asked Mr. Ball to support his ordination, said he refused to remove his clothing at Mr. Ball's request. Mr. Ball subsequently withdrew his recommendation for ordination. The cleric was later rejected for ordination, told that there was “a big black mark against him in the Church of England.”

Mr. Ball was eventually arrested as a result of a complaint by Neil Todd, who began to visit Mr. Ball at the age of 17, and became fearful when the bishop began speaking of beating or whipping him as part of their religious practice. Mr. Todd attempted suicide at age 19, and subsequently made reports of Mr. Ball's behavior.

Mr. Todd killed himself in 2012, days before the case was officially reopened.

Lord Carey, the former archbishop, has since said that he and other church officials underplayed Mr. Ball's conduct because it did not involve penetration.

“I think all of us at the time were saying, ‘Well, he wasn't raping anybody, there was no penetrative sex,'” he said.

He acknowledged that he attached more importance to Mr. Ball's testimony than to Mr. Todd's.

“I actually believed him for quite a time, because who else were complaining about him? I didn't know these people,” he told the inquiry



Gateless: A Story of Child Sex Abuse in Cambodia's Temples

A young man seeks justice after being abused in a Buddhist temple in Cambodia.

Two young men sit under the shade of trees in Takeo, Cambodia; Se Bros wears a button-up shirt and jeans and Monk Ry wears his deep orange garb.

Did he ever touch you?" Bros asks over the steady drone of insects, but Ry remains silent.

"I believe he has done something like this to a lot of other children. It's you, me, and other children," Bros says.

In Cambodia, Buddhist temples are regarded as places of refuge and rehabilitation for the community, but for Bros it was the site of his sexual abuse as a child.

The perpetrator was Saravuth Tan, a Cambodian-American who investigators would later find had abused at least 17 young boys sometime during his 14 years' living at the temple.

Soon Bros will be testifying against Tan, who he says raped him dozens of times.

"I used to feel ashamed, lost all confidence, I lost focus in my studies, and lost time," says Bros. "Sometimes I felt physically sick because he used to do something bad to me."

But for Monk Ry, Tan was his beloved godfather, someone who cared for him after he escaped his abusive family and became homeless. Tan provided him with food, a home and anything else he needed.

"He loved me as if I am his own child," Ry says. "I don't know where I'd be right now if he hadn't adopted me, maybe not where I am right now."

More than 200 cases of sexual abuse in Buddhist temples have been reported worldwide in the last decade. An increasing number of temple abuse incidents have been reported in Southeast Asia but experts believe most cases remain hidden.

According to Socheat Nong, a child social worker, the problem of sexual abuse in Cambodia is a silent one.

"In general, people in Cambodia don't believe or accept the fact that sexual abuse happens to boys," she says. "Even those who work with children, including counsellors and social workers, know very little about how to help boys who have been abused."

As the Tan investigation unfolds, a more unsettling truth comes out: a chief monk says that the monks at the temple knew about the problem all along.

Gateless follows two young survivors reckoning with their pasts, and what happens when child abuse is treated with a blind eye.




by Lorraine Ma

I first went to Cambodia in 2013 with a filmmaker and personal mentor to shoot a documentary on child sex trafficking. After the trip, the filmmaker discovered she had cancer, and her health deteriorated rapidly over the next three years. In 2016, before she passed away, she reached out to ask if I would pick up her unfinished project. I agreed to do so, but I did not have a plan as to how it would happen.

Two days after her memorial service, I was notified that I had been awarded a grant by the Hong Kong Documentary Initiative, a programme headed up by Oscar-winning filmmaker Ruby Yang. With the support of the initiative and my producers, finally, I returned to Cambodia in 2017.

I went back to Cambodia knowing I was going to make a film on the child sex trade, but what I uncovered startled me: the abuse of young boys inside sacred Buddhist temples, under the watch of supposedly saintly and trusted monks. What was more alarming was that many of these monks were completely ignorant about any form of sexual abuse, and had absolutely no concept of child protection.

Buddhism is an incredibly complex and culturally nuanced faith, and this film is by no means a comprehensive portrayal of it.

Gateless focuses on one case of abuse within Theravada Buddhism in rural Cambodia, but I believe this case is a microcosm of a systemic problem. While such sensitive matters often go unreported, just from looking up news articles alone, my team has found over 200 sexual abuse cases in the past 10 years, across different Buddhist sects, and at temples in countries all over the world.

This film initially aimed to champion the lives of children in vulnerable circumstances, and it is my hope that it continues to do so. Masculinity is traditionally defined as being strong and brave, and as a result, boy sex abuse victims are often overlooked and ignored. Through the stories of two young men, Gateless shows that regardless of gender and religion, children should not be violated.



On Mother's Day: Mothers, teach your sons respect, so that they never abuse others

Mothers can secure a safe future for many others by raising their own sons right.

Every year on Mother's Day, we exalt mothers by putting them on pedestals for being great nurturers and caretakers of children.

But I would say the mothers of our country need to pull up their socks because they have failed in raising their sons to be good, responsible citizens of our country.

I want to urge mothers to teach their sons to learn to treat young children with respect. In India, as many as 53% of children have faced some form of sexual abuse, both boys and girls, and mostly at the hands of men.

Women account for a fraction of sexual abusers — so it's mostly men who need to be taught that it's not okay for them to molest a young boy or girl. At the same time, the number of boys getting sexually abused is more than girls.

A study, Child Abuse-India 2007, conducted by the Indian Ministry of Women and Child Development, revealed that 41% of abusers were older cousins and uncles. This means that abuse is mostly happening in a child's or relative's home.

As many as 22% of children have faced severe forms of sexual abuse — over 50% of abusers have been relatives or adults they trust. Over 72% of children have never reported their abuse, which means the abuse goes undetected for a long period of time.

In India, sons are pampered so much that they often think they are God's gift to humanity — this also means that they are able to get their way in most situations, getting whatever they want, whether it is toys, food, clothes or gadgets. I feel that this also extends to their sexual desires. When no one has taught them to practice restraint and they are spoilt by their mothers, fathers and other family members, they do not know that certain things are just not done.

When half the population of our children is being molested — which would run into millions — how many molesters and abusers would there be in the country? My guess is that this figure also runs into the millions. This means that we have failed as a society to inculcate the right moral and ethical values in our children.

Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is a global problem. Despite good policing and legal processes available in first world countries, around 10%-20% of children are sexually abused. The situation worsens in a developing nation such as India, where almost 53.22% of children are abused. We can keep saying that we are a traditional country with a great culture and that we are very respectful of people — but the statistics tell a different story. After all, if half of the population of minors in the country is getting abused, everything is certainly not as hunky dory as we would like to believe.

Young victims of sexual abuse have to deal with long-lasting effects from the trauma that often carries into their adult lives. This can result in poor academic performance and leadership skills, strained relationships with parents and spouses, failed marriages, obesity, substance abuse, brain trauma, alcoholism, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), insomnia and many other problems. This is a global trend and often, seen most strongly in other South Asian countries like Pakistan.


United Kingdom

The world is scary for girls. But there's never been a better time to parent

I can't shield my daughter from sexism and racism. But she will be more empowered to confront it than I ever was

by Candice Pires

A few months ago I met my husband and five-year-old daughter at one of those soft-play centres. This one has two storeys of obstacle course for the kids behind a floor-to-ceiling net on one side; and on the other side, Wifi and cheap wine for the parents. While my husband had been working at a small table, our daughter had befriended two kids – a brother and sister – in the ball pit.

“That boy keeps asking me to play a game with him and I don't want to,” she came out and told us.

“That's OK,” I said. “You don't have to.”

The boy looked to be around her age and the girl a little older. Shortly after, we left the centre and in the car on the way home she said again that the boy kept asking her to play a game. And then she said it again.

“What game did he want to play?” I asked from the front seat.

“Sits,” she said.

“Sits?” I said. “What's that?”

“He said one person lies down and the other pulls down their underwear and sits on top of them and moves around.”

Madonna says giving her children mobile phones ‘ended their relationship'

My husband and I looked at each other and I turned to face her. We'd talked theoretically about what to do when you don't feel safe and who is allowed to touch your private parts, but this was the first time any of it was put into practice.

She told us how she kept saying no and how his sister kept saying that she didn't have to do it.

My words stuck to the inside of my mouth. There was relief that our daughter had handled the situation well, but repulsion at what this boy had suggested.

That evening I talked to her about it more, I asked how she felt, told her she responded well and we practiced saying no – even when we feel scared by the person we're saying no to. It's a conversation we've revisited.

Children weren't shown how to use their voice to challenge adults

People talk about how we have to protect our children more than ever, but abuse has always happened; the biggest difference is that we are more likely to talk about it now, and are hopefully making progress at holding perpetrators to account. I went to a Catholic school where rumours were rife about abuse by a teacher; but we were not encouraged to question adults, especially not those in authority.

One morning, when I was 14, I was walking to school with a friend and there was a man jogging on the other side of the road. He was wearing a T-shirt and Wallace and Gromit boxers and masturbating as he watched us. When we got into school, we hung back after registration and told a teacher, who we respected and loved, what had happened. She told us not to make a fuss and distractedly tidied her desk. I didn't tell my parents. Not because they wouldn't have listened or believed me; we are close and they would have. But because when I was growing up, these conversations were rare. Children weren't shown how to use their voice to challenge adults.

But it's not just abuse, as a society we're rethinking power, race and gender (and so much else). My daughter has so many questions about all these things. And so do I. Talking to her about it helps me in my thinking. While the conversations with my adult friends about #MeToo, Black Lives Matter and living under Trump are more nuanced, the conversations I have with my daughter are crystalized. Someone told her in the playground that Trump puts kids in cages, she came home and said she didn't think it's true – is it?

Last year, she was at a predominantly white school and told me she didn't like her brown skin. While I hated hearing her say that, I was glad we were able to talk about it, rather than glossing over how we look and are different to the people around us. A couple of years ago she was given a children's book about Rosa Parks. At first I put it up on a high shelf because I didn't want to expose her to such overt racism. Introducing children to hateful imagery can feel like we're robbing them of innocence. But having read it to her recently, and having her want to talk about why black people were treated differently in the book, I hope it can make her question why black people are treated differently today. Again, structural racism and even police brutality aren't anything new, they're just more openly discussed now.

As I'm unlearning a lifetime's beliefs of what gender is, she's learning it for the first time, quicker. She fields direct but flippant questions at me over whether there are rules over who can wear a skirt, or if men can have babies. I try not to miss a beat in my response but often I'm still figuring out the answer myself. She has her own response to the clothes question now: “Girls can wear skirts, boys can wear skirts, everyone can wear what they want.” And plenty of boys she knows do. Classrooms are more naturally accepting of difference than workplaces.

‘How we're listening to kids is changing in society.'

She has the word “vagina” in her vocabulary (albeit she's only just stopped pronouncing it “bagina”). When I was at school we all had so many euphemisms for it – and similarly for penis – that I wonder if we were all even talking about the same things. I think I'd still blush to look my mum in the eye and say vagina out loud. I danced around like a politician when my daughter asked how babies come out until one day when I was sitting down she locked eyes with me and said, “Is it the belly button?” I told her the truth, she grimaced and moved on.

Adults failed to take climate action.

Meet the young activists stepping up

And when it comes to gender roles, on the whole this generation is far more used to the sight of fathers pushing strollers, taking paternity leave and sharing childcare. My friends who are bringing up boys are encouraging them to be aware and expressive of their feelings.

How we're listening to kids is changing in society, too. The students of Parkland are being applauded by millions of adults and children for their work to reform the US gun laws, and making millions of others angry. Young campaigners such as the 16-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg are entering public discourse and being listened to. In the past, children in the media have been subordinates or celebrities. I can't think of one who was considered a voice worthy of taking seriously.

I'm not Pollyanna-ish about the world. The macro picture where we all feel so insecure about the future makes it also an incredibly difficult time to parent. Especially if your child is a minority. And I'm fully aware that far from every parent is having these conversations. But there have always been awful and scary things that we want to protect children from – and today by increasingly acknowledging their existence, we're setting up kids to better handle confronting the inevitable


United Kingdom

UK watchdog blocks record number of child abuse webpages

Internet Watch Foundation wages ‘constant battle against demand for child rape images'

by Alex Hern

More than 100,000 webpages containing child sexual abuse imagery (CSAI) or videos were identified and blocked over the last year by the UK charity tasked with maintaining the nationwide blacklist, an increase of more than a third on the year before.

The Internet Watch Foundation, the charity that does much of the groundwork required to populate the anti-CSAI filters operated by internet service providers such as BT and Sky, says that much of the increase was due to an improvement in the technology it uses to detect and assess criminal content.

Konnie Huq turns dramatist to help teach children internet safety

But since each blocked webpage regularly contains more than one abuse image, the total number of unique images discovered and blocked by the charity is higher still: 345,961 individual images were added to the IWF's watchlist in 2018, with their digital fingerprints shared with technology companies such as Facebook and Google to prevent them being reuploaded in the future.

“Despite us removing more and more images than ever before, and despite creating and using some of the world's leading technology, it's clear that this problem is far from being solved,” said the IWF's chief executive, Susie Hargreaves.

“The cause of the problem is the demand. Unfortunately, and as the police tell us often, there are 100,000 people sitting in the UK right now demanding images of the abuse of children. With this continued demand for images of child rape, it's a constant battle.”

Social media firms to be penalised for not removing child abuse

The IWF found that the proportion of images hosted in the UK had hit an all-time low: just 0.04% of the content it found and blocked was hosted from a UK address, down from 18% when the IWF began operating in 1996.

While this speaks to the success of British law enforcement, it also shows the difficulties the organisation faces in pushing for lasting change when much of the problem lies overseas. Of the webpages added to the blocklist in 2018, 47% were hosted in the Netherlands, with the US, Russia and Slovakia each contributing more than 10% of the total.

Hargreaves welcomed the government's Online Harms white paper, first revealed by the Guardian in April, as “a huge opportunity for us all to step up and have a greater impact”. The white paper proposes strong new internet regulations.

Hargreaves said the IWF was now planning to begin working on issues including online grooming of children, recently outlawed after a campaign from the NSPCC, and on how to tackle the live-streaming of child sexual abuse


South Africa

Fighting child abuse and violence in rural communities

The upsurge in cases of child abuse throughout the world is one of the challenges that humanitarian organisations try to root out among communities.

The Umvoti branch of World Vision SA (WVSA), which has an office in Greytown, focuses on child protection, advocacy, education and community engagement and sponsorship projects.

WVSA started operating in 1967 and is part of World Vision International — a global Christian relief, development and advocacy organisation dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice (

National Citizen Voice and Action Coordinator for WVSA in Umvoti, Ntombiyenkosi Nkosi, said: “It is a humanitarian organisation dedicated to working with children, families and their communities to [help them] reach their full potential by tackling root causes of poverty and injustice regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender.

“WVSA currently operates in six of the nine provinces, namely KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and Limpopo.

“WVSA operates through a model called Area Program (AP), which is a long-term initiative located within a geographical area with multiple sources of funding.”

The Greytown office is part of the Umvoti Area Program (AP). The AP integrates transformational development, humanitarian emergency affairs and advocacy.

Nkosi said the APs have a lifespan of a specified number of years to transform lives in a particular area and then they move into another community or area.

The Umvoti AP was established in March 2008 and will be phasing out by the end of September 2020.

The Greytown office launched a programme called “It takes a World to End Violence Against Children” at eShane, a few kilometres away from Greytown, recently.

Nkosi explained: “[The] ‘It Takes a World to End Violence Against Children' [programme] is a five-year campaign that promotes multi-sectoral collaboration in changing attitudes, social norms and traditional behaviours that perpetuate violence against children and ensures effective implementation of relevant policies and commitments.

“It is about putting our full weight behind ending violence against children and leveraging resources and the good work that World Vision Umvoti AP and stakeholders are doing to contribute to child protection issues to ensure sustained change.”

The launch was about formally introducing the campaign, which started in 2017 and will be phasing out in 2021.

The launch aimed to mobilise stakeholders and partners; such as government departments, NGOs, churches and individuals; to work with children in catalysing change, raising awareness and driving courageous and effective action to end violence against children.

“The theme is “#Masibike”; Kubiza mina nawe ukulwisana nokuhlukunyezwa kwabantwana. It is a call to everyone to collaborate with World Vision Umvoti AP in strengthening prevention and response measures to address violence against children.

“We also mean to create an environment conducive for children to demand implementation of policies, laws and commitments, including the SDGs, to end violence against children,” Nkosi said.

The organisation believes that HIV/Aids prevalence among communities continues to be a challenge in societies. This prompted members of the organisation to offer healthcare services to the community in a bid to spread the word about HIV prevention.

Although the services phased out, the organisation is adamant about bringing change to the community.

“We previously had HIV/Aids, health and nutrition projects whereby several interventions were implemented, such as training of home-based caregivers,” Nkosi said.

Caregivers were provided with home-based care kits; weight scales (for growth monitoring of vulnerable children), facilitated support groups for people living with HIV and Aids, and facilitated the implementation of integrated management of the childhood illnesses programme.

The organisation also collaborated with the Department of Health in promotion of exclusive breastfeeding, immunisation, micronutrients intake, family planning, hand washing and hygiene practices through awareness campaigns and education.

Nkosi said the organisation has built the capacity of clinic committees to understand public health policies and to dialogue with duty bearers for improved delivery of health care services.

“We have a community engagement and sponsorship project whereby each child is visited quarterly.

“There are two existing support groups; Insikayethu and Khuthalani Against Poverty and Aids; that were initiated by the WVSA Umvoti AP while implementing HIV and Aids projects. They have matured as community-based organisations and Insikayethu registered as an NPO.

“WVSA did receive local funding for APs in other provinces, such as one in Limpopo that had a special project funded by KFC.

“Our NGO is currently mobilising local funding from both companies and individual sponsors,” Nkosi explained, adding that the organisation anticipates strengthening its work relations with all government departments as they implement a multi-sectoral campaign.

“It takes a world to end violence against children. We have been continuously working with the Department of Health, Education, SAPS, Home Affairs and Social Development including Umvoti Local Municipality,” Nkosi said.



New 12-step program for survivors of church-related child sexual abuse

by Emma Tonkin, Anthony Scully

A man in a striped shirt with a woman in a checked shirt with a poodle in the background

The embarrassment and shame many victims of church-related child sexual abuse feel can stop them from ever speaking out or seeking help.

Key points:

A new 12-step program to help abuse survivors heal is set to launch in Newcastle

The group is aimed specifically at those who suffered church-related abuse

High-profile survivor Peter Creigh will speak at the first meeting

Psychologist says support groups beneficial, but can pose trigger risks

In the wake of the royal commission into child sexual abuse, mental health service Grow has launched a 12-step program in Newcastle to help survivors heal.

Co-convener and former Newcastle and Hunter Lifeline CEO, Pam Tierney, said she felt there was a specific need to support those who had never been able to speak about their abuse.

"I felt very much for those victims and survivors of church-related child sexual abuse who weren't able to tell anyone, who'd never spoken about it to anyone," Mrs Tierney said.

"But to see all of the newspaper reports and TV, it just must chill their soul.

"They carry it with them all the time and they get by the best they can, but often at great price to themselves."

Strength through stories

Neville Bradbury from Grow says the program aims to help people to move on with their lives.

"We can't do anything about what has happened to them," he said.

"We can't solve that — we wouldn't attempt to.

"But we can give them the tools to get on with the rest of their lives."

Mrs Tierney says survivors can gain strength simply by hearing stories from others.

"The support that this particular specialist group, that they can give to each other," she said.

"They don't have to say a word.

"Each of them knows what the other may have experienced and I think they would give great strength and support to each other in the healing process."

The group has no affiliation with any church and Mrs Tierney says there will not be any focus on religion.

"That would be counter productive," she said.

"It wouldn't be in the spirit of the Grow movement to suggest we commence with prayer or anything like that."

High profile survivor to speak at first Grow meeting

High profile child abuse survivor Peter Creigh will speak at the group's first meeting.

Mr Creigh was abused by paedophile priest Jim Fletcher in the Hunter region in the 1970s.

He was also the key witness in a landmark case against the Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, who was the highest ranking Catholic in the world to be convicted, and later acquitted, of concealing child sex abuse.

Last month, Mr Creigh spoke out about being intimidated during the case, compounding what was already a very difficult and traumatic legal process that lasted several years and forced him to relive the horrific sexual abuse he suffered as a child.

At the peak of the trial Mr Creigh was rushed to hospital for a quadruple heart bypass and later suffered a stress-related seizure.

He still has not returned to his real estate career.

"It was more than a roller coaster, at times it felt like a car wreck," he said.

"It was really difficult — there was some really black moments there.

"You had to keep on saying to yourself that [there's] far greater good here to be done and you just had to find that strength, you just had to find it from somewhere.

"And somehow I think it just made me a stronger person having stood up to them."

Other people's experiences can trigger, says expert

Newcastle based clinical psychologist Tarnya Davis says connecting with people can be one of the most powerful ways to overcome psychological challenges.

"It really breaks down the isolation," Ms Davis said.

"In particular for survivors of childhood sexual abuse and abuse within the church, shame and secrecy are one of the most difficult aspects of trauma to shift.

"To be connected with other people who understand your experiences is hugely beneficial."

But Ms Davis said people considering attending such groups need to be mindful that hearing other people's stories can trigger their own experiences.

"To understand that there is a risk that what they might hear might be highly distressing in itself, other people's experiences," she said.

"But it can also trigger what had felt like it had settled for them.

"I think it's also useful to understand that whilst there might be some great benefit in hearing other people's experiences, sometimes that might make people feel less inclined to share or less valid in their responses."

The group will begin weekly meetings starting later this month.



'Sexting' images are complicating tracking down on child porn, authorities say

by Edith Bevin

Children who send sexually suggestive photos to another person are breaking the law.(ABC South East SA: Kate Hill)

The volume of "sexting" images online is creating a "white noise" of pornography that law enforcement officials say complicates the investigation of child exploitation.

Key points:

Cyber experts say many nude images sent by young people end up on the dark web

Last year, the AFP received 18,000 reports on child exploitation material

Experts say the popularity of 'sexting' is increasing

Research shows that one in three Australian teens has either been asked for or has been sent an unsolicited nude photo — and one in 10 report that image has then been circulated without their permission.

Law enforcement authorities and cyber experts said they have seen many of the images ending up on illegal pornography sites on the dark web.

The University of Tasmania (UTAS) researcher, Associate Professor Jeremy Prichard, said "the material that young people are uploading can sometimes be stimulating the illicit market for child exploitation material".

"One of the newly evolving problems associated with children and young people uploading sexualised mages is that some of the images are ending up on websites that are dedicated to child abuse and have a paedophilic interest," Dr Prichard said.

Former Victorian police officer and cyber safety expert Susan McLean said it was a "distressing thought" for many that their image has ended up in a sex offender's collection, but an unfortunate side effect of sexting.

"These are not the images that a predator may have convinced a child to take and share," she said.

"These are simply the sexy, flirty photos that a young person may have shared in trust, had that trust betrayed and now they are out there and are being traded on paedophile websites right around the world."

Last year, there were 18,000 reports of child exploitation material to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) — nearly double the 9,500 reports the previous year.

Australia's eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said last year her Cyber Report team carried out 13,000 investigations — 30 per cent of them involved children under 18.

"We can't always tell the context or how the child sexual abuse has been created — whether it's consensual or whether it's been coerced," she said.

"But either way, it doesn't matter, these are intimate images of minors — they are child sexual abuse material — and they are flooding the clear web, they are flooding the dark web and it's hard for all of us to keep up."

Ms McLean said the increased number of sexting images circulating on the web was increasing the workload of law enforcement agencies and making it harder to identify victims.

"It is time-consuming to go through them all and try and work out which might be a person that's willingly taken that photo, shared it with an intimate partner and had their trust betrayed," she said.

"And one where a young person has been coerced into the production of that image by an online sex offender.

"The [computer] programs that identify them so we know that they're there — they're struggling as well because they're picking up nudity rather than criminality."

Sergeant Bec Goddard from the AFP said officers had to go through every image to try and identify the victims and perpetrators.

"At the moment, our technology is really good — but do we know everyone who is in that image?" she asked.

"Do we know if it was willing? Do we know if that child needs to be saved?

"There's a lot of work that's done in relation to that."

Popularity of 'sexting' increasing

It is not the first time the issue of "sexting" has presented difficulties for law enforcement authorities.

Children who take naked or sexually suggestive images and send them to another are breaking the law — they are manufacturing and transmitting child exploitation material.

And the recipients are possessing child exploitation material — also a criminal offence.

But despite the dangers and some children actually being charged over images consensually taken and sent, the popularity of "sexting" is increasing.

Solving the 'sexting' epidemic

Rather than telling teens not to sext, we should engage them in thinking about sexting as part of the broader negotiation of intimate relationships.

"This is becoming a more regularised courtship ritual," Ms Grant said.

"It's peer pressure that young girls in particular are experiencing from partners to show them that they love them by sending a nude image."

A new federally funded project, spearheaded by UTAS, is trying to stem the tidal wave of images by using automated internet warnings to prevent the uploading of child exploitation material produced by young people.

"The objective of the whole project is to help design automated messages that can be useful for young people to break that smooth flow on the internet and get them to stop and think 'wow, what am I doing?! I'm just about to upload something, is this OK?'," Dr Prichard said.

His team of researchers has already had some success with a similar project, designed to make people stop and think before accessing child exploitation material.

"Too great a burden has been put on police services internationally and everybody agrees we need a lot more tools to deal with this problem, including from the prevention dimension," Dr Prichard said.

"That's where automated messages are considered to have great potential because they are potentially cheap, they have a broad range because they can pop up.

"[They] can actually come up on someone's screen right at the moment that they be considering doing something that's illegal or harmful.

"From the big tech companies, we've also got really robust evidence that automated messages really do influence behaviours online."

The two-year project has the backing of the eSafety Commissioner, who said the cognitive development of young people meant they were not able to think of the long term consequences for their actions.


Girl Talk

The Weight of Shame For Survivors Of Child Sexual Abuse

by Patricia Eagle

At a critical juncture in my life, I realized that continuing to stay quiet about my experiences of sexual abuse could very well kill me. Shame was too great a burden. Not speaking up added to that weight. Often I didn't speak my truth, whether for lack of courage or thinking my story wasn't worth being told––and, my God, what would people think of me? My mental health became too precarious and suicide ideation surfaced. I wondered if my life was worth haggling with memories of sexual abuse and the shame that resulted. Maybe the abuse was my fault? How could something so awful have felt good? Was I that desperate for love? Why didn't I talk to someone when my suspicions arose?

Sexual abuse is ridiculously prevalent—so many abused children, so many perpetrators injured in some way that leads them to inflict injury––with all of this occurring in our big world of secrets. My silence was suffocating me. Finally, I decided to step into that pool of courageous survivors who have told their stories and add my own: Being Mean––A Memoir of Sexual Abuse and Survival.

Although it was not my fault when the sexual abuse happened, my ability to trust others, and to trust myself, became irrevocably damaged. For two decades I shamed myself for who I was: an over-sexualized risk-taker who created chaos with an ambivalence toward safety and survival. I could barely control my feelings on top of a barrage of flashbacks that often left me aroused and confused in their wake: being in a camper with my dad, in his 18-wheeler sleeper, or masturbating together in my bed at home. As a child I had come to sense something was not right, but I didn't yet know how to know what wasn't right.

By my teens, I wanted help, but talking to anyone felt too risky. I learned to numb and dissociate by over-sexualizing and hyper-exercising; if I hadn't, either I would have killed myself or taken a risk that would have done it for me. Forgetting was imperative to survival. I practiced keeping memories buried and ignoring flashbacks in Herculean efforts to be normal. Thus the transformation of victim to survivor.

Mental health concerns are as important as any health concerns, although our culture doesn't always recognize that. Someone getting mental health care might be shamed for not “letting things go” or not “putting one foot in front of the other and moving past the tough stuff.” Thankfully, mental health issues and shame no longer debilitate me. Risking honest, open conversations with people in my life and decades of supportive therapy continue to help me on this healing journey.

There are still stigmas around bringing up sexual abuse. Often people who finally gather the courage to tell their stories are not believed and are shamed and belittled. It is not a young person's fault when sexual abuse happens, and their ability to learn to trust another or themselves can become irrevocably damaged at all ages. And somewhere in this equation of sexual abuse, stigma, shame, and survivors, is the perpetrator. How can we identify, talk with and help perpetrators?

We must encourage others to speak up, listen carefully, and not shame one another for our experiences. In the front of my book I dedicate my memoir “to all those with the courage to trust being truthful,” but I could also have said, to all those with the courage to trust being vulnerable. If only we could allow strength to arise from our experiences of vulnerability more than shame