Poland raises jail terms for child abuse after church documentary
MPs change criminal code after film about abuse by priests caused outrage
by Agence France-Presse in Warsaw
Poland has raised jail terms for convicted paedophiles to a maximum of 30 years after a groundbreaking documentary on child sexual abuse among Polish priests prompted public outrage.
MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of changes to the criminal code that also introduce life sentences for the most dangerous paedophiles and remove a statute of limitations on prosecution of the most drastic cases of child sexual abuse.
The changes introduced by the rightwing Law and Justice (PiS) government, which is closely allied with Poland's Roman Catholic church, come just 10 days before a tight race in elections to the European parliament.
Posted on YouTube on Saturday, the film, Tell No One, by the brothers Tomasz and Marek Sekielski has been viewed nearly 18m times. The revelations have rocked Poland's powerful Roman Catholic church to the core.
The two-hour documentary includes hidden camera footage of victims who are now adults confronting elderly priests about the abuse they suffered decades earlier. Several of the priests admit to the abuse and apologise for it.
The film also details how priests accused, or even convicted of child sexual abuse, were transferred to other parishes and able to continue their duties and work with children.
European elections: how the six biggest countries will vote
Top Polish clerics refused to be interviewed for the documentary.
The Polish primate Wojciech Polak, who apologised “for every wound inflicted by the church's people” after watching the film on Thursday, vowed to set up a “solidarity fund” to help provide victims with “concrete help” but insisted it was not a compensation fund.
“Where compensation is concerned, we should conform to the law in force in Poland, so if the court awards it, then the church is not above the law,” Polak told the TVN24 commercial news channel.
The Maltese archbishop Charles Scicluna, a Vatican expert on paedophilia among the priesthood, will visit Poland next month, the Polish episcopate said on Thursday.
The Polish church admitted in March that nearly 400 clergy had sexually abused children and minors over the last three decades, reflecting findings published a month earlier by a local charity.
The documentary concludes that the Polish-born pope and saint John Paul II turned a blind eye to sexual abuse when Warsaw's communist regime was working to undermine the church, then Poland's only independent institution.
Pope Francis last week passed a landmark new measure to oblige those who know about sexual abuse to report it to superiors, which could bring many new cases to light.
How to Eliminate the Global Problem of Online Child Abuse
by Mark Leon Goldberg
The spread of child sexual abuse material on the internet has grown at an exponential pace in the last fifteen years, since the advent of social media. This is truly a global problem, affecting every country on earth.
The tools of technology can be harnessed to combat the spread of images and videos depicting child abuse and one non-profit is leading the way.
Thorn is a technology driver non-profit founded by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore that develops tools to combat online child abuse and child sex trafficking. On the line with me to discuss some of these tools and strategies is Julie Cordua, the CEO of Thorn.
In this conversation, Julie Cordua describes the scope of the problem, which she refers She also describes how emerging technologies developed by Thorn are being used to detect when this material is being uploaded and is aiding law enforcement around the world.
We kick off discussing a recent announcement that Thorn was one of the winners of the Audacious Project, housed at TED, and will share in $280 million prize to eliminate Child Sexual Abuse Material from the Internet. We discuss how Thorn will work toward that goal and we have a broader conversation about how global efforts to combat the spread of child sexual abuse online have evolved since the early days of the internet and social media.
Shareholders push U.S. telecom firms to tackle online child sexual abuse\
by Dennis Sadowski - CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Online child sexual abuse is a booming international business and religious congregations holding stocks in major telecom firms are stepping up their advocacy to thwart it.
Led by Christian Brothers Investment Services, the effort involves a widening campaign designed to push leading U.S. telecoms to take strong action to block explicit images from their growing communication networks and information platforms.
“These telecom companies are trying to attract these younger and younger audiences, but we believe they are not investing a commensurate amount of time in online safety,” said Tracey Rembert, director of Catholic responsible investing at CBIS.
Verizon is among the high-profile companies being engaged. CBIS - joined by the Maryknoll Sisters, the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, New Jersey, the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia and Proxy Impact - gained a vote on a shareholder resolution addressing online risks faced by children during Verizon's annual meeting May 2 in Orlando, Florida.
Proxy Impact, based in Oakland, California, assists private shareholders in advocacy work to promote sustainable and responsible business practices.
The resolution - calling for a report by March 2020 on the potential sexual exploitation of children through the company's products and services - gained 33.7 percent approval from shareholders. While it was far from the majority needed for passage, such a high level of support for a first-time resolution is unusual in the corporate world.
Rembert was pleased, but not satisfied, with the result, especially given that she believes it's the first time that shareholders anywhere tried to force a telecom company into action to confront online abuse.
“I've tried to engage with (Verizon) for over a year and every time I spoke with someone I didn't have strong confidence in what they were saying, or I didn't have the right person who could give me the answer (about their practices),” she told Catholic News Service May 14.
Online child sexual abuse can take many forms including children being exposed to inappropriate content; the soliciting of kids to send inappropriate photos of themselves through social media, pornographic videos and live streaming; and the manipulation and distribution of normal family photos of children stolen from computers and cellphones.
The ease with which such images are distributed is what concerns Rembert, who has been trying to convince telecom firms to respond to investor concerns for two years. Perpetrators are using increasingly sophisticated means, including encryption, to avoid detection, she said.
Rembert undertook the campaign effort after a poll of other investors revealed that human trafficking and online child abuse were the two highest ranked concerns.
“(Society is) almost universally against child pornography and child sexual abuse,” Rembert said. “There's a firm moral line that crosses all different stripes of society and because of that there is not a lot of gray area if a company is linked to child sexual abuse online.”
While the moral concerns are the shareholders' greatest concern, there's also a financial reason for the effort. Rembert said that companies face high risks to their reputation and financial bottom line - and thus the value of a shareholder's portfolio - if it's determined that a telecom firm is not doing what's possible to protect children.
Online child sexual abuse is a global industry, fueled by the widening access by children to mobile devices and cellphones on every continent. No estimates are available on the size of the industry, but Interpol and other law enforcement agencies have been overwhelmed in trying to track the amount of material circulated through online platforms.
Social workers specializing in serving children suggested that as many as 1 million unique child abuse images existed, according to a 2017 report by the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, Virginia, and the Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety in the United Kingdom. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has said up to 50,000 new images circulate annually.
In contrast, Interpol reported about 4,000 images globally in 1995.
Rembert, along with Cathy Rowan, corporate responsibility coordinator for the Maryknoll Sisters, and Sister Patricia Daly, corporate responsibility representative for the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, met with Verizon officials as recently as January and left dissatisfied with what they heard.
“They increased disclosure a bit, but we felt it was too vague and there is no way to assess how complete their response is,” Rowan told CNS.
Rembert described the meeting as “good … but we wanted a stronger commitment about what they are doing.”
Other companies approached by the shareholders include Apple and Sprint. A resolution that recently had been filed with Apple was withdrawn when the company announced a commitment to address shareholder concerns.
Verizon said in a statement emailed May 15 that it “is proud of the leadership role we play in combating the proliferation of child sexual abuse material online.”
The statement provided links to two sites outlining “our ongoing commitment to online child safety and the extensive resources we devote in the fight against online predators” and ” educational tools and guidance to help parents and children navigate the digital world.”
A company spokesman declined to respond on the record about specific concerns raised by shareholders.
Maryknoll's involvement stems from the congregation's human trafficking prevention efforts around the world. Rowan said Maryknoll Sisters are educating people about necessary safety precautions as the internet becomes available in villages and outlying areas.
“At what point does the demand for these children reach into Zimbabwe and Cambodia?” she asked.
Daly, who has spent more than 40 years in shareholder advocacy on dozens of issues from weapons manufacturing to human rights, said it's the responsibility of the telecom companies to set high standards in safeguarding children.
“This crosses classes. It's beyond any kind of racial issue. Every child is at risk, regardless of whether your parents are millionaires or not. Any child who has access to a phone will be at risk,” Daly said.
Rembert pledged to keep the pressure on Verizon and other firms until they agree to undertake what she and others consider to be adequate steps to block online perpetrators from pedaling their salacious products.
Ideally, she would like to see a type of industry-wide code of conduct developed in collaboration with investors, child protection groups, law enforcement agencies and governments.
“That,” she said, “would be wonderful.”
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.
by EMMA GREEN
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.”
Ginnie Graham: Can the battered child be saved before reaching retirement?
Pinwheels were placed at the Parent Child Center of Tulsa on April 1 for the 2,685 cases of child abuse and neglect in Tulsa County last year.
The battered child turns 57 this year.
Before a landmark article was published in 1962 by five physicians, no one was tracking or even talking about abuses done to children.
Battered children have been around since time began, but no legal or medical systems existed for identification and treatment. Historically, kids were treated like property or extensions of family.
Things started changing in the 20th century, but abuse and neglect were still considered rarities.
When the Journal of the American Medical Association featured the article, “The Battered Child Syndrome,” it launched an entire field of study, altering medical care, social work and laws.
“The battered child syndrome is a term used by us to categorize a clinical condition in young children who have received serious physical abuse, generally a parent or foster parent,” the paper began.
“The condition has also been described as ‘unrecognized trauma' by radiologists, orthopedists, pediatricians and social service workers. It is a significant cause of childhood disability and death. Unfortunately, it is frequently not recognized or, if diagnosed, is inadequately handled by the physician because of hesitation to bring the case to the attention of the proper authorities.”
The physicians — from different specialties — documented how the battering of children was a trend, not an anomaly.
The report continues to fascinate for its continued relevance; authors warn against stereotyping parents and call for full investigations on suspicions and more research into effective prevention and recovery treatments.
A two-day conference (Haruv USA, Second International Conference on Child Maltreatment) held last week at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa examined more closely how far we've come and where we need to go.
Setting the tone as the opening speaker was Dr. Richard Krugman, considered a leading U.S. authority on child abuse and neglect with more than 50 years of experience.
“It doesn't appear to me we have made as much progress in the field of child abuse and neglect over that 57 years as we have in lots of other areas,” Krugman said. “The real question is, can we actually eliminate it — abuse and neglect — before the battered child retires?”
Looking at available statistics, he's right.
Since 2007, the number of confirmed abused and neglected children has risen 21% in Oklahoma. In Tulsa County, it has jumped a staggering 78%.
This stands in contrast to other improvements in public health since 1962.
Smoking is banned in most areas and is socially unacceptable. Cancer survival rates have gone up. Vaccinations have made deadly disease outbreaks rare.
Drivers routinely click seatbelts in place, and kids wear bike helmets. We even floss our teeth.
So what is it about child abuse and neglect that hasn't led to solutions?
Krugman said he believes the answer lies in the phenomena of looking the other way, what he calls “gaze aversion.” He defines it as an avoidance of seeing abuse when present, either deliberately or inadvertently. Professions and professional organizations aren't immune from the syndrome — systemic gaze aversion.
And it's not new.
He said the authors of “The Battered Child Syndrome” presented at an American Association of Pediatrics symposium about a multidisciplinary approach.
“At the end of that, a thousand pediatricians walked out silently, never asking a single question. They didn't want to hear it.”
But a Chicago Tribune reporter was sitting on the front row.
“The next day ... there was a headline that said, ‘Battered Children in America,' and the field started to take off. So we couldn't necessarily leave it to the professionals to do this.”
Krugman became a protégé of Dr. C. Henry Kempe, one of the paper's authors who founded a national center dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect.
“(Dr. Kempe) was always reminding us that abusive parents love their children very much but not very well, and our job was to really help them do that better.”
Within three years of the paper's publication, all states had passed laws mandating reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect. In the '70s, sexual abuse was discovered to be a hidden problem.
The '90s ushered in children's rights advocacy, particularly in areas of foster care and child safety. This included class-action lawsuits to force improved state child welfare systems. Oklahoma settled its class-action suit in 2012 with the Pinnacle Plan, whose implementation is still in progress.
Many coalitions have issued reports on the subject in the past decades. Today, many forms of abuse are recognized: physical, emotional, neglectful, sexual, educational, medical care neglect.
Another landmark research initiative — Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) — links child trauma to other risky and unhealthy behaviors as adults, from high blood pressure to incarceration. This includes all types of trauma, such as divorce.
Yet, Krugman said none of these provide statistical outcomes specific for child abuse and neglect.
“There are no published data anywhere. The reason for that I believe is, at its core, gaze aversion.”
Less than 1% of the National Institutes of Health grants last year went to projects with the words “child abuse” in the name, Krugman said.
“Research is nonexistent on child abuse to rates of suicide, eating disorders, alcohol use, depression, opioid use — all the areas everyone is focused on as health issues,” he said.
There is another part of this aversion.
Child abuse and neglect systems are still handled in secret.
Family court decisions are closed. Foster parents are told by some social workers to not share photos with kids or even introduce them as foster children.
The hush-hush approach, sometimes bordering on paranoia, is done in the name of protecting children.
It also protects the systems meant to keep them safe and creates a stigma around foster children and those going through the child welfare system. It keeps the problem at a whisper.
Krugman said hospitals used to be closed to discussing avoidable deaths until a movement about 20 years ago. Now, medical institutions are more open to such discussions for improvements.
“I haven't yet seen that in child welfare, law enforcement, juvenile courts, criminal courts or in district attorneys' offices,” he said.
“If we can't acknowledge our mistakes when working on clinical problems with children and families, we will never make progress.”
The Cost of Abuse
Attorneys find no shortage of clients amid clergy sexual abuse reports
by Brent Addleman
Attorney Alan H. Perer
Attorney Alan H. Perer, whose clients filed 32 lawsuits alleging abuse or injury by Catholic priests, commented on a settlement reached with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh Monday, Sept. 17, 2007 in Pittsburgh. The settlement created a $1.25 million fund to be distributed among the plaintiffs by an arbitrator.
Attorney Mitchell Garabedian spoke at a news conference held by former Boston television news anchor Heather Unruh Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, in Boston, about alleged sexual assault of Unruh's teenage son by actor Kevin Spacey in the summer of 2016 on Nantucket. As the lawyer for numerous Boston-area clergy sex abuse victims, he also spoke at a news conference in Boston, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011, where he released a new list of Roman Catholic priests, laymen and members of religious orders accused of abusing parishioners.
Alan H. Perer
Attorney Alan H. Perer, whose clients filed 32 lawsuits alleging abuse or injury by Catholic priests, commented on a settlement reached with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh Monday, Sept. 17, 2007 in Pittsburgh. The settlement created a $1.25 million fund to be distributed among the plaintiffs by an arbitrator.
Attorney Adam Horowitz, of Miami, announced a $4 million settlement of sexual abuse lawsuits filed against the Diocese of Pueblo and the Marianist Religious Order, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008 on the steps of the Pueblo County courthouse in Pueblo, Colo.
Although the widespread impact of clergy sexual abuse in Pennsylvania Catholic churches came to light just last year, veteran Pittsburgh litigator Alan H. Perer has been representing victims for nearly two decades.
Perer, of SPK – the law firm of Swensen & Perer, located in downtown Pittsburgh, has been working cases against the Pittsburgh Diocese dating back to the early 2000s, long before an August 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report detailed an extensive history of sexual abuse committed by clergy members within six dioceses, including Pittsburgh.
“I have been doing this for 17 years,” Perer said. “It has been very rough. A lot of cases earlier, we ran into the statute of limitations. We have been fighting this battle for a long time.
“I am hoping the compensation fund will be a compassionate fund. A lot of these people are really hurting and suffering from being abused as a child. I have many who were 10 to 12 years old, 13 years of age, some earlier in age and some that continued (suffering abuse) long after those ages.”
Perer said the abuse has taken a toll on his clients.
“People have suffered from alcoholism, drug use, failed marriages, anger management, getting into fights, depression and loss of faith,” Perer said. “So many lives have been ruined by the actions of these priests and the dioceses.”
While Perer is battling for his clients in Allegheny County, he is also fighting for them and others at the state level by challenging the statute of limitations.
“I hope to get it expanded,” he said.
Perer's office is putting together claims for about 70 victims. Those claims will be submitted to the Pittsburgh Diocese's compensation fund.
“We have about five (submitted) and we hope to have 10 submitted (in April),” Perer said. “We will be discussing those cases with the compensation fund.”
Perer said the Pittsburgh Diocese will be following the New York compensation fund, with the top awards set at $500,000.
'It is taking time'
Adam Horowitz, an attorney based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is representing clients from various dioceses in Pennsylvania.
“You go through the Pittsburgh list, and I have heard from one or more claimants from the priests on that list,” Horowitz said. “In terms of the process, we have been registering our clients for the compensation program and have submitted claims as they have come in.”
Horowitz said one of his clients received an award from the Philadelphia Diocese, but none had received awards from Pittsburgh's fund.
“It is taking Pittsburgh at least six weeks to come up with offers,” Horowitz said. “I don't know if they are backlogged, but based on the numbers I have and other lawyers have seen online it is taking time.”
Horowitz said he was surprised to see how many “predator priests named in the grand jury report had come through New Castle.”
“According to the list, New Castle came up 19 separate times,” Horowitz said. “The number of accused priests who passed through New Castle is a stunning number. For a city of its size, it is really stunning how many people are involved in this. Some of the most notorious perpetrators passed through New Castle at one time or another.”
Horowitz said he thinks the total number of claims is going to far exceed original expectations from the diocese and the compensation fund.
“I think people will be blown away by how many claims there actually are,” Horowitz said. “In some cases, some have previously reported to law enforcement or the diocese. I am hearing from people who have never gone public. They either talked to their spouse or therapist.”
'To gain validation'
Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston attorney who has been handling cases against the Catholic church for decades, said many of the lawyers representing clients who are suing use contingency fees. That is, the attorneys get paid if there are jury awards or settlements prior to trial.
Garabedian, though, would not disclose how much he collects in fees for handling these types of cases.
“There's not one abuse victim who wouldn't give all the money in the world back — if they had not been abused,” Garabedian said. “Money is what is used in civil litigation to gain validation for what happened.”
Garabedian, who recently won a $2 million award from the Erie diocese, said he has been representing dozens of clergy sexual abuse victims throughout the state.
“Each clergy sexual abuse victim must ask himself or herself whether the compensation program is going to help that victim try to heal,” Garabedian said. “Whether to enter into a compensation program is a unique, painful and personal decision for each clergy sexual abuse victim to make.
“If entering into the compensation program and obtaining a settlement is a step toward healing for the clergy sexual abuse victim, then the victim should enter into the compensation program. If waiting for statute of limitations law to change in order to file a civil complaint and obtain transparency through the church documentation and related deposition is a step toward healing, then a victim should wait for the law to change.
“Unfortunately, no matter which choice is made, each victim will relive the personal pain of having been sexually abused."
Undertow of exploitation: How teens get trapped in human trafficking
by Perry Chiaramonte
Her story began like so many others, with an exploitation of trust.
Edie Rhea is a survivor of sex trafficking. Her formative years were largely spent being sold for sex by her mother's boyfriend. It began when she was 10 and lasted until she was 17 years old.
"A lot of people would purchase me out of the meat store. Sometimes I would have to have sex with them in the meat store, where the frozen meat was at.” — Edie Rhea
“He really did take on that daddy-figure role,” Rhea said. “Then at 10 started sexually abusing me and trafficking me. That literally wrecked my world, my whole life.”
Rhea's story is unique to her, and no two trafficking stories are identical – but there are common threads that exist among most survivors. Often, traffickers prey on the vulnerabilities of young teenagers who face troubles at home.
“Most of the victims are folks that are in such a vulnerable position they are not able to make their own decisions,” William Sweeney, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York bureau, said. “It's often targeting the most vulnerable in society.”
Rhea's father died when she was 4 years old, leaving her mother with three young girls to care for. Her mother's boyfriend became a father figure to Rhea – and used that trust to exploit her. She said he would sell her for sex out of the meat-packaging store her family owned.
“He would take me to somebody's home. They could come to where I lived,” Rhea said. “We had a meat store, so a lot of people would purchase me out of the meat store. Sometimes I would have to have sex with them in the meat store, where the frozen meat was.”
Rhea has rebounded from her tumultuous youth. Now, she works at an all-girls safe home for survivors of trafficking in Florida. Fox News agreed not to publicize the location or name of the home to protect the safety of the women who call it home.
“This is a safe, therapeutic home for women over the age of 18 that has experienced some type of sexual exploitation or human trafficking,” Rhea said.
Rhea's path from abuse to survival to advocacy is a well-traveled one; many sex-trafficking victims feel a responsibility to help people who have known similar situations to theirs.
Brook Bello, another Florida-based trafficking advocate, founded More Too Life, a mentoring and counseling nonprofit that focuses on helping trafficking survivors right their lives. Like Rhea, she turned to advocacy after being sexually exploited by someone close to her family.
“Every victim I've worked with has had an extraordinary negative relationship with a male, their father, or he's been the rapist and the violator,” Bello said. “We work with victims that are 3 years old and up. The average victim that we work with, that's over 18, started being raped at three.”
Her organization tries to provide survivors with self-worth and real-world skills. Bello said her goal is to turn a “victim to survivor, survivor to thriver, and thriver to champion.” Bello's advocacy is borne from experience, and she uses that to connect and empower the women she works with.
Child abuse, homelessness and sexual assault are among the top risk factors reported by survivors.
— Data from the Polaris Project —
Bello, like Rhea, experienced sexual abuse before being forced into sex trafficking. Their stories of rape and assault are not unique among survivors. Qualitative data compiled by the Polaris Project, a sex-trafficking advocacy group, found that child abuse, homelessness and sexual abuse are among the top risk factors reported by survivors.
“I was violently raped,” Bello said. “[I was a] baseball player, a straight-A student, science buff. Not the kind of kid who you would think would get caught up into what we now call human trafficking.”
Vulnerabilities provide traffickers with a way to either gain their victim's trust or break down their defenses. The motivation for their exploitation is simple: money.
“It's sex trafficking by force or coercion for money, for profit. Victimizing those young individuals for their purposes,” Sweeney said. "Money to the benefit of the pimp or the individual that is victimizing the children.”
Canada politician Jagmeet Singh reveals childhood sexual abuse
The leader of Canada's New Democratic Party has said he was sexually abused by a taekwondo teacher as a child.
Jagmeet Singh, 40, revealed in a new memoir that he suffered the abuse during the 1980s while growing up in Windsor, Ontario.
The Sikh politician also openly addressed the racism and bullying he faced during his childhood.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau praised Mr Singh for his courage in speaking out.
Mr Singh is the first visible minority to lead a major federal party in the country.
In the memoir, Love and Courage, he describes the bullying he faced from other children growing up in the city west of Toronto because of his patka - a child's turban - and long hair.
An excerpt from the book, which was released on Tuesday, was published by the Toronto Star newspaper .
His concerned parents, who knew he was being bullied and was fighting with other children, enrolled him in taekwondo classes.
Mr Singh said the instructor - who he only refers to as Mr N - offered him personal classes at his home dojo. He said his instructor has since died.
The politician does not go into detail of the abuse but says it soon began to feel "normal".
"That's the thing about abuse - it can make the victim feel an overwhelming sense of shame, a shame so disabling that one suffers in silence," he writes.
"I told no one, and I told myself not to think about what had happened. In a way, I prevented myself from actually accepting the truth."
Mr Trudeau praised Mr Singh for his "courage to speak up will fight against stigma, and help so many people know they are not alone", when the excerpt was published.
In February, Mr Singh won a seat in Canada's House of Commons - a boost for his leadership in the run-up to the federal election scheduled for October.
The New Democratic Party is currently the third place party in Canada's Parliament, with 41 of 338 seats. The left-of-centre party has never held power.
It elected Mr Singh, a former criminal defence attorney and Ontario provincial politician, to lead the federal party in 2017.
Texas police raid Catholic offices in sexual abuse probe
Texas police investigating child sexual abuse on Wednesday raided offices of the Catholic diocese in Dallas, after alleging that church officials had not been fully cooperative.
Police served search warrants at the headquarters of the diocese, a storage location and offices of a local church.
The raids were connected to the investigation of a fugitive priest named Edmundo Paredes and at least five new allegations of abuse against other suspects, police said.
"These investigations stem from additional allegations made after the case against Mr. Paredes became public," Major Max Geron of the Dallas police said.
Paredes is charged with sexual abuse of a child and accused of molesting at least three other minors. He disappeared from the suburban Dallas church where he served for decades and is believed to have fled to his native Philippines.
The Dallas diocese said the raids did not involve any suspects who had not been publicly disclosed on a list of 31 predator priests going back to the 1950s. The diocese released the list in January.
"The diocese has been cooperating with the ongoing investigation of these priests," Dallas Bishop Edward Burns told reporters.
A judge approved the warrants after police alleged that church officials had not been fully cooperative, according to The Dallas Morning News, which obtained a copy of court records.
"To date, the Dallas Police Department has not been given the number of priests' files flagged for sexual abuse," the newspaper quoted police as saying in an affidavit.
Police accused the church of hiding allegations against priests or providing incomplete information, according to the newspaper.
"We believed at this point that executing search warrants was wholly appropriate for the furtherance of the investigation," Geron said.
Funding granted for new global platform to protect children from online abuse
The Global Fund to End Violence Against Children has awarded the Marie Collins Foundation £635,000 to support its work to protect children from online abuse.
A £635,000 investment from a Home Office-led consortium has been awarded to The Marie Collins Foundation (MCF), to support its vital work to help children who have been sexually abused online.
MCF has developed the Global Protection Online Network (GPON), a programme to help countries take steps to respond to the threat of online child sexual abuse and exploitation (CSEA).
GPON will help train safeguarding professionals to develop best practice on how to intervene in CSEA cases, including new guidelines and help to design new legislative measures. This will go alongside ongoing targeted interventions such as training and consultancy from MCF for professionals who work with young people and give access to an online portal for knowledge sharing, advice and research updates.
The £635,000 has been provided by the Global Fund to End Violence Against Children (EVAC) – of which the Home Office is the major donor.
Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, Victoria Atkins said:
The Marie Collins Foundation do invaluable work in providing support for victims and survivors of online child sexual abuse. Providing guidance and resources for governments to tackle this sickening crime will make a huge impact in stamping it out at source.
Child sexual exploitation is a global problem and one which requires a global response. The government is absolutely committed to tackling this horrific abuse wherever it occurs and we are working closely with governments and organisations across the world to protect children from harm.
Founder and CEO of the Marie Collins Foundation, Professor Tink Palmer MBE, said:
We are thrilled to have been awarded this funding, which will allow us to activate GPON and begin to have real impact on the global community enabling colleagues to do more to protect their children through new knowledge, resources and infrastructure.
Our vision is to ensure that all children who suffer abuse via the internet and mobile technology are able to recover and live safe and fulfilling lives. The nature of the internet means that the sexual abuse of children online is a global problem yet currently the service response is ad hoc, ill-informed and sparse.
Our unique portal will enable the international professional community to share knowledge, gain advice and have access to the most recent research, as well as training materials and templates for relevant policy, legal and practice guidance developments.
The MCF will work in partnership with other NGOs in priority countries. Vietnam has been identified as the first country that will receive bespoke support through training for professionals in how best to help children who are sexually abused online. Vietnam is recognised as a prominent source country for children trafficked for sexual purposes, while online child sexual exploitation is also a growing concern.
The EVAC grant will be used to employ staff to lead and manage the GPON platform and ensure safeguarding professionals across the globe have access to its resources and to develop training programmes.
During a speech in September, the Home Secretary set out that it was his “mission” to help eradicate CSEA, including children being abused on live streams around the world.
In the speech he said that children were often abused to order, sometimes for as little as £12.
In addition to the End Violence Against Children fund, the Home Office is a leading member of the WePROTECT Global Alliance, a global movement that brings together the influence, expertise and resources required to transform how online child sexual exploitation is dealt with worldwide.
The WePROTECT Global Alliance is driven and funded by the UK Home Office and forms a key element of our international response to this crime. 87 countries are members of the alliance along with 20 global technology companies and 25 leading Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), including the Marie Collins Foundation. The Home Office has also secured £2 million funding from the 2018 to 2020 Commonwealth Fund to fund capacity building projects in commonwealth countries to tackle online child sexual exploitation.
NI weekly papers: Victims speak out about sexual abuse
by Eimear Flanagan
A harrowing personal account from a victim of alleged child sex abuse in County Fermanagh is the standout story in this week's local papers.
The Impartial Reporter speaks to a 24-year-old woman who claims she was gang raped as a child while in the care of a woman who worked as a childminder.
"My childminder sold me for sex" is the headline, as she describes in graphic detail years of alleged abuse at the hands of up to 15 men.
The woman contacted the Impartial Reporter in response to its ongoing coverage of historical child sex abuse claims in the county.
The series began two months ago, and the Police Service of Northern Ireland has set up a "special team of detectives" to investigate the reports .
So far, officers have spoken to 11 people who have made allegations, but that number is expected to rise.
The Reporter also has an exclusive interview with one of the Enniskillen teachers who took a pupil to court for "upskirting".
The woman is speaking out after 18-year-old Timothy Boomer was sentenced for taking photographs and videos up the skirts of two staff at what was then known as Portora Royal School.
She tells the paper how difficult it was to get the authorities to take the issue seriously, adding she has been left traumatised by the "overwhelming" violation.
An image of a priest being chased down a street in County Tyrone made the front page of the Strabane Chronicle.
Fr Roland Colhoun was chased by the suspect, filmed and posted on social media
The paper says the clergyman was "forced to flee from an intoxicated man" after a "bizarre" incident in Newtownstewart last week.
Footage of Fr Roland Colhoun being chased was posted on social media.
The video also shows the suspect later being handcuffed by police, with at least six officers attending the scene.
Inside, the Strabane Chronicle reports on a significant promotion for a former Sinn Féin mayor who failed to get re-elected in this month's council elections.
Maolíosa McHugh lost his seat on Derry and Strabane Council two weeks ago, but just days later he was named as the party's new MLA for West Tyrone.
It is a case of musical chairs for Sinn Féin - Mr McHugh was co-opted to the assembly seat to replace its outgoing MLA Michaela Boyle.
Ms Boyle was successful in her bid to be elected to Fermanagh and Omagh Council, but a ban on double jobbing means she has to give up her assembly seat.
She tells the paper: "I felt the time was right for me to go back to local politics at council when the opportunity arose."
There is controversy on the front page of the Banbridge Chronicle after banners were erected in the town protesting against military prosecutions.
The banners claimed Banbridge "opposes the witch-hunt against British veterans".
Similar banners have also appeared in other towns and cities across Northern Ireland.
Sinn Féin's John O'Dowd called for their immediate removal, saying they were "not appropriate" during a murder prosecution.
The paper says the Banbridge banners were taken down within 24 hours, but Parachute Regiment flags were later erected in the town as well as in Rathfriland, Seapatrick and Moneyslane.
Inside the Chronicle, the world's most famous wizard makes a flying visit to Banbridge.
Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliff called into the Belmont House Hotel for lunch last week, leaving staff and guests "spellbound".
Image copyright BELMONT HOUSE HOTEL Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliff posed for photos with hotel staff in Banbridge
Image caption Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliff posed for photos with hotel staff in Banbridge
The Hollywood star is a regular visitor to area because his father, Alan Radcliff, grew up in Banbridge.
The one-time wizard worked his charms on hotel staff, with one manager telling the paper: "He was very down to earth and personally introduced himself to every member of our team."
A suspected case of grave robbing made the front page of the Coleraine Chronicle.
A custom-made marble plaque, carved in tribute to the late motorcycle racer Jim Scott, has gone missing from his grave in Ballyrashane.
Mr Scott, who died almost two years ago, was a former Ulster and Irish champion racer.
His heartbroken widow tells the paper the plaque is "irreplaceable and priceless to me".
The late racer's family has appealed for the return of the customised grave plaque.
The Coleraine Chronicle also reports that council staff are to conduct an investigation into public rights of way at Dunluce Castle.
The investigation was prompted by concerns over a lack of access to a cave beneath the ruins of the cliff-top castle.
The entrance to the Fairy Cave has been fenced off for almost 18 months due to safety concerns.
Repair work is taking "longer than anticipated" and the delay led councillor Norman Hillis to request a review of public access to the entire medieval site.
Public access is also a problem in this week's Portadown Times which says residents felt "trapped in their homes" during broadband installation work.
It reports that one resident, who has cancer, could not exit her Craigavon home because of the state of the path and had to be lifted over a garden fence,
Virgin Media apologised "for any inconvenience" after a huge volume of complaints.
Free to go
The Times leads with security concerns about Craigavon Area Hospital's Bluestone unit, which treats patients with mental health conditions.
A Craigavon resident complained that police frequently conduct helicopter searches near her home for patients who have "escaped" from the unit.
But a Southern Health Trust statement said most of Bluestone's patients attend "on a voluntary basis and therefore don't need to 'escape' when exiting the hospital".
The trust added it has "strict protocols in place for when a restricted patient absconds".
'No means no'
A woman who was sexually assaulted by her own partner has spoken out in the Antrim Guardian in a bid to help more victims get justice.
She was in bed asleep when the attack began in October 2016.
"Some men think that because a woman is their partner or their wife they can do what they like, but they can't," she tells the paper.
"No one should be able to force themselves on you, no matter what the relationship".
The woman said that although the court case was difficult, the judge was "fair" and she encouraged other abuse victims to contact police.
Finally, the Guardian also reported the sad demise of an "Antrim legend" - Leo the Tesco cat .
Image caption Leo the so-called "Tesco cat" was a supermarket stalwart in Antrim town
The friendly feline was a regular sight at the town's Tesco store, where he was much beloved by shoppers.
Leo even had his own Facebook page, which comically described him as a "customer service assistant".
Alas, the intrepid tabby's travels came to an abrupt end earlier this month when he was hit by a car at the supermarket's entrance.
The paper says Antrim has lost "a real character" and prints tributes from his many fans.
Technology - United Kingdom
Tech giants allowed to give evidence to national child abuse inquiry in secret
IICSA defended its restriction orders saying that it covered information that could help sex offenders “evade detection” online if made public
by Mike Wright
Tech giants are being allowed to give evidence to the national child abuse inquiry in secret as they were accused of "having something to hide".
Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google will give parts of their testimonies to the Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) this week behind closed doors after a series of restriction orders were imposed.
IICSA defended the move saying the redacted information could help sex offenders “evade detection” online if made public.
However, the rulings were criticised by MP Sarah Champion, who accused the tech companies of being worried about “being called out” on their “failing” to protect children.
The latest inquiry hearings come as Theresa May will tell a summit of world leaders in Paris this week that they should follow Britain's lead in setting up a legal duty of care to protect people from online harms.
It was as Home Secretary in 2014 that Mrs May set up IICSA in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal to expose institutional failings to protect children across public life.
Labour MP Sarah Champion said the restriction orders "raised alarm bells"
At the time, Mrs May said the inquiry would be conducted with “a presumption of maximum transparency”.
This week it emerged that Apple has been granted an application to hold a portion of its evidence later this week in a restricted session.
The company argued it was in the public interest to censor “sensitive information” that “may compromise its work in detecting and seeking to prevent further dissemination of child sexual abuse material, as well as identifying offenders of child sexual abuse.”
The other three tech companies appearing this week did not apply for restriction orders, however the inquiry's chair, Professor Alexis Jay, ruled parts of their evidence should also be heard in private.
At today's hearing Jacqueline Carey, counsel to the inquiry, said: “All witnesses are giving evidence in an open session, but it is necessary to have some closed sessions to allow the chair and the panel to hear evidence relating to sensitive matters that if published would enable offenders to evade detection.”
MP Sarah Champion, a Labour former shadow Home Office minister, told the Telegraph: “It raises alarm bells that they (the tech firms) are refusing to give evidence in the public domain – what have they got to hide?
"The conclusion I have to draw is that preventing child abuse is simply not a priority for tech companies and the reason they want to give evidence in private is they are worried being called out on this failing will impact on their bottom line.”
The criticism comes as tech giants are facing increasing pressure to be more transparent about the scale of child abuse on their services.
The Government has drawn up plans in its white paper to create an independent regulator with powers to demand internal information and data from online companies.
The proposals have been backed by children's charities such as the NSPCC. Andy Burrows, NSPCC Head of Child Safety Online said: “Demanding greater transparency from social networks absolutely has to be one of the pillars of the Government's forthcoming Online Harms legislation.
“?That means requiring them to publish annual transparency reports and disclose information direct to the regulator on request, as well as proactively notifying the regulator of child safety failings and risks on their platforms.”
During yesterday's hearing, Facebook appeared before inquiry's panel and said it could not provide any figures for how many underage accounts it had detected in the UK nor how many registered sex offenders had been reported using its services.
Julie de Bailliencourt, the senior manager of Facebook's Global Operations Team, defended Facebook's efforts combating child abuse and grooming saying it had greatly increased its numbers of human moderators and was developing new technologies to detect such behaviour.
“I think we have demonstrated we are serious in being very aggressive and making our platform as inhospitable as possible to this type of behaviour,” she added.
During the hearing Ivor Frank, a barrister on the IICSA panel, suggested that if Facebook was unable to “guarantee” children's safety that it should set aside $1 billion (£770 million) a year to compensate victims of abuse on their services.
Ms de Bailliencourt replied: “I don't think I am the right person to comment on this. We have had a number of ideas and suggestions today, so I am taking notes and will relay that to the appropriate teams.”
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'
by Harriet Sherwood
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. Photograph: Graham Turner/The Guardian
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.
Utah is 'like a candy store for predators' — child pornography arrests on the rise
by Morgan Smith | The Associated Press
Bethany Warr, a lawyer with the Utah Victim's Clinic who works with victims of child pornography in Utah, was in the Matheson Courthouse Friday, May 17, 2019, in Salt Lake City.
Investigators say child pornography arrests have nearly doubled in Utah over the last five years, mirroring a nationwide trend. For child victims, the emotional and physical damage can be long-term, especially because the images can exist online forever, said Warr. "It's a wound that never heals, the material is out there and you don't know who in the world has seen you, seen your abuse and pain, and enjoyed it," she said.
Child pornography arrests have nearly doubled in Utah over the past five years, mirroring a nationwide trend that experts say has been fueled by rapid developments in technology.
New advancements have made it easier for users to find the images and for investigators to catch them, authorities said.
In 2013, Utah police arrested 133 people accused of downloading child pornography, according to department statistics. Last year, they arrested 226 people on such charges.
Child pornography crimes have steadily increased throughout the country as well. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a nonprofit organization that works with victims of child abuse, received more than 18 million CyberTipline reports of possible cases in 2018, compared with 10 million reports in 2017, said John Shehan, a vice president at the center.
Better technology has helped agencies like Utah's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force to detect child abuse, but the internet and smart devices have also given people with a sexual interest in children easier access to child pornography, Cmdr. Jessica Farnsworth said.
Her unit is set to outpace 2018's total this year, with 104 arrests already made in the first three months.
There has been an influx of reports around the U.S. after passage of a federal law in 2012 requiring frequently used platforms like Dropbox, Facebook, Instagram and others to report child pornography as they become aware of it, Shehan said.
In Utah, police are seeing more victims ages 5 and younger, Farnsworth said. A recent case involved a newborn baby. Younger victims who don't understand abuse make it harder to find who is producing the material, she added.
“This state is like a candy store for predators," Farnsworth said. “We have a lot of children, and we're friendly, forgiving people here.”
Still, not everyone found guilty of possessing child pornography online is a stereotypical predator, Utah defense attorney Greg Skordas said.
Many are "bored, lonely or depressed" young men looking for stimulation online and adults who struggle with unhealthy relationships, he said.
"People don't realize, if you're sitting in the privacy of your home looking at images, that you could hurt someone," Skordas said. "But the penalties are serious, and it screws up your life."
For child victims, the emotional and physical damage can be long term, especially because the images can exist online forever, said Bethany Warr, a lawyer with the Utah Crime Victims Clinic.
“It's a wound that never heals," she said. “The material is out there, and you don't know who in the world has seen you, seen your abuse and pain, and enjoyed it.”
For the last time: veganism is not child abuse
by Jai Breitnauer
Stories linking cases of extreme child neglect to plant-based diets are peddling dangerous rhetoric, writes Jai Breitnauer.
When I read about the malnourished toddler in Sydney this week, who at 19 months was so severely starved she looked like a newborn baby, I was heartbroken and outraged. But I also felt something else – anger. Not directed toward the incompetence of the parents, but toward whoever wrote the headline and included the word ‘vegan'.
Let's just make it clear right now: veganism is not child abuse. This child was not on a ‘strict vegan diet' (a misnomer, as veganism is a lifestyle choice, the diet itself is ‘plant-based'.) This child was being starved. It doesn't matter whether the modicum of nutrients that were permitted to enter this darling baby's body were meat or plant based, the important fact is that she wasn't getting enough. She was neglected, and that abuse should not be hijacked by the anti-vegan
This isn't the first time this has happened. In February The Sun ran a story with the headline Fanatical vegan couple ‘nearly starved their baby to death' by feeding him ‘milk' formula made from potatoes. In October 2018, when Jennifer and Jeromie Clark were convicted of starving their child, Patheos.com ran the story with the splash Religious Vegan Parents Convicted in Starvation Death of Son.
An older example is Vegan Italian parents investigated for neglect after baby son found severely malnourished, from The Telegraph (London) 2015, and there are many more.
I'd argue that what all these stories have in common is not that that the families claimed to be vegan, but that they're all fucking idiots. There is no reason at all why a plant-based diet should be a death sentence; but withholding food from your child and allowing them to starve over a protracted period of time, well that's a death sentence regardless of the family's ethical beliefs or dietary habits.
Why does veganism continue to be put under the microscope this way, and associated strongly with such extreme negativity? After all, I've never seen a headline that says, ‘family of omnivores starve child to death,' yet the vast majority of cases of malnutrition in the western world come from families who eat a meat and two veg diet. The extreme fear and suspicion of veganism has resulted in this need to ‘other' us, and that can be really quite damaging.
My own children, aged seven and 10, have been vegan for four years. One of them was vegetarian from birth. I have been some sort of vegetarian since I was nine years old, rotating between veganism, lacto and ovo vegetarianism, pescatarian and back to vegan. Our waistlines assure you there is no malnutrition going on here. And yet we constantly get questions about how we eat. “How do your kids get enough calcium?” “Are you worried about B12?” “Aren't your boys just hungry?” After overhearing a conversation about protein and veganism by some well-meaning family members, my older child was so distressed he cried himself to sleep in my arms. “I don't want to eat animals, mummy,” he told me. “But I want to grow big and strong like daddy.” What a horrid conundrum to be put in as a child – except that it's not a conundrum at all. Because vegans get all the protein they need from plant-based sources, and humans do not need as much protein as the meat industry would like us to think.
Lots has been written about what humans were designed to eat, but in an interesting article in Medical News Today, the author suggests that it's not really important what humans ate in the past, when we were evolving and adapting to our changing surroundings. We should be focusing on what we need to eat now, and science increasingly shows that vegan and vegetarian diets are healthier, as well as being better for the environment.
But I'm not here to try and persuade you to move over to a plant-based diet. At least not today, and not in this article. What I want is the association between veganism and child abuse to end. Let's go back to the original story, from Sydney. If you can get over the use of the word veganism and read the details, you will see that actually whether the child's diet contained animal products or not is totally irrelevant – she was underfed by anyone's standards. At 19 months she was receiving just one feed of breast milk a day, a small bowl of oats, a piece of toast and a mouthful of fruit. Most children at that age are eating a small meal five or more times a day. My own kids were eating more than me by the time they reached their second birthday.
In addition, the baby had no birth certificate or medicare number, and had not been seen by a doctor since she left hospital. Neighbours of the family didn't even know a baby was in the house, and many had never seen the mother. One of the little girl's deficiencies, vitamin D, has been linked to a lack of sunlight rather than dietary issues. When she arrived at hospital age 19 months, she couldn't speak, crawl, sit up, hold a bottle or play with toys. She was severely developmentally disadvantaged, and yet it took a seizure for her parents to seek medical help.
This has no relationship to veganism – this is about a family who deliberately kept a child hidden away from society, and failed to give her what she needed to thrive. Furthermore, there is strong evidence that the mother was suffering from severe depression that may have affected her executive functioning skills – her ability to make decisions that were best for her and her family – and the father appears to have divorced himself emotionally from any parenting or partnership responsibilities that related to the welfare of his wife and children. That's his actual line of defence, by the way, that parenting the baby was his wife's job, not his.
So instead of getting all up in arms about weirdo animal lovers who deliberately harm their children to save cows, why aren't we asking genuine child protection questions, like, why didn't healthcare services follow up on the family when they stopped coming to appointments? Why didn't the authorities questions why a child born in a public hospital had no medicare number or birth certificate? Why isn't there more support given to fathers to encourage them to be more involved in their child's care, and to recognise the signs of post-natal depression in their partners? By simply dismissing this story as ‘crackpot veganism', we are doing a disservice to all the other children out there who need an intervention – and we are letting the state get away with not providing the support and follow-ups families with newborns so desperately need.
Let's move on from the vegan bashing, and start asking the questions that will lead to tangible, positive change in the child protection sector.
Abolish the Priesthood
To save the Church, Catholics must detach themselves from the clerical hierarchy—and take the faith back into their own hands.
by JAMES CARROLL
To feel relief at my mother's being dead was once unthinkable, but then the news came from Ireland. It would have crushed her. An immigrant's daughter, my mother lived with an eye cast back to the old country, the land against which she measured every virtue. Ireland was heaven to her, and the Catholic Church was heaven's choir. Then came the Ryan Report.
Not long before The Boston Globe began publishing its series on predator priests, in 2002—the “Spotlight” series that became a movie of the same name—the government of Ireland established a commission, ultimately chaired by Judge Sean Ryan, to investigate accounts and rumors of child abuse in Ireland's residential institutions for children, nearly all of which were run by the Catholic Church.
The Ryan Commission published its 2,600-page report in 2009. Despite government inspections and supervision, Catholic clergy had, across decades, violently tormented thousands of children. The report found that children held in orphanages and reformatory schools were treated no better than slaves—in some cases, sex slaves. Rape and molestation of boys were “endemic.” Other reports were issued about other institutions, including parish churches and schools, and homes for unwed mothers—the notorious “Magdalene Laundries,” where girls and women were condemned to lives of coercive servitude. The ignominy of these institutions was laid out in plays and documentary films, and in Philomena, the movie starring Judi Dench, which was based on a true story. The homes-for-women scandal climaxed in 2017, when a government report revealed that from 1925 to 1961, at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home, in Tuam, County Galway, babies who died—nearly 800 of them—were routinely disposed of in mass graves or sewage pits. Not only priests had behaved despicably. So had nuns.
In August 2018, Pope Francis made a much publicized visit to Ireland. His timing could not have been worse. Just then, a second wave of the Catholic sex-abuse scandal was breaking. In Germany, a leaked bishops' investigation revealed that from 1946 to 2014, 1,670 clergy had assaulted 3,677 children. Civil authorities in other nations were launching investigations, moving aggressively to preempt the Church. In the United States, also in 2018, a Pennsylvania grand jury alleged that over the course of 70 years, more than 1,000 children had been abused by more than 300 priests across the state. Church authorities had successfully silenced the victims, deflected law enforcement, and shielded the predators. The Pennsylvania report was widely taken to be a conclusive adjudication, but grand-jury findings are not verdicts. Still, this record of testimony and investigation was staggering. The charges told of a ring of pedophile priests who gave many of their young targets the gift of a gold cross to wear, so that the other predator priests could recognize an initiated child who would not resist an overture. “This is the murder of a soul,” said one victim who testified before the grand jury.
Three gymnasts accusing Larry Nassar of sexual abuse testify about Texas #MeToo bill
by Andrea Zelinski
AUSTIN — Tasha Schwikert, a 2000 Olympic bronze medal winner, said she was 15 when Dr. Larry Nassar convinced her that “vaginal treatments” would help her heal from gymnastics-related pain. He said the same to her younger sister, USA national team member Jordan Schwikert, when she had a spinal injury at 14.
The Schwikert sisters — along with Alyssa Baumann, a former gymnast who says she was also sexually abused by Nassar while practicing at Karolyi Ranch outside Huntsville — were among those urging a Texas Senate committee Monday to give child sex abuse victims more time to take legal action against organizations that failed to protect them.
“Texas lawmakers have a moral duty to allow survivors like myself to hold everyone who played a role in the abuse accountable,” said Jordan Schwikert, now 32, who along with her sister is suing USA Gymnastics and other groups, claiming that they helped create an environment that allowed Nassar to molest young athletes.
“Exempting institutions from liability creates a world in which the cycle of abuse can continue,” she said.
States across the country are considering laws to increase the amount of time that victims of sexual abuse have to sue their abusers and any organizations involved. In Texas, Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, proposed extending the statute of limitations in Texas to give victims an additional 15 years to sue both their abusers and the organizations. But after introducing the legislation, Goldman quietly amended it to exempt organizations from the longer statute of limitations.
Current Texas law gives victims until they are 33 years old — 15 years after their 18th birthday — to file suit against abusers and any organizations that may also be culpable, although the average age that victims come forward about their childhood sexual assault is 52. Goldman's bill, which passed 143-0 in the House, would give victims until their 48th birthday to seek damages from their abusers.
Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia have introduced bills to loosen up or eliminate statutes of limitation on child sexual assault, according to Child USA, a group dedicated to protecting children. Ten states and Washington, D.C., have passed such laws, some with a “revival window” that gives all victims a year or more to file suit.
Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, is proposing that lawmakers add the 30-year statute of limitations for organizations back into the bill, a move the gymnasts and victims advocacy groups are supporting. The Senate State Affairs Committee has yet to vote on the legislation.
Despite the longer statute of limitations, victims would still be required to prove by a preponderance of evidence that an organization was responsible. Watson also wants to ensure that the court can triple the amount it awards for compensatory damages if it finds that the organization tried to hide evidence.
“This bill is about empowerment, justice and prevention. Without accountability, there's none of that,” Watson said.
Top USA Gymnastics officials waited five weeks to contact the FBI in 2015 after learning that Nassar had molested athletes, according to a report commissioned by the U.S. Olympic Committee. Nassar retired three months later, then worked at Michigan State University, where he continued to abuse athletes until 2016. The university agreed to a $500 million settlement with Nassar's victims last year.
“We will never forget the appalling acts of abuse that have forever impacted our athletes and the gymnastics community,” said Leslie King, a spokeswoman for USA Gymnastics who also said the organization has since redoubled its focus on keeping athletes safe. “While we have made significant changes, we know we have more to do. Athletes are the heart and soul of our sport, and we must put them first and foster a safe environment where our gymnasts have a voice and can thrive, have fun, be successful and be themselves.”
Former national team gymnast Baumann said she was sexually abused by Nassar in Texas enough times “that it is hard to calculate.” The Plano native said she blames USA Gymnastics for her abuse because it failed to provide the sports doctor with oversight.
“For years, I was in denial about the abuse and I was scared. I didn't tell my family, my friends or my coaches,” said Baumann, 20. “It took a long time to face what happened.”
USA Gymnastics restricted athletes' food and discouraged talk about injuries, creating a “toxic culture” that helped Nassar groom girls into trusting him as a shoulder to cry on, said Tasha Schwikert, who is now a lawyer.
“I was just there doing gymnastics, trying to live out my dream of being an Olympian, and they allowed this child molester to abuse hundreds of gymnasts doing the same,” she said.
Her sister, Jordan, wiped a tear off her cheek ask she talked to reporters about Nassar's abuse.
“My back was literally broken, and he was still sexually abusing me, telling me there was a pressure point to relieve and let some pain up,” she said, referring to vaginal manipulation treatments. “I'm here now to bring justice to all of this and make sure this doesn't happen to any of the girls that I coach.”
Should the Senate pass the bill with Watson's preferred changes, it will need to be reconciled with the House version. Lawmakers have until May 27 to pass legislation this session.
Viral documentary 'Tell No One' uncovers sexual abuse by Polish clergy and sparks furious response
by Marcin Goclowski
Polish bishops will meet on May 22 to discuss steps to tackle paedophilia in Poland's powerful Catholic Church after a documentary that showed victims confronting priests who had sexually abused them shocked the devout nation.
The film "Tell No One", which has been watched by 14.8 million people since Youtube released it on Saturday, also alleges that the Polish Church moved known paedophile priests from parish to parish, as happened in other countries.
Lawyers and journalists have called for the police to launch criminal investigations and the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which has close links to the Church, announced plans on Tuesday to tighten sentences for child sex abuse.
"The head of the Episcopate, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, called yesterday an extraordinary meeting of top bishops - the meeting of the permanent council - to set out further actions aimed at protecting minors," an Episcopate spokesman said.
"This is connected with the (recent) paedophilia issue," priest Pawel Rytel-Andrianik told Reuters.
Primate Wojciech Polak, the most senior clergyman in Poland, told private Radio Zet on Wednesday he saw no need for any bishops to resign over the scandal but added that more had to be done to protect minors.
"CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE"
The leftist opposition party Wiosna (Spring) accused the Church of trying to cover up sex abuse cases and said secular authorities should get directly involved.
"We can't expect the Church to clean up its own act, as if this were just its own affair... A number of bishops took part in this conspiracy of silence, in hiding these crimes," Wiosna leader Robert Biedron told Radio Zet.
"The state should guard the safety of children, youths, and the state has failed," said Biedron, one of Poland's first openly gay politicians.
Biedron has called unsuccessfully for Polish state television to broadcast the documentary. When his party tried to project the documentary onto a building next door to a church on Monday, police seized the projector and blocked the event.
Child abuse scandals, some dating back many decades, have rocked the Catholic Church globally, eroding its authority in once devout nations from Ireland to Chile. It has had to pay out billions of dollars in damages to victims and close parishes.
The Church in Poland, where 85pc of people identify themselves as Catholic and where a third of the population attends mass every week, has yet to reach a consensus on how to address the abuse issue.
An arm of the Church has filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court seeking to annul a 1 million zloty (€232,000) payment ordered by a lower court to a woman who, as a 13-year-old child, was repeatedly raped by her local priest.
The abuse scandals in the Church are a challenge to PiS as it gears up for European elections this month and national polls later this year. PiS sees Catholicism as a key element of Polish identity while liberals say the Church wields too much power.
US refuge for kids was instead a haven for abuse
by Diane Bernard
The children's home was a must-stop destination for the United States' most powerful.
In the 1960s, first lady Jackie Kennedy, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, and Vice President Hubert Humphrey were just a few of the important figures to pay visits to Junior Village, Washington's renowned refuge for impoverished children.
Lady Bird Johnson and Pat Nixon sponsored Christmas and Thanksgiving parties at the White House for handpicked Junior Village children, according to The Washington Post.
But the cheerful newspaper photos of those visits and holiday celebrations didn't capture what happened when the cameras were gone: harrowing abuse.
Opened in 1958, Junior Village had become the largest institution of its kind in the US by 1965. It jammed 900 needy children, ages 6 months to 18 years, including the mentally ill and disabled, in a facility meant for 320, according to an article published in Harper's magazine that year.
Jonathan Adams has never forgotten his first night there, in the spring of 1962 when he was 8.
"I had to fight for the first time," said Adams, who now lives in San Diego. "I punched a kid, the one who initiated all the new kids
Nick Robinson arrived in 1965 when he was 9 and saw a crowd of boys gathered around the dorm's bathroom. When he pushed his way through, he witnessed an older boy forcing a younger boy to perform a sex act.
"It was horrifying," said Robinson, now an English professor at Claflin University. "I started sleeping with a pair of scissors under my pillow and did everything within my power to avoid instances of sexual abuse."
Kids who were considered disobedient were administered massive doses of Thorazine, a heavy sedative, to prevent them from acting out, investigations eventually revealed.
Robinson said that some of the worst counsellors would drug children and then sexually assault them.
Located in a desolate corner of Washington, Junior Village was a compound of 13 cottages surrounded by the city's refuse: a dump, a sewage treatment plant and a lot full of broken-down police cars, the Harper's article said.
Poverty, neglect and unemployment in the nation's capital created a steady flow of children into the home.
But it was a 1961 crackdown on welfare fraud, led by Senator Robert Byrd, the new chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for the District of Columbia, that helped fuel massive overcrowding.
He launched an investigation into welfare recipients who didn't abide by the "man in the house" rule, which banned public assistance to women and children if an able-bodied man lived with the family or was in regular contact.
Under Byrd's oversight, 4000 District women and children were dropped from the welfare rolls between 1962 and 1965.
The consequences were quickly visible at Junior Village. From 1962 through 1965, the number of children taken from their homes soared by 90 per cent. The vast majority were African American, and some wound up at Junior Village.
Junior Village was supposed to be a temporary placement by the Department of Public Welfare. But the average stay at the home surged to 10 months, and many children remained for years.
With overcrowding on the rise, the local media began to take notice.
In early 1964, WMAL-TV had a documentary film crew spend a week at the Junior Village compound.
The ensuing half-hour programme is told through the point of view of the director of the home, Joseph Kosiski, who asks viewers for more volunteers.
As the film opens, Kosiski is seen talking to his charges in front of cottages, and then children eating hearty dinners in the home's cafeteria.
"That documentary was a joke, it had to have been staged," remembered Steven Penrod. "If you weren't one of the first 100 in line, the food ran out and all you had left to eat was dinner rolls."
Penrod was 8 when he entered Junior Village in 1964 and was there for four years.
"I weighed only 90 pounds [41 kilograms] when I left the home to live in an orphanage in Pennsylvania," said Penrod, now 63 and living in Michigan.
Until then, "I had never had cheese, turkey or ham. When I got to the Pennsylvania orphanage, I had to ask what boiled eggs were since I'd never seen them before."
Penrod, who says he was subjected to regular beatings at Junior Village, said the Department of Public Welfare sent him there because his mother was an unemployed alcoholic who couldn't care for him.
"But I would have preferred to stay with her after what I went through," he said.
By contrast, Emmett Williams, now an artist living in Florida, said he didn't mind his two-year stay that began in 1967 when he was 6.
Kosiski took an interest in Williams because of his artistic talent, and for a few weeks brought Williams to his house during the day to visit with his wife.
Williams was also chosen to attend a White House Christmas party for Junior Village children in 1969. There he met President Richard Nixon's daughter, Tricia, who asked to keep a picture he drew of her shoes.
"It was a wonderful experience at the White House. We got to see The Wizard of Oz on a big screen," Williams, 57, said.
After WMAL's documentary aired, the federal government began putting up army tents on the grounds of Junior Village to deal with the overcrowding.
Meanwhile, the Reverend Gordon Cosby from the District's Church of the Saviour, inspired by his participation in Martin Luther King Jr's civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, returned to Washington determined to help the city's poor.
He started a campaign with a seemingly impossible goal: to close down Junior Village.
Cosby brought together pastors and congregants from around the city to form a nonprofit organisation called For Love of Children (FLOC), which now provides education services for low-income children in the nation's capital.
Throughout 1965, members of FLOC began finding families to serve as foster parents.
The group also began buying and renting buildings in the city to be used for foster and group homes.
Between 1965 and 1968, FLOC's work helped to reduce the population at Junior Village from over 900 to around 600, Reverend Fred Taylor, who became executive director of the organisation in 1968, said in an interview. But more needed to be done to improve the day-to-day lives of the children who remained.
"There was nothing to do there," Penrod said. "No gym, no library. It was just you, alone." The teenagers were aimless and abusive to the younger children, he said.
Robinson, who lived in Junior Village for six years starting in 1965, said reading is what saved him.
"Some of the counsellors were caring, and the volunteers tried to take care of the children," he said. But it didn't make up for the understaffed, overcrowded environment.
One of those caring counsellors was Martin Fields. In 1967, Fields began documenting abuses that children had confided to him.
Within three years, he had compiled 280 pages of memos that he sent to his superiors to push for reform.
Taylor was a frequent visitor to Junior Village as part of his work with FLOC. On one of those visits in late 1970, Fields told Taylor about his incriminating memos.
Taylor was shocked when he saw the testimonies, which included incidents including rape and drugging children. He put Fields in touch with The Washington Post's editorial director, JW Anderson, who had written the Harper's magazine article about the home in 1965.
Anderson had been looking for more documentation of abuses at Junior Village, Taylor said. The editor then sent reporter Aaron Latham to the home to delve deeper into Fields' complaints.
The resulting exposé, a four-part series published in January 1971, was a bombshell that stunned the Washington area.
In the opening article, Latham described a gang rape that occurred in October of 1970 that involved a boy who lured a girl to a bathroom where 28 other boys attacked her.
The police showed up afterward, and the girl identified several of her assailants. "But no charges were pressed and nothing was heard of the incident outside Junior Village," Latham wrote.
Boys raped other boys. In one article, Fields described one child who told him, "I was all boy when I came to Junior Village in 1965; but do not know what I am now . . . Boy . . . Girl . . . or what? Sometimes at night they won't let me sleep . . . they seem to come in shifts."
The image of Junior Village as a goodwill stop for politicians was shattered. The series prompted investigations by the United States Congress and the City Council, with the council promising to shut down Junior Village within two years.
In 1973, the home closed its doors for good, with all the children sent to nearby foster and group homes. But memories of the trauma linger.
Robinson has written a memoir, "Our Family Walks," that covers the six years he lived at Junior Village until he ran away from the home at 15.
"The splinters of childhood never go away," Robinson said. "I could not let this place dissolve in the dust of time. These are things we all have to live with for the rest of our lives."
Naked Meetings, Sexual Abuse: Former 'Slave' Reveals Dark Secrets of Sex Cult in NY Led by 'Godman'
Raniere, 58, faces charges including sex trafficking and child pornography for allegedly using his self-help group, Nxivm, to hide a secretive sorority known as DOS in which young women were forced to have sex with him.
New York: The founder of an alleged New York sex cult held meetings in which female "slaves" gathered naked on the floor around him while he sat in a chair and lectured them on philosophy, one of the women testified at his criminal trial on Friday.
The former "slave," Lauren Salzman, told jurors in federal court in Brooklyn that the group's leader, Keith Raniere, would preside over the meetings fully clothed. When he was unable to attend the meetings in person, the women would take a naked photo and text it to him - making sure he could see where they had been branded with his initials, Salzman said.
"We were to look uniform and happy," said Salzman, 42.
Raniere, 58, faces charges including sex trafficking and child pornography for allegedly using his self-help group, Nxivm, to hide a secretive sorority known as DOS in which young women were forced to have sex with him, follow dangerously restrictive diets and obey his every command.
If convicted of the most serious charges, Raniere faces life in prison. His lawyer has argued at trial that the women became members of Nxivm voluntarily and were never coerced into doing anything against their will.
Witnesses at the trial, which began last week, have detailed how Nxivm's teachers portrayed Raniere as "some kind of god" who would unlock a more fulfilling life for his followers.
Salzman said some believed he could affect the weather, echoing the testimony of another former member. If he released a new curriculum, for instance, that might create a big storm, Salzman said.
People also believed technology acted "funny" around Keith because of his "energy," Salzman added.
Salzman, whose mother, Nancy, served as Nxivm's president, was a "first-line slave" within DOS, which meant she answered directly to Raniere and had slaves of her own, she said.
Other first-line slaves included former "Smallville" actress Allison Mack, who like Salzman and her mother previously pleaded guilty to her part in Raniere's crimes. Another first-line slave was a woman whom authorities have accused Raniere of sexually exploiting starting when she was only 15 years old, Lauren Salzman testified.
Salzman first met Raniere through her mother in 1998, when she was 21, and soon began a sexual relationship with him that lasted for years.
Before their relationship started, Raniere examined how she looked in her underwear and told her she should weigh 100 pounds, Salzman said.
"I considered him an authority on almost everything," she said.
She described years of emotional abuse by Raniere, who had relationships with other women but forbade Salzman from dating anyone else. In one incident, she wrote a seven-page, single-spaced plan of atonement after he berated her for what she called "rough-housing" with another man during a volleyball game.
Salzman also laid out her own culpability, telling jurors how she, Raniere and others held a woman captive inside a room for two years under the threat of sending her back to her native Mexico.
She acknowledged recruiting slaves for DOS and extorting them by demanding compromising material, like nude photos, that could be used as blackmail if they refused orders.
Latin America & Caribbean
Colonia Dignidad: Germany to compensate Chile commune victims
Germany will pay compensation of up to €10,000 (£8,700; $11,000) to victims of a notorious and abusive commune in southern Chile.
Colonia Dignidad was founded by former Nazi soldier Paul Schäfer in 1961.
The commune, which was located 350km (220 miles) south of Santiago, was run as a secretive cult and dozens of children were sexually abused there.
Hundreds of German and Chilean survivors will now be eligible for compensation.
The decision to pay the victims was made by a government commission in Berlin on Friday. A fund of €3.5m will be set aside to do so.
It comes a week after prosecutors dropped their investigation into a German doctor who worked at the commune.
A court in Chile had found Hartmut Hopp guilty of complicity in child sex abuse committed by Schäfer, but he fled to Germany before he could be jailed.
German prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to uphold the ruling.
What was Colonia Dignidad?
Colonia Dignidad was a colony set up by Schäfer in the remote Maule area.
He ran it as a secretive cult with members living as virtual slaves and prevented from leaving by armed guards with dogs.
At its peak, 300 Germans and Chileans were living in the 137 sq km (53 sq mile) compound surrounded by wire fencing and overlooked by a watchtower with searchlights.
Children were forced to live separately from their parents and dozens were sexually abused by Schäfer.
What else happened there?
It was not just members of Schäfer's sect who suffered abuse.
Under the military rule of Gen Augusto Pinochet, Colonia Dignidad became a clandestine detention centre. About 300 opponents of the regime were interrogated and tortured in its underground tunnels both by members of the Chilean secret police and Schäfer's associates.
At least 100 people are thought to have been murdered there. One of those believed to have been killed at the site is US academic Boris Weisfeiler, who went hiking in Chile in 1984.
In its report, released on Friday, the German commission said Schäfer "tore families apart, abused countless children and actively collaborated with Pinochet dictatorship henchmen on torture, murder and disappearances.
"The survivors still suffer massively from the severe psychological and physical consequences after years of harm caused by violence, abuse, exploitation and slave labour," the report read.
The compensation would be paid "exclusively out of moral responsibility and without recognition of a legal obligation," it added.
The stunning toll of Boy Scout sex abuse: More than 12,200 reported victims
by KIM CHRISTENSEN
For decades, the Boy Scouts of America has closely guarded a trove of secret documents that detail sexual abuse allegations against troop leaders and others.
The most complete public accounting of the abuse so far came in 2012 when the Los Angeles Times published a searchable database of 5,000 files and case summaries that are part of the Scouts' blacklist known as the “perversion files.”
Seven years later, more details are emerging about the scope of sex abuse in the youth organization. A researcher hired by the Scouts to analyze records from 1944 to 2016 testified earlier this year that she had identified 7,819 suspected abusers and 12,254 victims.
But even those numbers grossly understate how many molesters infiltrated the Scouts' ranks over the years, according to lawyers who have sued the organization on behalf of hundreds of abuse victims. Most predators were accused of abusing multiple boys, they noted, and many instances of abuse were never reported.
The Boy Scouts of America has grappled with years of costly litigation at the same time it has struggled with declining membership. The organization says it is considering bankruptcy protection, which would halt ongoing lawsuits while settlements are negotiated.
Seattle attorney Timothy Kosnoff, who has sued the Boy Scouts more than 100 times since 2007, said he and two law firms he had teamed with recently signed more than 350 new clients through a national TV ad campaign and a website, Abused in Scouting.
Kosnoff says the allegations span decades and 48 states, and are made by victims ranging in age from 14 to 97. Most of the accused — 234 — are men who are not named in the blacklist, which the organization has used to exclude suspected molesters.
“Consequently, the number of children who have been abused in Scouting is much larger than the BSA has ever disclosed,” Kosnoff said. “Abused children suffer these wounds for a lifetime. It is time the BSA is held to account fully for this atrocity.”
The magnitude of the Scouts' abuse problem takes on new significance as New York and New Jersey extend their statutes of limitations on child sexual abuse lawsuits, opening the 109-year-old youth organization to a potential slew of new claims. Similar legislation is pending in California.
National Scouts officials will not say how many sexual abuse lawsuits have been filed against the group or how much has been paid out in settlements and judgments, and no reliable independent estimates exist.
<< Read the L.A. Times' 2012 investigation of sex abuse in the Boy Scouts >>
In a statement to The Times, Scouts officials emphasized enhanced youth protection measures now in place, including criminal background checks for Scout leaders and volunteers, and said that 2018 produced only five known cases of sexual abuse among the ranks of 2.2 million Scouts.
“We care deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting,” the statement read. “We believe victims, we support them, and we pay for unlimited counseling by a provider of their choice and we encourage them to come forward. As soon as the BSA is notified of any allegation of abuse, it is immediately reported to law enforcement.”
The tally of more than 7,800 suspected abusers identified by the organization's expert includes some who applied but were never allowed to join the ranks, the Boy Scouts said. The organization would not elaborate.
The number was cited at a Manhattan news conference held in late April by attorney Jeff Anderson, who described his “shock and dismay” at the scale of the abuse but said in a subsequent interview that he believed the figures were on the low side.
“It's emblematic of how little is actually known about the magnitude of it,” he said.
Anderson first learned of the figures while handling an unrelated sexual abuse lawsuit in his home state of Minnesota. Among those testifying in the case was Janet Warren, a professor of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia, who said she and a team of computer coders came up with the tallies after spending five years analyzing files under a contract with the Scouts.
The numbers are flawed because many perpetrators had multiple victims, many instances of sexual abuse are never reported, and the Scouts have acknowledged destroying an unknown number of files over the years, said Paul Mones, one of the lawyers in a landmark Oregon lawsuit that resulted in a nearly $20-million jury verdict against the Scouts in 2010.
He said fewer than a quarter of his Scouts abuse cases in the last 10 years had involved perpetrators who were in the files.
Formally known for years as the Ineligible Volunteer files, the dossiers — now called the Volunteer Screening Database — name suspected abusers from all regions and contain biographical information, legal records, official correspondence and boys' accounts of alleged abuse by Scout leaders who often were respected members of their communities. It was not necessary to be charged with a crime to be placed in the files, nor were all allegations substantiated.
<< DATABASE: Inside the Boy Scouts of America's ‘perversion files' >>
The records have been kept for about a century. Their publication by The Times in 2012 triggered lawsuits by abuse victims who cited them as evidence the organization knew of pedophiles in their midst but failed to protect children.
Scouting officials have fought hard in court to keep the files from public view, contending that confidentiality was necessary to protect victims, witnesses and anyone falsely accused. They also say the blacklist has been effective.
“While some perpetrators were able to circumvent the system, the fact is that there were countless times when the files successfully prevented perpetrators from joining or rejoining the organization,” according to the Scouts' statement.
The Times' yearlong examination of the files seven years ago revealed serious flaws in the group's efforts to stem abuse.
In hundreds of cases, the newspaper found, the Boy Scouts failed to report offenders to authorities and often hid the allegations from parents and the public. In more than 125 cases, men allegedly continued to molest Scouts after the organization was first presented with allegations of abusive behavior.
More than 100 times, officials with the Scouts actively sought to conceal the alleged abuse or allowed the suspects to hide it. Scouts officials sometimes urged admitted offenders to quietly resign and then helped cover their tracks with bogus reasons for their departures.
That finding was starkly at odds with Warren's conclusion, after reviewing the files, that there was no evidence of a cover-up by the Boy Scouts of America. In its statement, the Scouts said Warren was referring only to any cover-up at the national level.
“There have been times, most of them decades ago, when local individuals did not follow reporting procedures — either to the national organization or to law enforcement,” it said, noting that in 2013 it reviewed its files and notified police of any instances of abuse that might have gone unreported.
The Times obtained the records for its database from Kosnoff, the Seattle attorney, and from the court-ordered release of files from the landmark trial in Portland, Ore., in which a former Scout accused the organization of failing to protect him from a predatory leader. The $20-million verdict, most of it for punitive damages, marked a turning point for the Scouts, which until then had quietly settled most such lawsuits, Mones said.
The files' publication contributed to a “fundamental shift in the national consciousness about sexual abuse in large institutions,” he said, which also was driven by scandals at Penn State, USA Gymnastics and the Catholic Church, among others.
The result helped prod a new awareness by state legislatures to reform their statutes of limitations.
This week, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation allowing those who were victimized as children to sue until age 55 or within seven years of discovering that the abuse caused them harm. New York also has passed a law with similar provisions and a “look back window” that would allow some old claims to be revived.
A California bill working its way through the Legislature would expand the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual assault to sue for damages, raising the maximum age to file an action from 26 to 40, or within five years of discovering harm from the abuse.
The Times' publication of its database fueled a tsunami of civil litigation against the Scouts, Mones said. He estimated that at least 400 lawsuits had been filed since the files' release and noted the Scouts had sought to settle many other legal actions before they were filed.
At least two of the organization's insurers have refused to cover the payouts, contending that the Scouts could have prevented the abuse that led to the claims.
Although the national organization still has assets of more than $1 billion, the looming liabilities are large enough that it is weighing whether to file for bankruptcy protection. A Chapter 11 filing would require new claims of abuse to be handled in that venue rather than in state courts. Those filing claims would join other creditors.
Some Catholic dioceses caught up in the church's sex abuse scandal employed the same tactic.
“The BSA is considering options to determine how victims can be equitably compensated while the organization continues with its mission to serve youth,” the Scouts' statement said. “No decision has been made.”
Kim Christensen is an investigative reporter on the Los Angeles Times' projects team. He has more than 30 years in newspapers, starting with the Dayton Daily News in his hometown in Ohio. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes, at the Oregonian in 2001 and at the Orange County Register in 1996, for investigations of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and of fertility fraud at UC Irvine. He joined The Times in 2005.