National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

child abuse trauma prevention, intervention & recovery

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Every day we bring you news articles, opinion pieces, crime stories and official information from government web sites. These are highlights, and constitute the tip of the iceberg .. a small percentage of the daily information available to those who are interested in the issues of child abuse, trauma and recovery. Stay aware. Every extra set of "eyes and ears" and every voice makes a big difference.
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"News of the Week"  

June 2019 - Week 1
Terri Lanahan
Many thanks to NAASCA's Terri Lanahan, Butte, Montana,
for her research into the news that appears on
the LACP & NAASCA web sites.


Parenting Safe Children

Kids, Camp & Sexual Assault Prevention

by Annie Gardiner and Feather Berkower in Summer Camp

Summer camp has a special place in my heart and will forever symbolize childhood joy. I loved sleepaway camp so much that I went back years later to be a counselor. I didn't receive much training and I certainly wasn't prepared for the day a 12-year-old camper told me that one of the camp administrators made her uncomfortable because he'd wanted to walk alone with her – again.

I was 19 and clueless, but I was also assertive. I told my camper that I was really glad she told me, that I would address the situation, and that she could always come to me with her concerns.

Then I got pissed and put on my big girl pants. With a chill in the morning air and the hair standing up on the back of my neck, I sought out the administrator, who was also my boss. I looked him in the eyes and told him that one of my campers was uncomfortable with his attention and let him know, in no uncertain terms, that he should never ever be alone with her again – and that I would be watching.

I've thought about this encounter many times and want to continue to play my part in keeping kids safe, which is why I asked Feather if I could co-author this month's post: Kids, Camp and Child Sexual Assault.

Prevention Conversations

If your child is enrolled in camp and you haven't had the time to talk about child sexual assault prevention until now, it's not too late. Invite a conversation and make sure prevention is not only on the camp's radar, but that there are policies and practices to back it up.

As you are conversing with camp directors and counselors, look for an environment that has zero tolerance for child sexual assault.

Questions for Camp Directors & Counselors

  1. What kind of child sexual assault prevention training do you offer staff, volunteers and children?

    Best Practice

    For adults, training should cover these topics.

    • The “grooming process” – the friendship-building process used by an adult or older teen to develop trust with a child and the child's caregivers, to coerce the child into sexual activity, and to ensure the child does not tell
    • Behaviors of concern in both children and adults and how to intervene
    • Camp protocol for reporting suspected or known grooming or abuse

    For campers, the camp ought to provide an orientation on boundaries and safety:

    • Zero tolerance for verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual assault
    • How and why boundaries and safety are taken seriously
    • Who campers can talk with if they ever feel uncomfortable or unsafe

  2. What are the situations in which an adult might be alone with a child?

    Best Practice

    Never. If there is some urgent reason that an adult needs to be alone with a child, another adult should be notified.

  3. What are the boundaries regarding physical touch between adults and campers?

    Look for policies that clearly state the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touch – with examples. Here's a list of what ought to be included:

    Best Practice

    Appropriate Touch

    • Child initiates hug (Physical touch should always be for the benefit of the camper, and never based on emotional needs of an adult.)
    • Pats on the back, high-fives, fist bumps
    • Holding hands for safety (e.g., crossing streets)
    • Physical contact should always occur in public, never in private
    • Stop physical touch if child appears uncomfortable or resists in any way

    Inappropriate Touch / Behavior

    • Requesting or pressuring children to give hugs
    • Kissing children / teens (even on the cheek)
    • Allowing children to sit on an adult's lap
    • Tickling, piggy back rides, stroking a child's hair, patting buttock, massaging shoulders or backs, rubbing legs, roughhousing, wrestling and patting a child's head
    • Repeatedly brushing against a minor's body
    • Slapping, hitting, kicking
    • Touching genitals
    • Public nudity at any time (no skinny-dipping)
    • Mooning, “wedgies”

  4. Do you have specific policies and expectations around sexual talk, jokes, and photographing children?

    Best Practice

    • Zero tolerance for sexual innuendos, flirting, sexual jokes, and sexual gestures, stories and put downs
    • Restraint from adults in sharing stories about their personal life and adult issues (relationships, alcohol or drug use)
    • Use of camp-owned cameras only for photographs (no personal phones and never photos of campers with clothes off). If you don't want your child to be photographed or posted on social media, make that clear.

  5. For overnight camps, what are the sleeping arrangements and how do staff supervise and monitor?

    Best Practice

    At least one adult staff member (two if possible) should always be present supervising campers in sleeping areas. Campers should not share beds, cots, or sleeping bags with other campers or staff. Campers and adults should always wear sleeping clothes.

  6. How would you handle a situation if you saw a child exploring sexually with another child? What if one of the children was coercing the other child?

    Best Practice

    In both situations, children should be redirected to another activity without shame or punishment.

    In the case of age-appropriate exploration, campers should be reminded of expectations regarding boundaries that were discussed during camp orientation. In the case of coercive sexual contact, expectations around boundaries should also be discussed, but a report may also be necessary.

  7. What is your protocol for reporting suspected or known sexual assault by an adult or by another child?

    Best Practice

    Any known or suspected inappropriate behavior, breaches in policy, or assault (verbal, physical, or sexual) should be reported to a supervisor or camp director.

    Counselors are mandated reporters and required by law to report any known or suspected physical or sexual assault to appropriate law enforcement. This report can be made in partnership with camp administration; however, ultimately, the responsibility for reporting abuse is on the adult who has observed, been told about, or is concerned about abuse.

Body-Safety Rules

Before sending your child off to camp, remind children of their body-safety rules around touching, privacy, and no secrets. Reassert that they absolutely have your permission to say, “No” to any inappropriate request from other campers or adults.

Discuss respect and self-worth, and what it means to be a good friend and show respect for other campers through kindness and standing up for peers. And that it's possible to be a good friend without compromising personal safety.

And lastly, be sure your child knows of whom and how to ask for help.

Creating “what if” scenarios with kids around the kinds of situations in which they might find themselves, is a great way to practice assertiveness skills and tools for asking for help if needed.

For instance, “What would you do if your counselor asked you to go for a walk alone in the woods?” Or, “What would you do if a counselor started flirting with you?” Or, “What would you do if you observed an older camper giving another camper a wedgie?”

By phone or upon arrival, tell administrators and counselors that your child:

  • Doesn't keep secrets from you
  • Is encouraged to and has permission to tell you about anything that makes them feel worried or uncomfortable
  • Knows that they are the boss of their body and can say, “No,” and tell an adult if someone makes an unsafe request

Find out if campers can contact their parents upon request – and speak privately. Children need privacy, so they can share their worries.

Peer-to-Peer Sexual Assault

I (Annie, co-author) remember playing a tantalizing game of spin the bottle in the woods at summer camp. Four of us skipped out on free swim, went to an old tree house and smooched!

Sexual curiosity is entirely normal and involves inquiry and information-gathering through touching and looking. It's also about exploration around gender roles. I felt like I was on a double date in that run-down tree house. Our physical interactions were voluntary and took place among children of comparable age. We were all 13.

But there's also peer-to-peer abuse – coercive, often impulsive, and sometimes triggered by stress or anger. There's generally an age, size, development, and/or intellectual difference. We know that peer-to-peer abuse is more likely to happen in bathrooms and showers, and this fact is a good incentive for you to ask these two questions:

  1. How do you monitor older kids mentoring/spending time with younger kids?

    Best Practice

    Counselors should supervise any interactions between youth of the same age or older youth mentoring younger youth.

  2. What are your bathroom and showering policies?

    Best Practice

    Ideally, campers bathe in individual shower stalls with curtains. Showering and toilet areas should always be monitored and supervised by an adult. Campers should not go in groups to the bathroom without adult supervision. Adults should not go alone into a shower or toilet stall / bathroom with a camper. No adult should ever shower with campers.

Your rights

Every youth organization has a responsibility to have child sexual assault prevention policies – and you have a right to see those policies. It's also incumbent on camps to offer annual staff training, which should address the grooming process – that is, how sexual offenders develop friendships and isolate children for the purpose of abuse.

The conversations with administrators and counselors show that you are paying attention and help to build camps that are safer for your child and all children.

Now what?

Who will join me in speaking with camp counselors and administrators? It's not too late to start the conversation.


Annie Gardiner, MS, BCPA is a Health Care Advocate & long-time supporter of Parenting Safe Children

Feather Berkower, MSW, is Founder of Parenting Safe Children and a Child Sexual Assault Prevention Educator & Author




Child abuse is a global epidemic — we need global action to eradicate it


In May of this year, a 3-year-old girl was raped in India.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a child is sexually abused in India, my home country, every 15 minutes.

But India is far from alone.

The global nature of this scourge is laid bare in a report released by The Economist Intelligence Unit and the World Childhood Foundation. It takes place mostly in the shadows, but sexual violence against children is happening everywhere, regardless of a country's economic status or its citizens' quality of life.

In 2014, 1 billion children between the ages of 2 and 17 were the victims of physical, sexual, emotional or multiple types of violence. One statistic suggests that 200 million children worldwide face sexual violence annually.

Experts generally concur that sexual abuse is one of the most under-reported crimes in the world, and one there is a general reluctance to discuss. This means that the statistics are likely to portray only a fraction of the extent of this epidemic. Meanwhile, millions of children suffer in silence, sometimes living with their abusers, who can often be family members, neighbors, trusted friends and authority figures.

Human trafficking adds a further dimension of horror. An estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked each year, and many of them - particularly girls - are forcibly exploited for sex work.

The Internet has dramatically increased the scale of abuse, with INTERPOL's Child Sexual Exploitation database alone holding more than 1.5 million images of child sexual abuse. Analysis shows that 84 percent of the images contain explicit sexual activity and, shockingly, that the younger the victim, the more severe the abuse. The Internet Watch Foundation found that online material containing child sexual abuse increased by 35 percent between 2016 and 2017.

It is important to remember that the exploitation of children on the internet is often a for-profit enterprise. Moreover, once these images find their way to the internet, it is nearly impossible to completely erase them, victimizing these children in perpetuity, long after the physical abuse may have stopped.

Absent in all of this is a sense of urgent action from the world at large. From the institutionalized cover-ups in the Catholic Church to the victimization of children in war zones, we are failing to protect children. Especially when doing so runs contrary to Sustainable Development Goal SDG 16.2, which aims to "end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children."

Our collective failure to protect the most vulnerable among us is a disgrace. It is our moral duty to speak up and end this horror with a sense of urgency. Far from simply stopping there, responsible entities around the world, whether they be governments, international institutions or non-governmental organizations, must unite in order to act and eliminate this scourge from existence.

This global epidemic needs global action to eradicate. This can come in the form of pooling resources, such as funding and capacity. There can be concerted international effort from law enforcement and easing of restrictions to allow agencies in different countries to more freely share information when it pertains to exploitation of a minor. Countries can jointly pledge to more harshly prosecute and punish those exploiting children or those continuing to practice child marriage.

These are just a few of numerous actions that can be taken. The reality is that many of these are already taking place, but in discrete pockets, with countries coordinating very little with one another. What is needed to bring together all these actions is moral leadership and political will.

No child should grow up in the specter of violence and abuse. Regardless of where a child is born or the circumstances of his or her upbringing, their absolute right to a safe, happy and carefree childhood must be guaranteed.




Sarah Hansel: Why I fight child abuse and neglect

Someone recently asked me why I give my time, treasure and talent to the Parent Child Center of Tulsa when I know that our society will never end child abuse and neglect.

I acknowledge that it is a daunting problem. In 2017, the U.S. government reported that 4.1 million cases of child abuse and neglect were referred to child protective services. In Tulsa County, there were 10,744 child abuse investigations conducted by the Department of Human Services in 2018 and, of those, 2,685 cases were confirmed.

With a problem so large, my friend asked, how could my miniscule efforts ever make any measurable difference?

Although I believe that I have a social and moral obligation to help my community become a better place to live, and although I am grateful for the loving family I have always had and hope for the same for others less fortunate than I, I have a more practical reason to help reduce child abuse and neglect. As a lawyer, business owner and member of this community, economic development and prosperity for all of Tulsa is important to me.

Many studies have documented the direct connection between child abuse and neglect and lifelong health and social problems. Health problems include high-risk behavior such as smoking, substance abuse and obesity, which in turn increase the risk of chronic lung disease, heart disease, diabetes and other life-shortening health problems. Social problems include a higher likelihood that a person from an abusive childhood will drop out of school, experience teen pregnancy, have difficulty keeping a job, difficulty with personal relationships, commit crimes and repeat the cycle of their early childhood experience by abusing and neglecting their own children. The financial burden on society caused by these health and social issues is enormous and affects our entire community.

If you accept the fact that there is a direct connection between child abuse and social and health problems, then you can easily accept the fact that children who do not experience abuse and neglect and instead have a healthy start at life are more likely to finish their education, stay employed, have families when they are emotionally and financially ready to do so, pay taxes, become productive members of their Tulsa community and perhaps even feel socially and morally motivated to “give back.”

How much more effective, efficient and practical if we address the root of the problem by educating and providing alternatives to parents, many of whom have been subject to abuse and neglect as a child, so that they will not perpetuate the endless cycle of abuse and neglect on their own children? If we not only save a child from a high-risk, life-threatening future, but save society from the financial burden of providing health and social services that could have been avoided had the abuse been avoided, then it is easy to see the value to our entire community.

Addressing and preventing the problem requires participation from everyone in our community, and at the parent child center, we know that child abuse prevention succeeds because of the partnerships we have created with child welfare, education, health, community and faith-based organizations, businesses and law enforcement agencies.

I am not naïve enough to think that we will ever end child abuse and neglect, but I know that changing the future of one child's life and putting that child on a path of personal prosperity means there will be at least one less client for nonprofit and government social programs to provide services in the future. We do that because it is the right thing to do; protecting children is its own reward. We also do it out of enlightened self-interest. Children who grow up paying taxes, keeping jobs, having healthy family and participating in the betterment of their community help ensure economic development and prosperity for our entire community. You don't even have to feel a social and moral duty to see that the problem of child abuse and neglect is something that we should all work toward reducing.


United Kingdom

‘We have to speak out … and be heard': Life after sexual abuse

After decades of denial and cover-up, adult survivors are coming forward, helped by radical new initiatives

by Yvonne Roberts

On 2 June, Noa Pothoven, 17, died at home in the Dutch city of Arnhem having refused all fluids and food. She had been sexually assaulted at the age of 11 and raped at 14, and suffered from anorexia and depression. She spoke of her “unbearable suffering” in the aftermath of the attacks – “I have not been alive for so long,” she wrote.

For survivors of childhood abuse, the potential long-term impact of their experiences is only beginning to be exposed; taboo, secrecy and shame still prevail. Yet, slowly, as inquiries are held and more cases come to court, greater numbers of adult survivors of childhood abuse are beginning to come forward. While some can cope well, for others lives and families are torn apart as the root causes remain hidden. Is society doing enough for adult survivors, who, too often, are overlooked, pathologised and criminalised?

Jimmy Savile, “eccentric and flamboyant”, garlanded with honours and awards, died in 2011 aged 84, never having paid for his crimes. A year after his death, he was revealed as a prolific and ruthless sexual predator throughout five decades. Concerns had been raised since the 1960s and suppressed. He had fame and power, so was free to abuse in plain sight.

Since then, a number of prolific offenders have appeared in court including Peter Ball, a bishop who was protected by the establishment, Barry Bennell, a football coach, and the pop singer Gary Glitter. In addition, groups of mainly Asian men, in cities including Rotherham, Nottingham and Oxford, have been given lengthy jail sentences for violently sexually exploiting vulnerable young girls, the victims treated by police and social workers as “child prostitutes”, their plight ignored.

In 2014 the government established the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) to examine how institutions, including hospitals, care homes and boarding schools, have handled their duty of care to protect children. The inquiry has launched 14 investigations and has set up the Truth Project, “I Will Be Heard”. So far, more than 3,000 survivors of abuse have related their experiences at the hands of trusted adults, family members and in institutions.

Four years ago in Leeds, Savile's birthplace, Tessa Denham, 58, a counsellor, coach and chief executive of the Women's Counselling and Therapy Service, organised a workshop. Sixty colleagues from healthcare, the police, GPs, voluntary organisations and the city council attended. “The decades of denial and cover-up were beginning to crack,” Denham says. “That made me think, as a city, ‘What should we do? What do we need to do?'

“Abuse has shaped me. It still affects my daily life,” she says. “I was abused by my grandfather and my stepfather. Yet for years I'd tell everyone that I hadn't been affected. It was only when I went for counselling in my 30s that I began to join up the dots of my own behaviour.

“I'm middle class, mouthy and I don't lack confidence. Imagine what it must be like for someone who has none of those resources. Some survivors cope, others experience addiction, unemployment, prison, chaotic, shattered families, and still the secret is kept. That's why we passionately believe it's time to make a difference.”

The difference is a potentially groundbreaking holistic city-wide project called Visible, launched in Leeds on 10 June after two years of plannning. The aim is to proactively support adult survivors and open up a national conversation about the extent of need and why long-term government funding is essential.

The ambition is that projects like Visible are replicated across the country.

“It was as if we all gave a collective sigh of relief,” says Sinéad Cregan, Leeds adult services commissioner and chair of Visible. “Phew! At last we're going to try and do something. More and more people at inquiries are talking for the first time. Yet, across the country, the response has not been good enough.”

What will Visible do in practice? Survivors say that many professionals don't recognise trauma, and they don't ask the right questions because they don't know how to handle the response. Visible hopes to conduct research into what works best, increase public understanding, and train a range of professionals including police, magistrates, employers, commissioners, GPs, teachers and social workers to ask the right questions so that a range of appropriate help is offered. “We want to act as a catalyst.” Denham says. “When money is tight, there are no quick fixes but the door has begun to open.”

“Phil”, 52, is on Visible's steering group. He waited 40 years before disclosing that as a boy he was abused by two men who threatened to harm his family if he told anyone. “It was when my son was the same age that I told my wife. I had a breakdown. I was worried the same thing would happen to him. I'd text him all the time.

“I waited 12 months before I got into the mental health system. I've self-harmed, I've tried to take my own life. I was interviewed by the police about Jimmy Savile because I worked with him as a hospital porter – and that's when it got worse. I see the devil with the abusers' face. I hear voices. In an ideal world, I'd like for people to speak out and be heard.”

In May, the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse published a report that drew on a survey of 365 survivors. Long-term consequences of abuse may include physical ailments, changes in brain function and development, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and dissociative disorder, an involuntary flight from reality that may include significant memory loss, depression and suicidal thoughts.

In the survey, 90% said their intimate relationships were negatively affected, 89% said their mental health was negatively affected, 72% said that it had damaged their career, and 46% said it had a detrimental effect on their financial situation (because they often had to pay for therapeutic help they couldn't access otherwise). Only 16% said the NHS mental health services met their need. “I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and the mental health system,” was one response.

“The spectre hanging over them infiltrates every aspect of life,” Sarah Champion, Labour MP and chair of the APPG said in the Commons. “A trigger can be anything – the same aftershave that their abuser was wearing or a feeling of being in an enclosed space. Unless we recognise that these people are victims of crime, they will not be able to lead their full lives and reach the potential that we all deserve to achieve.”

“Deflection, denial and disbelief” has too often greeted those who speak out about abuse. Yet its scale is clear. The number of recorded sexual offences against children under 16 in England and Wales more than doubled in the four years to 2017 from 24,085 to 53,496.

A 2015 survey of 400 adult survivors indicated that the abuse had begun, on average, at the age of seven and continued for long periods; 90% hadn't seen their abuser brought to justice. The average wait before survivors tried to access services had been 20 years, and not even then had individuals disclosed abuse. For one in five who disclosed at the time, the abuse continued on average for a further six years.

Last year NHS England announced improved provision for victims of sexual abuse. The five-year strategy has an investment of £4m a year until 2020-21. “It's welcome but it's a drop in the ocean,” says Fay Maxted, chief executive of the Survivors Trust, which represents 130 organisations. “In real terms, funding has dropped significantly in the last 10 years.”

She is also concerned that the specialist trauma-trained organisations in the voluntary sector, which survivors frequently say they prefer to statutory services, won't benefit from the funding controlled by GPs' clinical commissioning groups. “The CCGs often have a lack of understanding of what survivors need.”

“Adult survivors don't always present as the perfect victim,” explains Gabrielle Shaw, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac). “We all need to understand better that the question isn't, ‘what's wrong with you?' but ‘what happened to you?'”

Shaneen Mooney, 34, a housing officer, who runs her own essential oils company, Essential Flow, waited 16 years before disclosing. At the age of 14 she was groomed by a man in his 30s. “I thought it was romantic love. He ended the affair when I was 16. For years I didn't value myself. I drank, I took drugs, I was unfaithful. I had a breakdown and dropped out of university and gradually began to realise that what had happened to me wasn't right. It was rape.

“In 2014 I was given free counselling by a rape support charity. That's no longer available. Then I waited a year for NHS counselling, which was hard. Gradually, I realised that the silence, keeping all the stuff inside me, was more damaging.”

Now happily married, Mooney says counselling has been invaluable. “I'm in a much better place. Victims don't have to carry shame and believe there's something wrong with them. Healing and wellbeing are possible. That's why I share my truth in the hope that it will encourage others to break the taboo, speak out and get help. Life can change.”

In 2018, Napac, received 6,458 calls on its helpline but there were another 87,619 calls that couldn't be taken because of lack of resources.

In Leeds, will Visible unleash a demand that similarly can't be met? According to the IICSA, some 2 million people, are adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and 15% of girls and 5% of boys are predicted to experience sexual abuse before the age of 16. In Leeds those figures would translate to 50,000 adult survivors and more than 15,000 children and young people.

Visible was launched with a grant of £100,000 from Lloyds Bank Foundation. It has applied for further grants. Leeds city council faces a £100m funding gap by 2022. Will hopes be raised but not met?

“Health commissioners and government have to stump up the money,” Richard Barber of Leeds Survivor-Led Crisis Service says unequivocally. “Society has got its head stuck in the sand about the scale of child sexual abuse. As a result, survivors get demonised and traumatised over and over again.”

“Everybody knows somebody who is directly or indirectly affected,” points out Sharon Prince, consultant psychologist with Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, a part of Visible. “We have to change the response. That can range from family and friends listening and validating to more formal interventions. The first steps are for people to trust enough so they can disclose and be believed.”

Visible promotes “trauma-informed” support for survivors. It is based on building trust, collaboration and a survivor exercising choice. “It's all about the quality of the relationship,” Prince says.

While funds for survivors are woefully inadequate, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has spent an extraordinary £96m since 2014. It has recommended that support for adult survivors requires “urgent” attention. Money is promised in the forthcoming spending review. In addition, the parliamentary group wants the Home Office to commission research into the hidden economic and social cost of child sexual abuse, collect data on what is spent on therapeutic care, and research what support works best.

Dr Carol-Ann Hooper, Visible's evaluator, says: “In the US, the term ‘parallel justice' has been coined to argue for reparation for victims to take its place alongside the prosecution of offenders to enable survivors to heal and rebuild their lives. There is also a significant income-based justice gap. Those who can afford to pay for therapeutic help have options, those who can't, may have none.”

“Helena”, 60, a former teacher, pays for trauma therapy. “Otherwise I'd have to wait several months and I can't.” As a child, she and her friend, Janet, played in the street. A teenage girl invited them into her home. “We'd dress up in her clothes and stilettos,” Helena says. Play turned to abuse and both children had a bottle inserted in their vaginas. “I felt I'd done wrong. I did tell my parents three years later. They said, ‘We can't do owt. It's water under the bridge. The abuse made me wary of young women, mistrust everybody. I still find it very difficult to hug people. I became anorexic. I wanted to be unseen. Occasionally I'd mention what happened and people would say, ‘women don't do that'.”

A few years ago, Helena went to an exhibition. “I've been lucky. There was an image called Release. I thought yes, you need to unburden, take away those heavy things on your shoulders. For years, I didn't like clothes or dressing up, I didn't like high heels. I never had friendships. But suddenly, I thought, yes, I can have friends. And I do. Abuse results in so many ripples over a lifetime. People don't think to ask, ‘what are those ripples really about?'”

Visible already has plans to expand its work to include sporting bodies, churches, mosques, major corporations, magistrates and prisons. Leeds city council will also look at its own large workforce to assess the needs of potentially several hundred survivors. “We are also keen to collaborate with anyone in the UK,” Denham says. “We cannot afford to slip back.”

“I was abused until I was 11 by someone outside the family. When it was happening, it was horrible but I didn't want to make a fuss” says Debbie, 43.

“By the time it stopped, I was isolated and petrified of everything. I'd hide in the cupboard if the phone rang. People would think I was rude. I just wanted to be invisible.

“I worked hard at university because I thought I was thick and horrible. I had a breakdown. I tried to commit suicide. I was in psychiatric hospital for four months. I became anorexic. At no point did anybody ask me why I hated myself. Why I was anorexic.”

At one point, Debbie weighed four stone and suffered multiple organ failure. “It took 10 years before I began psychotherapy and somebody finally asked me the right questions; otherwise my earlier medical records all say things like, ‘Deborah's had a lot of input with little progress'.

“I've been diagnosed with OCD, personality disorder, complex PTSD.”

Unusually, Debbie received 12 years of support on the NHS, but then it stopped. Now she pays privately for psychotherapy. “I know things cognitively but I have no feeling. I'm not in touch with things emotionally. I've no attachment to anyone or anything.

“Six years ago, my mum asked if anyone had done anything to me. I don't want my mum to know. I don't want her to work out who it is. I don't want him to say it didn't happen. I want to feel safe and not want to be dead. I want to feel.”



Speaking up against sexual violence, domestic abuse in Ethiopia

Laws have changed and crimes are increasingly reported but survivors, activists and politicians say stigma remains.

by Elias Gebreselassie

Addis Ababa - Twin sisters Dagim and Yeabsera were young children when their uncle first sexually assaulted them.

The abuse continued for years, as their father was absent - he left when they were born, and their mother worked as a domestic helper in a Middle Eastern country.

"Our uncle used to take turns to rape us, especially at middle of the night, when he was usually either drunk or high from taking drugs," said Yeabsera.

They had been living with their uncle and maternal grandmother, who they say also physically abused them and failed to acknowledged her son's devastating actions.

When the uncle was imprisoned for two years for shoplifting, his friends took turns abusing the children.

Dagim developed a heart problem, caused by stress. A school teacher referred her to a hospital for treatment where, finally, the twins' trauma was revealed.

They are now 15 and, for the past two months, have been living in a refuge in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, run by the Association for Women's Sanctuary and Development (Awsad), the only local NGO offering shelter and rehabilitation to women and girls.

"We used to think we had no mother and father," said Yeabsera, "but the care given by Awsad staff has got us feeling we have a real family."

In socially conservative Ethiopia, the sexual assault of children, who make up around half of the population, is largely a taboo subject.

Ethiopian society tends to cover up the abuse, with victims often blamed for having 'loose morals' or for somewhat triggering the abuser.

Chaltu, 15, worked as a domestic helper and was abused by her employer.

"Me and my sister used to get taunted in school by classmates because of our poverty, so I dropped out and got employed as a domestic maid in a stranger's home," she said.

The abuse started more than two years ago, with the home owner scaring her into silence by threatening to kill her family if she talked about it.

"The sexual abuse I endured was only revealed after my closest classmate persuaded me about two months ago to tell my teacher about the rape," she said.

Awsad also provides shelter to survivors of domestic violence.

Meseret Wosenyeleh needed a safe space after her abusive husband's family blamed her for his suicide.

Pregnant with her third child, the mother of eight-month-old twins said: "My husband's family are threatening me with violence, accusing me of having a hand in his own suicide."

Lensi Kassahun, who works at Awsad, said "victim blaming" is prevalent and harmful in society.

"Most of the abuse victims we treat at the centre were hurt by people close to them, especially family members," she said. "Ethiopian society tends to cover up the abuse, with victims often blamed for having 'loose morals' or for somewhat triggering the abuser."

"Victim-blaming [and the] fact that many of the abusers are sole breadwinners in households adds another layer of trauma to the psychological and physical scars victims endure."

But there is a positive shift.

Lensi noted that domestic abuse is being increasingly reported by survivors and witnesses.

Awsad trains law enforcement officials on how to handle abuse cases and offers workshops in raising awareness and battling stigma in community centres, religious institutes and at schools.

"The most difficult case I have dealt with was of a girl that was raped daily by her father from elementary school," said Lensi, who added that the child suffered a serious injury. This kind of abuse can be "reduced substantially" by improved laws and campaigns, she said.

Awsad is planning more advocacy work, thanks to new civil society legislation Ethiopia adopted earlier this year.

But Maraki Tesfaye, founder of Jegnit (the Amharic word for heroine), a women's movement, said structural problems must be tackled.

"Do victims know of a government centre they can go to file a complaint? Do they know abuse reporting methods and do health facilities have enough rape kits?" she said.

Acknowledging the progress made so far, she added: "My mother gave birth to me at 15 years old, after being married off at such a young age. For her, issues of rape and consent were unfamiliar things.

"My generation, however, is fighting for women's rights and I have seen domestic abuse victims increasingly standing against their abusers and against a society that wants to coax them into silence."

Adinew Abera, spokesperson at the Ministry of Women, Children and Youths Affairs (MoWCYA), said the government has added street children and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to the list of groups that are vulnerable to domestic abuse.

"We've identified street children and internally displaced people as particularly prone to domestic abuse," said Adinew. "Our ministry is working on education, sensitisation activities on domestic violence, as well as toughening laws on perpetrators of domestic violence."

The Ethiopian government has recently amended its legislation by excluding rape crimes from pardon and amnesty laws as it lengthened jail terms for sex offenders.

"We consider domestic abuse, be it physical or sexual, as primarily an issue of moral failure," said Adinew. "Ultimately, the society needs to be the guardian of vulnerable people among us. The Ethiopian society needs to play a proactive role in protecting the vulnerable sections of the society."

The ministry is currently conducting a survey to determine the extent of domestic abuse in Ethiopia.

A UN Women report in 2016 estimated that 28 percent of women endure physical and sexual violence and around 65 percent of Ethiopian women and girls have experienced female genital mutilation.

Back at the shelter, Dagim and Yeabsera - the twin sisters, and Chaltu, discuss their future.

All three want to work in jobs that support survivors like themselves.

"We want to work in counselling services to help future rape survivors as well as help our families economically," said Chaltu.



Polish clerical abuse survivor accused of extortion

Leaked emails suggest Marek Lisinski, founder of the Have No Fear support foundation, may have invented his own abuse story

Marek Lisinski is under investigation after leaked emails suggest he extorted money from the Polish church and abuse survivors.

When Marek Lisinski handed Pope Francis a 27-page report into clerical abuse in the Polish church last February, he didn't expect the pontiff to kiss his hand.

That spontaneous gesture of humility, during a high-profile gathering of church leaders in Rome, was the high point of Mr Lisinski's work to break the taboo over clerical sexual abuse in his Catholic homeland.

“I've had to wait a long time for a moment like this,” he said afterwards. “It will stay with me my entire life.”

But now Mr Lisinski is under investigation after leaked emails suggest he extorted money from the Polish church and abuse survivors – and may have invented his own abuse story.

Mr Lisinski has resigned as head of the Have No Fear foundation, which lobbies on behalf of survivors of clerical abuse, after it emerged that he asked a prominent abuse survivor for a loan for medical treatment.

She gave him the loan but grew suspicious and went to the Gazeta Wyborcza daily, which began an investigation into Mr Lisinski.

Employees of the foundation and friends of Mr Lisinski have now come forward with emails in which, contrary to his public denials, he appears to admit extorting money from priests.

‘Stay silent'

In one email he describes pressuring the church for a payment of 150,000 zloty (€35,100) over an abuse case.

“That will solve my problems. This sum is not excessive, especially for a church as rich as the one in Poland,” he wrote to a friend. “There's a lot to be gained. I can see that the man in a collar in curia is so frightened he'll agree to anything just so I don't speak to the press. All I ask you is to stay silent.”

While this message appears to be relating to a more recent case, Mr Lisinski demanded 200 000 zloty from the curia to withdraw his case against a priest he said abused him.

The priest was convicted in a canonical trial and launched a civil case against Mr Lisinski but was forced to drop it by his bishop.

The revelations have rocked Poland just weeks after a documentary about clerical child sexual abusers and survivors, Tell No One, was posted online. Viewed 22 million times so far, it helped break decades of silence over child abuse in Poland and prompted an apology from leading archbishops. It also strained ties between the church and Poland's national conservative government, which was relying on clerical endorsement ahead of parliamentary elections in the autumn.

A recent Polish church report estimates that almost 400 Catholic priests sexually abused more than 600 children between 1990 and mid-2018, considered a low estimate.

Medical records

Since the documentary went online it has emerged that Mr Lisinski was supposed to feature prominently in it. When he demanded 50,000 zloty (€11,700) for his participation, the only participant to demand money, the documentary makers refused and edited out his contributions.

What they didn't know at this point was that he had already demanded – and received – a payment of 30,000 zloty (€7,000) from a woman identified only as Katarzyna. Now 26, she was abducted and abused by a priest when she was 13 and, last year, was awarded 1 million zloty (€234,000) by a Polish court.

She knew Mr Lisinski from her case and was shocked when he told her he was suffering from pancreatic cancer. Supposedly short of money for an experimental procedure, she gave him a loan of 30,000 zloty (€7,000) but grew suspicious after she saw him giving television interviews shortly after the operation.

When she asked for medical records, and he sent her only photographs of supposed spots on his body, she approached the Gazeta Wyborcza daily. Mr Lisinski denied their request for his medical records saying he had “no obligation to inform anyone about my physical health, because it is my private matter”.

When the newspaper went public he resigned from his position, insisting he had never taken any money from the foundation set up to assist clerical sexual abuse survivors.

With questions growing about his own story as an abuse survivor, Mr Lisinski wrote on Facebook: “The good of survivors has always been the overriding goal in my life.


Australia Catholic Church

Cardinal George Pell: Prosecutors defend 'unimpeachable' verdict

Australian prosecutors have argued that Cardinal George Pell's conviction for child sexual abuse is "unimpeachable", on the final day of his appeal hearing.

The ex-Vatican treasurer was found guilty by a jury last year of abusing two boys in 1996 in a Melbourne church. He was later jailed for six years.

Pell, 77, is the most senior Catholic figure to be convicted of such crimes.

But he maintains his innocence and is seeking to overturn the jury's verdict, arguing it was "unreasonable".

The two-day hearing at Victoria's Court of Appeal ended on Thursday and the three judges reserved their decision, which will be published at an unspecified date.

The former Vatican treasurer was returned to prison to await the outcome.

What happened on Thursday?

Pell's lawyers detailed several arguments for why the abuse could not have occurred, but prosecutors have rejected those claims.

"When looking at the whole of the evidence, the integrity of the jury's verdicts is unimpeachable," they said in submissions to the appeal court.

His conviction has rocked the Catholic Church, where he had been among Pope Francis's

Last year, the County Court of Victoria heard that Pell had abused two 13-year-old boys following a mass in 1996, when he was archbishop of Melbourne. He abused one of the boys again in 1997, the court was told.

A jury unanimously convicted him on one charge of sexually penetrating a child under 16, and four counts of committing an indecent act on a child under 16.

The trial heard testimony from one of the victims. The other died of a drug overdose in 2014.

Pell chose not to give evidence during the trial.

What is the appeal?

Pell has contested the verdict on three grounds. The first - and most debated - asserts that the jury was "unreasonable" in their verdict, because they relied too heavily on the testimony of the surviving victim.

Pell's lawyer, Bret Walker SC, said that other witnesses' evidence and an alleged timeline showed that it would be "literally, logically impossible for the offending to have occurred".

The second aspect of the appeal asserts that the trial judge had wrongly prevented a defence animation from being played at the trial.

The video represents the locations of witnesses inside St Patrick's Cathedral. Pell's lawyers argue that he could not have committed abuse because it was impossible for him to be alone.

The third challenge contends that Pell was prevented from entering his plea before a jury - against court process.

Prosecutors rebutted each of those claims on Thursday.

They described the testimony of the surviving victim - who cannot be named - as "compelling", adding that he was a "witness of truth".

The appeal has been heard by three judges in the Court of Appeal - a division of the Supreme Court of Victoria.

The judges must also decide whether Pell can be granted leave to appeal at all - in other words, whether he is allowed to do so.

A successful appeal could result in a retrial or Pell being immediately released, legal experts say. That decision requires only two of the three judges to agree.

Any decision could be challenged further in the High Court of Australia - the nation's top court.

The Vatican has previously said that Pell has the right to "defend himself to the last degree". Pell's surviving victim has previously expressed concern that the verdict could be overturned.


Southern Baptist Church

Sex abuse crisis tops agenda as Southern Baptists convenent


The Southern Baptist Convention gathers for its annual national meeting Tuesday with one sobering topic — sex abuse by clergy and staff — overshadowing all others.

Inside the meeting hall in Birmingham, Alabama, delegates representing the nation's largest Protestant denomination will likely vote on establishing criteria for expelling churches that mishandle or cover up abuse allegations. They also may vote to establish a new committee which would review how member churches handle claims of abuse.

Outside the convention center, abuse survivors and other activists plan a protest rally Tuesday evening, demanding that the SBC move faster to require sex-abuse training for all pastors, staff and volunteers, and to create a database of credibly accused abusers that could be shared among its more than 47,000 churches. They will also be urging the church, which espouses all-male leadership, to be more respectful of women's roles — a volatile topic that's sparked online debate over whether women should preach to men.

Sex abuse already was a high-profile issue at the 2018 national meeting in Dallas, following revelations about several sexual misconduct cases. Soon after his election as SBC president at that meeting, the Rev. J.D. Greear formed an advisory group to draft recommendations on how to confront the problem.

However, pressure on the church has intensified in recent months, due in part to articles by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News asserting that hundreds of Southern Baptist clergy and staff have been accused of sexual misconduct over the past 20 years, including dozens who returned to church duties, while leaving more than 700 victims with little in the way of justice or apologies.

"For years, there were people who assumed abuse was simply a Roman Catholic problem," said the Rev. Russell Moore, who heads the SBC's public policy arm. "I see that mentality dissipating. There seems to be a growing sense of vulnerability and a willingness to address this crisis."

As evidence of that willingness, Greear's advisory group issued a detailed report Saturday about sexual abuse within the SBC.

It contained several first-person stories by sexual abuse survivors, and acknowledged a variety of failures in how the SBC has responded to abuse — including inadequate training of staff, failure to believe and support victims, failure to report abuse to law enforcement, and recommending suspected perpetrators to new employment.

The scandals have created a major distraction at a time when recent political events have thrilled many Southern Baptist members. The convention is happening in the state that passed the strictest abortion ban in the country, an issue near and dear to many Baptists. And President Donald Trump has advanced an agenda that has pleased many conservative Christians, including a remade U.S. Supreme Court.

With the abuse scandal spreading, Greear's study committee issued 10 recommendations, and some action has been taken.

For example, a nine-member team has been developing a training curriculum to be used by churches and seminaries to improve responses to abuse. The team includes a psychologist, a former prosecutor, a detective, and attorney and abuse survivor Rachael Denhollander, the first women to go public with charges against sports doctor Larry Nassar ahead of the prosecution that led to a lengthy prison sentence.

The study group also is considering new requirements for background checks of church leaders. And it is assessing options for a database listing abusers, though Baptist leaders say that process has been difficult because of legal issues.

Greear, in an email to The Associated Press, said he was "thankful for the light" that the articles by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News "shined on a dark area of our Convention."

"Only when sin is exposed to the light of truth, true repentance, healing, and change can begin," he wrote.

Activist and writer Christa Brown, who says she was abused by a Southern Baptist minister as a child, has been advocating for a database since 2006, and is frustrated by the slow pace. She says any eventual database might be ineffective unless it is run by outsiders, not by SBC officials.

"It has to be independently administered to provide survivors with a safe place to report," she said.

The study group's No. 1 recommendation is for Southern Baptists to "enter a season of sorrow and repentance."

Ahead of next week's meeting, there's been a surge of debate — much of it waged on social media — related to the Southern Baptist Convention's doctrine of "complementarianism" that calls for male leadership in the home and the church.

Particularly contentious is a widely observed prohibition on women preaching in Southern Baptist churches. Those recently defying that policy include Beth Moore, a prominent author and evangelist who runs a Houston-based ministry for women.

Beth Moore hinted on Twitter in April that she was preaching a Mother's Day sermon at a Southern Baptist church, which drew rebukes from some SBC theologians.

"For a woman to teach and preach to adult men is to defy God's Word," wrote Owen Strachan, a professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. "Elders must not allow such a sinful practice."

Beth Moore responded with a series of tweets on May 11, questioning the motives of SBC leaders seeking to limit women's roles.

"All these years I'd given the benefit of the doubt that these men were the way they were because they were trying to be obedient to Scripture," Beth Moore tweeted.

"Then I realized it was not over Scripture at all. It was over sin.... It was over misogyny. Sexism. It was about arrogance. About protecting systems. It involved covering abuses & misuses of power."

Several male Southern Baptist pastors have aligned themselves with activist women in decrying sex abuse and limits on women's leadership roles.

Among them is Wade Burleson, a pastor from Enid, Oklahoma, who contends that gifted women should be encouraged to serve in the ministry on an equal basis with men.

"The sooner we learn that men can learn spiritual truths from women, the better off we are," Burleson wrote on his blog, adding that he would welcome Beth Moore preaching at his church.

The Rev. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says SBC leaders will not soften the prohibition on women serving as pastors.

"When it comes to questions short of that, there's going to be a robust Southern Baptist discussion," he said.


US Cathoilc Church

Sex abuse crisis the focus as US Catholic bishops convenent

by David Crary

As the Roman Catholic church's sex abuse scandal grows ever wider in scope in the U.S., bishops convene for a national meeting in Baltimore on Tuesday under heavy pressure to acknowledge their oversight failures and give a larger role to lay Catholics and secular authorities in confronting the crisis.

The pressure comes not only from longtime critics of the church's response to clergy sex abuse, but also from insiders who now voice doubts that the bishops are capable of handling the crisis on their own. Among them is Francesco Cesareo, chairman of a national sex-abuse review board set up by the bishops.

"My biggest concern is that it's going to end up being bishops overseeing bishops," Cesareo told Catholic News Service, the news agency of the U.S. bishops' conference. "If that's the case, it's going to be very difficult for the laity to feel any sense of confidence that anything has truly changed."

Sex-abuse scandals have beset the Catholic church worldwide for decades, but events of the past year have created unprecedented challenges for the U.S. bishops. Many dioceses have become targets of state investigations since a Pennsylvania grand jury report in August detailed hundreds of cases of alleged abuse. In February, former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was expelled from the priesthood for sexually abusing minors and seminarians, and investigators are seeking to determine if some Catholic VIPs covered up his transgressions. Another investigative team recently concluded that Michael Bransfield , a former bishop in West Virginia, engaged in sexual harassment and financial misconduct over many years.

Even the president of the bishop's conference, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Galveston-Houston archdiocese, has been entangled in controversies. On June 4, The Associated Press reported on a Houston woman's allegations that DiNardo mishandled her case alleging sexual and financial misconduct by his deputy.

The archdiocese said it "categorically rejects" the story as biased and one-sided. However, the archdiocese later said it would review the married woman's allegations that the monsignor, Frank Rossi, continued to hear her confessions after luring her into a sexual relationship, a potentially serious crime under church law.

SNAP, a national advocacy group for clergy abuse victims, has called on DiNardo to resign his post or at least recuse himself from presiding over the Baltimore meeting.

The bishops had drafted some new accountability policies for their previous national meeting in November, but deferred action due to a last-minute request from the Vatican. One of those proposals would have established a new code of conduct for individual bishops; another would have created a special commission, including lay experts and clergy, to review complaints against the bishops.

In Baltimore, the bishops will be guided by a groundbreaking new law issued by Pope Francis on May 9.

It requires priests and nuns worldwide to report clergy sexual abuse and cover-ups by their superiors to church authorities. It also calls for any claim of sexual misconduct or cover-up against a bishop to be reported to the Vatican and a supervisory bishop in the U.S.

SNAP said the pope's edict was a step forward, but urged the U.S. bishops to go further by requiring that church staff report their suspicions to police and prosecutors in addition to reporting internally. SNAP also said the bishops should turn over any files and records related to sex abuse to their state attorneys general for investigation, and it urged the bishops to ensure that all U.S. dioceses release lists of priests, nuns and other church staff alleged to have committed sexual abuse.

Beyond the pope's edict, the bishops will consider creating an independent, third-party reporting system to which allegations of abuse could be filed.

John Gehring, Catholic program director at a Washington-based clergy network called Faith in Public Life, said many bishops now realize they need lay leadership as decisions on anti-abuse policies are made.

"But the disagreement comes when you get down to deciding what that actually looks like in practice," Gehring said. "Some bishops are still uncomfortable with conceding power and there will be inevitable tensions."

Catholic leaders argue, with some statistical backing, that instances of clergy sex abuse have declined sharply with the adoption in 2002 of a charter establishing guidelines for dealing with clergy sex-abuse of minors.

"The Church is a far safer place today than when we launched the Charter," DiNardo contended in a recently released report on abuse. "Programs of background checks, safe environment trainings, review boards enforcing zero tolerance policies, and victims assistance require hundreds of dedicated, professional teams with child safety as their highest priority."

However, Professor Margaret McGuiness, who teaches courses on Catholicism at La Salle University, doubted that any steps taken in Baltimore would win back the trust of many lay Catholics dismayed by the multiple scandals.

"I think they have a deeper problem, which is a rapid decline in Mass attendance and church membership in general," McGuinness said. "Individual bishops can blame the decline on feminism, 'loose morals,' or anything else, but the fact is that the sex abuse crisis has driven many Catholics away."

According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, an authoritative source of Catholic-related data , 45% of U.S. Catholics attended Mass at least once a month in 2018, down from 57% in 1990.

While Catholic leaders have faced criticism for many years over their response to abuse, one potentially momentous new development is the degree of pressure the church now faces from state investigators and legislators.

In addition to the investigations underway by attorneys general in at least 15 states, several legislatures have approved statute-of-limitation revisions this year giving victims of long-ago child sex-abuse new windows for litigation against the Catholic church, the Boy Scouts and other institutions. California is considering such a bill, as well as a measure that would require priests to report suspected abuse even in cases where they heard about it during confession.

The California Catholic Conference decried the confession bill as "a clear violation of religious liberty" and noted that priests violating the confidentiality of confession faced excommunication.

University of Pennsylvania professor Marci Hamilton, an expert on child-abuse prevention, said the surge of legislative action is due in part to “the dawning reality for many Americans — including lawmakers — that bishops cannot and will not solve this problem themselves.


US Catholic Church

The US Catholic Church spent more than $300 million on abuse-related costs in 12 months

by Daniel Burke

(CNN) Between June 2017 and June 2018 the Catholic Church in the United States spent a whopping $301.6 million on costs related to clergy sexual abuse, including nearly $200 million in legal settlements, according to a report commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The new report also revealed that, during the same 12-month period, the church fielded 1,051 new "credible allegations" of sexual abuse of a minor by priests and other clergy.

The number of allegations and the costs related to abuse were significantly higher than reported in previous years, which the report attributes to a victim-compensation program adopted in New York state last year. That program fielded 785 new allegations of abuse against Catholic clergy, many from past decades.

What's remarkable is that these numbers may rise against next year.

The information in the new report, released last Friday, predates the escalation of the church's sexual abuse scandal last summer. That's when abuse allegations surfaced against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick and a damning report by a Pennsylvania grand jury accused some 301 "predator priests" of abusing more than 1,000 victims.

Most of those accusations dated from before 2002, when the bishops instituted new sex-abuse polices.

But those policies do not apply to bishops, a loophole the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have pledged to fix next week at their annual meeting in Baltimore.

How the money was spent

Called the "Report on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," the 74-page document is based on statistics provided by religious orders, the country's 197 Catholic dioceses and information obtained by an outside auditor, StoneBridge BusinessPartners.

Here's how the $301 million was spent:

Settlements: $194,346,291

Other payments to victims: $7,317,904

Support for offenders: $23,366,845

Attorney fees: $30,517,658

Other costs: $7,070,839

Child-protection efforts, including background checks and training: $39,290,069

According to the report, between June 2017 and June 2018 there was an 132% increase in allegations, a 133% increase in victims, and a 51% increase in offenders reported over the previous 12 months.

The $301 million spent by dioceses and religious institutes on child protection efforts and costs related to abuse allegations represents a 14% increase from the previous year, according to the report.

$3.8 billion were paid in lawsuits and claims over sex abuse allegations in Catholic Church since 1980s, the group says.

The vast majority of the accused abuse occurred before 1999, according to the report. Nearly half (48%) is alleged to have occurred before 1975 and an additional 40% between 1975-1999, the report says.

Concerns about putting 'children's safety at risk'

Still, the head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' lay review board said he was concerned that the report demonstrates "signs of complacency and lack of diligence on the part of some dioceses."

"What is concerning are the 26 allegations by current minors (12 males and 14 females) reported in 2018," wrote Francesco C. Cesareo, the review board chair, in a letter accompanying the report.

Three of these allegations were substantiated, seven were unsubstantiated, three were unable to be proven, six were still under investigation, two were referred to religious orders, two involved unknown clerics, and three were incidents of boundary violations but not sexual abuse, according to the report.

"These current allegations point to the reality that sexual abuse of minors by the clergy should not be considered by bishops as a thing of the past or a distant memory," Cesareo said. He also noted that 14% of the dioceses were flagged by the auditor for a follow-up visit because they were not following church protocol on child protection.

"While not widespread, the fact that in some dioceses these recurring problems are still evident points to lack of diligence that puts children's safety at risk," Cesareo said.

In a preface to the report, the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops acknowledged the church has more work to do.

"While much has been done to ensure survivor ministry and the protection of the vulnerable are core values of the Church, improvements still must be made," wrote Cardinal Daniel DiNardo.

"When it comes to the protection of young people, the question must always be 'what more can be done?' We have in front of us an important opportunity. An opportunity to do better."


US Cathoilc Church

USCCB bishops to tackle ‘unfinished business' on sex abuse at meeting

by Christopher White

NEW YORK - When the U.S. Catholic bishops gather in Baltimore next week, the theme of their three-day meeting could largely be summed up as “unfinished business.”

For starters, there's the unfinished business from seven months ago of enacting new guidelines for bishop accountability. Just ahead of last November's meeting, the Vatican halted plans to vote for new guidelines for bishops, citing canonical concerns and faulting the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) leadership for not providing Rome adequate time to review the proposals.

More broadly, however, there's the unfinished business from seventeen years ago of closing the gap in the Dallas Charter - the landmark 2002 document establishing new norms for child protection, which created a “zero tolerance” policy for a priests guilty of abuse, but omitted bishops from the same oversight.

In many respects, the Vatican has done the heavy lifting for this meeting, with last month's new universal Church law, Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world”) issued by Pope Francis, which makes it mandatory for all clerics and members of religious orders to report cases of clerical sexual abuse to Church authorities, including when committed by bishops or cardinals.

Known as a motu proprio, meaning a change to Church law under the pope's authority, the law went into effect on June 1 and now it is up to bishops' conferences from around the world to implement it on a local level, with a deadline of June 20, 2020 to have a system in place.

For cases in which a bishop is being accused of abuse or its cover-up, Vos estis relies on the metropolitan archbishop to conduct an investigation and allows for the involvement of lay experts in the process to ensure proper oversight and accountability.

When the U.S. bishops convene next Tuesday to Thursday, the “Directives for the Implementation of the Provisions of Vos estis lux mundi Concerning Bishops and their Equivalents,” will be put to a vote, which builds on the motu proprio's framework and situates it in the U.S. context.

According to a draft of the proposed directives obtained by Crux, the 4-page document would establish a national third-party reporting system to receive complaints of abuse or cover-up and then report it to the appropriate ecclesial authorities.

Further, it invests the metropolitan archbishop with the authority to carry out an investigation into a bishop, noting that it is “highly encouraged” for him to “avail himself of an investigator” which could include a number of lay experts, and it leaves it up to the local province to finance the investigation.

Should the metropolitan archbishop be accused of abuse or cover-up, it falls to the suffragan bishop who has been a bishop longest to carry out the investigation.

In the United States, there are 32 territorial archdioceses throughout the country that would be responsible for overseeing such investigations for the smaller dioceses surrounding them.

The new directives differ from last November's proposals, which called for an independent non-profit board to be established to review such cases. Vatican officials struck down the proposals as violating canon law for giving lay officials control over bishops, which ultimately only belong to the pope. The then-proposal would have also allowed for dioceses to opt-in to the program, however the new Vatican guidelines make such oversight universal.

Last Thursday, a conference call was held among the metropolitan bishops to discuss some of the specifics of the new model. According to several of the archbishops who spoke with Crux on background following the meeting, many of the concerns at this point are centered on ironing out the specifics of the funding for the investigations and the mechanics of the third-party hotline.

One archbishop told Crux that “I hope we publicly have a chance to thank Pope Francis for making us wait in November, because I think we're going to come out of this with much stronger proposals.”

Another archbishop emphasized that the new Vatican guidelines will hold bishops responsible for their handling of abuse cases, even if it's due to negligence or incompetence. “This puts us all on notice,” he said, “and provides the sort of accountability that we've been talking about.”

In April, USCCB Vice-President Archbishop José Gómez and Cardinal Joseph Tobin led a delegation to Rome to meet with Vatican curial officials in an effort to secure their support for the new guidelines and to prevent a repeat of the communications breakdown that happened in the fall.

Also up for a vote is a new document titled “Acknowledging Our Episcopal Commitments,” meant to serve as a reaffirmation of their vows. The document replaces the “Standards of Accountability for a Bishop,” which were proposed in November and aims to address the “legitimate questions and concerns raised” at the time.

The three-page document specifically states that the standards of the Dallas Charter apply to bishops as well as to priests and bishops, and says that “there can be no ‘double life,' no ‘special circumstances,' no ‘secret life' in the practice of chastity.”

Lastly, a third document will be considered, a “Protocol Regarding Available Non-Penal Restrictions on Bishops,” which outlines new accountability measures for emeriti bishops who have resigned or been removed from office due to “grave acts of commission or omission.”

The document invests the diocesan bishop with the ability to restrict the bishop emeritus's ministry within the local church and to make requests of the Holy See for a broader prohibition of his ministry. In addition, the document notes that the USCCB president, in consultation with the Administrative Committee, can request for such bishops to no longer attend USCCB meetings.

The bishops had until last Monday to make amendments to the current draft texts, and the full body of U.S. bishops is expected to vote on all three documents next week, after the texts are finalized.

While efforts to respond to the wave of clergy abuse related scandals will likely dominate next week's meeting, also on the agenda will be a report from the working group on Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, which proved to be a flashpoint at last summer's meeting, as well as an update from the working group on immigration.

At least year's June meeting, tensions emerged over whether to update Faithful Citizenship, the USCCB's official voting guidelines in advance of the 2020 election. Some bishops argued that the current version of the document, which was last updated in 2015, failed to adequately reflect the teachings and emphases of Pope Francis.

In the end, the bishops' voted to produce new materials to complement the document, including videos and a new brochure, subject to a review of its content by the full body of bishops.

On immigration - which until the abuse crisis surfaced last summer, was the dominant focus of the conference - the bishops will hear updates on efforts to provide greater protections for vulnerable groups such as DACA recipients and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, the work of Catholics along the border in welcoming asylum-seeking children and families, and building on the work of the Encuentro, last September's gathering of Hispanic and Latino Catholics.

USCCB president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo is expected to preside over next week's meeting, which will mark his first major public appearance after suffering a stroke in March.

Earlier this week, an Associated Press investigation alleged that DiNardo mishandled a sexual misconduct case involving his former deputy in the archdiocese of Galveston-Houston - claims that DiNardo has strongly rejected.

RELATED: Texas couple stands by story after US cardinal pushes back

Although the U.S. bishops were originally scheduled to meet this summer in California for a retreat, following last November's delay in adopting new standards for bishop accountability, the USCCB opted to return to Baltimore for a standard business meeting for their spring assembly.

Reflecting on the new universal Vatican norms for accountability - and looking ahead to next week - one bishop told Crux that, “the ball is now in our court.”

“Let's pray we can finally get this done,” he added.


US Catholic Church

Bishops take another try at addressing abuse, accountability among their own

by Greg Erlandson

WASHINGTON, D.C. - When the bishops gather in Baltimore June 11-14, their meeting will be anything but pro forma.

Instead, they will have some major decisions to make that may determine how quickly they are able to rebuild trust with their fellow Catholics following a series of recent allegations and scandals regarding bishops themselves.

“This is going to be a working meeting,” said one observer, implying the likelihood of vigorous discussion and debate as the bishops seek to approve a series of proposals dealing with the investigation of abuse or cover-up of abuse by bishops.

The attention of the bishops and the dozens of news media who will be following the proceedings will be focused on four action items.

The most important of these, and perhaps the one most likely to be debated, concerns the directives for the implementation of the recent motu proprio, or church law, issued by Pope Francis and governing complaints directed against clergy or church leaders regarding the sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable persons.

The motu proprio, known by its Latin title Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world”), grew out of the extraordinary gathering of the presidents of the world's bishops' conferences Feb. 21-24 in Rome. The motu proprio modified existing church law to bolster laws regarding clergy sexual abuse, including protection for whistleblowers and condemnation of any sort of cover-ups of such abuse.

While many of the directives of the motu proprio regarding clergy have already been implemented in the United States with its 2002 “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” the action items before the bishops concern allegations of abuse or negligence on the part of bishops. Bishops were not explicitly included in the charter because authority over the bishops and their discipline rests with the pope himself.

The new laws promulgated by Francis, however, call for a “public, stable and easily accessible” reporting system for such allegations, the use of “proven experts from among the laity” to investigate such allegations, and the oversight of the metropolitan (another term for archbishop) to direct such investigations in his province.

At the November meeting of the U.S. bishops, reforms regarding the investigation of bishops were discussed but not voted on at the request of the Vatican. One subject of debate and discussion at that meeting concerned some sort of “special commission” that would be an independent means to receive and investigate allegations made against bishops.

The motu proprio issued by Francis last month makes clear, however, that the primary responsibility for any such investigation lies with the metropolitan archbishop for the province, who in turn reports his findings to the pope. In the case of a metropolitan being accused, the responsibility falls to the senior bishop in that province.

An example of this most recently was Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori's investigation of allegations of sexual and financial improprieties made against Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, former bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia. Lori was the responsible metropolitan who in turn brought in a team of five experts to conduct a five-month-long investigation, ultimately affirming that the allegations were credible and passing along the results of the investigation to the Vatican.

This investigation was begun prior to the issuance of the motu proprio, but it was in some ways a textbook case of how such an investigation is to be handled.

However, a subsequent report by The Washington Post, which received copies of the final report, an earlier draft of the report and other documentation by an unnamed source, also points out the limitations of the metropolitan option. According to the documents received by the Post, the final report edited out the names of prelates who had received financial gifts from Bransfield, including Lori.

After the Post story, a spokesman for Lori said his thought was that identifying the individuals who received the gifts was a “distraction.”

In hindsight, his spokesman explained, the archbishop can see how not sharing this information could be seen as protecting those whose judgment could have been compromised by such gifts. Lori subsequently forwarded the names to the Holy See.

While the motu proprio directs a metropolitan who has a conflict of interest to recuse himself, the incident has raised long-standing concerns about “bishops investigating bishops.”

The challenge for the U.S. bishops next week will be to find a way to convince themselves and their people that there are enough safeguards in the document to ensure that justice will be done in a relatively open and transparent manner.

In the case of Lori, who already instituted many of the reforms to be discussed in his archdiocese last January, he established a third-party reporting system in which allegations against any bishop in his archdiocese are first reviewed by two retired judges. They in turn determine whether the allegations appear to warrant further investigation and whether civil as well as church authorities should be notified.

How to implement safeguards on a national level that will apply to all 32 metropolitans, that will conform to the intentions of the pope's motu proprio and that will provide some sort of assurance that the bishops are serious about policing their own is the challenge they will face in Baltimore.

In addition to the directive for implementation of the motu proprio, the bishops will vote on a document entitled “Acknowledging Our Episcopal Commitments.” The document acknowledges the outrage of Catholics over reported failings by bishops. The bishops promise to hold themselves accountable to the commitments of the Charter, which affirms a zero-tolerance policy, and that any codes of conduct in their respective dioceses regarding clergy apply to themselves as well.

It also promises an “independent, third-party entity” through which reports of sexual misconduct with a child or an adult by any cleric, including a bishop, can be reported.

A third, and relatively uncontroversial, proposal to be voted on is a “protocol regarding available non-penal restrictions on bishops.” This outlines what canonical options are available to bishops when a now-retired bishop resigned or is removed “due to sexual misconduct with adults or grave negligence of office, or where subsequent to his resignation he was found to have so acted or failed to act.”

At the November meeting when this protocol was first discussed, at least two bishops - Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis and Bishop Steven R. Biegler of Cheyenne, Wyoming - spoke of challenges they faced regarding the status of their predecessors. The protocol outlines a series of options allowing the current bishop to restrict the activities of the retired bishop. The current bishop will also make any reports required to law enforcement.

The most striking element of the protocol is that the president of the bishops' conference would now have the authority to ban a bishop who was retired due to misconduct or negligence from attending any plenary assembly or serve on any body of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The bishops also will discuss a fourth proposal, which will define what an independent third-party reporting system will look like, how it will function in terms of notifying the metropolitan, and who will maintain it.


United Kingdom

‘A child abuse survivor asks how I can bring myself to help sex offenders'

I'm proud of the work I do even if we are seen as controversial, and I use all of my resilience to help survivors and their families

by Sarah Johnson

I work at a charity dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse. Among other things, we run a confidential helpline for anyone concerned about child sexual abuse. Today, I train staff in how to respond to calls from parents.

We get a wide range of calls from parents. Sometimes it's because their child has been looking at illegal images of children being abused online. Parents are stunned and shocked and don't know what to do or where to turn. There's a sense of loss, as many of the children are from stable backgrounds and tend to perform well at school.

We also frequently get calls about abuse within the family – for example when an older sibling touches, or even rapes, a younger one. Trying to navigate a way forward for parents who want to protect their children is hugely emotionally challenging.

'I get a stream of angry emails because I've rejected a charity application'.


Another part of my job involves working with family members affected by abuse and preparing court reports. Today, I talk to a mother whose daughter has been abused by her husband. She is in floods of tears, the kind that make you gasp for air. She didn't know. People ask how mothers don't spot what's going on, and it's often because they have been groomed too; the perpetrator is frequently someone close to them. She feels she has failed as a mother.

The child meanwhile is denying any abuse ever happened, even though she knows there is video evidence and that the professionals trying to help have seen it. It's too enormous for her to talk about.

I use all of my knowledge, skill and resilience to help mothers find the strength to support their children. But sometimes it's just not safe for children to remain in their mother's care and they have to be removed into foster care.

I remember being called to give evidence in court after I wrote a report concluding a mother couldn't protect her children. After we left the court, I could hear the mother crying loudly after it was decided to remove her children. It was the right decision but that didn't make it any easier.


Today is another day of training. In the evening I go out for dinner. When I meet new people and they ask what I do, my answer varies. Someone once told me they were a survivor of child abuse and asked me how I could do my job as it also involved helping those accused and convicted of sexual abuse. Sometimes I say I work in child protection and the conversation moves swiftly on. More mainstream media coverage of child sexual abuse means people are more aware of the topic, but there's still a long way to go.


I take some calls on our helpline. One is from a mother whose son has been arrested for downloading indecent images of children. She's distraught; her shock is visceral and it's evident she had no idea what he'd been looking at.

Young people who get into trouble online are often very ashamed of what they've done. I've been told by two young people this year that they contemplated suicide after being arrested.

I meet a man who reported himself to the police for looking at images. He tells me he felt disgusted with himself.


I write up notes from a session with a boy whose father has been charged with downloading sexual images of children. The first the boy knew of it was when police stormed into his bedroom when he was asleep. I was struck by how resilient he was, but also how much he was grieving the loss of his father both physically and in terms of how he knew him.

I go home feeling I've done my best to do a little good in the world. I feel proud of the work we do, even though we are sometimes seen as controversial. I feel it's our moral duty to help those who want to ensure they cause no harm to children.



Investigation team rescued 85 South Australian children from sexual abuse

Joint federal-state team relied on international collaboration to identify victims and arrest sex offenders

In the past four years 85 South Australian children have been removed from harm thanks to a joint federal-state investigative team working to combat the scourge of child sexual abuse.

Since the Join Anti Child Exploitation Team was established in 2015, it has launched 508 investigations.

Its work came into sharp focus recently with the arrest of Adelaide serial sex offender Ruecha Tokputza.

The 31-year-old was recently jailed for more than 40 years for his abuse of 11 babies and children in the worst case of its kind in Australia.

JACET identifies, investigates and charges those offending against children, predominantly those involved in online sexual exploitation.

In SA, the team has 15 specialist investigators from the local force and the Australian federal police.

In the Tokputza case, their investigations began in November 2017 after exploitation videos were linked to a server in Bulgaria, which linked to an IP address in Adelaide.

In January, 11 children were rescued once their location was identified in Thailand.

Search warrants were executed globally, including one for Tokputza's home, and he was connected to the IP address.

A member of the SA JACET, Sergeant Stephen Hegarty, said on Sunday that sharing child exploitation material was not a victimless offence.

“Our priority is to identify children who are in the worst possible scenarios and rescue them wherever they are in the world,” Hegarty said.

It was “powerful and moving” knowing international collaboration was at the forefront of the investigation, he said.

To prosecute Tokputza, he had to analyse nearly 900,000 videos, files and images to identify the victims.

“It's by far the most difficult case I've had to work through,” he said. “Our focus may be on the protection of children in SA but if there's a nexus with crimes overseas then we will hunt you down and we will catch you.”

Last week, Interpol confirmed the two-year SA investigation led to referrals to 60 countries, 50 victims being removed from harm, an additional 100 children were identified as suffering abuse, and nine sex offenders being arrested.




Commentary: When does a touch become unsafe? When a 6-year-old discloses sexual abuse

Safeguarding our children from sexual abuse has got to start young, says Singapore Children's Society CEO Alfred Tan.

When does a touch become unsafe? When a 6-year-old discloses sexual abuse

SINGAPORE: During one of our programme on body safety skills, a class of six-year-olds were shown various scenario cards depicting good and bad touches.

When a particular card showed a man touching a boy on his groin area, a boy in class insisted that it was a good touch, despite the rest of his classmates disagreeing.

When asked why, the boy replied that his father, as well as his father's friend, had taken off his clothes and touched his penis.

To the boy, this was part of their play and because he had not been taught body safety skills before.

He did not realise that he had been sexually abused.

There has been much public attention on the case involving Australian Boris Kunsevitsky, a diagnosed paedophile who is currently facing charges for committing child sexual abuse on dozens of victims.

This case hits especially close to home, since five of his victims were from Singapore.

Even so, it is crucial to highlight that it is not just paedophiles who may sexually abuse children. There are also regressed offenders who typically have no sexual interest in children, but commit sexual abuse during times of stress; such as when they encounter financial pressures or marital strain.

We also often think that sexual abuse perpetrators are strangers, when in reality a majority of perpetrators are people familiar to the children. These perpetrators take advantage of their relationship with the children to groom them, sexually abuse them, and get them to keep the abuse a secret.

The case of Kunsevitsky is one of the latest in a spate of child sexual abuse cases reported in the news in the past year.

Child abuse investigation statistics released by the Ministry of Social and Family Development revealed that in 2018, there were 248 sexual abuse cases that were investigated. Almost all involved a family member or relative.


Child sexual abuse is often shrouded in secrecy and shame, and younger children are particularly vulnerable.

Cases are often under-reported as they may not have the linguistic skills to verbalise the abuse. Some may not even understand that abuse has happened to them in the first place

For these reasons, Singapore Children's Society has conducted KidzLive: I Can Protect Myself, a body safety skills programme since 2000.

For the last nine years, we have focused our efforts on pre-schoolers and have reached over 10,900 young children in Singapore. The key elements in our programme include guiding children to be able to identify bad touches and inappropriate actions, and to tell a trusted adult should sexual abuse happen.

Even though KidzLive is a prevention programme, we have encountered a handful of sexual abuse disclosures, like the case shared at the beginning of this commentary. This case was screened in for investigation by the Child Protective Service (CPS) and the boy was placed temporarily in his grandmother's care.

These disclosures, which were flagged to either the CPS or the Early Childhood Development Agency for further intervention, demonstrate that young children can speak up about abuse if given the right tools.

In the course of our work, we have encountered our fair share of sceptics who question whether the children are actually able to grasp the programme's messages and whether we are, in a crude sense, corrupting their minds.

What we have learnt is quite the contrary — our programme evaluation has shown that young children have the capacity to pick up and retain body safety messages.


Body safety teaching is part of sexuality education, and it takes a wider perspective than sex education, which is more narrowly concerned with explaining the act of sex.

Sexuality education, instead, focuses on equipping children with the skills to make responsible decisions about their social and sexual relationships.

Just like academic learning, body safety messages have to be carefully calibrated to children's cognitive and sexual development. For example, with children aged two or three, we can start by using the proper terms for private body parts and emphasising the “underwear rule” – and that no one should see or touch the parts covered by their underwear.

The key is in keeping our messages age-appropriate and making use of everyday teachable moments. Some essential points to note are:

For adults to use the proper terms for private body parts. This helps children develop a healthy mindset towards their own bodies. Emphasise that the parts covered by their underwear are private and not for anyone else.

When children pose questions, keep answers as factual and simple as possible. After explaining, ask children questions to ensure that messages have been understood correctly.

Tell children that even familiar people should not behave inappropriately towards them. Empower them to be assertive in saying “no” to unwanted touches, including hugs and kisses.

Remind our children that they should always tell their trusted adults whenever they felt uncomfortable with unwanted touches, and to keep telling until someone listens. Rehearse telling so that children would know exactly what to say, and who to tell, should the situation arise.


Parents are the best people to build the foundation for healthy sexuality.

Research has shown that children who receive sexuality education are less likely to be obsessed with the “mystery” of it all. Being open in communicating such messages also leads to more responsible sexual behaviours and delayed sexual initiation.

In this digital era, children have access to mobile devices at an even younger age. Such access is often unsupervised and this puts children at a higher risk of stumbling upon sexually inappropriate or exploitative content online.

It is increasingly pertinent for parents to maintain an open communication with children about their lives and about general advancements in technology, so that we are able to understand what they are doing in the online world.

Times may have changed, but the way parents engage with their children, in setting boundaries and teaching about respectful relationships should remain the same.

Adults also need to be supportive and assuring to children who disclose abuse. We have to be mindful of our own tendencies to want to deny, rationalise or minimise the abuse incident.

To provide support to parents and caregivers, Children's Society also conducts teacher trainings and parents' talks such that caregivers can also be on board with reinforcing body safety skills. Just this past month, we launched a storybook entitled Jun and the Octopus, that caregivers can use to kick start meaningful conversations about body safety.


On the legislative front, the Singapore Government has been making progress in enhancing protections for vulnerable victims of sexual offences, including children, through the Criminal Law Reform Bill. The bill provides for extra-territorial jurisdiction in the prosecution of child abuse material offences.

This means that sexual abuse perpetrators from overseas, like Kunsevitsky, who possess, produce or distribute child abuse material involving children in Singapore, are liable to criminal charges under our country's laws.

We hope the Government could also look into implementing more stringent measures against known sexual abuse perpetrators.

These could include providing for the mandatory screening of would-be employees at child-centric organisations against the sex offenders registry, and tagging offenders so their movements in and out of the country are restricted.

Organisations also have the responsibility to undertake child-safe practices, such as having clear codes of conduct when interacting with children and youth, robust recruitment processes and concrete risk management strategies should allegations of abuse arise.

It takes a community effort to deter potential perpetrator and keep our children safe.

With parents and other caregivers around the children taking proactive steps in imparting body safety skills and supporting children who disclose abuse, we can, and will, create safer spaces for our children to grow up in.



Google's Chrome browser plans 'risk undermining fight against online child abuse', govt warned

A new privacy feature in Chrome browsers could undermine the work of authorities who try to prevent spread of child abuse images.

by Alexander J Martin

Chrome and Firefox could undermine the UK's fight against online child abuse.

A planned change to the Chrome web browser by Google would have a "catastrophic impact on victims of online child sexual abuse" by undermining internet filters in the UK, the government has been warned.

Techniques used to prevent images of child abuse being spread online would be made "obsolete" unless the government takes action, according to a parliamentary briefing note obtained by Sky News.

The briefing, written by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) - a charity with the task of finding and removing child abuse images online - says its "crucial service" of filtering URLs is now at risk.

The government has faced months of warnings related to the changes, due in future releases of Google's Chrome browser and Mozilla Firefox, but is yet to address them.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have warned that the changes, despite being designed to protect users, would critically undermine tools used to block people from accessing abuse websites.

The IWF provides ISPs with a list of up to 12,000 web pages which hold child abuse material so that the ISPs can filter access to those pages while authorities try to take them down.

But browser companies argue that the mechanism this anti-abuse filter uses could be exploited by criminals and hackers and they are trying to fix the technical issue.

Chrome is the most widely used web browser in the UK, with almost 50% of the entire market share according to StatCounter, while roughly 5% of Brits browse over Firefox.

The IWF are concerned that the changes to both browsers could ruin years of work tackling child abuse images by allowing the public to access them at an enormous scale.

Fred Langford, the head of the IWF, warned: "If [the technology was] the default position on browsers used by the majority of people in the UK, it would make the kind of images we've spent all these years blocking suddenly highly accessible."

A spokesperson for the ISPA trade association which supports ISPs told Sky News: "Serious changes need to be made to [the new technology] for it to be even near fit for purpose in the UK.

"Until that happens the government needs to send a strong message to browsers such as Mozilla and Google that these changes cannot go ahead."

A government spokesperson said: "Whilst we look to support capabilities that seek to deliver security and privacy to the UK online, we are concerned about unintended consequences changes could have.

"We will work with industry and regulators to seek solutions to any potential problems as part of our ongoing work to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online."

A spokesperson for Mozilla told Sky News that the technology wouldn't "truly change the state" of how the content restrictions work, which they said had been ineffective for over a decade.

However they added that they "always honour user choice" and that Firefox would make it possible for people to manually configure their settings so that they were bound to the ISP restrictions.

"We will also disable the feature automatically within companies, libraries, schools and other organisations that have managed networks or custom DNS settings," Mozilla added.

In its statement, Google said it was "always looking for ways to enhance privacy and protect users from online threats" and was currently "exploring additional ways to provide secure connections".

"Contrary to reports, these secure connections would not disable the existing content controls of your current provider, including any existing protections for children," the company said.

The allegation from the IWF is not that Chrome would disable the existing content controls, but that it would automatically bypass the way they are implemented.



Chemical castration bill awaiting Ala. governor's signature

by Catherine Patterson

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - There's a bill on Governor Kay Ivey's desk that would require convicted sex offenders on parole to undergo chemical castration.

Republican State Representative Steve Hurst of Talladega County says this bill, HB 379, will save children's lives.

He says passing a bill like this has been a goal of his for almost 15 years.

The bill says a person convicted of a sex offense involving a child under 13, who is eligible for parole, will be required to undergo chemical castration.

It would require the Department of Public Health to administer the treatment, which would reduce the production of testosterone or other hormones in the body.

“I'd prefer it be surgical, because the way I look at it, if they're going to mark these children for life, they need to be marked for life. My preference would be, if someone does a small infant child like that, they need to die. God's going to deal with them one day,” said Representative Hurst.

A person required to undergo the chemical castration must begin the treatment no less than one month prior to their release from custody, and must continue treatment until the court determine it's no longer necessary.

Representative Hurst says Governor Ivey hasn't indicated whether she'll sign the bill.



Dept of Justice

Man Who Used Russian Photo-Sharing Website to Obtain, Share and Advertise Child Pornography Sentenced to 25 Years in Federal Prison

by Nicola T. Hanna, United States Attorney, Central District of California

– A former West Covina resident was sentenced today to 300 months in federal prison for uploading images of child pornography to a Russian photo-sharing website and publishing an advertisement that sought to exchange sexually-explicit images of children.

Christopher Clay Roman-Tuttle, 33, now of Spokane, Washington, who also uses the name Christopher Clay Tuttle, was sentenced by United States District Judge Percy Anderson. Once he completes the prison sentence, Tuttle will be required to register as a sex offender and will be on supervised release for the rest of his life.

Roman-Tuttle pleaded guilty in March to one count of advertising child pornography, which carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years in prison.

When he pleaded guilty, Roman-Tuttle admitted that he created an online account in 2015 that he used to publish an advertisement seeking to receive, exchange and distribute child pornography. He further admitted that he posted two photo albums – one containing non-pornographic images of a minor known to him, and one of which contained images of unknown children being sexually exploited. Roman-Tuttle advertised these images and sought to obtain additional images in a statement, which read, in part: “Preteens and tween's in diapers is cool too…. I'd love to meet up with a parent that wants to share their daughter (of course id make it worth their wile).”

In response to the advertisement, Roman-Tuttle received numerous emails over the course of two days from dozens of individuals seeking to exchange child pornography with him, and many of these individuals sent him digital files of child pornography. Roman-Tuttle admitted sending child pornography to many of these individuals. In emails to some of these other individuals, Roman-Tuttle described his desire to sexually abuse children, including the minor known to him, whom he admitted to having sexually abused in the past, according to his plea agreement.

“Based on defendant's online activity, it is clear that defendant has a sexual interest in children, and used child pornography to seek out individuals who would allow him sexual access to other children,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo filed with the court. “In aid of this quest, defendant treated images of sexually-exploited children as currency, offering to trade images and videos from his collection to obtain his preferred images of girls between five and eight years old.”

In his plea agreement, Roman-Tuttle also admitted possessing more than 9,000 images and 330 videos of child pornography on his computer and on other devices, including images depicting the sexual abuse and exploitation of infants or toddlers. He also admitted to knowingly possessing a sexually explicit image of the minor known to him.

This matter was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Damaris Diaz of the Violent and Organized Crime Section.


from: Thom Mrozek - Director of Media Relations
(213) 894-6947