National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

child abuse trauma prevention, intervention & recovery

"News of the Week"
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.
programs / projects
together we can heal
help stop child abuse
a little about us
join us, get involved
"News of the Week"  

June 2019 - Week 3
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.



Shame and pain': Vietnam starts to grapple with child abuse epidemic

After several high profile cases, the government has launched a campaign to bring the issue into the open

by Zoe Osborne in Ho Chi Minh

It was morning at a Hanoi school when a teenage student stumbled into class. As she sat at her desk, blood began to pool under her chair; just that morning she had been sexually abused. When her teacher's response was that she should sit on some tissues until the bleeding stopped, the young girl began to cry.

The incident, recounted by a Huynh Mai, a school psychologist, made headlines in Vietnam last month. Yet it was reflective of a culture of ignorance, indifference and stigma that has surrounded child sex abuse in the country for generations, according to teachers, victims and NGOs.

However, after several high-profile abuse cases, many involving the abuse of pupils by their teachers, the government has launched several initiatives to finally bring the issue out into the open.

The move has included the creation of an “Ending physical violence against children at home and in school” initiative by the ministry of education and introducing mandatory sexual assault-prevention classes for those in first grade, as well as textbooks teaching children how to deal with assault and what parts of their bodies are private.

For victims such as Thao*, schools are crucial starting place for the campaign. She was 13 when her maths teacher began his two years of abuse. Due to the stigma and a damaging culture of secrecy, her abuser has never been named or taken to court. “He used to beat me up … I was so scared but I didn't dare to tell my parents because he threatened me that he would kill me,” said Thao. “He manipulated me, he made me feel worse about myself.”

The abuse, first violent, became sexual when Thao was 14. Terrified, she eventually went to her mother but they chose not to report it. “We knew the police wouldn't solve it and my mum didn't want everyone to hurt me by judging me, saying mean things, spreading rumours,” she said.

It took her years to recover. “I had so many breakdowns that I couldn't count, I hurt myself and it broke my parents' hearts … I put up with it for 735 days, I suffered it for 735 days and it felt like 10 years.”

Her experience of sexual abuse at school was not an isolated one. Most of the high profile child abuse cases in Vietnam this year have involved teachers, with an ethics teacher recently jailed for raping young girls and another teacher arrested for impregnating a student.

In Vietnam, the law on child sexual violence is ambiguous, making convictions difficult. Some forms of sexual violence aren't even considered a criminal offence – sexual assault remains an administrative violation and the maximum fine is just $13.

“In March, a man was fined just 200,000 VND ($10) for assaulting a woman in a Hanoi apartment elevator. The following month, an ex-government official was caught in a similar incident in Saigon, this time molesting a child. The incident caused nationwide uproar and residents of the apartment block started a petition calling for an amendment to the law, and while the people's supreme court responded, they are still debating whether or not “touches to the neck and belly” can be classified as sexual harassment.”

It is not just teachers being targeted by the government campaign. The police force are also being educated to recognise signs of sexual assault in both women and children that go beyond evidence of victims being “forced”, “tied up”, “beatings” and “torn clothing” to substantiate claims of rape or assault.

Vietnamese police recorded 1,547 child abuse cases in 2018 but due to the culture of secrecy around abuse, the real numbers are suspected to be much higher.

Rana Flowers, Unicef representative in Vietnam, said the figures were likely to be the “tip of the iceberg”.

She welcomed the government's initiative but said much more needed to be done, especially in the realm of online abuse.

“The fast growth of the internet in Vietnam poses a new risk for children with cases of abuse and exploitation on the internet and social networks also increasing,” she said.

“Vietnam still lacks a strong legal framework to protect children from all forms of violence, especially sexual abuse. This also extends to the lack of care and support services for victims.”

The campaign for awareness is slowly seeping into society, with people beginning to speak out about child abuse, calling for more effective laws and enforcement, spreading awareness over social media and even designing a game to teach children about how to protect themselves. Children as young as six have signed up to charity-run self-defence classes in Ho Chi Minh.

Yet the focus remains mainly on how children can prevent themselves from assault, rather than on preventing the abuse to begin with.

Queenie* is among those who chose to keep her assault private out of fear of being dismissed. As a child she was assaulted twice – first by a family friend and then by her cousin's boyfriend – but she was nervous that people would tell her “nothing bad happened so just stay away from him and move on”.

“Society has a lack of support for this problem. Everybody keeps quiet – shame and pain.”

*Names have been changed to protect identities


Sandy Hook

Alex Jones sent Sandy Hook victims files with child sexual abuse images, say lawyers

Far-right conspiracy theorist denied the allegations and accused one of the lawyers of framing him

Lawyers for relatives of some victims of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting allege that the far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones sent them documents relating to the court battle they are fighting that included electronic files containing images of child sexual abuse, as the latest twist in the defamation case against the Infowars website host.

Jones denied the allegations during his web show last Friday and accused one of the lawyers involved of framing him.

Lawyers say the imagery was among documents they had requested from Jones as part of the discovery process of the lawsuit.

Facebook bans Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos and other far-right figures

The families of eight victims of the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, and an FBI agent who responded to the massacre, are suing Jones, Infowars and others for promoting a theory that the shooting was a hoax.

Jones, of Austin, Texas, has since said he believes the shooting occurred.

A court hearing on the documents is scheduled for Tuesday.

Jones, who lives in Travis county, Texas, has used his media platform to call the mass shooting at an elementary school that killed 26 people a hoax and suggested a political cover-up took place by leftwing forces seeking to take advantage of the shooting to support their causes, such as gun control.

In 2013, he called the massacre “staged” and continued to stoke his conspiracy theory for years.

“Sandy Hook is a synthetic, completely fake, with actors, in my view, manufactured,” he said in a January 2015 broadcast.

Although his theory is false, people who believe Jones have for years harassed and taunted families of the victims, court papers showed and the families have said. Some families said they have been subjected to death threats and been forced to move several times in an effort to escape harassment.

On 14 December 2012, a gunman killed 20 young children and six adults at the elementary school in an attack that ranks among the deadliest mass shootings by a single gunman in US history.


Church of Scientology

Church of Scientology accused of child abuse and human trafficking in new lawsuit

Woman named 'Jane Doe' in court documents says she was thrown in 'the Hole' after learning of leader's marital issues

by Chris Riotta

A woman who said she was raised as a Scientologist and served as a personal steward to the leader of the religion has sued the church, accusing it of human trafficking, forced labour and child abuse, among other damning allegations.

The woman, listed in court records as “Jane Doe,” said she was put in an isolation programme known as “the Hole” after learning about marital issues between the leader of the church, David Miscavige, and his wife.

She said she eventually escaped when she was assigned to help shoot promotional videos for the church with an actor who was not a Scientologist. The woman hid in the trunk of the actor's car and fled the church in 2016, according to the complaint.

The Church of Scientology International has disputed the accusations in a statement to NBC News, saying “the lawsuit comprises nothing more than unfounded allegations as to all defendants” and adding it was “littered with anti-religious slurs culled from the tabloids and accusations that have been dis-proven in courts decades ago."

Jane Doe went on to work for actress Leah Remini, a former Scientologist who has documented her experiences with leaving the church in a series titled “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.”

Before “the Hole,” the woman had reportedly joined the Church of Scientology International's elite Sea Organisation, a group of the “most dedicated members” of the religion who pledge to follow the church for near-eternity as part of a one-billion-year contract.

Attorneys for Jane Doe said the lawsuit is the first of several expected to be filed against the Church of Scientology International, which they say “has sought to quash dissension, cover up its long history of physical, emotional and sexual abuse of its members, including its most vulnerable members, its children, and weaponize its doctrine against those who escape and find the courage to speak up."

The Church of Scientology International has been recognised by the US Internal Revenue Service since 1993.

"We are confident the lawsuit will fail," Rebecca Kaufman, an attorney for the Church of Scientology, told NBC News in a statement. “Federal courts have already determined that service in the Church of Scientology's religious order is voluntary and protected by the First Amendment.”

“Moreover, the evidence will establish that while serving the church, plaintiff came and went freely, travelled the world, and lived in comfortable surroundings,” she added. “The church will vigorously defend itself against these unfounded allegations.


Catholic Church

The Catholic Church has finally gotten serious about handling sexual abuse. Here's what Jewish institutions could learn from the process.

The Pope Holds 'The Protection Of Minors In The Church' Summit

by Bethany Mandel

WASHINGTON (JTA) – In May, Pope Francis issued a detailed ruling on how officials in the Roman Catholic Church must handle cases of clerical sexual abuse, the first official codification of the church's global policy.

Though abuse survivors have criticized the pope's ruling as not strong enough and for being approved only “ad experimentum for three years,” his statement is thorough about how abuse allegations should be handled and powerful given the backing of the head of the Catholic Church.

Yet the news-making statement reflects not a change in priorities, but a move toward further public accountability in the Church's decades-long grappling with allegations of abuse.

There is no equivalent to a pope in the Jewish world, no centralized body that can make sweeping pronouncements about how sexual abuse and harassment should be handled. But there is much Jewish professionals and all religious professionals working on improving our communal response to sexual abuse can learn from how the pope's recent decision transpired.

In the aftermath of the 2002 Boston Globe Spotlight investigation, a number of archdioceses in the United States began to professionalize their response to accusations of abuse – some to a much larger extent than the pope announced last month.

It wasn't just a matter of doing what was right, but an act of ensuring their very survival. According to a 2018 article in the National Catholic Reporter, “over the last 14 years, 19 Catholic dioceses and religious orders in the United States have filed for bankruptcy protection because of the clergy sexual abuse crisis.”

New York City, home to one of the largest archdioceses in the country, has created a position to handle complaints staffed not by a priest, but by a former federal prosecutor.

I first spoke with Edward Mechmann, director of public policy at the Archdiocese of New York and the director of the Safe Environment Office at the archdiocese, three years ago as a source for another article and several more times in May while reporting this piece.

While he is a practicing Catholic and employed by the archdiocese, it's clear that he doesn't view himself as a cleanup crew for deviant priests. For the past 14 years, Mechmann's role has included conducting training and background screening of everyone who works with children, as well as assisting in the archdiocese's response to incidents of child abuse.

An equivalent role does not typically exist in Jewish communal institutions. When there are allegations of abuse, lawyers are quickly called in to deal with the fallout. Time and again, our typical approach is to offer the accused rabbi or teacher a leave of absence while both the school or synagogue and the accused party lawyer up. Meanwhile, congregants, parents and students are asked to withhold judgment and avoid asking too many questions.

Contrast that tight-mouthed legal response to how the Catholic Church in New York now handles any inappropriate behavior involving minors. Late last year, when an auxiliary bishop was faced with allegations, Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York, issued a letter that did not hold back any punches. It clearly stated that an allegation of sexual abuse against a minor had been brought forward and that a Lay Review Board had “carefully examined the allegation, which concerns incidents from decades ago, and concluded that the evidence is sufficient to find the allegation credible and substantiated.”

A letter to the accused bishop's congregation also detailed that anyone with additional allegations or concerns should reach out to the victim assistance coordinator or the Bronx district attorney.

It wasn't always like this, though changes have been coming across the United States for some time, Mechmann told me.

“We were obviously long aware of the [sexual abuse] problem,” Mechmann said. “But it was in the aftermath of the revelations about abuse in Boston that everything changed.”

In 2002, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted a Charter on the Protection of Children and Young People, which established many of the protections the pope described in his 2019 ruling, as well as requiring an annual audit of the implementation.

“After the adaptation of the charter, the number of contemporary abuse allegations has dropped dramatically and we really have seen a significant change in the corporate culture, “ Mechmann told me. “We have also set up a compensation program for victims, and we've published a list of the priests against whom there have been credible allegations.”

A Pew survey this month reflects just how urgently this reform is needed: 69 percent of Catholics surveyed agreed that “abuse by Catholic clergy is an ongoing problem,” 27 percent report attending Mass less often because of the reports of abuse and misconduct, and 26 percent report having scaled back donations to their church/diocese.

The survey also found that Americans are pessimistic about the ability of any religious institution to contain sexual abuse: 34 percent responded that “sexual abuse of children is more common among clergy and other religious leaders compared with other adults who work with children,” and 57 percent think it is just as common.

Though there have been significant and public missteps along the way, the Catholic Church in many ways has learned from its mistakes and developed protocols and procedures to handle abuse allegations in order to ensure their survival.

The Jewish community has, unfortunately, not had the same public reckoning.

Prior to October 2017, when stories about sexual harassment within the Jewish community exploded, Dr. Guila Benchimol, a sociologist who specializes in sexual victimization in religious communities with a focus on Jewish communities, told me that there had been conversations about an accreditation system within the Jewish world, including centralized reporting and accountability structure – but they have not yet come to fruition.

An accreditation organization composed of professionals in law enforcement, criminologists and mental health professionals from different denominations could help draft guidelines for abuse prevention, take complaints or even create a list of organizations it deems have adequate protections in place. Such a centralized body could also make it harder for a predator to move through Jewish communities and organizations undetected.

But even without a centralized body, there are several steps Jewish organizations can and should take.

Before abuse is ever reported to a synagogue or organization, Jewish institutions must create clear guidelines – in consultation with abuse prevention experts rather than rabbis – for screening their staff, providing safeguards against abuse and handling abuse allegations.

Jewish institutions must also commit to a policy of transparency: The primary concern cannot be containing liability but the needs of victims.

At the beginning of our conversations about the responses in the New York dioceses three years ago, Mechmann made clear what was at stake when his office handles abuse allegations: “The act of abuse is often less damaging [to the victim's faith] than the Church's response. If the Church itself doesn't respond appropriately, it disillusions more.”

If Jewish religious and communal organizations have any hope of avoiding the devastating toll that abuse takes on the faith and trust of their congregants, adopting some of the Church's policies would be a good place to start.


Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson sex abuse victims mourn king of pop they say gave them PTSD

Leaving Neverland


Wade Robson and James Safechuck, whose ordeals were revealed in the documentary Leaving Neverland earlier this year, still grieve for the “King of Pop”, according to their lawyer.

In a world exclusive interview, lawyer Vince Finaldi said: “They have both been diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) so theirs will not be the kind of mourning most of us might understand.

“People should realise that James and Wade were cynically and systematically groomed for years to absolutely adore Michael Jackson – and they did, despite everything that followed.

“They are still trying to come to terms with a myriad of feelings they had for their abuser. This is a very conflicting time for them and I don't think many can imagine what will possibly be going through their hearts and minds on Tuesday. I very much doubt they will be lighting any candles or joining any vigils but, in a way that might be hard for outsiders to understand, they will be mourning the man who became their abuser as well as their friend and father-figure for many years.”

Dancers and former child stars Safechuck, now 41, and Australian-born Robson, 36, are now both married with children of their own.



We must learn and change after Haiti sexual abuse scandal -Oxfam chief

The truth isn't always easy. When good journalists in February 2018 exposed the appalling behaviour – let's call it what it is: sexual abuse – by some Oxfam employees in Haiti in 2011, and our failure then to deal properly with these cases, the message was clear. Oxfam must humbly learn and change.

We set off on a journey of deep-rooted reform and set that out in a comprehensive 10-Point-Plan. One of the first things I did was to set up an Independent Commission on Sexual Misconduct, Accountability and Culture Change with full powers to examine all aspects of our work – in public. The Commission is composed of human rights leaders, from a former Women's Rights Minister in Haiti to a global expert on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

I didn't want some sugar-coated analysis or a puff piece designed to restore Oxfam's tarnished image. I wanted the hard truth because women's safety, rights and dignity were at stake. We need to know the reality of where Oxfam is now in order to build the Oxfam we want – one where our core values of equality and dignity are lived in every office, and by every individual.

"A year ago we asked a commission of independent experts to look at our culture. Today's report is exactly what we asked for. I'm so sorry to those of you who have been let down by bad behavior and abuses of power."

At the same time, the UK charity regulator, the Charity Commission, began its enquiry into Oxfam Great Britain and the way it handled what happened in Haiti in 2011. On Tuesday the UK Charity Commission published its report into Oxfam Great Britain and I have underlined the response from Caroline Thomson, the chair of Oxfam GB, in welcoming and accepting it.

Here I will focus on the Independent Commission. We asked it to dig deep, talk to staff and partners, travel to some of the most challenging places we work, and listen to survivors of abuse. That's precisely what it's done. This week the Commission published its report. I accept all the Commission's recommendations wholeheartedly and will implement them.

As an African woman, I encounter sexism and racism in many places I go. I know what it feels like. I'm pained and angered that some colleagues are suffering that within Oxfam.

The report is at times painful to read, at others deeply hopeful about the journey of change we're on. Before all, I want to humbly apologize to all of the staff and community members who have been harmed by Oxfam.

The Commission is telling us harsh truths about parts of our working culture. As an African woman, I encounter sexism and racism in many places I go. I know what it feels like. I'm pained and angered that some colleagues are suffering that within Oxfam.

The report also revealed sexual exploitation and abuse from its visits to communities in three humanitarian responses where multiple agencies were operating, including Oxfam. Where they heard specific concerns about sexual abuse they alerted the agencies concerned. The Commission says this “should be of concern to the entire aid sector, not just Oxfam”.

While the Commission did not refer to Oxfam any new allegations of a sexual nature about our staff as a result of their research, that fact in no way diminishes our concern or our duty to act. We have not done enough in the past to ensure that the communities we work with are protected adequately and able to live their lives with dignity.

Culture, culture, culture: that's the biggest focus now for change for Oxfam and organizations like ours. Our big challenge isn't only in writing new rules but tackling hard the root causes of sexual abuse. We need to reform age-old harmful socialized sexist ideas and build a culture that repudiates abuse and affirms equality and dignity.

To exactly that end, the report gives us the conviction to accelerate the journey of change we're already on.

I'm heartened that the Commission says we have “tremendous will, energy, and commitment to reform”. We have changed a lot already. In fifteen months, we've invested €3.1m in new safeguarding staff and global systems, put staff focal points into every country we work in, and strengthened our hotlines for people to report problems. We have new Oxfam-wide policies for preventing sexual misconduct.

I take this opportunity – as I take every opportunity – to invite anyone who knows about misconduct to report it. Nobody can hide anymore. I mean zero tolerance when I say it. We've acted against 79 staff on safeguarding issues in the last year, including over 40 cases that led to dismissal.

We need to reform age-old harmful socialized sexist ideas and build a culture that repudiates abuse and affirms equality and dignity.

And we're not stopping there. This week I have announced new investment of over half a million euros into helping grassroots organizations to fight abuse. We are going to strengthen our safeguarding capacities further in the most fragile and challenging environments in which we operate. I am establishing fresh leadership with two new global senior roles of Chief Ethics Officer, as well as a Global Culture Lead.

I echoed to our staff this week the Commission's recognition that: “Oxfam's greatest asset is its staff” who are “eager to contribute to building a safer Oxfam”. I ask our staff, and all our supporters and the public, to keep challenging and advising us. We are changing and we know we need to do more. We value and welcome more accountability.

I am still proud to be part of an organization where the vast majority of our work is done with respect and in safety with a profoundly positive impact with people living in poverty. And I am proud to lead an organization that is able to own its failings and face our hard-truths – so we can truly become a place of safety and dignity for all. We'll do all we can to get there.



Philippine 'circumcision season': A rite of passage or child abuse?

The removal of foreskins is a centuries-old rite of passage to adulthood in the country, which has one of the highest rates of male circumcision in the world.

Yet even as circumcision comes under increasing scrutiny around the world, with critics branding it “child abuse”, it is rarely questioned in the Philippines and boys face tremendous pressure to undergo the procedure.

Every year, thousands of pre-teens from poor families go through the operation for free at government or community-sponsored clinics.

The boys, some with their parents, arrive before dawn typically in the months of April and May for an anxious wait in long lines — and then a sharp jolt of pain.

Many get local anaesthetics but for some the sensation is still intense. They are also provided with antibiotics to protect against any infections.

Around 90 percent of males are circumcised for non-religious reasons in the Philippines, according to World Health Organization data.

‘Basically child abuse'

In towns across the country, government and health workers convert classrooms, health centres or sports complexes into makeshift operating rooms where boys as young as nine take a number and wait their turn.

The pressure even manifests itself in the Tagalog language word for “uncircumcised”, which is a slur similar to coward.

“The term ‘supot' implies that one is different and a coward… for lacking the courage to experience the pain and anxiety,” Professor Romeo Lee of De La Salle University said in his research about the tradition.

The roots of circumcision in the Philippines can be traced back to the arrival of Islam in 1450, according to anthropologist Nestor Castro.

However even after the nation became majority-Christian under 300 years of Spanish colonial rule, the practice persisted as a cultural rite.

Male circumcision tends to be more common in nations with significant Muslim or Jewish populations, and less so in Catholic majority places.

In the past decade the procedure has become increasingly controversial as the anti-circumcision movement has grown worldwide.

Critics consider it medically unnecessary and, as the majority of procedures are conducted in infancy, a violation of children's rights as they are unable to give informed consent.

“I would assume 18 or 19 year olds would have the wherewithal to do some research… and consent only after much thought…But clearly a 10-year-old or an eight-year-old can't do that and so… it's basically child abuse,” said John Geisheker, spokesman for US-based advocacy group Doctors Opposing Circumcision.

A rite of passage

There is evidence safe male circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV in areas with epidemics, according to WHO, which has included the procedure in some of its programmes to tackle the virus in southern Africa.

But Castro, the anthropologist, believes removing the foreskin has a very specific value in Philippine culture.

“A circumcised lad is no longer treated as a young boy and is now given more adult roles within family and society,” he added, noting it's also important socially.

“A rite-of-passage is usually done collectively. There is always a group of boys who grow up together, enter school, and get circumcised at the same time,” Castro told AFP.

Prices for the surgery cost from $40 and can cost as much as $240 when performed in a hospital, the equivalent of a month's pay for workers in the capital.

For boys in poor communities and their families, the free circumcision events sponsored by the government are the only option but most go willingly and are proud to endure it.

Holding his hand protectively over his bandaged penis, Erwin Cyrus Elecanal explains: “Going through the test of circumcision has made me a full-fledged adolescent.”

The 12-year old added: “I will be more mature now and be helpful to my family.


United Kingdom

Church of England finds 50% rise in abuse claims and concerns

Number of reports to dioceses relating to past and present abuse reaches 3,287 in 2017

by Harriet Sherwood

The number of situations where the Church of England dealt with “concerns and allegations” about abuse rose by 50% between 2015 and 2017, figures show.

Incidents relating to the abuse of children and vulnerable adults, including some allegations of serious criminal offences, increased to 3,287 in 2017, compared with 2,195 in 2015. They related to both current and past events, and about one-third of them required reporting to statutory agencies.

The figures were published on Wednesday (pdf), less than two weeks before the C of E faces scrutiny in a further round of hearings at the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA). Last month, the C of E was heavily criticised for putting its reputation above the needs of abuse victims in a report published by the inquiry into the case of a former bishop, Peter Ball.

According to the latest data, 12% of concerns and allegations related to clergy. Others against whom concerns and allegations were made included church wardens, employees, volunteers, congregation members and people with church connections.

The church pointed out that just over 300 clergy out of 20,000 active clergy were embroiled in abuse issues reported in 2017. Disciplinary measures under clergy and lay procedures were taken in 72 cases.

The biggest category was sexual abuse, but physical, emotional, psychological, domestic and financial abuse claims were also reported. Some contained allegations of serious criminal offences, while in other cases clergy or church members were seeking advice on whether a concern was warranted.

The increase over three years was largely due to a 78% rise in concerns about or allegations of abuse of vulnerable adults. Those relating to children or young people had a 45% increase between 2015 and 2016, then fell slightly in 2017.

In a briefing note, the C of E said the rise reflected “the increasing professionalism and resources within dioceses, stronger working relationships with statutory partners, in particular those responsible for public protection, and a greater understanding of the importance of risk management”.

The data is the first analysis of trends the church has carried out over a three-year period.

Last year, Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, told the independent inquiry he was ashamed of the church and abusers should go to prison.

The IICSA is expected to publish a report on Thursday into abuse in the Catholic archdiocese of Birmingham.


Catholic Church

Bishop's report: Time to choose, addressing sex abuse

Nothing is more central to our faith than Jesus – to believe God loves us in him – personally. After all, we call ourselves Christians! The Father sent his only-begotten Son into the world for one reason: to announce his love for every human being, to show it by going into the depths of where love is lacking, and to lift us up, in his Holy Spirit, the heart of God's love.

To be true to its mission, nothing is more important for the Church than to announce that message, to bear witness in the world about this truth and its life-transforming power to touch, to heal and to renew every heart open to accept God's love. This is the source of inner peace, of recovery from a legacy of sin, whether personal or social, present or historical.

It this context I offer my reflections following the Spring meeting of U.S. Bishops (USCCB) in Baltimore last week (June 10-13). On the up side, to resolve any question whether the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, first adopted in Dallas (2002), be applied to bishops, we voted overwhelmingly to hold ourselves accountable for instances of sexual abuse of children and vulnerable persons, sexual misconduct, or intentional mishandling of such cases.

We committed firmly to the full engagement of lay professional experts in all cases against bishops, already in practice with other clergy, and in language ensuring the universal principles outlined in Vos Estis, the recent motu proprio of Pope Francis, are normative in the United States. We also established a new, independent (third party) mechanism for reporting such cases.

On a sobering note, general frustration and anger remain about the slow pace of change and a sense that some bishops do not "get it." Survivors and many others want more from leadership than to manage or try to "fix" things. Many seek to be heard more and even want to be involved in a process of change and accompaniment.

Most incidents of abuse surfacing now occurred many decades ago, mostly between 1965 and 1985. The environment within the U.S. Catholic Church today is among the world's safest. Reports of current, ongoing sexual abuse of minors by clergy are down drastically in the last two or three decades. Yet eight out 10 Americans, according to a recent Pew survey, believe it to be an "ongoing problem."

Another source of frustration is that everyone wishes the investigation of former Cardinal McCarrick and, recently, Archbishop Bransfield (West Virginia) could go faster. We look forward to the full report that the Holy See has promised. More bishop misconduct may surface with improved reporting and investigatory protocols. With Child Victims Act (CVA) in New York going into effect August 15th, more revelations of historical abuse could stoke fears it is ongoing. Stories may allege "cover ups," presuming such cases were known internally and deliberately ignored or suppressed. Any malicious intent, in justice, should be proven through due process before forming conclusions. Whether instances might have been known, had better reporting and investigatory measures been in place, is also a fair question. Awareness and vigilance are much greater today, especially given protocols broadly in place since the 2002 Charter, though there is much room for improvement.

Besides investigations by civil authorities in a growing number of states, many bishops have taken initiatives to ensure that circumstances that failed to surface or address abuse during their peak (1965-85) are no longer present. An independent Task Force, with renowned lay experts, that I announced on April 11th is specifically charged with this mission. But for all of such measures to reform administrative protocols, everyone wonders what the real roots of the "crisis" are. How could it happen in a Church whose prime mission is to call sinners away from sin, believe the good news, and be holy?

We can agree on one thing: some clergy members have scandalously not lived up that call to be holy. How can any pastor of souls, while clinging to sin, call others to be holy? As more accounts surface, we recoil in anger, confusion, frustration and even disgust, to the point of leaving the support and practice of the faith. And for those who have survived abuse, painful memories persist, often daily. The personal crisis does not subside. As many more become aware of traumatic accounts by courageous survivors, we are ourselves shaken. To that extent we, too, feel in crisis.

"Crisis" can be understood in another way, however. In its Greek origins, it means a time for decision-making. Rather than a time for panic and jumping ship, it is a time to choose, a challenge to unite and right the course. For us Catholic Christians, it is a call to go to the foundation of our faith, trust in Jesus, and being holy in him.

The real "crisis" then – or "time to choose" – is a call from Jesus to personal holiness in him. Where do you stand? We need holy bishops, holy priests, holy deacons, holy laypeople. The publication of my pastoral letter this week ("This is my Body"), on the Feast of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, is directly related to this real "crisis." In my heart and soul, I believe it is at the root of the challenges we face. Fallen humanity must go to the only true source of salvation, mercy and healing: our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. His Eucharistic Presence, in particular, is the way he himself has chosen to be with us for all time, in all seasons, and in any crisis.

The real crisis we are facing is a crisis of faith. This includes suffering survivors, of course, their families and friends – some of whom are also clergy – but all of the faithful. Not only the "people-in-the pews," but also those termed the "nones," those not always "in the pews," at different stages in our spiritual journey. Jesus wants to come and dwell in all our hearts. What we feel as anger and frustration may be a protective "cover up" for the pain and disillusionment of being betrayed again by those we rightfully look up to for leadership. We look for leaders who don't just tell us what the Gospel teaches, but who live the Gospel by their example, sacrifice and holiness of life.

So many of our parish leaders strive to be these holy pastors who love and guide their sheep to the point of laying down their lives for them. I am deeply grateful to them and can only imagine the pain and frustration they feel, trying to console their people. I pray the priestly prayer of Jesus himself who, before he died, prayed for those who would lead his flock (see the Gospel of St. John, chapter 17). Pray on it – slowly.

Above all, without neglecting the norms and reforms, we need leadership by example, holiness of life and the love that can only come from God's redeeming grace. We need Jesus in and through the sacramental life of the Church. My favorite and constant prayer is, "Lord Jesus, I trust in you." Without him I can do nothing. Without his love and trust in his love, how can I love? "If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal" (1 Cor 13:1). But with trust in God's love, all things are possible. "For nothing will be impossible with God" (Luke 1:37).



With its apostle accused of rape and sexual abuse, La Luz del Mundo comes out fighting


For its faithful, the leader of La Luz del Mundo is “the apostle” of Jesus Christ. God made it so.

Hundreds of thousands of parishioners gathered in Guadalajara last month to celebrate their leader's 50th birthday. They filled the streets around the organization's towering, wedding cake-like temple — headquarters to the largest evangelical church in Mexico, with a strong religious presence in parts of Southern California.

When the apostle, Naason Joaquin Garcia, was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport this month on multiple counts of sexual abuse, including forcible rape of a minor, many of his disciples held firm.

They rushed to church — including those in East and West L.A. — to pray and proclaim his innocence.

“When David was going to fight Goliath, it looked like he was going to lose,” said Robert Pelegreen, a parishioner and retired military officer. “This is just another challenge. God has his plan.”

Since charges were filed by California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, church officials have mounted an aggressive and public defense of their leader — calling the allegations falsehoods.

They've held news conferences, opened their churches to reporters and worked hard to present their community as a place that is welcoming to all.

Where other religious organizations, including the Catholic Church, have been increasingly careful to balance defending themselves with not appearing to minimize accusations, La Luz del Mundo has gone all-in to back its apostle.

Spokesman and minister Jack Freeman, who has been with La Luz del Mundo for 27 years, views the allegations — and previous ones against Garcia's father — as part of a smear campaign.

“I believe in all my heart we'll find out he's innocent,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are people who don't understand this church, who don't comprehend why we would say he's an apostle.

“This is not the first time that this has happened and it's not going to be the last time it has happened. It's a common tactic to bring somebody down that's doing good.”

The decision to support the apostle is not altogether surprising for a church built on the foundation of Garcia's family. The leader's grandfather founded La Luz del Mundo — the Light of the World — in 1926. Since then, a charismatic aura has grown around the family.

The belief in Garcia's innocence is vital to parishioners, said Patricia Fortuny, a Mexican anthropologist who has studied La Luz del Mundo for decades.

It's also risky.

“They are in a very vulnerable position at this moment,” she said. “Unlike other Pentecostal churches, the apostle is the center of the doctrine, of everything, and he's in danger now, so the whole church is in danger. What will happen if he's guilty?”

It's a question that hangs in the air, and one that church officials have said they can't answer.

“I don't know what's going to happen,” Freeman said. “I'm very firm in my faith, even though I'm not a prophet, that we're not going to be alone. Whatever that means, you'll see.”

Garcia and co-defendants Alondra Ocampo, Azalea Rangel Melendez and Susana Medina Oaxaca — all of whom are affiliated with La Luz del Mundo — are accused of committing 26 felonies, including human trafficking and production of child pornography, in Los Angeles County between 2015 and 2018.

With the exception of Melendez, who is still at large, the defendants are detained and intend to plead not guilty. Prosecutors say Garcia's $50-million bail is to their knowledge the highest for any individual in L.A. County.

La Luz del Mundo claims more than 5 million followers worldwide, though some experts say those numbers might be too high.

Early on, the organization recruited from the jobless Mexicans returning from the U.S. around the time of the Great Depression. They were searching for a message and found it in Garcia's grandfather, the organization's first apostle.

The church has Pentecostal features, including the speaking in tongues, and is based on a strict interpretation of the Bible. Congregants pray on their knees and religious services are marked by singing and weeping. An annual gathering of hundreds of thousands, called the Holy Supper, commemorates the death and sacrifice of Christ.

“You feel at peace, knowing that all your brothers are around,” said Torrian Tatum, a medic in the U.S. Air Force who joined the church in 2014 and has attended the Holy Supper in Guadalajara. “You're bumping into each other because you're shoulder to shoulder, but you're happy.”

La Luz del Mundo has successfully appealed to working-class Latinos abroad and in the U.S. by promising to bring order to their lives. Congregants, experts say, benefit by finding support networks that help them rise professionally.

Though bishops and various types of clergy make up the church's order, it revolves around the apostle. In December 2014, Garcia rose to the head after the death of his father, Samuel Joaquin Flores, who had taken over after his own father. Garcia spends most of the year giving sermons to followers around the globe, according to ministers.

“They receive words from the apostle in their far-flung church with the same emotion you would imagine from early Christians receiving a letter from Paul,” said Daniel Ramirez, an associate professor of religion at Claremont Graduate University.

Garcia's father never faced charges when he was the subject of sexual abuse allegations. At the time, the church painted the accusers as unreliable and used that episode to point to persecution against the church, Ramirez said.

Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School and a former prosecutor, said the church's decision to open its doors to reporters is not typical for religious organizations whose leaders have been accused of abuse.

“There's always a risk to this openness,” she said. “They might have convinced themselves there's nothing to see, but they don't know how it's going to be seen through the eyes of others.”

Unlike the Catholic Church, which can survive the conviction of priests, Levenson said, La Luz del Mundo's entire future could be thrown into jeopardy because its leader is on the line.

“This may be an all-or-nothing situation,” she said.

Other attorneys said that when religious organizations vigorously defend their leaders against accusations of sexual misconduct, they dissuade potential victims from coming forward.

“What the religion should be saying is let justice play its course, these are serious allegations, he's been charged,” said John Manly, an attorney who has represented hundreds of plaintiffs in sexual abuse cases.

Jason Dormady, an associate professor of history at Central Washington University who has researched La Luz del Mundo, thinks a conviction would result in schisms and loss of members but the group would survive.

He pointed to allegations that Garcia's grandfather had an affair with or raped a woman, which he and the church leadership denied at the time. In response, hundreds of members in Mexico left to form their own church or join another.

Other religious groups have continued after the fall of their own leaders, Dormady said. After the 1844 assassination of Mormon church founder and prophet Joseph Smith, for example, Brigham Young emerged as his successor.

For the members who remain with La Luz del Mundo, “I think what you'll see is them saying God has chosen a new leader for us, that the Holy Spirit has revealed it will be such-and-such, and they'll move on from there,” Dormady said.

But even if the church survives a conviction — perhaps by changing its structure or with a new apostle — the transition could weigh heavily on its members.

Mike Arias, an attorney who has represented victims of abuse, said that these types of cases are profoundly damaging for communities.

“When all the priest abuse cases were coming out, you had people question not necessarily their faith in the church but those who were leading the church, and how this could happen,” he said. “I don't know whether these people will question whether this is really an apostle of God.”

For now, that doesn't seem to be the case. Tatum, the parishioner, said he took personal offense when California's attorney general called the apostle “sick” and “demented” this month in a news conference, during which he asked potential victims to come forward.

“Naason Joaquin is a representation of the mercy and greatness that God brought to the Earth,” Tatum said. “He's a living example of Jesus Christ.”

He compared the allegations against the apostle to persecution that Christ's apostles faced in biblical times.

“You have an individual who is respected by millions and millions of people,” he said. “Someone who has that much influence around the world, without a doubt, sooner or later, allegations will come out.



Sudan protests: Children killed and sexually assaulted in violent clashes, say rights groups

Reports come as military and opposition agree to resume talks

by Corazon Miller

At least 19 children are among the dozens killed in this month's violent crackdown on civilian protesters in Sudan's capital, the U.N. said, in acts of violence condemned by rights groups as 'barbaric".

Meanwhile, the military and opposition groups agreed to restart talks, as strikes were called off.

Despite a telecommunications blackout in much of the country, there have been reports of excessive violence against protesters at the hands of security forces, including the detention and sexual abuse of children.

Unicef's executive director Henrietta Fore said in a statement she was “gravely concerned” at the impact of the ongoing violence on the Sudanese children.

She said since June 3 at least 19 children had been reportedly killed and another 49 injured, with many more still in danger amidst the violent clashes.

“We have received information that children are being detained, recruited to join the fighting and sexually abused.

“Schools, hospitals and health centres have been targeted, looted and destroyed. Health workers have been attacked simply for doing their job.”

She said parents were fearful of letting their children out of the house, and water, food and medicine shortages were putting children's health and wellbeing at risk.

The latest unrest escalated when a raid on protesters sitting outside Khartoum's Defence Ministry saw dozens killed and hundreds injured.

Witnesses have described seeing government paramilitaries, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), take the lead in the violent dispersal of the civilians.

Opposition activists have also told The Independent that the RSF has been hiding bodies of protesters dumped in the Nile and has raped "dozens" of female doctors.

The latest clash has dealt a big setback to hopes of a transition towards democratic elections following the overthrow of veteran leader Omar al-Bashir earlier in April.

“Children throughout Sudan are already bearing the brunt of decades of conflict, chronic underdevelopment and poor governance. The current violence is making a critical situation even worse.”

According to the opposition-linked Central Committee of Sudan Doctors (CCSD) at least 188 have been killed since June 3, many of whom were shot or severely beaten to death by members of the RSF militia.

The government confirmed 61 deaths.

Amnesty International secretary general Kumi Naidoo said what had been witnessed in the days since the violent crack-down was “horrific and barbaric”.

“The senseless killing of protesters must be stopped immediately, and those responsible for the bloodbath, including at command level, must be held fully accountable for their dreadful actions.”

In a statement on Twitter British ambassador in Sudan, Irfan Siddiq, said a political agreement was needed to put an end to the violence.

“If there weren't strong enough arguments for ending the violence in Sudan, the killing of 19 children in the last nine days should make all those responsible for the ongoing violence think long and hard about their actions.”

On Tuesday, an Ethiopian envoy said Sudan's military and opposition groups agreed to resume talks on the formation of a transitional council, as an opposition alliance said it was suspending its campaign of civil disobedience and strikes.

Sudan's Transitional Military Council also agreed to release political prisoners as a confidence-building measure, special envoy Mahmoud Dirir told reporters in Khartoum.

Dozens were killed as Sudan's military council tried to break up a sit-in outside Khartoum's army headquarters, a doctors' committee said. (AFP/Getty)

The military council has been bolstered by support from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

The UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday his country was in contact with both sides and was seeking "a smooth organised political transition".

The steps appeared to show a softening of positions after talks between the two sides collapsed following the violent dispersal of the protest sit-in on June 3.

Stability in the nation of 40 million is crucial for a volatile region struggling with conflict and insurgencies from the Horn of Africa to Egypt and Libya.



Australia joins global project that uses AI against online child abuse

Australia's eSafety Commissioner has recently signed on to a pilot designed to reduce child sexual abuse material online.

by Teresa Umali

Australia's eSafety Commissioner has recently signed on to a pilot that is designed to reduce the availability of child sexual abuse material online.

According to a recent press release, Project Arachnid is an innovative tech platform based at the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.

It autonomously detects child sexual abuse material at a rate much faster than human analysts are capable of.

However, human analysis is still required to help classify images and confirm quality of data.

Australia's commitment

The commitment of eSafety to Project Arachnid means that its Cyber Report team will work collaboratively with investigators and analysts across the globe.

Doing so will scale up the capacity and impact of the project in identifying and removing child sexual abuse material from the internet.

The eSafety Commissioner explained that through this work, the Cyber Report team will make a significant impact in restricting the availability of child sexual abuse material to those who are seeking and distributing it.

Analysts from the Cyber Report team will help classify images detected by the Arachnid crawler, contributing to the international effort to build a comprehensive central database of child sexual abuse material ‘hashes', or digital fingerprints.

Moreover, Cyber Report will gain access to the Arachnid Hash List of known child sexual abuse material, reducing the exposure of investigators to harmful content and improving the welfare of staff.

Additionally, this pilot will allow the investigators to be exposed to less harmful content through information sharing. It will thereby reduce the impact of the incredibly important work that they do.

There is an important role to play in Australia, but ultimately, this is a global problem requiring a global solution.

The Agency is proud to be partnering with likeminded agencies around the world to fight this scourge.

What is Project Arachnid?

Project Arachnid is a technological tool designed to reduce the availability of child sexual abuse images online and help break the cycle of abuse experienced by survivors.

It discovers discovers child sexual abuse material (CSAM) by crawling URLs across the clear web known to have previously hosted CSAM.

The platform determines that a particular URL contains CSAM by comparing the media displayed on the URL to a database of known signatures that have been assessed by analysts as CSAM.

If CSAM is detected, a notice is sent to the hosting provider requesting its removal.

Estimates vary as to the quantity of child sexual abuse material available online. The United Nations (UN) states that approximately 750,000 people are accessing such material at any given moment.

Every month, Project Arachnid detects more than 500,000 unique images of suspected child sexual abuse material requiring analyst assessment.

To date, Project Arachnid has sent more than 1.6 million notices for removal of child sexual abuse material to online providers.


Southern Baptist Church

SBC Sexual Abuse Survivors Protest During National Meeting

Abuse survivors demand a clergy sex offender database

by Alison Lesle

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) held its annual national meeting on Tuesday to speak about a tough topic amongst others. The main issue discussed; sex abuse by clergy and staff.

Current and former Southern Baptists, along with survivors and advocates from other denominations will be gathered at the rally called For Such a Time as This. The rally was held outside the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center on Tuesday evening. Protestors demanded that all pastors, volunteers, and staff attended mandatory sex-abuse prevention training and to start a clergy sex offender database. In addition, they want the denomination, which only allows male pastors to respect women.

The group displayed a large foam-board “millstone” that references Jesus's warnings about those who harm children. In Scripture, Jesus says child abusers should have a “large millstone hung around their neck” and drown in the ocean.

The imagery was used because it's harsh so that it sends a message to the Southern Baptists that the issue of sexual abuse is critical. Rev. Ashley Easter said, “Jesus uses strong words for those who harm children, and we believe the SBC needs a reminder of Jesus' strong words.”

The past year has had the Southern Baptist Convention dealing with the Me Too movement which has served to overthrow prominent leaders in the denomination as well as encourage a plethora of women to speak up and demand change. The previous year saw delegates pass resolutions denouncing all forms of abuse, “sexual purity” among pastors and affirming women's dignity.

Sex abuse was a high priority issue at the 2018 national meeting in Dallas an advisory group was formed by the then-newly elected SBC President Rev. J.D. Greear to come up with recommendations on how to face the problem.



'Stressed' Facebook moderator dies of heart-attack after viewing hundreds of child abuse videos

by Joe Gamp

A moderator scouring Facebook was subjected to hundreds if child abuse videos and other horrific content

A Facebook moderator died of a heart attack after being subjected to hundreds of horrific videos on the social media site.

Keith Utley, 42, worked the overnight shift at a Facebook content moderation site in Tampa, FL, operated by Cognizant, a professional service contractor.

But the company had fallen short of accuracy targets relating to banning offensive content on the platform.

Facebook now has 30,000 global employees enforcing safety and security on content posted to the site.

Mr Utley had spoken out about how the grotesque videos were affecting his mental health as he was struggling with the content he was seen.

On March 9, 2018, Mr Utley died of a heart attack sat his desk.

Co-workers noticed that he was unwell when they saw him sliding out of his chair.

Two colleagues performed CPR, but no defibrillator was available in the building. A manager called for an ambulance.

Mr Utley died in Hospital but the exact circumstances of his death have not been released.

By the time paramedics arrived, one worker said that Keith had already begun to turn blue.

Speaking to moderators at the company, The Verge heard how Mr Utley faced 'relentless pressure' from bosses to enforce community rules.

One of the other employees said: “The stress they put on him — it's unworldly. I did a lot of coaching.

"I spent some time talking with him about things he was having issues seeing. And he was always worried about getting fired.”

Another said that managers at the site had instructed employees not to discuss the death.

The employee said: "Everyone at leadership was telling people he was fine.

"They wanted to play it down. I think they were worried about people quitting with the emotional impact it would have."

The Verge also hear how employees at Cognizant alleged the company was “a sweatshop in America”.

One worker allegedly threatened to “shoot up the building” in a group chat, while another made a video of himself issuing death threats to his boss.

Facebook unveiled measures to contract around 30,000 cyber-security employees around the world to scour the site and uphold security.

But in January, a group of ex-Facebook employees accused the company of having a ‘cult-like' workplace culture.



Tele petition goes global thanks to child abuse campaigner

Our Kids Need Justice

by Lindsey Hamilton

The Tele petition calling for mandatory jail terms for people convicted of a sexual offence involving children has gone global.

Thanks to Dave Sharp, one of Scotland's leading child abuse justice campaigners, the Tele's petition and the Our Kids Need Justice campaign has now gathered support from as far away as Australia and America, as well as across in Ireland and also south of the border.

More than 11,000 people have now signed our petition, with about 500 of the latest signatories coming from some of the far flung corners of the world.

At the beginning of June, Dave – who runs the group Seek And Find Everyone Abused in Childhood (Safe) organisation – signed our petition.

He said: “Many people tell us they have no faith in the police or the politicians and more and more we are hearing from people who are now simply saying ‘what is the point if my abuser is just going to get off or gets a fine?'.

“It's one thing to say that more sex offenders are in prison now than ever before, but the fact of the matter is we are dealing with a massive increase in the number of sex offenders and part of the reason for that has to be down to the lenient sentencing that exists in Scotland.”

Following his decision to sign the petition Dave tweeted his 1,800 followers also asking them to back us.

Dave said: “I did this because I think what the Tele is doing is fantastic.

“This is a very worthwhile campaign and one that I am more than happy to support.”

He added: “I asked my Twitter followers to sign the petition and support the campaign and sent them the link to the petition.

“Since I did that I am aware that about 500 of my supporters have already signed, including many in Australia and America.

“Many of my followers have told me they have signed it.

“I'm delighted to be able to take the Tele campaign worldwide.”

He said he had also asked his followers to retweet the link to the petition to gather even more support from around the world.

He added: “I also plan to highlight the Tele campaign at a conference I am attending in Glasgow today and hopefully it will be used as a major talking point in the ongoing fight against horrific child abuse.


US Border

US immigration facilities overwhelmed with too many migrant children

Teens say they were offered frozen ham sandwiches and rotten food

Clint, Texas: Attorneys visiting a Texas Border Patrol station this week were shocked to find more than 250 infants, children and teens being held inside a windowless complex, struggling to care for each other with inadequate food, water and sanitation.

It's a scene that is being repeated at other immigration facilities overwhelmed with too many migrant children and nowhere to put them.

"This facility wasn't even on our radar before we came down here," said law professor Warren Binford, a member of the team that interviewed dozens of children detained at the facility in Clint, about a half-hour drive from El Paso. Fifteen children had the flu, another 10 were quarantined.

At a Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas, last week, attorney Toby Gialluca, said all the children she talked to were very sick with high fevers, coughing, and wearing soiled clothes crusted with mucus and dirt after their long trip north.

"Everyone is sick. Everyone. They're using their clothes to wipe mucus off the children, wipe vomit off the children. Most of the little children are not fully clothed," she said.

Gialluca said migrant teens in McAllen told her they were offered frozen ham sandwiches and rotten food.

At both detention facilities, the children told attorneys that guards instructed girls as young as 8 to care for the babies and toddlers.

Border Patrol stations are designed to hold people for less than three days, but some children held in Clint and McAllen have been in there for weeks. Legally, migrants under 18 should be moved into Office of Refugee Resettlement care within 72 hours.

But federal officials have said they have hit a breaking point. That's in part because over the last year, migrant children have been staying longer in federal custody than in the past, leading to a shortage of beds in facilities designed for longer-term stays.

Unlike privately contracted child detention centers, Border Patrol stations are federal facilities, exempt from state health and safety standards, according to Texas Department of Health and Human Services spokesman John Reynolds. Child abuse and neglect investigators are not allowed to monitor the stations because they not licensed by the state.

In Clint, Binford said the team found that "little kids are so tired they have been falling asleep on chairs and at the conference table" during conversations with attorneys.

An 8-year-old taking care of a very small 4-year-old with matted hair could not convince the younger child to take a shower, Binford said.

"In my 22 years of doing visits with children in detention I have never heard of this level of inhumanity," said Holly Cooper, who co-directs University of California, Davis' Immigration Law Clinic and represents detained youth.

The lawyers inspected the Border Patrol facilities as part of a Clinton-era legal agreement known as the Flores settlement that governs detention conditions for migrant children and families.

Neha Desai, director of Immigration at the National Center for Youth Law, said the U.S. government, attorneys involved in the Flores settlement and an independent monitor appointed by the judge overseeing the settlement were discussing the situation of children held in McAllen and Clint.

The Clint facility opened in 2013 on a country road not far from the town's water tower, a liquor store and the sandwich shop where Border Patrol agents eat lunch and dinner. The lawyers who negotiated access to the complex said Border Patrol officials knew of their impending visit three weeks in advance.

Customs and Border Protection officials had no immediate comment, but have said for months that the agency is at its breaking point for housing migrants, calling the situation in the El Paso area a humanitarian and security crisis.

In an interview earlier this week with The Associated Press, acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner John Sanders acknowledged children need better medical care and a place to recover from their illnesses and urged Congress to pass a $4.6 billion emergency funding package that includes nearly $3 billion to care for unaccompanied migrant children.

He said Border Patrol stations are holding 15,000 people - more than three times their maximum capacity of 4,000.



The Pathology of a Predator

Inside the mind of the paedophile priest

Almost 1900 child sexual abusers have been identified in Australian religious institutions. The average victim was under 12. What led people to commit such horrible crimes on such a staggering scale?

The hunched, old priest walks briskly through the entrance of the Downing Centre court complex, a former grand department store on the fringes of Sydney's business district. His eyes look down. A sports cap covers his nearly bald head.

Vince Ryan is one of the worst paedophiles in the history of the Australian Catholic Church. He sexually assaulted at least 37 boys. Most of them were primary school students, some as young as nine years old.

Aged 81, and still officially designated as a priest, he has already served 14 years in jail for his crimes. Last month, on a crisp autumn morning, he's back in court waiting to find out if he will be sent to jail for more offences committed against two former altar boys in the 1970s and ‘90s.

As Ryan walks towards the court's security cordon, he is followed by a man shouting obscenities. The word “survivor” is tattooed in black on his right arm. He is agitated, gesticulating towards the priest.

This man is Gerard McDonald. In 1974, he was 10 years old when Ryan abused him twice a week for a year, cornering boys in a church vestry and performing oral sex on them. In 1995, McDonald and another survivor were the first of Ryan's victim to go to police. Although they won their case in 1996, they have never stopped pursuing the priest who defiled their childhood.

* * *

Born an only child in 1938, Ryan was raised in East Maitland on a working-class farming hamlet 40 minutes up the road from Newcastle. His father Joseph, a labourer who drifted between jobs, was a violent alcoholic who beat his submissive wife Ella with his fists. Joseph threatened suicide on a regular basis in order to control Ella. A devout Catholic, she submitted to the blows and never contemplated leaving her husband.

Violence and abuse also stalked the young Vince Ryan outside the home. From the age of eight, he was sexually preyed upon by a boy four years older who lived nearby. The sexual abuse continued until Ryan was 16, and according to his psychology reports, he found some of the interactions pleasurable and didn't view the relationship as abusive or exploitative. For a boy whose parents never showed him real affection, being sexually abused was a form of social contact. When Ryan showed any affection towards his abuser, the older boy would respond with yet more sexual violence. Ryan has never said a harsh word about his abuser.

Vince Ryan has been receiving counselling, on and off, from a forensic psychologist since 2010. Dr Gerard Webster has treated more than 50 paedophiles, many of them priests and Christian brothers who have spent time in prison. He says the domestic violence Vince Ryan experienced as a boy helped develop his paedophilic tendencies. “I think there is something incredibly damaging and generally disavowed by society when a child, a boy — because most offenders are boys — sees two people that they are emotionally dependent on and love, attacking one another … these young witnesses have been severely affected at the time when they are developing their roadmap for relationships. They've got a broken map. They're taught that any might is right. Anything goes.”

Despite the violence he witnessed at home, Vince Ryan was very close to his alcoholic father. He perceived him as a wounded man. In a subconscious way, he identified with the perpetrator in his house, Webster explained.

“I think there was a culture of acceptance of things that were really unacceptable,” said Webster. “His mother was traumatised, but she accepted it as a good Catholic woman that she had to stay in a relationship with her husband.”

On his formative path towards adulthood, Ryan identified closely with two perpetrators: his father and his abuser. It would become a lethal mix.

* * *

Ryan found himself immersed in a world of young men studying to be priests, isolated from their families for long periods, discouraged from developing any friendships, and where celibacy was the norm. Before he entered the seminary at the age of 19, in 1958, he told a priest in confession that he had desires for young boys. The priest, however, assured him that “if he said his prayers, God would look after him”.

Ryan talked about this period of his life to one of his former altar boys and now journalist David Brearley. “He had a terrible time in the seminary in Springwood,” Brearley recounted, based on a rare interview. “One day a year they would get the mini bus and go to Echo Point in the Blue Mountains and get an ice cream and there would be high spirits and fun. Following one of these trips, Ryan did some night time grappling with a young man in the next bed. The other seminarian confessed the behaviour to a priest the next day and Ryan was asked to meet with the priest, who told him he was now forbidden to have any sort of relationship with the fellow seminarian. They were 19 or 20, and Ryan told Brearley that he wondered whether he could have had a happy relationship with this man, had it been allowed.

For an isolated child growing up in an abusive household, Catholicism provided Ryan with a haven. The church offered him a structure, a world that made sense, a place with a noble purpose.

Students in seminaries in the ‘60s were taught that becoming a priest takes your being through an “ontological change into the divine”. Some offenders interpreted this as giving them more power and entitlement — a “messiah complex,” as canon law expert Kieran Tapsell describes it in Potiphar's Wife: the Vatican's secret and child sexual abuse. Others believed it was part of God's mission to make them better servants of the people.

The big problem with the so-called “ontological difference” between priests and laypersons, argues Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, a senior Catholic bishop who has pushed for reform in the church, is that it enthusiastically embraces “the mystique of a superior priesthood”.

“Whenever I see young priests doing this,” he wrote, “I feel a sense of despair, and I wonder whether we have learned anything at all from the revelations of abuse.”

After four years at the Springwood seminary, then one term at the Manly seminary, Ryan travelled to Rome in 1962 to complete a theology degree. He remained there until 1966, studying alongside other prominent figures including Cardinal George Pell. Because the church considered Ryan to be an intellectual, he was enrolled in a doctorate of canon law.

Ryan was highly intelligent and loved Italian culture, art and music. He arrived in Rome as the Vatican was undergoing a reformation resulting from the adoption of Vatican 2 as a type of “glasnost” for the church. Vince Ryan was excited by this transformation. More importantly, he formed some good, wholesome bonds with friends outside the church. It must have been a relief to be free of his past.

In 1972, Ryan was recalled from Rome. After a short stint at a parish in Singleton in north-western NSW, he was sent back to Maitland to become an assistant parish priest. As soon as he got there his mood soured and he started molesting boys.

“He said he was suicidal as a child and now suicidal as an adult again,” said David Brearley. “The only relief was when he was actually together with a young student and it would disappear as soon as the child was gone.” He told Brearley he would go into a deep funk if the child didn't turn up for the day. “He said he couldn't relate to adults like he could to children.”

He had left the liberal excitement of Italy to arrive at what he saw as a moribund church, staffed by old men who just didn't like him. Once again, he felt extremely lonely and, in his 30s, found himself transported back to the rigid world of his childhood, except now there were plenty of altar boys in his charge.

“I never had to threaten anyone not to talk, I never did that,” Ryan told Brearley. “I thought I was in a loving relationship, I know that's stupid but that is where I was.”

But how could Ryan possibly characterise his interactions with boys as a “loving relationship”? “The word ‘love' is not supposed to be used,” he told Brearley, “but … this connection between you and your victim is the thing that is stopping you from committing suicide, who is giving you some life, some humanity, some human touch and not just the sexual stuff …”. In his mind, he formed relationships with these boys; he felt he loved them and he viewed himself as their caregiver.

But he was also their predator. As one victim described in his police statement, Ryan had a Jekyll and Hyde personality. Before abusing the boys, Ryan would remove his glasses. The altar boys came to dread this simple action, a signal that another attack was imminent. For the victims, it marked the moment Ryan went from caregiver to monster.

Like all paedophile priests at that time, Ryan had papal protection. That's because, in 1974, Pope Paul VI issued a document known as “The Pontifical Secret” or “The Secret of the Holy Office”, which meant any allegation or investigation of sexual abuse against a cleric was kept secret. Any bishop who defied this decree and reported the abuse to civil authorities or police could be ex-communicated.

As revealed in the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, a pervasive culture existed in the church that saw these crimes as moral failings, rather than criminal ones, supported by an assumption that priests could be treated and cured. This culture of secrecy, according to Dr Gerard Webster, created a “potent” setting for this maladjusted behaviour to flourish.

* * *

By 1975, the church knew Ryan had significant problems. He had cried as he informed his immediate superior, Monsignor Patrick Cotter, of his attraction to young boys, according to documents tendered to the royal commission. He was packed off to a retreat facility in Kew, in suburban Melbourne, known as the La Verna Retreat Centre. As Cotter wrote to the treating doctor, Dr Peter Evans, at the time:

“Father Ryan has been my assistant at St Joseph's Merewether for the past two years. The problem which now brings him under your care became known to me about one year ago. The circumstances that were such that he knew that I was aware of what happened and thinking the embarrassment he suffered from knowing — so knowing would have been more eloquent than any possible advice of mine, I decided to say nothing. Unfortunately, this was a mistake on my part, because apparently such a condition does not come right without the help of treatment. The current incident is more serious, involving altar boys and more than one.”

Parishioners were told he was going to Melbourne for a “pastoral” course of study, and that's exactly what he did. But according to testimony by the consulting psychiatrist before the royal commission, Dr Peter Evans, a Franciscan priest, Ryan only had an initial assessment and did not receive any treatment. During the assessment, Ryan disclosed to Evans that he had had “sexual contact with adolescent boys and that this was known to Cotter [and] Sister Woodward”.

After this consultation, Evans told Ryan that treatment would be more successful if it were done in Ryan's own home environment. This doctor soon left the facility and Ryan fell through the cracks. He spent a year enjoying the delights of Melbourne, going to the races, satisfying his urbane tastes and enjoying his classes.

“The church's sense was that he was a sinner who had a weakness,” said Webster, “who had to pray and he would somehow be redeemed and therefore he could come back into the ministry without sexually abusing children … magic!”

At the time he was sent to Melbourne, Ryan was under the supervision of Sister Evelyn Woodward, a nun and a psychologist who assessed priests for their suitability for ministry. Woodward confirmed in testimony to the royal commission that she eventually knew Ryan hadn't received any treatment, apart from one initial assessment.

Evans told the royal commission: “I told Evelyn Woodward I would do an assessment diagnosis as I would be leaving [the centre], not treatment … I repeat [I told her] La Verna was not a treatment centre.”

Looking nervous and agitated, she was cross-examined as to why she hadn't reported Ryan to the police. She blamed her lack of authority as a woman in the church.

Senior Counsel: “Just coming back to the question that his Honour was asking you about involving the police, you suggested in your statement that you simply didn't think of going to the police at all back in 1975; is that right?”

Sister Evelyn Woodward: “Never.”

SC: “Was that just because you saw your role as being to report the matter up the chain and once that had occurred, you were leaving it to others to deal with?”

EW: “Yes and no. I think another factor was the position of women in the Church at the time. We were pretty low in the pecking order and there was a hierarchical system which I think led me to say ‘I've got to hand it over to whoever's in charge of the Diocese' if that makes sense.”

Following and obeying canon law “served to rationalise and deepen the culture of secrecy,” said Kieran Tapsell. “When you have bishops who have taken an oath to follow canon law, being threatened with excommunication if they go to the civil authorities, it is pretty obvious what they are going to do.”

* * *

Vince Ryan returned to the Maitland-Newcastle diocese in 1976. His superior, Cotter, immediately put him in charge of training the altar boys at Hamilton, in the suburbs of Newcastle. Over the next two decades he sexually assaulted another 27 children with impunity.

At Hamilton, in the presbytery where he and Cotter lived, Ryan would take young boys up to his bedroom and abuse them. Cotter would tell the housekeeper to go upstairs and knock on Ryan's bedroom door and tell the boys it was time to go home.

Ryan himself believed he needed treatment for his paedophilia. He told Webster, years later during counselling, that while he still loves his church, he is angry that he was moved from parish to parish and didn't get the treatment he needed after disclosing his problem.

On more than three occasions, Ryan told various church officials, including his immediate superior, that he was a paedophile. He confessed it to his priest in Maitland before entering the seminary. He admitted it to his superior, Cotter, in 1975 before being sent to Melbourne. And he told the psychologist, and priest, Dr Peter Evans at the La Verna Retreat Centre in Melbourne.

Does Ryan ever think about what he did to those boys? The Australian journalist, David Brearly, who is writing a book about Ryan, says he sensed from his interview that the priest doesn't dwell much on his interactions with the boys. “I think his contrition is real but maybe not as intense as it might be,” said Brearley. “He was talkative, but it wasn't until I transcribed the interview did I realise how much he could control an agenda. So there is about nine pages of transcript, probably one fifth is complaining about the Newcastle Herald — how can you complain about the Newcastle Herald? — and another fifth is complaining about jail and its failure to rehabilitate people.”

But one of Ryan's answers stunned David Brearley. Asked about the royal commission, the priest told him: “As far as I am concerned this is a conspiracy between newspapers and politicians, they need each other. The royal commission, I think it should have been about why in our country there was such a disaster of child sex abuse … to go straight to institutions, I don't get the reason, I don't get it … the vast number of child sex victims are in the home.”

Ryan also blamed the parents of his victims for not going to the police back in 1975. “It's a hard concept to swallow,” said Brearley. “He thinks he was one of the boys. I think Ryan has achieved a mighty effort of self-deception, when you think he was a 30 to 35-year-old and he was abusing 10-year-old boys and he can't see the difference.”

Ryan's rapacious appetite for young altar boys was only curtailed when Gerard McDonald and Scott Hallett walked into the Newcastle Police station in 1995. They spilled the beans to constable Troy Grant, a junior police officer who was until recently the NSW police minister and for a time NSW deputy premier. He was the first police officer to investigate a priest in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese, and the first with a successful prosecution. Since 1995, he has kept in touch with all of the victims who came to him about Ryan. After Gerard McDonald and Scott Hallett came forward, many more followed.

One case, in particular, has caused Troy Grant great trauma and sadness. In October 1995, a man contacted Grant at the Newcastle police station to report abuse that lasted five years while Ryan was the parish priest in an outlying parish. Ryan had committed more than 200 acts of abuse against the boy while he was between the ages of 12 and 17. The boy had no father, but Ryan saw himself as his caregiver, his de-facto dad.

In 1992, the boy was in a terrible accident and ended up in hospital, fighting for his life. When Ryan heard the news he raced to the hospital. Distraught at what he saw, Ryan climbed into the boy's hospital bed and hugged him while crying uncontrollably. When the nursing staff called the diocese to have the priest removed, a Catholic chaplain was despatched to remove him. But no one informed child protection authorities; after all, Ryan was a priest.

The boy was hospitalised for four months, but recovered. Ryan was later convicted for the crimes he perpetrated against the boy. This victim died in 2018. The coroner has yet to release the findings on the cause of death.

* * *

It was only after 13 years behind bars that Vince Ryan was given his first intensive treatment for paedophilia inside the jail. Finally, he told his psychologist he understood the suffering he had caused to his victims.

Ryan participated in a program known as Custody Based Intensive Treatment (CUBIT), an evidence-based treatment program for moderate to high-risk sex offenders, which takes 12 months to complete. Inmates are encouraged to identify and reflect on their unique risk factors (the things that make them more likely to reoffend) and to develop skills to reduce those risks where possible. The intensive therapy also helps inmates to initiate behaviour when they enter settings where they might offend, known in psychology jargon as “protective factors”.

The offenders also develop what's called a “relapse prevention plan” that helps them maintain “a commitment to a non-offending lifestyle”. A recent research study found the programs have halved the rates of re-offending.

Ryan wishes he had been given access to this therapy many years earlier, according to Webster. “These programs are very effective,” said Webster. “The group work with other prisoners has been very important. The only negative is the CUBIT program can't get to the causes of paedophilia in inmates, but it does a really good job of treating the symptoms.” Ryan apparently believes it has given him some of the answers to his own questions as to how he could have perpetrated such horrendous abuse on children. In a statement to INQ, the Maitland-Newcastle diocese confirmed that it supports Ryan's on-going counselling, with Dr Webster.

Webster says the clerics he has counselled are different to non-religious offenders. “At the beginning of treatment there tends to be a lot of minimisation of their responsibility, externalisation of their responsibility. They often blame the children or see the children played a part in their offending and therefore feel somewhat unjustly accused of doing the wrong thing when they saw it as a collaborative thing that the child benefited from,” he said. “I find also a strong theme with priests who have often previously gone into the priesthood or into a religious order to meet their previously unmet emotional needs, like a need for safety or a need for agency for a sense of ability to be powerful and do good things.”

Another common factor among these offenders, says Webster, is that many clerics, like Ryan, suffered abuse as children.

In April, Vince Ryan was convicted for abusing two more victims. He looked passively as Judge Dina Yehia read her judgment. Her words cut the air like a knife: “He held a position of high moral authority and influence in the community … the children he interacted with were betrayed in a profound and egregious matter … these acts must be punished…”

She told the court he had been assessed as low risk, had been in counselling for a number of years and had been rehabilitated. Then sentenced him to another three years and three months in prison.

He was led away in handcuffs before heading to Long Bay Jail, where he will be given the status of a pariah, a child sex offender, the lowest of the low. His psychologist argued he could be assaulted in jail and may not survive. He is 81 and already frail. He must survive for 18 months before he can apply for parole.

After the court case, Gerard McDonald emerged from the Downing Street Centre and punched the air with his fist. “Yes!” he shouted to the waiting media throng. “He gets a couple more years, we have got life … the judge says he is reformed.What a load of bullshit.”

Ryan, meanwhile, is still a priest, although his faculties have been removed and the Maitland-Newcastle diocese awaits further instruction from the Vatican, meaning he can't say mass or call himself “Father”. The bishop in charge at the time explained that Ryan was retained within the priesthood so the church could better keep an eye on him.

An ironic statement, perhaps, given it was his beloved church that helped foment the environment that covered up the sexual crimes Vincent Gerard Ryan inflicted upon 37 children.


Pizza delivery man spots naked little girl in motel room, helps rescue two girls from alleged rapist father: Police

by Leigh Egan

Papa Johns delivery man Mark Buede was delivering a pizza to a Kentucky hotel room last year when he noticed something that didn't seem right. His quick thinking helped save two young girls from an abusive situation, and earned him a public service award on Tuesday, according to police.

Herald Leader reports that Buede was working his second job delivering pizzas when he arrived to a Lexington hotel to deliver an order last November. When a man opened the hotel door, Buede said he noticed a little girl that “didn't have any clothes on” on the bed in the room.

“I didn't know what was going on,” Buede said, according to the outlet. “I just knew it wasn't right.”

Buede promptly called 911. When officers arrived to the motel, they heard the screams of a child when they knocked on the door. After a man opened the motel door, authorities saw two naked girls hiding behind the bed. The strange behavior prompted authorities to start an investigation.

Within a few hours, the officers had gathered enough probable cause to determine the man in the hotel room had likely been abusing the girls, identified as his daughters.

According to NBC, 36-year-old Justin Elam was charged with numerous counts of rape and sexual abuse. One girl was under the age of 12 and the other girl was under the age of 16, according to WKYT.

The arrest citation also indicated that Elam is accused of having sex with the youngest girl and touching her inappropriately. Police said they later found videos of the suspect having sex with the older girl as well.

Buede, along with the officers who investigated the case, Corey Sutton, Zakary Ridener, and William Phillips, were honored on Tuesday with a public service medal provided by the Lexington Police Department. The department said the men's heroic efforts saved two young children.

Meanwhile, the suspect remains behind bars. His next court date is scheduled for June 28.