Biking for a Cause: Motorcyclists take a stand for victims of child abuse
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Around 50 bikers started their engines Saturday, gearing up for the annual Kickstands for Kids ride with the Bikers Against Child Abuse.
"We have people from all walks of life, attorneys and doctors and mechanics and teachers,” Coach, the president of the Northeast Kansas chapter, said. “It allows us to reach kids from every spectrum because child abuse doesn't know any boundaries."
Proceeds from the ride benefited the organization's mission of empowering children to not feel afraid of the world they live in — a mission that started back in 1995.
"That's actually kind of a cool story,” Coach explained.
A registered play-therapist in Utah worked with a child who had suffered abuse. The child wouldn't talk in or out of therapy, until one day, the therapist brought his bike.
"The kid kind of opened up a little bit, and he thought, ‘Well that's kind of interesting,'” Coach said. “So he actually got a group of friends together and they all brought their bikes, and the kid lit up."
Since then, BACA members across the world have been standing with children who have suffered abuse.
"A lot of times their parents tell us 'Well, he or she, they just haven't been the same, they don't like to be around people, they're a little shy,'” Belle, secretary of the group, said. “And as we walk in, and we start talking to them and their little faces light up, and they get to just be a kid again, it's the most amazing feeling in the world.
Italian police arrest 18 for allegedly brainwashing and selling children
Children were made to believe they had been sexually abused and were sold to foster parents
Italian police have arrested 18 people, including a mayor, doctors and social workers, for allegedly brainwashing vulnerable children into thinking their parents had abused them so they could then be sold to foster parents.
Police in the northern city of Reggio Emilia made the arrests after an investigation, started in 2018, revealed an alleged network of careers who used methods including electroshock to make the children believe they had been sexually abused.
The network then allegedly gave the children to foster families in exchange for cash, while keeping gifts and letters sent to the children by their real parents hidden in a warehouse that was discovered by police.
The alleged abuse was reported by Italian media and confirmed to AFP by police in Bibbiano, near Reggio Emilia, on Thursday.
“These accusations, if confirmed, are frightening and shocking,” said Giuseppe Conte, the Italian prime minister, at the G20 meeting in Japan.
The accused include psychotherapists working for a social work association in Moncalieri, near Turin, and the mayor of Bibbiano.
To brainwash the children, those arrested allegedly forged child-like drawings with sexual connotations and used electroshock therapy as a “little memory machine” to create fake abuse memories, while the therapists are accused of dressing up as “wicked” children's story characters.
The investigation, codenamed “Angels and Demons”, revealed a scheme to “pass off as a model welfare system for abused minors what was in reality an illegal business to the children's detriment,” La Repubblica newspaper reported.
“According to investigators, the aim of the arrested group was to take children away from families in difficult social situations and to give them, for money, to other parents,” said the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
Some of the foster parents have been accused of sexually abusing the children they paid money for, according to La Repubblica.
Police declined to say how many children were involved, or of what age.
Hundreds of thousands of euros were involved, Italian media reported.
‘You grow up hating yourself': why child abuse survivors keep – and break – their silence
The average victim takes 24 years to reveal their secret and disclosure is often the key to recovery
by Linda Moon
Earlier this year Erin Delaney revealed on Facebook a secret she'd kept from almost everyone.
As a child she suffered physical and emotional abuse and severe neglect. The neglect had significant consequences, including a fractured skull from falling – which was only picked up when, after she vomited at school the next day, a member of her extended family intervened and took her to hospital.
The emotional abuse included both parents telling her at different times that the other was dead, or that they weren't her real parents; the physical abuse – the hitting, the kicking – depended on their drug use and moods.
“It was,” the 36-year-old Sydneysider says now, “a challenging journey through life. I never felt safe and I never felt grounded. You grow up hating yourself and thinking you caused it and you deserve it.”
Wondering if she'd lose all her friends once they “knew the truth”, the usually articulate and witty writer withdrew. “I knew it would impact how people thought about me and I was terrified,” she admits. “I began to doubt myself and believe no one would be interested, that someone might use it against me somehow.”
Delaney had always felt like she had two different selves: her secret, real self and a superficial, public persona cultivated to blend in. “I want to hear my real voice because it's been silenced for 36 years.”
Her decision to post her story was inspired by a Guardian article about the widespread misdiagnosis of trauma survivors and her desire to educate people about trauma.
She attributes internalized self-blame, hurtful reactions and dehumanizing labels from professionals for why she kept silent so long. She first told her story to the daughter of a Christian family she was staying with as a teen and was reprimanded. At 18, she attempted suicide. The psychiatric registrar told her to do it properly next time. “That pushed me back into my shell for years,” she says.
Delaney, who suffers from complex post-traumatic stress disorder, says society treats different medical conditions unequally. “One of my old school friends had cancer a few years ago and everyone offered to help, while my emotional injuries are a source of shame and isolation.”
Many people have since shared their own secrets of abuse with Delaney. “What broke my heart was it was all in private messages,” she says. “They were too scared to share it openly. I want to take the power away from my abusers and the only power they have over me is my silence and shame. To adult survivors, don't let the fuckers who stole your joy keep stealing it even one more day.”
Kelly Humphries, a 37-year-old Queensland senior police constable, went to the police about her uncle's sexual abuse when she was 19, but she didn't speak publicly about it till her 30s. She has written a memoir, Unscathed Beauty, about her recovery.
“I want people to know they're not on their own,” she says. “There's so much happens behind closed doors [that] nobody ever talks about. I've always known since I was a child that I didn't want it to happen to anyone else.”
Humphries, who worked in child protection for six years, first spoke out about her abuse at Toastmasters in 2015. “It was a bit controversial for them but I think they recognised the courage it took. It's hard to know how people are going to respond when you've had an experience like that but I've grown in the process of sharing and writing, reaching out to others and others reaching out to me.”
She recommends having a support system and good self-care practices when sharing traumatic information. “You don't have to tell everyone but it's important for the people who matter most in your life. People can't support you if they don't know what's wrong.”
Disclosing has enabled others to share their stories, including her mother. “She revealed to me that it's happened to her as well. She hadn't spoken about it ever. All of a sudden, people start making disclosures and it doesn't become shameful anymore.”
Dr Cathy Kezelman, president of the Blue Knot foundation, a national organization helping adults recover from childhood trauma, says Australia's royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse had found it takes an average of 24 years for people to speak about their abuse. “Some never do,” she says. The Blue Knot helpline has received calls from people disclosing for the first time in their 70s, 80s and 90s.
“We have a society that hasn't wanted to hear about it,” she explains. “As we saw in the royal commission, a lot of people giving testimony spoke about trying to speak out as a child. Many were punished, they weren't believed and their concerns were dismissed or minimized.
“Thinking about abuse or neglect of a child is inherently discomforting for us all. Often people hearing the disclosure don't know what to say. Counsellors with insufficient training, despite the best of intentions, can retraumatize victims.”
It takes a long time for victims to process and recognize what happened to them was abuse, Kezelman adds. “They are often abused by people supposed to care for them. Some people don't remember their abuse, or only parts of it. And often they haven't made connection between the struggles they're having in their life and what happened to them as a child.”
Mellita Bate, a manager and counsellor with Interrelate, provided support to victims coming forward to the royal commission. She says the insidious nature of the grooming process is behind why most people keep sexual abuse bottled up inside. The egocentric nature of children feeds into self-blame. “Most perpetrators start touching just a little bit inappropriately to see if they can get away with it and to work out if that child has the capacity to tell an adult,” she says. “When they start to perpetrate the abuse they use threats and emotional blackmail.”
Another disincentive for disclosing abuse is the pain of reliving it. “We have in our human nature a way of dealing with trauma by just holding it locked away somewhere,” Bate says. When people do disclose, it's for various reasons in different environments. Triggers, such as the #MeToo movement and royal commission, and the desire to obtain justice, are common motives for finally speaking out, she says.
It's especially hard to disclose sex abuse if you're male. A 2014 paper by Sydney Law School found males are much less likely than females to disclose child sexual abuse at the time it occurs, take longer to disclose, and make fewer and more selective disclosures.
Craig Hughes-Cashmore, chief executive of Survivors and Mates Survivors Network, a not-for-profit assisting male survivors of sex abuse, frames the discussion around gender stereotypes: “Women are victims and men are perpetrators; men don't cry; men don't seek help,” he says.
The added fear and confusion about sexual preference adds to their silence. “The bulk of perpetrators are male, so if you're a boy and are sexually abused by a same-sex person and you have a physical response, you're left very confused about your sexuality,” he says.
Hughes-Cashmore was himself abused as a child. It began in his mid-teens when his parents were going through a separation and a friend of his father's moved into the family home.
“He was a friend and a work colleague of my father's,” he says. “So it was nice to get that attention. My dad had met a new woman and my mum was freaking out. It kind of suited them for this guy to take an interest as well because they were trying to piece their lives together.”
Of his experience, he says “your own sexual development is taken from you and that's a really horrible legacy to be left with. We [survivors] didn't have that exploration thing kids talk about, the first kiss and that sort of stuff is denied, and I don't think we talk about that much but I think it really, really sucks if your first experience, like mine, is being raped.”
Apart from the destruction of natural sexual development there is the damage done to mental and emotional development.
“You're talking about interrupting the development of the brain of a child and their education. It's a major rewiring of the brain that can often leave people in a perpetual state of alarm, a heightened sense of who's around me, what's happening and constant vigilance. I was like that for years and depressed and suicidal because the world wasn't safe, and everyone had an ulterior motive and who do you trust?
“Trust is a massive issue for people who've been abused. Because often these people were people we looked up to and admired.”
More damaging than sexual confusion and a potent reason for long-held silence, says Hughes-Cashmore, is the abiding belief that victims are more likely to become sexual predators themselves. “It's kind of demonising victims.”
Regardless of gender, associations with mental health instability and the view the victim didn't do enough to stop the abuse is another obstacle to potential sharing of the subject. “This shows a lack of understanding on the behalf of the public about the grooming process and the power imbalance between children and adults,” Hughes-Cashmore says.
Owing to their own sense of shame, many survivors expect judgment from society, he says.
One man who found the strength to speak out is Adam Savage. The 40-year-old Newcastle resident was sexually abused by two older teenagers and a Catholic priest. It took him until he was 37 to reveal it.
In 2016 Savage drove past his abuser's house with a friend. “I said, ‘That was the house where the two brothers abused me,'” he recalls. “It was really impulsive. I'd completed enough healing where I found the inner strength to speak my truth.”
After that, Savage reported the abuse to police, then told family and friends. In 2017, as part of his healing and to get the perpetrators to confess their crime, he met them to ask why they had abused him. This resulted in them pleading guilty in court.
Savage kept the abuse to himself for years owing to denial, guilt, shame, fear and trust issues. “I didn't love myself and I didn't want to burden anybody else. I self-medicated with drugs, alcohol, sex and rugby.”
For Savage, speaking out has been about healing, justice, forgiveness and helping. “I believe communication is key with all forms of trauma. The three individuals stole my power and it was time for me to get my power back. That will form my legacy – communicating and speaking my truth to empower others. This has been a long journey, a lot of hard work, many tears and a lot of inner reflection. I can honestly sit here right now and say I love myself from the heart for who I am.”
Hughes-Cashmore says: “We're just coming out of an age where this was incredibly taboo as a subject. People's response to disclosure is often key to people's recovery.” A 2018 study found social support buffers the negative risks associated with child abuse including suicide, health problems in later life and a reduced lifespan.
On the downside, Hughes-Cashmore reveals discrimination can be real for child abuse survivors. “I've helped men who have absolutely been discriminated against when their employer find out they're a survivor.”
Ultimately, the need to share oneself often prevails. As Blue Knot's Kezelman sums up: “We all want to be heard for who we are, survivors particularly, because it is so traumatic and has affected the trajectory of their life so incredibly.
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.
Westerners 'fuelling Philippine child sex video rise'
by Mike Thomson
Two-thirds of children forced into online sex abuse videos in the Philippines are exploited by their own parent or family member, it is claimed.
Much of the trade is driven by people in the West paying adults to make the films - many of whom say they need the money to survive.
Victims include infants as young as six months old, says the organization International Justice Mission.
The Philippine government says it is working to combat the abuse.
Many of those buying the films specify what they want done to the children, with the resulting film then either live-streamed or posted online to the abuser, who watches it from their home.
'Sound of a camera'
Reports of suspected cases of online child sex abuse across the world have soared from just over 100,000 five years ago to more than 18 million last year, figures from the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children suggest.
The Philippines is considered to be at the epicentre of the problem.
One teenager, Jhona - not her real name - told the BBC that as a child she and a friend were sexually exploited by the girl's mother.
"One time, my friend and I took a shower together, and we were getting dressed. Her mother was also in the room with us.
"We thought she was looking at Facebook, but we realised the sound of a camera. I started feeling uncomfortable.
"My friend asked her mother, 'Why are you taking a photo?', and she replied, 'Oh, it's nothing.'"
Jhona said she was later told by police that the photos had been sold online.
"They said they were being sent to customers online in other countries."
The International Justice Mission, which works with agencies such as the FBI and the UK's National Crime Agency, has helped rescue around 500 Philippine children.
It says it has been on most raids and rescue operations conducted by local police over the last five years - about 150 in total - and in 69% of cases the abusers were found to be either the child victim's parents or a relative.
The organization's national director, Sam Inocencio, said victims were becoming younger.
"About 50% are aged 12 or younger," he explained. "We've rescued a child who was six months old.
"And so we're actually talking here of infants, toddlers, pre-teens or pre-pubescent children being abused online."
Last month, a former British Army officer who arranged for children to be sexually abused in the Philippines while he watched online was jailed.
One mother-of-three living in the Philippines, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, admitted to the BBC she had distributed videos.
She said she did so with a clear conscience, as she had not made the original content.
"I asked the foreigner, 'You like the age 12 to 13?' He said he's OK with that," she explained.
"All he wanted from me is to pass videos to him of children having sex. It didn't matter to him where this took place."
The woman had been charged by police with selling indecent images of her own child.
Some church congregations are now regularly being warned to watch out for signs of online child sex abuse.
The issue is said by some to be fueled by poverty.
But the pastor of one church in a poor area on the outskirts of Manila, Stephen Gualberto, said this was no excuse.
He described it as "sickening" that parents were "involved in prostituting their child on camera", and dismissed claims by some that they had no other option because they were poor.
"There are a lot of options, and you don't need to sell your child in order for your family to survive."
Earlier this year, Philippine police set up a new anti-child abuse centre in the country's capital, Manila, to fight the growing problem, helped by funding and training from British and Australian police.
But the government's undersecretary for commissions, Lorraine Badoy, admitted to the BBC: "I don't think we're making any significant dent because this is a very hidden crime."
She said she was "afraid what the social cost will be, having all these wounded children".
Catholics / Jews
The Catholic Church has finally gotten serious about handling sexual abuse.
Here's what Jewish institutions could learn from the process.
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.
Twelve-Year-Old Fremont Boy Creates App to Detect Child Abuse
Can you imagine an app that records sound waves every time a child experiences any type of abuse? Twelve-year-old Aryan Mangal did and he spent the last six months building an app that does just that.
"Basically, I found that sound waves are created when somebody screams at someone," said Aryan, from Fremont. "So I used this and started to detect that and then recording that. Using those recordings it would send it to parents, or law enforcement and they would stop the child abuse."
The app functions by monitoring noise above 80 decibels or if any profanity is said. The recordings are then used as clues to whether or not an adult is being abusive and if so, the recording is sent to family members, alerting them of possible mistreatment.
The idea for the app came to Aryan after seeing child abuse in India while eating at restuarants during his family vacations.
"They would scream at their children a lot and hit them," said the Thornton Junior High student. "So, I started searching it up and discovered articles by universities but no solutions."
His father, who was with him during those trips, didn't realize how much seeing that kind of abuse in India affected his son and was even surprised to hear this idea come from Aryan.
"My first reaction was kind of mixed," said Aryan's dad, Shailesh Mangal. "Who really needs one more app, we have so many apps around us. But the real eye opener for me was when he kept pushing and he actually reached out to some non-governmental organizations – I became more of a believer than a skeptic."
While developing the app, Aryan worked with a non-governmental organization called Justice for Children, an experience that not only validated the need for an app like the one he wanted to create but also gave him more ideas.
With a little help from his dad, his robotics teacher and a lot of YouTube video tutorials, it took Aryan about six months to build the app.
His app won first place in the seventh grade category at the National Invention Convention at the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, but that's only the beginning of much more success for Aryan and his app.
When NBC Bay Area asked Aryan what the name of his app is, he explained that his project and research name is "Sound Savior" but his app name is "Artemis," after the god of childbirth and protecting children.
Aryan plans to spend the next three years developing Artemis so that it has "better understanding of different languages, the ability to use Amazon Alexa software and eventually merge it with artificial intelligence." He also hopes to gain support from the companies like Google, Microsoft or Apple to help provide hardware.
"I'd like to improve the app and spread this so people can use it around the world," Aryan said.
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 Riott
The Church of Scientology International has been sued by an ex-Scientologist accusing it over child abuse and human trafficking.
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 labor and child abuse, among other damning allegations.
The woman, listed in court records as “Jane Doe,” said she was put in an isolation program 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 recognized 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.
Disney World janitor ‘claims he has constitutional RIGHT to watch child abuse videos after cops catch him in the act when they raid his home'
by Alahna Kindred
A DISNEY World janitor claimed it was his constitutional right to watch child abuse videos, according to police.
Paul G. Curley, 66, was arrested on Wednesday in Kissimmee, Florida after police raided his home and allegedly found child sex abuse videos and photos.
charged with six counts of possession of images of a sexual performance by a child.
Paul G. Curley was charged with six counts of possession of images of a sexual performance by a child
Detectives received three tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children identifying an IP address that child abuse videos were being uploaded from, according to a charging affidavit reported by the Orlando Sentinel.
Investigators then tied the IP address to an account registered to Curley, the affidavit added.
Curley was put on surveillance and police were able obtain a search warrant for his home this week.
The child abuse images appeared to depict nude children between the ages of five and 12.
Police allegedly found a website open on his home computer that had child abuse videos and images as well as searches related to those sites in the web browser's history.
Curley first claimed he made those searches for “investigative purposes”, according to police.
Then he claimed he had not broken the law because he was just watching the abuse videos and not sending or downloading them.
However, police say they found numerous files of abuse in his downloads folder.
The affidavit said: “He stated that his constitutional rights allow him to view the child pornography."
“He does not feel that he is guilty of a crime.”
Curley then claimed the kids in the vile images were made themselves and they were doing it of their own free will.
He was charged with six counts of possession of images of a sexual performance by a child.
Records show Curley is a janitor at Walt Disney World.
A Disney spokesperson said that he has been placed on unpaid leave until his charges are resolved.
Curley is being held in the Osceola County Jail in lieu of a £4,726 ($6,000) bond.
It is not clear if he has an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
Campsite child sexual abuse suspects confess in German trial
NORTH RHINE-WESTPHALIA, GERMANY - Two of three men charged with hundreds of counts of child sexual abuse over decades at a German campsite pleaded guilty as their trial opened Thursday.
The defendants, who were identified by the court only as Andreas V. and Mario S., admitted to most of the charges against them, while the third suspect, Heiko V., said he would respond in a closed-door session.
Jointly, the three men are accused of some 450 instances of child sexual abuse.
In a case that shocked the nation when it was uncovered in January, prosecutors say more than 40 children fell victim at the “Eichwald” campsite in Luegde, North Rhine-Westphalia state, between 1998 and 2018.
Most of the children were between three and 14 years old at the time.
The 56-year-old defendant Andreas V., who lived at the campsite, is accused of 298 crimes against children, in 1998 and again between 2008 and 2018.
His lawyer told the court he admitted to most of them, but would not speak further or answer any questions at the hearings.
Mario S., 34, was accused of involvement in the sexual abuse from 1999 until January this year, and admitted to “all of the charges laid against me.”
He had realized in pre-trial custody “what suffering and horror I inflicted on the children,” he said in a statement read by his lawyer.
Prosecutors charged 49-year-old Heiko V. with incitement to sexual abuse of children and abetting the crimes.
In German cases dealing with crimes against children, a guilty plea from the defendants can spare the victims from having to give testimony.
Presiding judge Anke Grudda had earlier closed the state court in Detmold to reporters and the public as the charge sheet was read out, saying the 27 plaintiffs had a right for their personal information to be protected.
She said repeatedly that she would prefer to avoid questioning the victims about their experiences.
As the trial opened, Grudda had said she was “stunned” by the “undoubtedly repugnant” nature and scale of the alleged crimes, adding the trial would be a “huge challenge” for everyone involved.
The case is one of the biggest abuse scandals in Germany in decades.
Public outrage was all the stormier as official failures came to light following the discovery of the abuse in January.
District police lost some of the evidence gathered during the investigation, while children's welfare offices have also been criticized over the scandal.
Keeping kids safe this summer
by SUZIN BARTLEY and DAVID SULLIVAN
Summer is finally here and with it comes all the joys of the season. For many kids, this means the opportunity to learn, grow, and experience the world at summer camp and other extracurricular activities. There is nothing more fulfilling than watching your child flourish in a new environment, but with all the benefits that come from those summer adventures, we also must be mindful of the dangers. No one wants to think or talk about child sexual abuse, but unfortunately, it is all too real a threat.
It has been estimated in various studies that 25-40% of women and 8-13% of men experience at least one episode of sexual abuse victimization before they reach their 18th birthday. National statistics indicated that 85% of these attacks are carried out not by strangers, but by people the children know and trust. In addition, a pedophile has an average of 244 victims. Just one child is too many in our opinion.
But it doesn't have to be this way. Child sexual abuse can be prevented, saving children and families from trauma with negative impact that can last a lifetime. There are steps that child-serving organizations can and should take to prevent child sexual abuse. No one thinks it could happen in their organization, but pedophiles are drawn to child-serving organizations and have spent a lifetime learning how to infiltrate them. But with the right plan in place, organizations can ensure the children in their care are safe.
The Massachusetts Legislative Task Force on Child Sexual Abuse Prevention developed a framework that helps child-serving organizations develop policies and procedures to prevent sexual abuse, effectively screening staff and volunteers, developing a code of conduct, ensuring safe physical environments and technology, and recognizing and reporting potential incidents of abuse. No two organizations are the same so the approach will change from one group to another, but the key is for organizations to prioritize the prevention of child sexual abuse.
As you take your kids to their summer activities, ask the following questions to find out about the organization's child sexual abuse prevention policies:
Is the program accredited, licensed, or certified by a government or private agency?
Does the camp conduct background checks on all staff and volunteers for criminal (CORI) and sexual offense history?
Are there published rules about staff being alone with children?
What is the ratio of counselors to campers?
Are there guidelines outlining acceptable conduct between staff and children, and between the children themselves?
Are all staff and volunteers trained in child sexual abuse prevention, recognition, and reporting responsibilities?
Are children always supervised?
Who does my child go to if he or she is uncomfortable with staff?
Are written policies and procedures about preventing child sexual abuse in place?
Will my child be able to communicate with me if necessary?
Are there regulations spelled out about private times (e.g. toileting, dressing, bathing)?
What are the sleeping arrangements?
How are staff supervised?
We all have a role to play in stopping child sexual abuse and it is not a small task, but together, we can build a better, safer commonwealth for our children.
Pell's abuse compensation program only spent a fraction compensating victims
According to Fairfax, George Pell's scheme to address sex abuse claims spent far more money on itself that it ever did victims of the church.
According to a Fairfax investigation, the scheme that George Pell established to compensate sex abuse claims against the Melbourne Catholic Church advanced the employees of the scheme, rather than the victims of the church.
Between 1996-2014, the church spent $34.27 million to run the scheme, Melbourne Response, but with only 28% of that money ever going to victims.
As Farrah Tomazin noted, the bulk of the funding was spent on “operational costs”, including $7.8 million (or 23% of the funding) for QC Peter O'Callaghan, who operated as an ‘independent commissioner', hired to ascertain the integrity of claims against the church, and advise further legal action. Almost $5 million went to legal fees.
A further $11 million was granted to the in-church counselling service, Carelink, with Fairfax believing that “most of which was spent on staff and administration.”
The program essentially broke down like this: O'Callaghan would review the claims, and those deemed with sufficient grounds would then be referred to the compensation panel and Carelink.
The thing to note, however, is that the church purportedly limited the dollar value of compensation claims. As Tomazin stated: “Compensation payments were deliberately capped by the church – first at $50,000, and later lifted to $75,000 – and survivors were required to sign a deed of settlement waiving their right to take civil action.”
O'Callaghan has defended the scheme, stating that it would “a big mistake to attribute the whole of the fees of $7.8 million to my dealing with complaints of child sexual abuse”.
According to O'Callaghan, the scheme also covered the cost of “meeting the constant attacks upon the Melbourne Response generally and the Independent Commissioner in particular…the Melbourne Response was world first innovation in dealing with the issue of clerical child abuse, it was run fairly, efficiently and compassionately and provided a remedy for victims of clerical child sexual abuse, where none had previously existed. Whilst I was Independent Commissioner I dealt with complaints in the order of 400. Only 3 per cent of complaints were not accepted,” Mr O'Callaghan said.
However, critics of the scheme, such as lawyer and advocate Judith Courtin, who has spent the last decade investigating both Melbourne Response and Towards Healing, and how the complaint process affected victims. To her, it “became clear to her there were great difficulties for victims to obtain justice, civil or criminal, and she saw the uncaring response by the Church was actually another form of abuse suffered by victims and their families.
'Twelve Tribes' Cult
FBI Documents Show Alleged Child Sex Abuse, Drug Trafficking at ‘Twelve Tribes'
by Bowen Xiao
The FBI released redacted documents this week on the cult community known as the “Twelve Tribes,” revealing numerous allegations against the group, including child sexual abuse, drug trafficking, ritual abuse, and forced labor.
The 61-page document—released by the bureau's Vault library on June 25—included separate complaints detailing the alleged crimes, mostly against children. The cult has communes all over the United States, including Vermont, New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Florida, California, Tennessee, and more.
In 2013, a preliminary investigation was conducted by the FBI, based on a complaint the bureau received from the Alexander County Sheriff's Office in North Carolina that children were being “sexually exploited” at a Twelve Tribes compound in the town of Hiddenite. The case was closed the same year.
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Twelve Tribes has communes around the world, with the Hiddenite location being one of its training centers.
Documents showed that drugs were used at the commune and placed into “ritual” bread—usually LSD and hallucinogenic plants, as well as heroin and meth. There were also ritual ceremonies once a month that involved the bread being broken and gang rapes.
Punishment within the cult involved being beaten with a rod and having the wife or children of the accused being sexually assaulted by other cult members. The sheriff's office had been aware of the Hiddenite location since 2006 and that much of the land in the area was owned by the cult, since families who joined had to turn over their property.
Members of the Hiddenite compound also allegedly were forced to go to a location and work all night and day for “three straight days,” in what was known as a “push” that involved three or six members. Those working were allowed to drink coffee that may have had something added to it to keep them awake.
In a prior complaint included in the released documents, a name that was redacted had contacted the public access line to report child sexual abuse in a Twelve Tribes commune located in Manitou Springs, Colorado. The person had said children were threatened not to tell the police or anyone else about the beatings or sexual abuse, and that the cult ran a restaurant in the area.
Yet another document, one from 2010, detailed how a former member was allegedly sexually and physically abused by cult members as a child but had repressed the memories. In 2009, the former member had seen a psychologist, who reported the abuse to local authorities, and had also contacted national leaders of the cult to inform them of her abuse. The former member also attended personal meetings with the cult leaders.
After a meeting on a date that was redacted, the former member was killed in a car crash that “was not accidental” and was allegedly “orchestrated” by cult members to prevent the woman from “propagating the claims of abuse.”
In the Twelve Tribe cult, members were also “allowed to punish any child belonging to the community.” The FBI document detailed how members would take their children to be “wooped,” meaning beaten, if they smiled at another child during a gathering, or if they were “horsing” around.
“Bigger children have missed ‘gathering' for a couple of days at a time because they were beaten so badly and left in a condition where they could not attend,” the documents said, based on an interview with an FBI agent.
One former member said that they were once “locked in a cellar, beaten, and deprived of food.”
The release of the FBI documents came days after Keith Raniere, the former leader of purported self-help organization NXIVM was found guilty on all charges at a Brooklyn federal court on June 19.
A federal jury, made up of eight men and four women, deliberated for less than five hours before finding Raniere guilty of all 7 criminal counts including sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy, and racketeering.
Raniere listened attentively but showed no visible reaction as he learned the verdict. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 25.
The accusations against Raniere center around a secret society within the group—which he allegedly created in 2015—named DOS, an acronym for the Latin “dominus obsequious sororium,” loosely translated as “master of the slave women.”
Prosecutors say Raniere was the “highest master” of DOS and forced other members—all women—to have sex with him. Many of the DOS members were branded with a cauterizing pen while naked and being filmed.
Days ago, during closing arguments in the high-profile trial, assistant U.S. Attorney Moira Penza alluded to the prosecution's May 7 opening statements, telling the jury that Raniere was chiefly after “sex, money, power.”
Penza brought up the testimony of former NXIVM members, including one identified by prosecutors as “Daniela,” who had spoken about being locked up in a room for nearly two years after Raniere found out she had kissed another man. Another member, identified as Sylvie, testified about being forced into a sex act with the leader. Another, a senior board member, detailed Raniere's manipulation and fraud.
The verdict comes after a 7-week long trial. Raniere could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Tackling child sexual abuse online and offline
Home Secretary Sajid Javid delivered a speech at the NSPCC's "How Safe are our Children?” conference on June 25, 2019
From: Home Office and The Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP (Transcript of the speech, exactly as it was delivered)
Thank you, it's good to be here. I always enjoy coming to the QE2 Centre, particularly as it's just down the road from the Home Office.
In fact, it's been close to all the departments I've been lucky enough to lead… and the commute from No 10 wouldn't have been bad either!
In all seriousness, it's a pleasure to speak to an audience that is motivated only by protecting. No job could be more important, so I'd like to start by thanking you all.
When I last spoke to the NSPCC I said that keeping children safe was my mission as Home Secretary.
I made it my top priority.
In that speech, I set my sights on the internet, and that's what I want to address today.
You don't need me to tell you about the dangers young people face online.
We all know how much time teenagers and children spend glued to their phones, tablets and consoles. When I was a child if I was naughty my parents would take away my cricket bat. So much so, that if my kids are naughty there's only one thing to do - change the wi-fi code.
And while they're online, we know there are growing numbers of tech savvy paedophiles who can reach them with the touch of a screen. Looking for an easy way to groom, abuse and destroy young lives.
We undoubtedly remain at a critical moment in our mission to protect our kids.
Yes, more victims are being identified and more children safeguarded, but that means they are at risk in the first place.
We can't sit back and say job done.
The threat I set out nine months ago continues to escalate and evolve.
The magnitude of the challenge we face is vast, and I know how much this affects you all.
UK referrals of child abuse images from industry are now 10 times greater than in 2013. Up by 1000%.
New NSPCC figures show police recorded an average of 22 cyber-related sex crimes against children a day in 2018 to 2019 – double that of 4 years ago.
The UK is now thought to be one of the largest consumers in the world of live-streamed abuse from the Philippines.
Anyone can sit behind a computer inciting these cowardly assaults on children. In recent months alone, a deputy head teacher and a retired Army officer have been jailed in the UK for watching this foul abuse. Supposed pillars of our society.
Worldwide there are nearly 3 million accounts registered on the worst child sexual abuse sites on the dark web. Around 140,000 of those registrations are from the UK.
The risk every offender poses is immense, with one man in the UK recently caught with 2.2 million indecent images and videos of children.
That's countless children whose lives have been destroyed. Real life victims being put through pain and suffering that is all too real.
New risks continue to emerge as the digital landscape evolves.
I know that many of you are worried about the impact Facebook's plans to encrypt messaging services that are used by children. And, while the government supports strong encryption, I share your concerns.
It's vital that there is an ongoing, detailed dialogue between the government and the company on the implications of their proposals. These conversations have already started and I'm committed to that process.
Children are increasingly being groomed on social media, image sharing or live-streaming sites.
Of course, their attackers start off charming. They may even adopt a cute online name like ‘Cuddlemonkey' Matthew Claridge. A harmless sounding moniker that helped this vile paedophile trap victims as young as 10.
Girls blackmailed into sending indecent images, with the threat of them being made public if they stopped.
A depressingly familiar tale where children are extorted into an ever-worsening cycle of abuse.
So we are certainly concerned where companies deliberately design their systems in a way that makes it harder for us to protect our children.
I would urge all firms to embed children's safety in the design of their services.
That means having strong moderation systems, the ability to identify grooming and accounts showing signs of CSEA activity, and the willingness to act on these to protect children.
Failing to do so would be to fail young people everywhere.
The threat to our children has perhaps never been greater. So just what are we doing in government, and how far have we come?
We're investing in law enforcement and are already seeing results.
Since 2015, we've doubled the number of specialist NCA officers and are now seeing up to 600 children safeguarded every month.
We know the police also need more boots on the ground – on the street and in the virtual world - so they can handle the flood of referrals.
So I'm delighted that Police and Crime Commissioners plan to recruit 3,500 extra officers and staff after I increased police budget by almost £1 billion this year, including council tax.
The police have told me they need even more resources. So I'm listening to the experts and making increased police funding my priority for the forthcoming spending review.
They also need the right tools and powers, so we're investing in innovative technology to help us keep pace with offenders.
We've committed £500,000 to help law enforcement understand child sexual exploitation on the dark web.
And we're making our world-leading child abuse image database even better, with a suite of improvements being rolled out to forces this year.
Machine learning means we can now automatically detect and categorise child abuse material never seen before by the authorities.
We've invested in Artificial Intelligence, which will support officers to identify victims and offenders.
We're also dramatically speeding up the identification of known abuse material, so what currently takes days to find on a hard drive will instead take minutes.
This will not only free up vital man power, it will ease the huge psychological pressure on officers who will no longer have to manually trawl through this sickening material.
And we're helping undercover online officers get results, with tougher charges for the predators they expose.
Our prevention and education work has also picked up pace, which you'll undoubtedly hear more on from the Education Secretary tomorrow.
Back in September, I told you about our partnership with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, which aims to protect victims by changing the behaviour of potential offenders.
Today I can reveal that at the start of this year they were able to take 24% more calls than in the same period in 2018. They've also seen a 40% surge in the number of people being helped by their Stop It Now! website.
And we know it's working, with independent evaluation showing web users concerned about their behaviour reported increased awareness of the law and positive behaviour changes.
So more potential offenders are being stopped before they prey upon children – something we undoubtedly need to see more of.
Our education campaign with the Internet Watch Foundation and Marie Collins Foundation is also paying off, with a 72% surge in public reports of indecent images of children online, showing more people know what to do if they stumble across this disturbing material.
And the more images we know about, the more victims can be identified and protected.
In my last speech, I challenged industry to do more to protect our kids.
Since then I've seen some encouraging progress.
Advertising experts coming to the Home Office to investigate promotions for well-known brands appearing on child sexual abuse sites and co-funding research into how we can cut off this funding stream.
A team of experts developing an anti-grooming tool at the Microsoft led Hackathon.
And the first innovations from companies who won grants from our £250,000 fund to help firms develop tools to disrupt the live streaming of abuse. This tech has huge potential, so I've invested another £300,000 to develop these ideas.
We're slowly edging forward.
But my message to the tech companies back in September was clear: if they did not go far enough and fast enough then we would make them.
I refuse to compromise when it comes to the safety of our kids, so the proposals in our new Online Harms White Paper deliver on that promise.
I'm sure the Culture Secretary will speak more about what we're proposing tomorrow.
But at its heart is a legal duty of care for firms to protect children, enforced by an independent regulator.
And we'll publish an interim code of practice later this year to leave no doubt what the companies must do to protect children from this vile threat.
The consultation on the White Paper closes next week and I'm already proud of the progress being made.
We know that our children can be targeted online from anywhere in the world, and that offenders in the UK – like that ex teacher and army officer - are inciting abuse overseas.
This is a truly global issue: and this country is leading the world in tackling it. Indeed, the economist intelligence unit recently ranked us as number one out of 60 countries for our response.
We already have some of the toughest global law enforcement measures. Our safeguarding regimes are world class. And with our new White Paper we've proposed the most comprehensive package of online safety measures in the world.
We have a moral duty to help children everywhere and I'm determined to deliver.
So the NCA has been awarded almost £3 million from our aid budget to help tackle the live- streaming of sexual abuse in the Philippines.
These are global crimes, so countries must work together to beat them. As we did after I met the family of murdered teenager Breck Bednar – who had received deeply distressing online abuse claiming to be from the murderer. I'm pleased that we were able to work swiftly with the US Department for Justice to clarify the law for the first time and secure Snapchat's co-operation to hand over vital evidence to UK Police. An excellent example of international co-operation helping us work more constructively with overseas tech companies.
Progress is being made, but we still have much to do and much to learn.
So international action on online child sexual exploitation and abuse will be top of the agenda when I host the next Five Country Ministerial meeting in Manchester in July, attended by the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
I'll be seeking a strong consensus on what we expect from tech firms to magnify the pressure on them to clean up their act around the world. And we're making sure the message gets through loud and clear by inviting the big companies to join us for a joint session with industry.
In December we'll also co-host - with the We PROTECT Global Alliance and African Union - a summit in Ethiopia to bring governments, industry and law enforcement together to further enhance the global response.
Of course, in any country, child sexual abuse is not just confined to the internet.
Every online offender we identify represents a potential offline risk.
Viewing sick images or videos can be just the start of an escalating pattern of abuse.
In March, a man from Manchester was jailed for repeatedly filming sex attacks on a defenseless baby and toddler.
Why? Because he wanted to join a pedophile chat room where new members had to post fresh evidence of abuse to gain entry.
But sharing the footage led to his downfall, after he was caught out by his distinctive red trainers.
Our understanding of offences committed via a laptop or a smartphone can shine a light on previously hidden abuse in the home or communities.
These crimes are intrinsically linked. There cannot be online child sexual abuse images without the abuse of a child. And those using the internet to share this material pose a threat to children everywhere.
That's why, as safeguarding professionals, you must really understand the child's whole life: at home and beyond, on and offline.
And that's why the government must build on our existing work to stop all forms of child sexual abuse and support all victims and survivors.
So I'm pleased to announce that later this year we will publish a national strategy covering our comprehensive response to all forms of Child Sexual Abuse.
And I can also announce today that we're awarding £600,000 to three organizations supporting victims and survivors – including £163,000 to an NSPCC project to help children with learning disabilities who've been affected by sexual abuse.
While children are still being abused we simply must do more.
That's why I've also taken the growing risk from online CSEA to the National Security Council, where we agreed to work across government – and the whole system - to bear down on the threat.
And that's why, having already reformed the powers available to law enforcement, I'm keen to do the same for civil orders.
So I plan to look at what more we can do to strengthen Sexual Risk and Sexual Harm Prevention Orders. Having seen the success of our prevention work, I want to explore extending these orders to allow police to compel offenders to seek treatment. And if it saves even one future victim from the life-long impact of abuse, who could argue with that?
Much has been done since I last stood before you.
I have been resolute in my mission to protect our kids, but I remain determined to do even more.
Like you, I will not flinch from the challenge of protecting our children.
It's undoubtedly everyone's job to keep them safe: parents, politicians, programmers, police.
But this is what you do: day in, day out.
I know how hard that can be, and you have my unwavering support.
I stand here with you on the frontline and together we can give them the protection they so richly deserve.
Our View: Build a better child welfare system – finally
The attention the system gets after a high-profile tragedy should not be allowed to fade.
The death of 5-year-old Logan Marr at the hands of her foster mother in 2001 focused the entire state on Maine's child protective system.
The attention, however, inevitably faded as state government moved on to the next crisis, and the one after that – until the deaths of two young girls within months of each other last year once again brought calls for reform.
It's a cycle that has repeated itself over and over through the years with each high-profile tragedy. The cycle keeps real, lasting reform from taking hold, and it ignores the peril of kids whose names never make the news. Now is the time to finally end it.
Gov. Mills is taking aggressive steps to fix the broken system. Following on reforms made at the end of the LePage administration, Mills is adding caseworkers, increasing pay, instituting a new recordkeeping system and intensifying training – all proper moves to alleviate pressure on a system that was overburdening caseworkers.
It was revealed last week that the case of 4-year-old Kendall Chick was closed 10 months before she died from long-term abuse by her caretaker; the caretaker's house was visited just twice. The first step for the state is to make sure that other cases are not being treated similarly, and every indication is that the Mills administration is working in the right direction.
But if history is any indication, it will take something more.
The reports that followed the deaths of Kendall Chick and 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy – who was also involved with state child protective services – concluded that the child welfare system was struggling to adequately monitor children as the number of cases increased.
Lagging social services and the opioid epidemic had made things worse, but the system was already vulnerable – underfunded, and dealing with complex problems with no easy answers, and with little room for error.
As reported by the Portland Press Herald, since 2007, 18 Maine children have been killed in homes where child welfare officials knew there was abuse or neglect. Another 34 deaths that were accidental or of natural causes occurred in homes where abuse or neglect was substantiated.
Not all of those deaths were preventable. But it's clear that the two young girls, Kendall and Marissa, were not the first to die after presenting warning signs that should have been noticed.
Those tragic oversights took place across multiple administrations, and several Legislatures and health and human services commissioners. Some paid more attention than others to child welfare, and the intensity of the problems ebbed and flowed in reaction to other factors.
But as child welfare advocates will tell you, the system's shortcomings have stayed largely consistent – it's just that the wider world doesn't notice until there is a tragedy that captures its imagination.
So the question is, how does Maine fix the system once and for all, not only to prevent deaths but also to identify and help any child suffering from abuse and neglect?
Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, wants to create a commission to study the child welfare system, set timelines for reform, and oversee the implementation. It could give multiple legislative committees, and other stakeholders, a mechanism for keeping track of the system's status; without such a mechanism, it's just too easy for that work to get lost among all the other issues legislators must handle. His bill has been held over to the next session.
Policymakers should also include in the discussion the wider issues that contribute to abuse and neglect – substance abuse, mental illness, housing and hunger.
It should have never taken the deaths of Kendall Chick and Marissa Kennedy to reveal the tragic shortcomings in Maine's child welfare system – the signs were there all along.
Now, we are all forced to confront them, and we shouldn't let this opportunity pass. The deaths of the two young girls should not be in vain.
Several bishops' conferences in Africa announce sex abuse protocols
Catholic leaders begin to address the issue of sexual abuse in the Church and its prevention
Most African episcopal conferences who held their plenary assemblies in June have examined the question of implementation of reporting sexual abuse of office against minors and vulnerable people.
Kenya, South Africa, Central Africa, Togo, Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo announced in recent days they were studying the conditions of the implementation of reporting sexual abuse of office required by Pope Francis in his "motu proprio" Vos estis lux mundi (You are the light of the world), published on May 9.
The awareness of the existence of sexual abuse in the African Church was slow but has begun to spread.
If before the summit on sexual abuse in the Church convened by Pope Francis in Rome from Feb. 21 to 24, the question came up against misunderstandings, it is being increasingly addressed through the continent.
The question of culture
During the summit on sexual abuse in the Church, called by Pope Francis in February, Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa of Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, interviewed by the French weekly "Christian Family" estimated that the proportion of child abuse in Africa was lower than that of other continents because of the enforcement of traditional customs.
"This problem is a lower proportion in Africa than Europe, Australia or the U.S.," he said, adding later, "According to local customs, the requirements are so strict with regard to punishing these kinds of acts that it is likely to prevent their commission. This explains in part that such acts are less common among us."It is an approach to sexual abuse that not everyone shares.
Interviewed by La Croix Africa on this issue, Father Paul Bere, a Jesuit priest and permanent teacher of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, noting the complexity of African culture toward abuse, mentioned a tendency to be silent on the matter.
"Our local culture (African) is sometimes a shame culture. If there are topics of which we are not proud, we do not know how to talk about them. Denial is unfortunately a way of dodging our feelings," he said.
For his part, Bishop Ignace Bessi Dogbo of Katiola and president of the Ivorian Episcopal Conference, on leaving the summit in Rome, told Vatican Radio: "As you know, the sex business is taboo in Africa. This is not to say one is holier but we do not talk, we do not dare talk about it."
'Do not minimize the issue of sexual abuse'
For his part, Archbishop Goetbé Edmond Djitangar of N'Djaména in Chad, in an interview with Vatican Radio, argued that talk of abuse held "a recurrent risk of creating a widespread phenomenon" and that the methods of approach to the resolution of this problem should take into account the African context.
There was a shared appreciation by the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA).This association was called on by Archbishop Thomas Luke Msusa of Blantyre, vice-president of AMECEA and president of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, to address the issue of sexual abuse in an "holistic way for the abuse of children, child soldiers, female circumcision and early marriage and also to find solutions in the thinking of the Church on sexual abuse."
But Sister Veronica Openibo, superior general of the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus, at the summit on sexual abuse in Rome, warned against the temptation to downplay the importance of sexual abuse in the Church in Africa."
The fact that there are significant problems of poverty, disease, war and violence in some developing countries does not mean that the issue of sexual abuse should be minimized or ignored," she said.
Protocols against abuse and reports of offices
In addition to South Africa, which in 2015 adopted a protocol on the abuses in the Church, Nigeria, Ghana and DR Congo also adopted protocols on this issue.
Furthermore, after the publication of the motu proprio of Pope Francis on May 9, Kenya, South Africa, Central African Rebublic, Togo, Ivory Coast and DR Congo announced they will launch consultations for the implementation of reporting abuse of office which must be created in each country.
For Father Bere, instruments implemented by Pope Francis in his motu proprio "that are binding are to free ourselves from the shackles of our culture."
Sister Solange Sahon Sia, a member of the Congregation of Our Lady of Calvary and director of the Center for the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Persons, housed in the Catholic Institute in Abidjan, said she believed that the decisions of the pope regarding the protection of minors and vulnerable people were "beneficial."
"It is true that the text is sometimes a little hard but the Church is now facing a reality. As with the establishment of reporting structures abuses imposed by the papal text, responsibilities will be easily allocated," she said.
Protests in Russia as sisters face jail for killing abusive father
Three daughters reported their attack to police, saying they felt their lives were in danger
by Marc Bennetts
MOSCOW -- Three teenage sisters who killed their father after suffering years of physical and sexual abuse are facing murder charges in Russia in a case that has sparked protests and a debate about domestic violence.
Maria, Angelina, and Krestina Khachaturyan bludgeoned and stabbed their 57-year-old father, Mikhail, to death as he dozed in an armchair at the family's flat in northern Moscow last July. They were 17, 18 and 19 years old at the time. They reported the attack to police and admitted carrying it out, saying they believed their lives were at risk if they did not take action.
Investigators determined that the sisters were beaten almost daily by their father, who also forced them to perform sexual acts. He had physically abused them on the day of the fatal attack, locking them in a room and assaulting them with pepper spray.
The sisters' mother, Aurelia Dunduk, told Russian media that Mikhail Khachaturyan regularly beat her, including with a baseball bat, before throwing her out of the house in 2016. She said police refused to bring charges, when she complained. Her ex-husband also told the sisters he would kill their mother, if they went to live with her.
Lawyers for the sisters said they had been conditioned from an early age to think of themselves as slaves. “The sisters had only one choice – to defend themselves, or die,” said Anna Rivina, the head of an anti-domestic violence organization in Moscow.
The sisters were all charged this month with premeditated murder. Angelina and Krestina face up to 20 years in prison. Maria, a child at the time, could be imprisoned for up to 10 years.
The decision to bring murder charges has been met with protests. In Moscow, hundreds of people gathered last week outside the headquarters of the Investigative Committee law enforcement agency. Activists are continuing to picket its offices almost daily, while a larger rally in support of the sisters is scheduled in Moscow on 6 July. Demonstrations have also taken place at Russian embassies or consulates around the world, and Russian cultural figures have spoken out in defense of the sisters.
“There was no one they could turn to. Police in Russia think that domestic violence is a private, family affair and that there is no reason for them to get involved in this,” said Rivina. “The government can't and won't defend victims of domestic violence. Those women who are forced to defend themselves often end up in prison.”
Although there are no official statistics, MediaZona, an independent news website, has calculated that about 80% of all women convicted of murder in Russia were previously abused by violent partners. Human rights groups say at least 16 million women annually face domestic violence in Russia. A popular saying is: “If he beats you, it means he loves you.”
Alexei Parshin, a lawyer for one of the Khachaturyan sisters, said they were holding up well and had been buoyed by public support. They are currently living separately with relatives, under strict curfews, and barred from communicating with each other before the trial, which is expected to begin in August.
Parshin accused investigators of lacking the courage to quash or downgrade the murder charges. “They don't want to take responsibility for this,” he said.
Russia is one of the few countries in the world not to have specific laws on domestic violence. In 2017, it decriminalised some forms of domestic violence for first-time offenders. Under current Russian law, violence against a spouse or children that does not result in broken bones is punishable by a 30,000-rouble (£375) fine or a 15-day jail sentence. Human rights groups say the average punishment is only a 5,000-rouble (£62) fine.
Women's rights campaigners say incidences of domestic violence have increased since the law was changed.
In November, a man was sentenced to 14 years in prison after chopping off his wife's hands. Days before the attack, he had forcibly taken her to a forest near Moscow and threatened to kill her. His wife reported the threats to police but officers took no action. In August, a man in Votkinsk, central Russia, who stabbed his wife to death in front of the couple's five-year-old child, walked free after a court reclassified murder charges as a “crime of passion.
'How Much Is a Little Girl Worth?': The Painful Financial Fallout of the Larry Nassar Case
Jan. 24, 2018, Rachael Denhollander walked into a Michigan courtroom to speak about the sexual abuse she suffered as a child from Larry Nassar. She was the last in an extraordinary procession of nearly 150 women to offer an impact statement at the sentencing hearing of the longtime USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor.
Standing at a podium facing Nassar as her words were beamed out worldwide, Denhollander, a former gymnast—and now herself an attorney, an advocate for child safety, and a 34-year-old mother of four—concluded her statement with a question:
“How much is a little girl worth?”
For decades, Nassar's work as a doctor treating athletes at Michigan State University (MSU) and for USA Gymnastics helped give him unfettered access to girls and young women that he serially sexually abused. Since Denhollander became the first survivor to publicly accuse the doctor of abuse, in September 2016, an estimated 500 women have come forward saying that they, too, were abused by Nassar. Some experts on the case think that number could eventually pass 1,000. In July 2017, Nassar pleaded guilty to child pornography charges, and months later, he pleaded guilty to multiple counts of sexual assault of minors. He will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars. In May 2018, MSU agreed to pay a $500 million settlement to victims who had sued the university, among the largest sums ever paid in relation to sex-abuse claims.
As a consequence of that financial victory, Denhollander's question has taken on a painfully literal meaning.
While the settlement represented the end of one long, difficult story, it signaled the beginning of another. Survivors like Denhollander have been deep in negotiations with lawyers and mediators over the disbursement of the settlement funds. In a process that involves an awkward combination of apologetic recognition, dispassionate mathematics, and, often, a torturous recounting of abuse, hundreds of women are learning what their suffering was “worth” in dollar terms.
Roughly a year into the mediation process, many of the survivors have now received their answers—in decisions about their payouts, known as allocations. For one woman, it was a low five-figure sum that will help her retire credit card debt and relocate; for another, it was an amount in the high six figures, enough to cover bills related to her mental health treatment and to enable her to work with other survivors. For a third, it's a donation to a nonprofit she cares about. For each, the check will be worth considerably less than its face value, after taxes and attorneys' fees. And for many, the money itself is a hurtful reminder of the abuse that took place.
The idea of a process that attaches financial value to acts of abuse is appealing to no one, presenting a challenging tangle of money, law, and trauma. Advocates and survivors are the first to say that settlements are more about a sense of justice than about money; no sum could ever compensate for the damage done. At its worst, the process can feel like an invasive haggle that reduces the experience of profound harm to a flat dollar figure. “It's the trauma you went through, basically, being ranked against [that of] other girls,” says Grace French, a Nassar survivor who works in marketing and is a cofounder of the Army of Survivors, a nonprofit that helps those who have experienced abuse. “I do think a lot of girls are still struggling with that after getting that number.”
Still, there's an undeniable need for a systematic way to quantify the harm of abuse. The funds can enable survivors to afford therapy, help with medical bills, or provide reimbursement for lost work time, as well as acknowledge pain and suffering. And for institutions accused of harboring or covering up for an abuser, settlements offer an opportunity for restitution. It's a chance to acknowledge the harm they've enabled and commit to a new, better path—but also to close the book on their liability, since plaintiffs who receive disbursements generally agree not to sue again.
The disbursement talks also bear an important distinction: They've become arguably the most visible example to date of how the process works in sex-abuse cases. Unlike plaintiffs in past settlements, many Nassar survivors haven't signed the “silence clauses,” or nondisclosure agreements, that are often insisted upon by the institutions making the payments. (Indeed, the magnitude of Nassar's admitted crimes may have taken away any leverage MSU might have had to press for such clauses.)
Denhollander and French and many other survivors have retained the right to talk not only about the abuse they underwent but also about the difficulty of getting financial redress—and they're using their voices. That, in turn, has put them in the vanguard of a broader trend catalyzed by the #MeToo movement: a growing pressure on both not-for-profit institutions and private companies to publicly acknowledge and address problems of abuse and harassment within their ranks.
“It's not a lawyer's decision; it's a client's decision whether to accept or reject an offer,” says David Mittleman, a Lansing-based lawyer who represents more than 100 of the women in the MSU settlements. “And many want to be on the side of alerting the public.”
Over the past 18 months, Denhollander and dozens of other Nassar survivors spoke with me about their experiences, offering a detailed description of a corner of the law that is often shrouded in secrecy. Some elements of any settlement process, including details of specific conversations between survivors and mediators, are shielded by legal confidentiality rules. But together, the survivors' accounts offer a close look at the protocols of a system that can wield tremendous influence, in ways that victims of abuse can find both empowering and upsetting.
“It's fair to say that MSU's approach to the settlement and related lawsuits is a legal-first approach,” Emily Guerrant, a spokeswoman for the school, said in a statement. “I think we, as a university, have learned a lot about dealing with sexual assault and survivors, and realize that we've made mistakes during the past few years in how survivors were treated.”
Denhollander says that she's keenly aware of the system's flaws and equally aware that the vast majority of sexual-assault survivors seldom receive any remedy, in or out of the justice system. “That's something that societally we need to wrestle with—that that kind of sacrifice is what it takes” to win redress, she says. “That's what sexual-assault survivors are up against when they go to report their abuser.”
Distributing funds from a settlement is at best messy. “I don't think I've ever done a compensation program where there hasn't been some criticism,” says Kenneth Feinberg, a former adjunct professor at Harvard, Columbia, and NYU law schools. “It comes with the territory.”
Feinberg is the closest thing the world has to a dean of the subject. He was the “special master” on the case that set the template for modern settlements—the Agent Orange litigation in the 1980s, which ended with Dow Chemical, Monsanto, and other companies creating a fund for Vietnam War veterans who had been harmed by the defoliant.
Since then, Feinberg has overseen a fund that distributed $7.14 billion to families who lost loved ones in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks (a process Fortune documented in a 2002 feature); he's currently working with survivors of sexual assault in cases involving the Catholic Church with co-administrator Camille S. Biros. “Money is a very poor substitute for damage, for loss, but that's the American system,” he says. “Offering a family $5 million for the death of their son at the World Trade Center, it's rather hollow.”
A mediator's goals, Feinberg notes, include being transparent with survivors about the workings of that system—even when that involves assigning numbers to the immeasurable. The range of settlement sums is usually determined by plaintiff and defense lawyers, but it's the mediator's discretion to determine where an individual's compensation falls.
In administering the 9/11 fund, for example, Feinberg set a flat rate of $250,000 for pain and suffering for each victim and an additional $100,000 for each surviving spouse and dependent, avoiding the dilemma of determining whether one suffered more than another. For each victim, he then added factors such as likely lost wages based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The result, he says, was 5,300 eligible claims with no two identical amounts. “You have to have a methodology,” he says.
In sex-abuse cases, however, methodology can seem simplistic to the point of cruelty. The Altoona-Johnstown diocese of the Roman Catholic Church has reportedly paid out more than $15 million to survivors of abuse by its clergy and other employees over the decades.
In 2016, in a blistering report criticizing the diocese's handling of the cases, the Pennsylvania state attorney general's office published a chart that one bishop had used to determine payouts. The chart, which the report blasted as an example of “cold bureaucracy,” featured two columns: “Level of Abuse” and “Range of Payment.” One line reads, “above clothing, genital fondling, $10,000–$25,000.” Another reads, “Sodomy; Intercourse, $50,000–$175,000.”
In practice, the harmful effects of sexual abuse spread far beyond the acts themselves, encompassing a spectrum of emotional trauma, disability, and physical pain. Distinctions among kinds of suffering do matter, with huge consequences for survivors. But at some point, experts say, settlement negotiators have to agree on how to translate those distinctions into raw numbers. Actuaries for insurers sometimes devise point systems to determine how to allocate payouts. Those systems are often determined based on “peer” cases, with criteria intended to quantify how a survivor has been affected since the assault, and to project how the assault could continue to affect that person.
The $500 million Michigan State settlement in the Nassar case allocates $425 million to more than 330 claimants who came forward to sue before Dec. 6, 2017; the remaining $75 million is set aside for survivors who came forward after that date. (There are already 160 people in that second wave, sparking concerns about whether the fund is sufficient.) Roughly one-third will pay for fees for attorneys, including for time spent in the settlement process, according to someone familiar with the matter.
The task of distributing the $425 million pool falls to William Bettinelli, a former California judge who was appointed last July by the federal district court overseeing the case. (He is being paid from the overall settlement sum, as well.) In roughly 30 years as a professional mediator, Bettinelli has mediated cases involving catastrophic personal injuries, wrongful death claims, and environmental disasters, according to his firm's website; his office did not respond to multiple requests for interviews over several months.
According to people familiar with the MSU case, Bettinelli has authorization to approve payouts of up to the low seven figures per person (before taxes and fees). People with knowledge of the process say Bettinelli is following an “allocation protocol” that includes conducting phone interviews with survivors to assess their settlement amount. Among the questions Bettinelli may ask: whether the abuse happened to them as minors, the duration and frequency of the abuse, and the nature of the abusive acts themselves. The mediator can also take into account such factors as the risk a survivor incurred by coming forward or any retaliation she faced for blowing the whistle.
In many cases, a survivor may bring forward evidence that wasn't used in Nassar's trials—psychologist evaluations and bills, for example. Several survivors submitted journal entries documenting the toll of abuse. New evidence can be submitted to the mediator as paperwork, be brought up in a meeting, or both.
One goal of a settlement process is that survivors won't have to relitigate their case in order to receive their claims. Still, claimants often find themselves recounting horrific details of their experience—especially if that information doesn't already exist in a trial record. And those conversations, even when a survivor stands on a mountain of evidence, can be awful.
Among the harmful impacts that Mittleman, the lawyer for many of the plaintiffs, says his clients have reported are attempted suicide, bills for stays at psychiatric hospitals, hair loss, gastrointestinal issues, and sleep disturbance. It's not uncommon for therapy for those coping with the consequences of abuse to cost $150 to $300 per session, with multiple sessions a week or month, often for years. Jobs have been lost, marriages frayed.
The math of a settlement process ideally takes all of this into account. But Mittleman and other advocates say that talks sometimes place excessive emphasis on the number or duration of the assaults. In the context of wide-ranging harm, Mittleman asks, “Is 60 or 100 penetrations really worth more than one time? Because in my opinion, one time is too many.”
One of the aims of a mediator or special master is to be both fair and swift. Meetings to determine a survivor's payout—the worth of her suffering—can be surprisingly short, and in most cases, the mediator's decision isn't open to appeal. The number is final.
Some Nassar survivors I spoke with felt that the amount of money they received was fair and appropriate; others didn't. And for many, a newly difficult phase began after the settlement—as they realized that money alone couldn't right what had been made wrong.
Donna Markham's daughter Chelsey was one of countless girls who bounded into gyms in Michigan in the early 1990s in hopes of making an Olympic team, like the heroes who graced the posters on her bedroom wall. As a child, prosecutors allege, Chelsey was sexually assaulted by Nassar during a doctor appointment. After the abuse, she spiraled into drugs, alcohol, depression, and angry spells that culminated with her taking her own life in 2009. She was 23 years old.
Markham has received her allocation, and she's one of several survivors who felt perplexed by the math behind the payout and overwhelmed by the paperwork and logistics. Abuse “just eats away at your self-worth, your self-esteem,” Markham says. That fact, so clear to her, was something she felt the process couldn't account for. “You can't put a price on a human life,” Markham says. “And how do you make a determination on an award settlement when Chelsey had her entire life ahead of her?” In Markham's telling, the most important outcome of the process wasn't monetary: She has forged strong bonds with other women involved in the case and is engaged in advocacy work for those who were harmed. “I didn't expect to get anything,” Markham says. “I just wanted Chelsey's story to be told.”
Some survivors opted not to talk with Bettinelli. Having already testified in legal proceedings or given impact statements, they could let those records speak for them. Morgan McCaul, who was a high school student when she joined the group suing Nassar, is now enrolled at the University of Michigan: “I just felt like [a meeting] would be another thing on my plate that was unnecessary,” she says.
McCaul received a payout earlier this year. “My life has not changed” as a result of the money, she says. “But I do know that I had a lot of anxiety in the year and a half leading up to the settlement disbursement, asking myself if it's ethically sound to be handed a check for something that can never be quantified.” McCaul has channeled that energy into activism, to “leverage this horrible experience into something that can help other people.”
While nothing bars MSU settlement participants from publicly disclosing the sum they received, doing so is not considered a best practice: Talking about the number can make survivors prey to fraud or to criticism that they were fiscally motivated. It can also create conflict with friends or family—and with fellow survivors. Some survivors in the MSU case describe a catch-22 inherent in the process:
Those who were resilient and fortunate enough to find help earlier, or to avoid the most severe trauma, sometimes felt that saying so was against their financial self-interest—or, conversely, that a larger check might mean you suffered more than most. That sense of awkward comparison, survivors say, adds to the pain of knowing that the allocation money is, in a sense, evidence of the abuse. As French, the Army of Survivors cofounder, says, “You cash that check, and it feels dirty.”
Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney says that she was one of the girls whom Larry Nassar preyed upon. Before his arrest, she received a $1.25 million settlement from the national governing body for the sport, USA Gymnastics—one that included a nondisclosure provision. But after his attacks came to light, the organization faced criticism for effectively covering up Nassar's behavior by gagging Maroney, and it said that it would not enforce the silence clause.
The cases against Nassar have played a crucial role in intensifying scrutiny of the use of nondisclosure agreements in abuse and harassment cases. Such NDAs have historically been ubiquitous—notably in agreements involving abuse in the Catholic Church. In the private sector, the Vanderbilt Law Review points to data showing over one-third of the American workforce is subject to NDAs. There, critics note, nondisclosure language originally intended to protect trade secrets has been stretched to curb an employee's right to speak out about workplace issues including sexual harassment.
“So much has been shielded by confidentiality,” says Minna J. Kotkin, a professor at Brooklyn Law School and director of its Employment Law Clinic. “We're just beginning to know the start.”
The fact that many MSU settlements didn't require NDAs reflects a broader shift in thinking about abuse, says Kotkin. What were once thought of as private matters that pitted the reputation of vulnerable individuals against those of more powerful authority figures or institutions are coming to be seen as a societal toxin or contagion—the kind of threat about which others should be warned.
It's difficult to measure how widely this effect is playing out at companies. Some advocates warn that taking silence clauses completely off the table could work against survivors, by encouraging abusers to litigate rather than settle. Still, 12 states, including New York and California, have passed laws to narrow the scope of NDAs in harassment and sexual-assault whistleblowing. Microsoft said in late 2017 that it had removed NDAs involving employees who speak up about sexual harassment; other companies have followed suit, some after scandals within their ranks.
Feinberg, the mediator, argues that the onus for silence should be reversed. “I think it's very, very important that the institution agree to confidentiality,” he says. “But if the individual victim wants to [speak out], I think that's to be encouraged.” That represents a shift in the power balance, from the institution to the survivor.
Painful though it will be, many Nassar survivors will likely be speaking out for a long time. Yet to be resolved is whether MSU will expand its settlement fund if more victims come forward, and how it would pay additional costs. Also looming are lawsuits against USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC). USA Gymnastics enlisted Nassar as a team doctor for years and now faces 100 lawsuits from roughly 350 plaintiffs. In December it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a move that put the brakes on both the lawsuits and mediation discussions. (Leslie King, a spokeswoman for USA Gymnastics, says that the organization “has focused on keeping athlete safety and well-being at the forefront of its efforts.”)
Wrangling with these institutions has led Rachael Denhollander to put the settlement process on a long list of issues tied to abuse cases that she believes should change. At worst, she argues, the payments absolve big players of examining their own cultures, giving them in essence a clean slate. “There is a complete refusal to want to discover what went wrong, to admit what went wrong, and to deal with it,” she says.
Denhollander and her fellow survivors plan to speak up to keep pressure on the institutions where Nassar worked. “What lessons do we need to take away from this?” she says. “That sentencing hearing was so many women coming forward publicly. It was the first time the entire world has gotten to see names and faces and [connect them] with the idea of sexual assault. We weren't just numbers anymore.”
Dept of Justice
El Salvador National Charged with Posting Child Pornography on Facebook and Illegally Reentering the United States after Deportation
by Nicola T. Hanna, United States Attorney
Central District of California
RIVERSIDE, California – A Salvadoran national who was deported from the United States in 2003 after being convicted of sexually abusing a child was indicted today by a federal grand jury on charges that he illegally reentered the United States and then posted child pornography on Facebook.
José Ramón Aguilar-Moreno, 50, who recently has been living in Fontana, has been charged with four felonies: distribution of child pornography, possession of child pornography, failure to register as a sex offender, and being an illegal alien found in the United States following deportation.
Aguilar-Moreno was arrested on June 13 pursuant to a criminal complaint previously filed in this case. His arraignment is scheduled for July 5 in United States District Court in Los Angeles.
Aguilar-Moreno illegally entered the United States in 1986 and in 1995 he applied for relief from removal and requested asylum in the United States, according to an affidavit filed with a criminal complaint in the case. In 2000, Aguilar-Moreno was granted relief from deportation and asylum in the United States by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the affidavit states.
In August 2002, Aguilar-Moreno was convicted in San Bernardino County Superior Court of committing lewd and lascivious acts on a minor, for which he was sentenced to one year in state prison. In 2003, Aguilar-Moreno was booked into federal custody and was removed from the United States to El Salvador.
In June 2018 Aguilar-Moreno, then residing in Fontana, allegedly knowingly distributed three videos depicting child pornography. Aguilar-Moreno used an alias, “Abel Aguilar,” and posted the videos on Facebook, which later notified the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, court documents allege.
If convicted of all charges, Aguilar-Moreno faces a statutory maximum sentence of 80 years in federal prison. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison on the distribution of child pornography charge and a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence on the child pornography possession charge.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This matter was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations and the United States Marshals Service.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Eli A. Alcaraz of the Riverside Branch Office.
Ciaran McEvoy, Public Information Officer