National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

child abuse trauma prevention, intervention & recovery

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

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



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

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

by Zoe Osborne in Ho Chi Minh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Prominent Detroit priest removed from pulpit amid ‘credible' sexual abuse allegation

by Associated Press

DETROIT — The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit said Sunday that it removed a prominent priest from public ministry after reviewing what it described as a “credible allegation” that he had sexually abused a child decades ago.

The Rev. Eduard Perrone was suspended from ministry Friday, a month after The Associated Press began asking the pastor himself, the archdiocese and law enforcement authorities about a former altar boy's allegations that Perrone had groped him.

Archdiocese officials told Perrone's congregation at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish during services Sunday that members of the local archdiocese review board found a “semblance of truth” to the accusations, but that they are maintaining a presumption of innocence.

Some parishioners expressed shock when they heard, and one woman walked out of the service to gather herself outside. After Mass, a number of people stopped at the back of the church to ask questions of two archdiocesan officials and pick up a written statement about Perrone.

The pastor is prohibited from representing himself as a priest or wearing clerical attire while the Vatican reviews the allegations, the archdiocese said in the written statement.

The statement also said the archdiocese had reported the allegation to local law enforcement and the Michigan attorney general's office. The attorney general's office declined to comment last month, but it has an open investigation into clergy abuse in the Catholic Church in Michigan and charged five men who were priests with 21 counts of sexual misconduct in May.

The Detroit Archdiocese on Sunday added Perrone's name to its list of dozens of credibly accused priests, many deceased. More than 140 religious orders and Roman Catholic dioceses have released similar lists. Most of those lists were either released or significantly updated since a Pennsylvania grand jury last summer detailed hundreds of cases of alleged abuse.

Perrone, who co-founded a nonprofit group called Opus Bono Sacerdotii in 2002 to support priests facing allegations of abuse or other problems, did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday. At the rectory where he lived, a woman who answered the door said there was “no way” to reach Perrone and asked a reporter to pray for the priest.

Last month, Perrone denied any wrongdoing when the AP asked him about the allegations that years ago, he would invite altar boys to his mother's lake house where he would wrestle with them in the water for hours. At times, the wrestling turned to inappropriate grabbing and groping, said a former altar boy who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to protect his privacy.

Perrone said it was the first he heard of any allegations against him.

“Never inappropriate touching,” he said. “I never ever would have done such a thing.”

He said other adults were always in attendance when they gathered at the lake house and everyone was “fully clothed.”

Perrone also denied allegations from two individuals that he served wine to minors, but then went on to describe offering wine to a child.

“I mean I may have had wine in their presence,” he said, “but I've never given them a drink. In fact one time I remember being with one of our altar boys and his dad in the rectory and I said, ‘Do you want him to have a little bit of this glass of wine?' that we were drinking and it wasn't the dad, it was the kid that said, ‘No, I don't want any of that.' Never drinking wine.”

Three other former altar boys interviewed by AP said they never experienced or even heard of sexual abuse by Perrone, though one said Perrone struck his head with a book for misbehaving and another said that as a child he was afraid the priest would hit him. They also spoke on condition of anonymity to protect their privacy.

For 25 years, Perrone has presided over his church, known locally as Assumption Grotto, an imposing stone edifice encircled by abandoned lots in downtown Detroit. An archconservative who has criticized liberal values and homosexuality within the Catholic church, Perrone offered Mass in Latin, preaching strict sermons to some-600 congregants on Sundays, often scolding them for not being true believers and for being ungrateful and impure.

In a recent parish newsletter, Perrone wrote about the impact of sexual abuse and other misconduct within the church.

“The real shame is not the publicity of horrid, secret sins but the venting of lewd passion, the foul degradation of the flesh, the mortal sins committed,” he wrote. “Where did holiness go?”



Michael Jackson fans sue alleged sexual abuse victims for ‘sullying his image'

Lawyer says allegations amount to 'genuine lynching' of pop star

by Emma Snaith

Michael Jackson fan groups are suing two of the pop star's alleged abuse victims for “sullying his image” in the documentary Leaving Neverland.

The legal action in France targets James Safechuck, 41, and Wade Robson, 36, who have claimed Jackson molested them as boys at his Neverland Ranch in California.

Three different fan clubs have filed the lawsuit using French defamation laws that make it an offence to sully the image of a dead person. US or British laws do not provide this protection.

We'll tell you what's true. You can form your own view.

The Michael Jackson Community, the MJ Street and On the Line groups are seeking symbolic damages of €1 each.

Emmanuel Ludot, the fans' lawyer, likened the men's allegations to a "genuine lynching" of Jackson.

"In France you cannot sully the image of the dead," Mr Ludot said. "There's moral and emotional suffering. And when there's suffering, there's compensation. It's very simple."

In 2014, he represented the Michael Jackson Community when the group successfully won nominal damages of €1 from the pop star's private doctor, Conrad Murray, for his part in Jackson's death in 2009 aged 50.

Mr Robson and Mr Safechuck were not in court and did not instruct lawyers to represent them.

In Leaving Neverland, the two men said they were befriended by Jackson and abused by him from the ages of seven and 10 in the early 1990s.

Jackson was acquitted in 2005 on charges of molesting a different boy, and his family has denied the accusations made in the documentary.

The film, which was released in January, broke streaming records and prompted the Jackson family to sue for $100m.

After it was broadcast in France, some radio stations stopped playing his music and Louis Vuitton removed Jackson-themed items from its 2019 summer menswear collection.



Man paid 93p to have child abuse live-streamed to Irvine home

A sales adviser is believed to be the first person in Scotland to be convicted of live-streaming the sexual abuse of children.

Mathew Bell, 51, directed the attacks from his home in Irvine, North Ayrshire.

He was in contact with female paedophiles in the Philippines to prey on the innocent youngsters as he watched. He paid 93p to see a young girl being abused.

A judge heard how Scots cybercrime experts had never witnessed such a case before in this country.

It also emerged Bell directed a man to rape an unconscious woman via live-stream, which included him stating: “Yes, this is good.”

Bell is now in jail after he pled guilty to four charges under the Sexual Offences Act. This included “inciting the commission” of the abuse of children as well as well as conspiring to rape the woman.

Lord Arthurson told the first offender the crimes were of the “utmost depravity” and he will be sentenced later this month. The High Court in Glasgow heard how Bell was arrested in March last year, and his computer and a hard drive were analysed.

Prosecutor Steven Borthwick said: “Moving images of child sexual exploitation were recovered.

“Bell has instructed said abuse to take place by verbal and written communication to persons in the Philippines via internet message services.”

The court was told a young boy was attacked in April 2016. Bell chatted to two women via Skype as the pair preyed on the child.

The hearing was then told Bell “participated in the sexual abuse” of a girl in March 2017.

He again spoke to a Filipino woman via Skype as she attacked the child.

A message is sent stating: “Give good show… now I send 1k cash (in) morning”.

Another girl was also targeted in a similar way around the same time.

Bell was in touch with women through Skype as he instructed them what to do.

The court heard there was also evidence of Bell “making payment for the sexual services of a child”. This emerged from a “live screenshot” during the abuse.

Mr Borthwick: “It showed Bell making a payment of 50 Philippine pesos (93p)… there is an element of bartering as the female will not continue.”

The prosecutor said: “Normally, police cybercrime recover images in which an accused person has not been involved in the abuse itself, but has instead downloaded.

“The cybercrime unit is not aware of any other case involving live streaming of child sexual abuse in a foreign jurisdiction.”

Police also uncovered footage of a woman being raped in 2013 under the direction of Bell via the internet. The crime is thought to have occurred somewhere in the Philippines.

Mr Borthwick: “The recordings are in a split screen format with one side showing a male and female, the other showing Bell.

The court heard Bell would have been “aware” of her stricken condition.


Tulsa, Oklahoma

Breaking the cycle: What the leading voices for change say Oklahoma needs to reduce chronic childhood traumas

by Andrea Eger

Few people have been in a position to bear greater witness to Oklahoma's extraordinary rates of childhood trauma than Doris Fransein, who recently retired as Tulsa County's longtime chief judge over juvenile cases.

In nearly two decades of handling 30 to 40 cases a day, she had to confront every kind of heartbreak and horror a child could suffer.

“My largest frustration is the fact that we need public awareness and the proper resources to address it — more medical and appropriate mental health care,” Fransein said. “I get so frustrated that we don't get out of our little neighborhoods. It was just so sad — what people who live here experience. There's such a large part of our population that has just gone through so much and is hurting so much, and so many people aren't even aware.”

Leaders from government, education, and mental health and social services say there is a growing consensus to attack the root causes of Oklahoma's extraordinary rates of incarceration, divorce, child abuse, heart disease and cancer deaths.

“If Gov. Stitt wants to be a top-10 state, it starts with our kiddos," said Rep. Carol Bush, R-Tulsa.

Oklahoma has the highest percentage of children who suffer multiple adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which studies have linked to a wide range of health problems and social ills. And to address those high ACE scores, Bush helped create the state Legislature's Task Force on Trauma-Informed Care, which is one year into its three-year study that will lead to making recommendations to the Legislature.

The first report from the 17-member panel is due out in November and its final plan by December 2020, which would allow lawmakers to consider reforms in early 2021.

Bush said there's a national movement, with grants and federal dollars available for Oklahoma to try to tap once it comes up with a statewide approach.

Annette Jacobi, co-chair of the task force and director of the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth, said Oklahoma needs to take stock of current efforts and to identify potential strategies to address gaps in its services.

She said that is particularly critical in underserved rural areas and after nearly a decade of budget cuts and service eliminations in child abuse and neglect prevention programs.

But Jacobi senses momentum building within the state and feels positive progress is being achieved.

“It's not a state government problem — all of us are in this,” she said. “Everyone has a role to play.”

'This is a crisis'

In the last year, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has convened two state summits for educators on childhood trauma and healing.

She cited research that has shown children exposed to trauma often exhibit learning difficulties, depression and poor decision-making in the classroom, plus higher rates of absences, decreased reading abilities and lower graduation rates when compared to their peers.

“Teachers and education leaders must address the needs of our students where they are, or we will shortchange the future of kids who suffer maltreatment, abuse and neglect,” Hofmeister told the Tulsa World. “Thankfully, our state has begun to face the facts about our most vulnerable children, and momentum is building for a new, more promising approach within schools and community.”

Oklahoma's new first lady Sarah Stitt spoke at the most recent summit, sharing her personal story about the lasting effects of childhood trauma from growing up in a household with two parents suffering from mental illness.

“This is a crisis,” Stitt told thousands of educators who attended the February event. “All of us have known or have a family member who struggles with mental illness, abuse or drug addiction. These are the things we have to change in our state if we want to give our children hope. I am living proof that there is hope and a future for everyone.”

Hofmeister recently issued a call for $58 million in new state funding to build a school counselor corps with more licensed professional counselors and academic school counselors in Oklahoma schools for two purposes.

“These important professionals are needed for our students, but also for our teachers who seek coaching and training to meet the needs of children with adverse childhood experiences,” she said.

Next up will be a push for the use of restorative practices — as opposed to punitive practices — in more classrooms and schools across the state.

In a nutshell, being “trauma-informed” means educators and others working with children must ask themselves what happened to a child rather than “What's wrong with them.”

New examples of community support for that approach are popping up in the form of new partnerships with outside mental health providers and even local police departments, including Oklahoma City and Norman, where police officers contact schools with a three-word heads-up that a child has suffered a potentially traumatic event at home, such as the loss of a family member or witnessing a crime or the arrest of a parent.

The simple, cautionary message passed along? “Handle with care.”

“For students to thrive, we must all recognize that the world outside the classroom impacts the world inside the classroom,” Hofmeister said. “This is why community partnerships with programs such as ‘Handle with Care' are so effective in supporting kids.”

A problem crossing generations

Hofmeister's work in public schools should serve as an example for other state agencies to follow in making ACEs a priority, said Joe Dorman, a former state representative who now serves as CEO of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.

Every state official who comes into contact with troubled children, from police officers to welfare case workers, need to know how to recognize the signs of emotional trauma, Dorman said. And the effort needs to be statewide, not concentrated only in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, he said.

“Because rural areas are experiencing the same traumas,” Dorman said. “Maybe even at a higher percentage.”

High rates of social ills go back several generations, he said, so Oklahoma urgently needs to expand parenting-skills training.

“Often times, the parents have experienced the same kind of trauma,” Dorman said. “And the parents may not even realize how they are passing those experiences on to their children.”

Whatever the costs, he said it won't be nearly as expensive and building more prisons.

“If we don't deal with these kids in the early years,” Dorman said, “we'll have to deal with them as adults in the correctional system.”

One local program, Women in Recovery, is proving that intervention with parents can make a difference. But its reach is limited.

About 400 women a month enter the Tulsa County jail, and 80% of them have children. A court liaison works with attorneys, judges and prosecutors to identify candidates for Women in Recovery's counseling and rehab as an alternative for prison sentences “based on individual risks and needs assessment,” according to Mimi Tarrasch, the program director.

“Our efforts break the cycle of multi-generational incarceration,” Tarrasch said. “We know with every grad, the next generation's score will be improved.”

The program, which is funded largely through the George Kaiser Family Foundation, can take only a small percentage of women who are facing prison time, and only women from Tulsa County.

Tarrash said Women in Recovery would welcome the chance to expand, but that would take a massive increase in funding.

'We have to come at it on every level'

Michael Brose, chief empowerment officer at the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma, said to truly alter Oklahoma's current trajectory, everyone in the state must be aware of and understand adverse childhood experiences and how they have a real stake in finding solutions — because nonprofits and state agencies can't do it alone.

“We need a real, statewide campaign to raise awareness and develop ways to address the issues, and it needs to come from the very top levels — from the governor's office, the Legislature, down to the state agencies and then out into the community,” Brose said. “If we're really serious, we have to come at it on every level. Then, it has to be sustained. It can't be a flavor of the month.”

Both Brose and Fransein, the retired Tulsa County District Court's juvenile division chief judge, said one necessary solution isn't as simple as more mental health services being funded immediately, because they said the mental health profession has its own work to do when it comes to addressing childhood traumas.

“There's a false assumption that all mental health professionals get this,” Brose said, “but too often, we treat the symptom right in front of us instead of exploring what happened to someone and what insight that might give. It's a time-consuming process, but it can be critically rewarding.”

Fransein said court workers from all over the state have undergone awareness training in recognizing childhood trauma, and Tulsa County received national recognition for its trauma-informed practices to better serve children and parents caught in the judicial process.

“The majority of parents that come to us, particularly in neglect cases, suffer horrifically from their own experiences,” she said. “We saw very disregulated behaviors in the courtroom — a lot of substance abuse, a lot of domestic abuse. Any time we did extensive psychological evaluation or I was fortunate enough to have a good DHS case worker involved in the case who asked good questions, they would relate some extremely traumatic experiences very early in their childhood.”

Fransein said Tulsa County is fortunate to be able to collaborate with top-notch community mental health providers, but she said more “appropriate” mental health services are needed and such services need to be made available to more people.

“Trauma puts up tremendous barriers and walls. When someone's ready, because so much of that is about the willingness of the client to delve deep into their past, and you have a good therapist, it works,” Fransein said. “I saw miracles when that was done well. The parent would come to us and say: `Thank you for helping me. I didn't realize this. I feel better. I am able to understand.' That needs to occur on a regular basis with all of our cases.”

The bottom line, according to Brose is: “We've got a problem here in Oklahoma. Once again we're at the top of the bad list.”

And short of a serious statewide campaign, he said, “we could talk this to death for the rest of our lives and not make a dent.


Tulsa, Oklahoma

How Adverse Childhood Experiences alter brain chemistry, cultivate unhealthy habits and prompt premature death

Oklahoma leads the nation in childhood trauma.

How are the scars we leave on our children affecting our state, and what can we do about it? What is your ACE score and what does it mean? Understanding the consequences of childhood trauma.

In this Tulsa World 8-day ‘Breaking the Cycle' series, we'll look at the science behind Adverse Childhood Experiences, examine some of those suffering from them and look at ways to address the problem.

Oklahoma is No. 1 in the nation in youth up to age 17 who have experienced two or more ACEs. And Tulsa is at the forefront of revolutionary research to unlock a deeper knowledge of how social, behavioral, physical and environmental factors may affect brain development and health.

Mental Health Forum, July 18

Learn more about breaking the cycle of childhood trauma at our mental health forum July 18 about breaking the cycle of childhood trauma.

The Tulsa World is hosting a special community forum on breaking the cycle of childhood trauma with panelists TU President Dr. Gerard Clancy, childhood trauma expert Kristin Atchley and columnist Guerin Emig, who is part of a team of writers presenting an eight-day series on ACEs — adverse childhood experiences — July 7-14. Moderator will be Wayne Greene, editorial pages editor for the Tulsa World.

Part 1: The science is well established and should come as no surprise

Children who suffer rough childhoods have a greater likelihood of being adversely affected later in life.

Oklahoma ranks high for several social ills that have been linked to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) scores.

A few examples:

No. 1 in female incarceration rates

No. 1 in the nation in incarceration rates when other factors such as the juvenile and jail populations are included.

No. 1 in heart-disease mortality

No. 2 in male incarceration rates

No. 3 in divorce with 13.1% of the state population reporting at least one marriage as ending in that manner.

No. 5 in cancer deaths per capita, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

No. 5 in teen smoking with an estimated 12.5% of teens, according to CDC data.

No. 9 per capita in substantiated child abuse cases, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Part 2: Soda, cigarettes and trauma: How Adverse Childhood Experiences alter brain chemistry, cultivate unhealthy habits and prompt premature death

Part 3: 'All I ever knew.' Drugs. Alcohol. Jail. Oklahoma's children repeat the patterns of their parents

Part 4: For many trauma survivors, the key is breaking down what happened to them.

Part 5: After losing seven students in a tornado-stricken Moore elementary school, a counselor is helping Oklahoma schools become trauma-informed

Part 6: How a Tulsa real estate agent became Mama Linda to foster children

Part 7: Kip Shaw calls strenuous work with at-risk students 'the most rewarding experience of my life'

Part 8: What the leading voices for change say Oklahoma needs to reduce chronic childhood traumas

Join us at our mental health forum July 18 about breaking the cycle of childhood trauma.



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

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

by Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

A court hearing on the documents is scheduled for Tuesday.

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

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

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

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

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



Vatican Defends Confessional Secret as Sexual Abuse Crisis Stings


VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican on Monday reaffirmed Catholic teaching that priests cannot reveal what they learn in confession, in an apparent response to moves in Australia and elsewhere to force them to do so in cases of sexual abuse.

A document from the Vatican's Apostolic Penitentiary, which deals with issues of the sacrament of confession, said no government or law could force clergy to violate the seal "because this duty comes directly from God."

The document, which did not mention any countries or the sexual abuse crisis, complained of a "worrying negative prejudice against the Catholic Church".

Most countries' legal systems respect the religious right of a Catholic priest not to reveal what he has learned in confession, similar to attorney-client privilege.

But the sexual abuse crisis that has embroiled the Catholic Church around the world has seen this right challenged more frequently.

In Australia, an inquiry into child abuse recommended that the country introduce a law forcing religious leaders to report child abuse, including priests told of it during confession.

So far, two of Australia's eight states have introduced laws making it a crime for priests to withhold information about abuse heard in confession. Others are still considering their response.

In May, the California state senate passed a bill to require the seal of confession to be broken if a priests learns of or suspects sexual abuse while hearing the confession of a fellow priest or a colleague such as a Church worker.

Church leaders in both the United States and Australia have opposed such laws and the document backed them up unequivocally.

"Any political action or legislative initiative aimed at breaking the inviolability of the sacramental seal would constitute an unacceptable offence against the (freedom of the Church)," the document said.

"(The Church) does not receive its legitimacy from individual States, but from God; it (breaking the seal) would also constitute a violation of religious freedom, legally fundamental to all other freedoms, including the freedom of conscience of individual citizens, both penitents and confessors," it said.

Victims' advocates said the lifting of the seal of confession, even partially, was drastic but necessary under the circumstances.

"As a Catholic, I too am shaken by incursions on the seal of confession. But it's the leaders of the Catholic church, not civil society, that have gotten us to this point," said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of the U.S.-based abuse tracking group

"Secret church files made public in Australia and the United States reveal many instances of confession being used to absolve an abuser, allowing him to remain in ministry and re-offend," she told Reuters in an email.


Church of Scientology

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

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

by Chris Riotta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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 organisation 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 organisation'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.

'Clear conscience'

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 fuelled 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.



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.



‘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.

'Why was their trust betrayed?': Australia apologises to child sexual abuse victims

“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 internalised self-blame, hurtful reactions and dehumanising 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 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 any more.”

Dr Cathy Kezelman, president of the Blue Knot foundation, a national organisation 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 minimised.

“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 retraumatise victims.”

It takes a long time for victims to process and recognise 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.”

It's a major rewiring of the brain that can often leave people in a perpetual state of alarm.

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 early 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.



Naval Appeals Court Overthrows Colonel's Child Sex Abuse Conviction

by James LaPorta

A Naval appeals court overturned a U.S. Marine officer's child sex abuse conviction, siding with defense attorneys that the verdict, handed down in late 2017, was "legally and factually insufficient" due to issues with the child victim's testimony and lack of corroborating eyewitnesses.

The decision drew criticism Tuesday from U.S. military advocacy groups who said the ruling was indicative of a broken military justice system in need of congressional reform at a time when sexual assault across the services is on the rise. You can read the court's opinion at the bottom of this article.

U.S. Marine Colonel Daniel H. Wilson, 58, had been convicted of one specification of sexual abuse of a child on multiple occasions between June and July 2016. The alleged victim was 6 years old and the daughter of a Marine officer; junior in rank to Wilson.

The Marines removed Wilson from his position as the operations officer for II Marine Expeditionary Force when he initially was charged in late 2016.

However, a panel of three judges assigned to the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals unanimously dismissed, with prejudice, Wilson's single charge of child sexual abuse. The "with prejudice" ruling means Wilson will not be charged for violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice he faced in his original trial back in 2017. Task and Purpose, a military and veteran-focused digital media company first reported the appellate decision.

"Colonel Wilson is relieved and grateful that his innocence has been established through the appellate process," said Katie Cherkasky, Wilson's attorney, in an email to Newsweek on Wednesday. "He has maintained faith in the military justice system throughout this extended process and honestly believed that a neutral review of the case by the appellate court would clear his name."

A jury of officers—four generals and three colonels—sentenced Wilson to five-and-a-half years in prison and to be dismissed from service and register as a sex offender during his general court-martial, held at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina on September 10, 2017. For a conviction on any of the 24 specifications Wilson was charged with initially, at least five of the seven jury members had to agree on a guilty finding.

After a 10-day trial and eight hours of deliberation, the U.S. military officers found Wilson guilty on eight of the original 24 specific charges. He was acquitted of the most severe charge of child rape; including licking and striking the alleged victim's twin sister; and offering alcohol to the two twin sisters and their older sibling, who was 10 years old at the time, according to the court filing. Wilson was also cleared of a second alleged sexual assault upon an adult woman, according to previous reporting by this reporter for The Daily Beast.

U.S. Navy Commander and Senior Judge Angela J. Tang wrote the court's opinion on Monday and said, "In sum, the government presented no physical evidence and no corroborating eyewitnesses who saw or heard signs of abuse" and that the alleged victim's "statements are the only evidence of the appellant's guilt."

The court called into question inconsistencies in the testimony from the 6-year-old child, arguing that her statements were not, "consistent about the type of contact she alleged the appellant [Wilson] made with her body," and that despite her young age, she "was capable of providing a narrative clearly describing her abuse but did not."

Adrian Perry, the mother of the children, who has publicly spoken to Newsweek and other publications about the case since the September 2017 conviction, testified that her daughter told her Wilson allegedly, "rubbed her vaginal area." However, Senior Judge Tang wrote that the alleged victim "never made that disclosure" at trial or during a forensic interview on July 14, 2016.

The court said that it could not determine the manner of how the alleged victim "contends the appellant touched her, when he did so, or how many times she contends the abuse occurred." During the forensic interview and later at trial, the child said the alleged abuse occurred on a single occasion, but when asked a third time, she answered, "Maybe like six times,' according to details in the court's opinion.

Tang wrote that the court could not determine if the alleged victim meant she had sat on Wilson's lap or was "inappropriately touched" six times. The court noted the question was "so poorly worded as to make it impossible to know, with certainty," what the young girl intended to say.

The court also explained that expert testimony from both the prosecution and defense "acknowledged that children are susceptible to suggestion and that they are capable of believing events happened that did not happen."

Don Christensen, retired U.S. Air Force colonel and president of Protect Our Defenders—a nonprofit organization and advocacy group for victims of sexual assault in the military—told Newsweek in an email on Wednesday that the court's decision was "obviously devastating news."

"The decision is extremely disappointing and highlights the absurdity of the military justice system," said Christensen. "Few if any civilian appellate courts have the ability to substitute their judgment for that of the trial court. The civilian justice systems understand that the persons who actually heard the witnesses testify are the only ones who should judge the credibility of witnesses, not appellate judges."

In celebrating the legal win on their podcast, Legally Bound, on Monday, Cherkasky and her husband, Andrew Cherkasky, who is also a lawyer and U.S. Air Force veteran, agreed with Christensen on the distinction between civilian appellate courts and appeals courts in the Defense Department.

"In the regular criminal justice system, appeal courts don't really have the autonomy to say, 'You know what? The jury got this wrong, there is actually doubt of this individual's guilt, so we must overturn it,'" explained Andrew Cherkasky. "The military has this specific exception to review the case for what's called 'factual sufficiency'—are there enough facts to essentially give the jury or judge enough grounds to have found the person guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."

Andrew Cherkasky added that it's "extremely rare" to have a U.S. military appeals court overturn a jury verdict and that it only happens every three to four years, comparing it to the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series after multiple decades.

Christensen told Newsweek he believes an appellate court should limit its review to legal errors and not second guess the verdicts of the trial courts.

"Unfortunately, Congress empowered the military courts to do exactly that. Wilson's convictions were not overturned because of legal error," added Christensen. "Instead, it's because three O-5 judges thought they knew better than the general officers who actually heard the victim testify and judged her credible. A small child is paying the price for their hubris."

While the conviction of the child sex abuse has been overturned, the government has 30 days from July 1 to file a motion asking the appeals court to reconsider Monday's opinion. The government also has 60 days to decide if it wants to petition the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF)—the highest appeals court for the U.S. military—but that court is limited to reviewing cases dealing directly with the law.

"The government can ask for reconsideration en banc by the service court," Christensen told Newsweek, referring to a reconsideration by all the judges, not just a small panel, "but it is basically impossible to appeal a factual sufficiency finding to CAAF."

If neither option is taken at the end of the 60-day period, the case will return to II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune for a rehearing on Wilson's previous convictions.

The colonel was found guilty in September 2017 of six counts of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. The charges stem from when he served as the officer in charge of Marine Corps Rotational Forces in Darwin, Australia, in February 2016 before transferring to II Marine Expeditionary Force, according to the court filing.

In November 2017, two months after Wilson was sentenced, obtained a Marine Corps Inspector General's report that faulted Marine Lieutenant General Lawrence Nicholson, the commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force, out of Okinawa, Japan, for failing to investigate Wilson's actions in Australia thoroughly.

Wilson was also originally convicted of being absent without leave, which stems from a trip he took to Beaufort, South Carolina, with his wife and their mutual friend. The trip occurred two months after he was removed from his position at Camp Lejeune and charged with child sexual abuse, according to The Daily Beast.

The couple's friend later accused Wilson of multiple instances of alleged sexual assault upon her during the trip and at Camp Lejeune, but Wilson was acquitted of those alleged offenses, except for the absent without leave violation, according to the court opinion.

"It is too early to speculate about whether he will be sentenced on the remaining minor allegations or whether they will be dismissed and handled administratively," Katie Cherkasky told Newsweek. "He has certainly already served more than he would realistically be facing at a new trial. Colonel Wilson hopes the convening authority recognizes the tremendous punishment he has already suffered and dismisses the remaining charges."

Phillip Stackhouse, who was Wilson's attorney at his original trial, said that after his 36 years of service, his pension was worth more than $5 million, according to The Daily Beast.

With the conviction tossed out and a potential retrial pending, Wilson may have the option to pursue his military retirement with benefits and would likely receive back pay for the nearly two years he spent in confinement, Stackhouse told on Tuesday.

In July 2018, Protect Our Defenders filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government seeking $25 million for the damages on behalf of the Perry family stemming from the original conviction of Wilson, according to previous Newsweek reporting.

It's unclear where the lawsuit stands with the overturned conviction from the appeals court. Christensen said the Perry family was exploring their options. On Friday, Adrian Perry sent the following statement to Newsweek: "The power of prayer is more powerful than any court of law. With that said, we are calling upon all prayer warriors to pray over our child and our family."

When asked if Wilson was considering filing his own civil suit, Katie Cherkasky said he is not contemplating civil legal actions at this time.

"Colonel Wilson is focused on getting released from the brig and reuniting with his family," she said.

Wilson remains confined to the brig at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California.



Thousands protest Myanmar child rape

Police under fire for slow response to assault on toddler at private nursery school

YANGON: Thousands of protesters marched to a police station in Yangon on Saturday, demanding speedy and transparent justice in a child-rape case that has sparked national outrage.

Police said this week that they had arrested a suspect in the rape of a toddler - nicknamed Victoria - at a private nursery school in the administrative capital, Nay Pyi Taw, in May.

Social media users have questioned the slowness and professionalism of the police response after the girl's family filed a complaint more than a month ago, underscoring a lack of trust in authorities in a country still emerging from decades of military rule.

A government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi took power after sweeping the elections in 2015, but key institutions such as the police remain under military control and efforts to strengthen the rule of law have floundered.

Organisers estimated as many as 6,000 protesters gathered on Saturday at the Yangon office of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) wearing white T-shirts, some printed with the words “Justice for Victoria”. One banner read: “We don't want any more Victorias.”

“We need an explanation that people can accept and justice for the kid,” said 33-year-old protest organiser Aung Htike Min.

The protesters also called on the government to create a safe environment for Myanmar's children.

The police force's deputy director general, Aung Naing Thu, said on Friday in a news conference broadcast live on Facebook and watched by thousands of people that police had filed a case at court against a driver at the victim's nursery, and he was in custody.

A thorough investigation was conducted, he said, but efforts to identify the perpetrator had been delayed because officers were waiting to speak to the victim, a 3-year-old girl who was recovering from medication she was given after the assault.

“We filed the lawsuit against the suspect based on the testimony of the child and technical records,” said Aung Naing Thu, referring to security-camera footage that he said implicated the driver.

The nursery had also been closed because it lacked the correct licence to operate, he said.

Demonstrators were sceptical about the account given by the police, a force that is widely perceived as corrupt or incompetent.

Ye Myint Win, 37, who joined Saturday's protest along with his wife and 2-year-old daughter, told Reuters authorities should take child rape cases more seriously.

“I found it very suspicious and I don't trust the investigation of CID,” he said.



Tony Cardenas: Sexual abuse case against US politician mysteriously dropped

‘I'm still a victim'

by Eli Rosenberg

A woman who accused California Democrat Tony Cárdenas, of sexually abusing her as a 16-year-old has dropped her lawsuit against the congressman.

The 28-year-old, Angela Chavez, agreed to drop her case on Tuesday in exchange for an agreement from Mr Cárdenas that he would not sue her for anything related to the lawsuit she brought, lawyers said.

The case collapsed under somewhat unknown circumstances.

In an email, Lisa Bloom, a prominent women's rights lawyer who was representing the 28-year-old, told The Washington Post that her firm filed a motion to withdraw two months ago, based on attorney ethics rules.

She declined to comment on which rules the firm was adhering to.

Court filings do little to shed light on the case. Lawyers with the Bloom Firm noted in multiple rulings they were required to withdraw from the case under rules about professional conduct.

“We also believe we are not permitted to disclose, at least in these moving papers, which Rule of Professional Conduct requires our withdrawal nor can we disclose any other information out of concern for protecting our client,” one lawyer, Vernon Ellicott, wrote in a court filing.

Another exhibit included in a filing noted that three lawyers working on the case had recently left the Bloom Firm.

In a brief phone interview, Ms Chavez also declined to comment on the specifics of the case.

“I'm still a victim and I just wish I would have chose better representation than I did,” she said.

Mr Cárdenas was not named in the initial complaint in the lawsuit, which was filed in April 2018, because under California law, the names of defendants in child sex abuse cases cannot be disclosed without court approval.

The case alleged that “John Doe” met the woman, then 14, at a golf tournament and became a friend of her and her family's.

Two years later, the lawsuit alleged, he fondled her breasts and genitals while driving her to the emergency room after the two played golf at Hillcrest Country Club in Los Angeles.

The woman claimed she “collapsed to the ground” during the golf game after John Doe gave her a cup of ice water that tasted off, the lawsuit stated.

Mr Cárdenas denied the allegations at the time, with his lawyer, Patricia Glaser calling them baseless and reckless. He was soundly re-elected to his district north of Los Angeles in November.

“Once in a while with one of these ‘#MeToo' cases, the defendant is vindicated,” Ms Glaser told The Washington Post on Wednesday.

“And this is one of the few that this happened. Tony gets points for saying I'm not paying on this one, I didn't do anything wrong.”


Show Biz

Fans Accuse Hilary Duff of 'Child Abuse' for Piercing 8-month-old Daughter's Ears

Hilary Duff was accused of "child abuse" after netizens noticed her baby girl was wearing studs in an Instagram photo the American pop star posted on Tuesday.

Actor-singer Hilary Duff is facing severe backlash for getting her 8-month-old daughter's ears pierced. The American pop star was accused of "child abuse" after netizens noticed her baby girl was wearing studs in an Instagram photo Duff posted on Tuesday.

"Oh and yes we pierced her ears," she captioned the post.

Even though the story disappeared in 24 hours, the social media users continued to flock to Duff's Instagram feed. One post in particular — a black-and-white photo of Duff and Banks laughing-- attracted several negative comments.

Some commenters accused Duff of "child abuse" and "causing tremendous pain" to her young daughter. Others are vowing to "unfollow" the actress.

The 31-year-old actress and singer and her boyfriend, Matthew Koma, announced the arrival of Banks on Instagram in October last year.

"This little bit has fully stolen our hearts!" Duff had captioned the poignant Instagram shot of her cradling her newborn in her arms at the time. "She joined our world at home on Thursday afternoon and is absolute magic.


United Kingdom

Tackling child sexual abuse online and offline

Home Secretary Sajid Javid delivered a speech at the NSPCC's "How Safe are our Children?” conference

From: Home Office and The Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP

The Home Secretary delivered this speech:

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 WePROTECT 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 defenceless baby and toddler.

Why? Because he wanted to join a paedophile 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 organisations 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.

Thank you.


United Kingdom

What it's like viewing the most horrific images... as a child sex abuse detective

"People think paedophiles are all 'dirty old men with macs' they are not - it could be anyone from any walk of life"


Every job has its stresses, upsets and challenges but how do you cope if your job is to look at indecent images of children day in day out?

Detective Sergent David Glover runs the Abusive Images Unit for Merseyside Police and works alongside six other colleagues.

The small team of seven officers are tasked with the harrowing job of looking at and categorising sexual abuse images of children.

And after looking at the horrendous pictures, watching the horrific videos and reading the harrowing online chats of grooming, the painstaking process of identifying the children and offenders then begins.

DS Glover has been with the unit for 10 months and was formerly based in the Crime Investigation Department.

He admitted when he was offered the role that he did have his reservations about the type of work he would be tasked with.

Neighbours of man rescued from cellar after six days reveal why he may have been down there

He said: "It is one of the areas in the police that when you say that name people think 'oh no' because it is going to be looking at pictures of children.

"But I was offered the role and it was an area that I was wary of, but having done it now, there is a hell of a lot more to it."

The Abusive Images Unit works in conjunction with the National Crime Agency, COPS (Child Exploitation Online Protection) and NetMec (National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children), based in the USA.

Intelligence is also passed between police forces across the country.

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Categorising sexual images of children

On 1 April 2014 the Sentencing Council issued revised guidelines for all sexual offences including those concerning indecent images of children. They simplified the images into three categories of seriousness:

Category A - Images involving penetrative sexual activity, sexual activity with an animal or sadism.

Category B - Images involving non-penetrative sexual activity.

Category C - Indecent images not falling within categories A or B.

DS Glover and his team are tasked with putting the images of children they examine into one of these categories - however he said improvement in technology means a lot fewer images have to be looked at.

He said: "Some of the technology that we now have will automatically categorise images for us.

"So we may end up looking at far less than what we used to do 10 or 15 years ago.

"The systems that we use and other forces use will automatically recognise a previously categorised image.

"So when we run the device through that system, any of those images that are on that device, that are illegal and are known to law enforcement they will be categorised straight away.

"What you are left with then is a bunch of other images or videos, that will quite often be among normal family photos.

"Then we will go through them, look at them and then categorise them according to the category guidelines."

DS Glover said once an image is categorised, no matter where it shows up in the world, other forces will know that it has been examined.

He added: "Technology is making it easier but unfortunately we do still have to look at them.

"There are first generation pictures that have been taken by that device.

"There will be ones where the background in the picture then matches the house we attend and they could be people abusing their own children.

"And there are a lot of images. Someone may have a handful, some have up to a million images, but again the bulk of those will be known images which they store, but it is going through the rest that we have to do."

'We cope because we are professional'

DS Glover said due to the nature of their job role, there is a lot of support for members of his team by Merseyside Police.

Yet the detective said he appreciates how people struggle to understand how he is physically able to do what he does.

But he said he has to switch off, in order to be able to return to his home life.

"The bottom line is we cope because we are professionals and if we didn't do it - who would?"

"The force supports us greatly in terms of our well being.

"We have online assessments that we do twice yearly, we have the occupational health unit, there are lots of things that the force sets in place.

"But obviously from a personal point of view we are a close unit and we can talk to each other about issues.

"If it is they will be taken out of that arena for a while, or even moved permanently. There is a lot of well being around what we do."

On a personal level DS Glover added: "I can switch off. Because the way I look at this is, we are probably looking at the worst stuff that you can ever think of that people do to children.

"But on a professional level, it is no worse than traffic police turning up at the scene of a fatal traffic accident or the major crime unit turning up to a really nasty murder.

"There are different ways that you can get traumatised.

"You could be dealing with the family of a loved one who has been murdered and that in itself is hard to deal with, while trying to be professional as well.

"So again, from our point of view, yes we look at horrible stuff, but I am able to switch off because to me it is an image, it is a video and I have to categorise it and I think that is the same with the rest of the team.

"But what I would say is, that after a couple of years in this job, people tend to move on. It is not a lifetime role and we wouldn't have people in it for that long.

"We do get support from the force. People know that it is a difficult role to do but we do it because we are professional about it and we want to make sure it is right, in order to be able to get the results at the end of the day."

How the Abusive Images Unit build a case

Although the unit DS Glover is in charge of is titled 'the Abusive Images Unit' the detective and his team see an investigation through from the first referral to conviction or, in other cases, the safeguarding of children.

Once a picture is categorised it is passed to the Digital Forensic Unit which will put the image into The Child Abuse Image Database to form an evidential report.

DS Glover added: "We build the intelligence up and gather the information. When we seize devices, they are the guys who then forensically examine them.

"We will be at a point where we have looked through the device and bare in mind, that it is not just images, part of what we deal with is online grooming, so there are chat logs and reading some of them can be quite harrowing as well.

"But eventually all of that needs to be put in some sort of evidential format that can be understood, so at that point, if we have not already arrested someone, we would be looking to arrest and it just forms part of the case file that we then put to the Crime Prosecution Service.

"From start to finish we have these cases."

DS Glover said although part of his job is arresting paedophiles and bringing them before the courts, one of his main roles is the safeguarding and protection of children.

A lot of the images DC Glover and his unit are faced with have been taken by children and then distributed online.

These indecent images could have been taken naively by a child, who believed they were speaking to another child online and has been groomed.

Other cases are revenge porn where a sexually explicit image or video of a child has been shared without their permission.

DS Glover said: "There are different ways that you are rewarded in this role, it is not all about putting people before the courts.

"In an ideal world, yes it is, but the main role that we have is protecting children.

Children sharing images on social media

"Quite a number of the referrals that we get is where children are putting self-loaded videos on to the internet.

"So technically they are committing an offence because they are distributing indecent images.

"And we understand it is an offence, but these children are dealt with in a safeguarding way.

"If we can identify a child from an indecent image, it is a totally different approach."

In a case where a child has distributed an image themselves, Merseyside Police works with a number of services including Social Services and Child Protection Services, as well as schools.

DS Glover added: "We get children being groomed because children are vulnerable.

"They could be in an open chat group such as Instagram or Facebook and think they are talking to a similar-aged guy or girl, but in fact they are being groomed over a period of time.

"They will then be asked to 'send a picture if you love me' and they will end up doing that, then to find out it's a 40-year-old fella.

"But by that time they have sent pictures and videos to who they thought was a 14-year-old girl or boy."

How do police trace where an image has come from?

He added: "It could be a company address or it could be a school - which we have had before - so we do a lot of work before we get to the point of taking action, because we have to be sure we are at the right place and targeting the right people."

A lot of images are also from other countries around the world.

DS Glover added: "Quite a lot of the stuff is not from this country.

"It is from countries where this stuff might be acceptable - like children posing nude, modelling bikinis in a provocative position, that is not acceptable here but in other countries it is and you do get a lot of that being looked at."

Support to families of paedophiles, victims and offenders

DS Glover was happy to be named for this article, however did not want to be pictured and that is in part because of the process of arresting an offender.

He said: "Part of our role is dealing with the impact this has on people's families, so we have to go about it in a certain way.

"Which is why we don't turn up in uniform and with flashing lights.

"We have such an impact when we turn up at peoples houses because usually the person who is doing this, no-one else in the house knows that they are.

"So when we arrive and tell them what is going on, it is a shock. So we have to provide support to these families, because it is not their fault and all of a sudden their lives are turned upside down.

"The offender will also be supported.

"And yes we do get the comments 'oh if I was there with one of them I would do x y and z to them' but you would accomplish nothing with that attitude.

"If they are arrested they will get help and whilst they are in custody.

"At the point when we turn up, some of these perpetrators are devastated, because they think they can't be found and they have used this, that and the other so we can't trace them.

"So there is a risk there that their life is over, that they are going to lose their job etc so we have to measure that as best we can.

"We have to make sure we are offering help."

Merseyside Police work closely with the The Lucy Faithfull Foundation - which is the only UK-wide charity dedicated solely to tackling child sexual abuse.

Where abuse has already taken place, the foundation works with all those affected, including adult male and female abusers; young people with harmful sexual behaviour; children with concerning sexual behaviours; victims of abuse and other family members.

The foundation also works with families and with adults and young people where there has been no abuse, to help them keep themselves and others as safe as possible.

There are also other organisations such as Stop It Now and Merseycare Prevention Services.

Can you spot a paedophile?

Ds Glover said he has even been shocked by some of the people who his team has identified as paedophiles.

He added: "It can be anyone, from all walks of life.

"Some of the people who I have came across it has shocked me, and it shocks their family and friends too.

"People think they are all 'dirty old men with macs' and they are not."

DS Glover said during his time in his role he is yet to come across a woman in Merseyside who has been identified as looking at or distributing images of children.

He said: "It is very rare to come across a woman. Of course there are women who look at this and distribute it, but it is very, very rare.

"I haven't come across one in the 10 months I have been in the job."

Safeguarding and education of children

DS Glover said the main focus of his team is to identify, locate and safeguard children - from the images, videos and chat logs they examine.

On Merseyside in the past 12 months, 157 children have been safeguarded, with many more identified from around the country.

He said: "If a child never in their life puts another image online or send another image, well that is a whole bunch of images that aren't going to be out there.

"Some of the cases we have had, we have identified children from outside the Merseyside area, so that has led to other enquiries by other forces and likewise.

"Safeguarding is identifying a child and offering them the care, support and the advice regarding the internet.

"We offer that to parents as well and tell them how to change passwords on the routers of their house and advise them on time limits for children being online.

"What we don't want to do is ban children going on the internet, because they can't do anything these days without going on the internet, but it is about educating them.

"They need to be educated that if they upload a picture at their age, once it is out there it is out there and it is out there forever.

"Some of the images we come across are 10-15 years old and will have been identified long ago, but the images are still there doing the tour of the world and being shared on various sites.

"So any child who we can get to and doesn't upload or send these images again - we have won there."

'This is is always being monitored and we are on to it'

From June 2018, to June 2019 one pedophile has been jailed a week, on Merseyside.

There have been 281 referrals made to the Sexual Abuse Crime Unit, however this figure does not include referrals that have been passed to other forces, which would happen depending where the offender is from.

In addition to this figure 157 children have been safeguarded in Merseyside - with many more identified from around the country.

On Merseyside in 12 months, 98 warrants have been executed, with 94 arrests made and 52 offenders charged and convicted.

DS Glover said he couldn't answer whether the distribution or viewing of indecent images is on the rise, but accepted that technology "had made it easier" for paedophiles.

He said: "All I would say is that through the likes of the internet it has become easier for paedophiles to share and access stuff, than it was before.

"Technology is changing weekly and people have different ways of accessing the dark web - so as much as we are battling it, their technology is getting easier and harder for us.

"So it is forever changing, but I would like to think we are on top of it.

"If we are putting IT technicians before the courts and they don't get away with it, then we are doing something right."

DS Glover added: "But our main focus is protecting children.

"I am sure people would like us to be locking people up, left, right and centre.

"Every referral that we get doesn't necessarily lead to a conviction, it could relate to another force, or we could have done everything and not found anything.

"There is a lot of work going on.

"So there might be one conviction a week, but it is three kids a week that we are safeguarding and that is the figure that I am focusing on."

DS Glover added: "We are educating children and parents so that these images are not getting out there in the future.

"And that is what we are pushing for - a more educational point of view.

"We are always looking at it, we are monitoring it and we are safeguarding children.

"This is is always being monitored and we are on to it.


United Kingdom

British children, as young as 7, being used by gangs to deal drugs: researchers

by Lin Taylor Reuters

British schoolchildren as young as seven are being exploited by criminal gangs and forced to deal drugs, with some duped into debt bondage, researchers said on Friday.

Thousands of children in Britain – most aged between 15 and 17 – are being used by so-called county lines gangs to carry drugs from cities to be sold in rural areas, according to research by The Children's Society, a charity.

Even younger victims are recruited by gangs on social media as well as in schools, foster homes and homeless shelters, police and children's charities say.

“Children are being cynically exploited with the promise of money, drugs, status and affection,” said Nick Roseveare, head of The Children's Society, in a statement.

“They're being controlled using threats, violence and sexual abuse, leaving them traumatized and living in fear.”

Through Freedom of Information requests to police and local authorities, as well as interviews with experts supporting children who have been exploited, the charity found that students as young as seven were being targeted.

Gangs often tell children they will not be punished if they tell police they were coerced, citing a legal defence in the Modern Slavery Act meant to protect victims of human trafficking who are forced to commit crimes.

Some victims are initially groomed with flattery and gifts, and many suffer threats of kidnap, violence and rape, according to Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA).

The report said gangs were also trapping children by giving them an item of value to look after then faking its theft and telling them they had to work to repay the debt.

The number of suspected British child slaves referred to the government last year for support more than doubled to 1,421 – from 676 in 2017 – amid rising concern from police about the growing county lines drug trade.

About two-thirds of these cases – 987 – were linked to labor exploitation and believed to be drug trafficking, according to the annual NCA report on modern slavery referrals to the government.

“Tackling county lines needs a whole system approach,” the NCA said in its response.

“This means leaders in health and social care, education, and the third sector working collaboratively with law enforcement to stop young people being drawn in to county lines.”

About 7,000 possible slavery victims were uncovered in Britain last year – up a third on 2017 – as exclusively revealed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation last month.



Sold: the business of sex trafficking

The living hell of young girls enslaved in Bangladesh's brothels

Sold by traffickers, trapped for years and raped many times a day .. this is the life of tens of thousands of underage girls in Bangladesh. We hear their stories.

by Corinne Redfern

After five years in the brothel, Labonni stopped dreaming of being rescued. Ever since she had been sold to a madam at 13 years old, customers had promised to help her escape. None had followed through. Over time, their faces began to blur together, so she couldn't remember exactly who had visited before, or how many men had come by that day. There's usually one every hour, starting from 9am.

“Sometimes I wake up and I don't understand why I'm not dead yet,” she says.

Now 19, Labonni says she's resigned to life – and death – in Mymensingh, a brothel village in the centre of Bangladesh. Here, between 700 and 1,000 women and girls are working in the sex trade – many of them against their will.

Girls as young as 12 sleep five to a room; their beds only cordoned off by torn cotton curtains. Music blares from heavyset sound systems and homemade liquor is poured from plastic bottles to numb the pain. Men swagger shirtless down the alleys looking for girls. Ten minutes of sex will cost them TK400 (about £3.66) – but it's money that mainly lands in the pockets of those running the brothel.

Like the majority of girls in Mymensingh, Labonni was trafficked into sex work. On the run at 13 years old, she left her six-month-old daughter behind to flee the abusive husband she had been made to marry the year before, in a ceremony that took place on the same day she started her period. “I didn't know where I was going,” she remembers. “I thought maybe I could find work in a garment factory.”

A woman saw her looking tearful in Dhaka railway station, and offered her food and a place to sleep for the night. Two days later, Labonni was sold by her to the brothel for about £180 and forbidden to leave.

Overnight, she became a chukri, or bonded sex worker – imprisoned within the brothel until she repaid hundreds of pounds in fabricated debts. “The madam who bought me said that I had to pay her back,” Labonni says in a flat voice. “She'd bribed the police to say I was 18 [the legal age for a registered sex worker] and told me I owed her more than £914. Then she confiscated my phone and locked me in my bedroom. She said that she'd hurt me if I tried to run away.” After two or three months, Labonni gave up trying to escape. “They always find you,” she adds.

A quick breakdown of the figures involved shows how girls like Labonni are a vital part of a hugely profitable business model for brothel owners in Bangladesh. For the past six years, since being trapped in the brothel, she has worked continually to pay off her phantom debt. Yet over those six years she has earned upwards of £46,500 for madams who enjoy lives of considerable luxury.

Until last year everything Labonni earned went to her madam. All she was given back was a £37 as a monthly allowance for food, clothes and toiletries. Labonni has now paid her original £914 “debt” back 50 times over.

Last year she was finally told she had paid off her debt, but she has yet to move on. Her mental strength is worn down by years of abuse. “I feel worthless,” she says. “My daughter doesn't even know I'm her mum.” Even with her “debt” gone, she's still obliged to pay half of her weekly earnings – approximately £78 – to the madams in exchange for electricity and a place to stay.

One of her regular customers, Mohammed Muktal Ali, is 30 years old. A married bus driver from the nearby town, he has been visiting Labonni every day for four and a half years, since she was 14. “All the girls here are helpless,” he says. “You can't sell a boy to a brothel, but you can sell a girl because she has monetary value.” He doesn't feel guilty for paying for sex with a trafficked teenager. “I am in love with Labonni. I'm 70% sure that one day I will rescue her.” Labonni doesn't look up. “I don't believe anything the men say to me any more,” she says later. “They all lie.”

Four floors down from Labonni's bedroom, Farada, 33, says the number of trafficked girls has increased since she arrived at the brothel in 1999. She knows, she says, because she buys them. After 12 years entrapped in sexual slavery herself, she was given a girl as a gift by a customer eight years ago, moving from exploited to exploiter overnight. When the girl escaped, she bought a second, called Moni, for £137. “I paid £27 on cigarettes for the police, and they sorted all the paperwork,” she says, referring to the government-mandated certificates that state every sex worker is at least 18 and consents to engaging in prostitution. “Now the police charge more. It's at least £450, which is very expensive, so the girls have to pay me back.” The younger the girl, the higher the bribe required by law enforcement, she adds.

These days, she makes about £187 every week from two girls, but says a third of that goes to local gang members who control the brothel.

The money being made in this single brothel is an indicator of the vast profits generated by the global trade in women and girls. Sex trafficking is an enormously lucrative business.

Academic Siddharth Kara advises the United Nations and the US government on slavery and has shown through his own research that sex trafficking is disproportionately lucrative compared with other forms of slavery. He estimates that sex trafficking creates half of the total profits generated globally by modern slavery, despite only accounting for 5% of all trafficking victims worldwide.

He told the Observer: “The return on investment for sex trafficking is around 1,000% compared with much lower returns in exploitation for construction, agriculture or mining. The immense profitability of sex trafficking is … driven by the minimal expense associated with acquiring victims and the fact that the victim can be sold up to 20 times a day, generating tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars in profit per victim.”

Prostitution was legalised in Bangladesh in 2000, after the year-long detention of 100 sex workers by police sparked protests calling for the women's freedom and equal rights. The women's release heralded a new legal framework, but few protections.

Instead, the business of sexual exploitation has thrived in a country where women are oppressed in many ways. Across the country, one in five girls is married before her 15th birthday and only a quarter finish secondary education. Choice is a luxury few women here can afford.

While prostitution is legal, trafficking and forced labour are not. But poor enforcement of legislation in a country where women are easy prey means traffickers act with impunity. The Bangladesh government estimates that 100,000 women and girls are working in the country's sex industry and one study reports that less than 10% of those had entered prostitution voluntarily. This investigation found hundreds of girls who spoke of being sold by strangers, family members or husbands without their consent.

In April the Dhaka Tribune reported that the conviction rate for people arrested in connection with trafficking is less than half a percent. While more than 6,000 people have been arrested in connection with human trafficking since 2013, only 25 were convicted. Last year only eight traffickers were convicted in Bangladesh.

While many girls sell sex from their homes or the street, more than 5,000 women and girls are split between 11 huge brothels countrywide. Some dating back hundreds of years, each brothel is registered with the government and monitored by the local police. Here, a triumvirate of powerful institutions – government, police and religion – watch over and approve the rape, enslavement and abuse of hundreds of thousands of prepubescent girls.

“The Bangladeshi police know everything that takes place in the brothels,” says Azharul Islam, programme manager of Rights Jessore, a local non-governmental organisation working to rehabilitate trafficked children working in the sex trade and return them to their families. “The brothel owners are involved in gangs, and our political leaders and law enforcement are involved in those gangs, too.” Corrupt government officials profit by accepting bribes and sexual favours in exchange for turning a blind eye to the abuse.

As part of this investigation, more than 20 underage girls in four of the brothels showed us their notarised certificates stating they were over 18. One girl admitted she was still 13. “It's law enforcement, it's the local mafia,” says Mahmudul Kabir, Bangladesh country director for the Netherlands-based NGO Terre des Hommes. “And it goes through the entire chain of power.”

The steady stream of women and children being trafficked into Bangladesh's sex industry means that the girls are disposable to those making money out of them. The numbers killing themselves has reached a point where at least two brothels in central Bangladesh – Kandapara, on the on the outskirts of Tangail, and Daulatdia, on the banks of the Padma river – have had to built private graveyards to cope with the dead.

“There's about one death a month,” says Shilpi, 57, who was sold to Daulatdia brothel in 1977. “It never used to be this many.” These days she conducts the funerals: washing each body before leading a team of 12 brothel guards through the thicket of weeds that shrouds the burial grounds; finally reciting a short prayer over the grave. She doesn't know how many girls are buried there. She lost count after 100. “For a while, we tied a stone around their necks and threw the bodies in the pond,” Shilpi adds. “But sometimes they floated to the surface, so we had to find land.”

In Mymensingh, there's no such graveyard – but not from lack of need. Instead, bodies are carried out to the countryside at nightfall; buried in unmarked graves by torchlight.

Public graveyards aren't an option: the stigma that surrounds sex workers in Bangladesh forbids their burial in municipal ground. “Here we are shameful, bad women,” says Shilpi. “If a girl kills herself, people say it's good riddance – it's just a quicker way for them to get to hell.”.

Labonni has also tried to kill herself several times. “I'll probably try again one day,” she says, sitting on the floor of the concrete cell that passes as a bedroom: her customers' phone numbers are scratched into the wall. Meanwhile, she cuts herself daily.

Such deep-rooted mental health problems are endemic among Bangladesh's bonded brothel workers, and make it harder for them to move on even when their “debts” are paid. Though there is little mental health support for the women, there is evidence that when it's provided, it helps. One organisation working to rescue and rehabilitate underage trafficking victims is the Bangladesh National Women's Lawyers' Association. “When they first arrive at the home, they're scared,” says BNWLA psychologist Sadia Sharmin Urmi. It takes consistent counselling to help them move forward, but within three months, she sees progress. “They know they are safe. That means a lot.”

For Labonni, the idea of ever getting help feels unlikely. “All my life, people tell me to have sex so that they can make money from it. How much do I have to earn to be free of this life?”

Escape now takes the form of daily video calls with her daughter, who lives with her elder sister in Dhaka. “I can't raise her here and that hurts me, but I know she's happy,” Labonni says. “One day, when she's old enough, I would like her to know I'm her real mum.”

The number of people living in some form of modern slavery across the world. More than half of the victims are in forced labour. Sex trafficking is a form of modern slavery that involves the use of coercion, abduction, fraud or force to profit from someone's sexual exploitation.

of the estimated 4.8 million sex trafficking victims across the world working in the sex industry are women and girls.

people are estimated by the UK government to be the victims of modern slavery in Britain today.

of the world's 4.8 million sex trafficking victims are in the Asia and Pacific region.

The amount generated by the modern slave trade every year, according to UN estimates. Sex traffickers can earn up to £29,000 per victim.

This article was amended on 7 July 2019 to correct the headline, which originally referred to brothels in Dhaka.

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