National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

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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 3
Terri Lanahan
Many thanks to NAASCA's Terri Lanahan, Butte, Montana,
for her research into the news that appears on
the LACP & NAASCA web sites.




Midlands Voices: Everyone has a stake in ending child abuse

by Gene Klein

“Why didn't you run, why didn't you say something, why didn't you speak out sooner?”

These are some of the questions I hear repeatedly of survivors of sexual abuse, sexual assault and even human trafficking. As if it is their responsibility to get help.

The truth is, it is very rare that a child will ever tell. Did you know, on average, from the time abuse has occurred to the time a child finds the courage to tell a trusted adult is nine years?

Survivors tend to ask themselves, “Who will believe you?” “Will you be retaliated against?” “What will happen to your family/friends?” Unfortunately, these fears are real. Treating sexual abuse as taboo only compounds survivors' self-inflicted shame and humiliation. We need to create a culture that removes the shame and silence surrounding abuse.

Federal prosecutor Geoffrey Berman says it best: “The alleged behavior (of Jeffrey Epstein) shocks the conscience.”

It is easier to think this problem only affects others and that it does not exist in our community. The truth is, it happens right here in Omaha, and it happens every day.

The statistics are startling. One out of 10 children (boys and girls) is sexually abused before their 18th birthday. More than 90% of sexually abused children are abused by someone they know or love. In the past year, Project Harmony served over 2,750 children, spanning all races, genders, ages and socioeconomic types. There are 42 million survivors of sexual abuse in the United States, and it is time we listened.

Every day I see the courage of children coming forward to share what they have experienced, and every day I witness the power of resilience. But our children cannot overcome sexual abuse alone. It is not their responsibility — they need each of us to stand up and say, “Enough!”

It is our responsibility, as adults, to be someone in the life of a child and provide the unconditional love and support they need — frequently telling and showing the children in our lives how much we care about them. The most important thing we, as a community, can do is keep an open line of communication. Our best defense against child sexual abuse or sex trafficking is the relationship we have with our children. Children who are confident and feel loved and supported are less vulnerable to manipulation tactics.

It is our responsibility to protect children and make sure they are free from harm and feel safe. By eliminating opportunities for children to be in isolated, one-on-one situations with adults and older youth, we can dramatically reduce the risk of abuse.

It is our responsibility to talk about it. Each allegation should open our eyes to the insidious nature of sexual abuse. It is essential to teach children about physical boundaries from an early age. They should be taught how to say “no” and mean it when anyone crosses a physical boundary.

It is our responsibility to believe children when they say they've been hurt. The single most damaging thing we can do is to dismiss, disregard or outright negate a child's attempt to disclose abuse. We can either amplify or de-escalate a child's anxiety depending on our own internal reaction. Be prepared to react calmly and sensibly if a child discloses abuse or if you suspect boundaries have been violated.

And it is our responsibility to report. In the state of Nebraska, we are all mandatory reporters. Contact your local law enforcement or the child abuse hotline if you suspect a child has been abused or neglected. You will never regret making the call, but you could end up regretting it if you don't.

Together, we can end child abuse. End it. But to do this — to really do this — we all have to have a stake in it. You have to have a stake in it. You are part of the solution.



Viewpoint: Our government is committing child abuse

by Peggy Decker, Cannon Falls

I don't often speak in public, but our government's current family separation policy is so wrong and so damaging to children that I have no choice. I am here to speak for the children.

I had the privilege of being a pediatrician in this community for 22 years. When I met families in the hospital, birth center or clinic, I never asked about politics, religion or citizenship status, because it didn't matter.

It doesn't matter because every parent, every family wants the best for their child: they want to provide a safe secure home with enough food and clean clothing. They want to know how to care for their child and they delight in their child's development, intelligence, growth, good health and energy. They worry when things aren't right, and they want it to get better.

Essential attachment

Throughout my medical training and career, I learned a lot about what it takes for a child to thrive. The most essential element is a strong attachment to a safe adult caregiver and buffering them from childhood trauma. I am going to call that safe adult caregiver Mom for short, but it can be a grandmother, a father, an aunt, a brother, or any adult really.

To promote this essential attachment:

We encourage Mom to hold her baby skin to skin in the first hour of life, and to respond to their baby's first cry in those early weeks.

I saw this strong attachment by infants 4 months of age in clinic. The baby looks at me with concern as I approach, then looks to Mom. If Mom is happy and relaxed, the baby smiles and plays with me; if Mom is worried or fearful, baby withdraws and cries.

This attachment is why bedtime is so difficult for toddlers, because they fear separation and uncertainty.

This strong safe attachment is what allows the child to venture out and explore the world. If a child is free from worry and fear, they can learn and grow and develop and thrive.

Some of my fellow pediatricians have been to the border detention facilities and told us what they have seen. And it is horrific. Toddlers and children and teens are cold, hungry, sleep deprived, dirty and sometimes ill ... and alone with strangers.

Separation damage

What happens when a young child is separated from Mom, especially in these kinds of conditions? They aren't just sad or unhappy. They have lost the person who can comfort them, explain things to them, protect them. They lose trust in Mom because she didn't keep them safe. Their brain and body is flooded with stress hormones and they stay on high alert not for hours, but for days, and weeks.

This is the definition of toxic stress. Inflammation marks our DNA and damages the heart and blood vessels.

When this toxic stress happens when a child's brain is developing, the stress pathways in the brain are fast tracked and strengthened and other normal developmental brain connections are cut away or pruned. Healthy brain connections are damaged or destroyed. That means the child's brain is changed permanently.

Even if they are reunited with Mom, their life path has been forever changed. They may stay angry or sad that Mom did not protect them. They may fall behind in their skills, they can't regulate emotions, they have trouble paying attention, they withdraw or act out. Their fight, flight, or freeze stress response is on a hair trigger. And their capacity to trust people who love them is damaged, potentially stressing future relationships.

Cumulative effects

But kids are resilient, they'll get over it. WRONG!

The really bad things that happen to kids are cumulative. They add up. Things like a parent divorce, an alcoholic parent, or the emotional abuse and physical neglect at a U.S. border detention facility are called adverse childhood events or ACEs. We have known for decades that the more ACEs you have, the worse it gets. Your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, COPD, mental health problems and risky behaviors goes up, while your education, earnings and life expectancy go down. If you have six or more ACEs, you can expect to die at 60 instead of 80 on average.

A few definitions from the Center for Disease Control that apply here:

• Emotional abuse refers to behaviors that harm a child's self-worth or emotional well-being. Examples include name calling, shaming, rejection, withholding love, and threatening.

• Neglect is the failure to meet a child's basic physical and emotional needs. These needs include housing, food, clothing, education, and access to medical care.

Let that sink in. Our government is committing child abuse.

I and other pediatricians develop a keen awareness for a child's true distress cries of pain and serious illness and we are trained to jump in to avert catastrophe. Our inability to answer these children's cries for help is heartbreaking.

We must stop family separation now. We must offer trauma-based care to these families to try to repair the damage done. We can reach out to those in our community who are recovering from similar trauma with understanding and support. We need to help these families who have been harmed. And we need to contact our legislators and demand that this child abuse by our government end.



Polish abuse scandal: Victims take on the Catholic Church

by Adam Easton

"This is where I was abused for the first time," he says.

He is one of several victims, now adults, featured in a documentary about Polish priests who sexually abused children.

Tomasz and Marek Sekielski's film, Don't Tell Anyone , was watched 20 million times in the first week of its digital release – and prompted an unprecedented challenge to Poland's Roman Catholic Church.

More than 90% of Poles identity themselves as Catholics. For many, the Church and its rituals do not just provide spiritual comfort: they are part of a national identity.

That might explain why Poles have been slow to question the behavior of some of their own priests, despite sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church in Ireland, the USA and neighboring Germany.

Monika, 28, did not appear in the film. But she told the BBC about years of abuse during supposed exorcisms by priests around Poland when she was a teenager.

Her parents saw the priests "as heroes, people who were fighting against the devil himself" - but she believes they were manipulated.

The Catholic Church defended Polish culture, language and identity as the country was ruled by three occupying empires in the 19th Century.

After World War Two, the Church – and Polish Pope John Paul II – gave strength to the democratic Solidarity movement, helping it overthrow communist rule.

But the documentary has sullied that reputation.

Shortly after the film's release, an opinion poll suggested 67% of Poles regarded the Church's response as inadequate and 87% said its authority had been diminished.

How Marek challenged the Church

Marek Mielewczyk was abused for five years.

"I didn't know about things like masturbation and touching. I had no idea about homosexual relations. I didn't know that an adult could abuse a child," says Mr Mielewczyk.

"He told me not to tell anyone, not to talk about it at school, and that's what happened."

The abuse continued until one Christmas Eve when he was 18, and he tried to kill himself by taking pills. His parents only discovered what had happened to him after he told a doctor why he had been suicidal.

When the doctor informed the local bishop about the case, he wrote back saying he was aware of the abuse.

Marek, now 50, has identified his abuser as Fr Andrzej Srebrzynski, and the documentary says the priest was subsequently moved from parish to parish for the next 28 years.

He was only removed from the priesthood in 2015. Even then, he was filmed taking part in a religious procession wearing his priestly vestments.

Fr Srebrzynski denies abusing Marek, arguing that it was another priest who molested him. A judge in 2017 ordered him to apologize to his victim, and he is appealing against the ruling.

How damaging for Church?

"There are no words to express our shame," Polish bishops said in a statement issued in the days following the documentary's release - acknowledging they had not done enough to prevent abuse.

Adam Szostkiewicz, a columnist for Polityka weekly, believes there is now a readiness for people to make the bishops responsible for their silence.

"This process will take time, but for me, it's a point of no return for the Church," he said.

"But for some Poles, if they lose the Church, it's like they lose a part of themselves. They prefer to close their eyes," he added.

"They see the Church as their mother, and you cannot say bad things about your mother."

As a teenager growing up in a small town outside Warsaw, Monika – not her real name – was fascinated with black clothes, heavy music and drawing vampires.

Now an art student, she says her years of abuse began when a priest convinced her parents that she was possessed by an evil spirit, and began performing exorcism rites on her.

Soon, she was being taken around the country for so-called treatments by other priests.

On one occasion, she said she was taken to a tiny basement room where there was a bed with leather straps.

"This priest strapped me to the bed and literally tortured me. He had lay people helping him, and this priest would shove a crucifix down my throat until I started to bleed," she told the BBC.

"He started drowning me on this bed. He would pinch my nose closed and pour water down my throat. Nobody reacted or tried to stop him."

Another priest she describes as a sadist. "He would strangle me and pin me down by lying on top of me. I could feel he was sexually aroused."

She says he would tie her to a church pew or a radiator for so long that she wet herself.

While staying with one of the priests she would sleep in his bed. "He would drink alcohol. He also did things; he was a man with a teenage girl in his bed," she said.

Monika only managed to escape with the help of her friends after they learned of her suffering.

She has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and dissociative identity disorder. She has sought support through the Nie Lekajcie Sie (Have No Fear) foundation which helps abuse victims.

She started legal action but prosecutors dropped her case after a court-appointed psychologist, whom the foundation says has close links to the Catholic Church, suspected she was lying.

The foundation sought another psychologist's opinion, who found her story credible, and Monika is appealing against the prosecutor's decision.

How is Poland responding?

The Have No Fear foundation is drafting a citizens' bill to enable victims to file historical claims against priests and to allow for the creation of an independent truth and compensation commission, modelled on those set up in Ireland, Germany and Australia.

Poland's conservative Law and Justice government is creating a commission, but with members appointed by politicians rather than experts. The party enjoys the support of many priests for its backing of Catholic values.

The government commission will investigate professions such as child-care and teaching as well as the Church.

Marek Mielewczyk, who is now a grandfather, realizes the fight for justice will take time, but he's happy it has at least begun.

After watching the documentary, his eldest daughter texted him "Daddy, I love you".

"It was very moving for me. All those years of hard work had been worth it," he said.


New York

B.A.C.A. at a recent local organizational meeting do the official left fist greeting.

by Francine D. Grinnell

BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. — The following is a conversation with local members of Biker's Against Child Abuse (B.A.C.A.), who explain the mission of the group and the precipitating factors that moved some of them to dedicate significant hours toward creating a bond and supporting children who have suffered abuse in any form.

Meeting with members of the local B.A.C.A. Chapter quickly dispels any stereotypes or preconceived ideas of who they are. The group that outwardly appears to be a modern incarnation of the cast of the 1969 cinema classic Easy Rider reveal themselves to be modern day warriors who project a gentleness coupled with a united force to be reckoned with in their professed mission against child abuse.

B.A.C.A. International, Inc. (B.A.C.A.) is organized with a central contact person to receive calls from referring agencies and individuals. A recognized, authorized agency in a community with which the child has had contact determines refers a child that is still frightened or suffering from post-traumatic syndrome after an experience or living in an abusive environment.

The name and address of the child is given to a B.A.C.A. liaison. The liaison verifies that the case has been reported, that authorities have been contacted, and the case is being processed within the legal system.

The liaison contacts the family and an initial ride is organized to meet the child at their home or in some other location where the child will feel comfortable.

The local B.A.C.A. chapter rides to meet the child and he or she is given a vest with a B.A.C.A. patch sewn on the back. The child is free to wear the vest or not.

These initial visits generally last about a half an hour.

How did B.A.C.A. get started?

Faro: “B.A.C.A. originated in Provo, Utah, in 1995 by a clinical play therapist and social worker. He is no longer affiliated, but was working with a child who'd been abused. Every time he tried to make progress with this child, the perp would go by the house and the child would regress.”

By “perp” are we referring to the perpetrator?

Faro: “Yes; the abuser. He decided to get a bunch of his biker friends together and go around the house to demonstrate that this child is protected. That's how it started and it grew from there.

“We're an international not for profit organization now. In 2014, we started to meet to form a chapter in Albany. Originally, we had forty people who wanted to become members, but when it came down to it there were ten of us left, because of the time and dedication required to give to the organization.

“We all had to be fingerprinted by an agency authorized by the FBI and cleared to be sure there's no kind of abuse in our background. We redo that every three years. From there, we had our meetings. It took a little over two years for us to become a full charter.

“Nitro, Karma, and myself are the last three original members.

"We have to do a full year of training is required before we are given a full back patch and are permitted to be primaries to a child.”

Who trains you?

Faro: “We were trained by webinars and live training on the Internet, to begin with. Once we become a patch member and a charter, then we can train within the charter as long as there is a patch member cleared for training.

"The organization, an international board, does the training.”

That might be done remotely from where-where is it headquartered?

Faro: “From International; it goes on the Internet. They send it to us. We have our own website.”

Nitro: “The international members are spread throughout the world; there isn't any one fixed place that the International Executive Board operates from. I would believe that the majority of their conversation is held through Skype. The Board oversees the entire BACA Nation, which is global.

"They are responsible for coming up with or making changes to policy and procedure for the benefit of the entire B.A.C.A. Nation. Then that filters down to the Continental Executive Boards, because we've grown so big, so fast. Here in the United States, our Continental Board oversees us.“

Is B.A.C.A. operating in Canada?

All: “Yes.”

We know that child abuse and abuse of other forms have always existed and yet the conspiracy of silence continues.

Nitro: “My problem is we're stuck in a social standard that when we hear something about child abuse, we tend to go “Oh, that's terrible” then we turn our heads and go about our business. You don't have the community at large getting upset, wanting to deal with this and protecting these children.

“It's a tough, uncomfortable conversation to have. I always ask people “Why do you think that is? We just heard maybe the worst-case scenario and the child suffered the worst fate and died as a result of their abuse? Why do you think we don't see it or talk about it?”

“I can only guess that it would be admitting the worst possible side of our human nature that we can't face. That's why we don't talk about it, see it on television. We can't face it. That's the standard.

“BACA's standard is that we're not going to listen to that. We're on the ground, we're there on bended knee, we're the ones telling these children that nothing is going to harm them anymore. We want to be that obstacle for them.”

When you say “on bended knee”, do you mean meeting them where they're at, even at their eye level?

Nitro: “Yeah. Metaphorically, we're coming to their level to say we're lending them our strength as bikers. In that subculture there is a brotherhood, respect and strength."

And sisterhood, I hope.

Nitro: “Within the MC community, we talk about the brotherhood.”

Meaning Motor Cycle Community?

Nitro: ”Yes; the women are just as valued and can do some things the men can't. “We each bring our unique qualities to the fight.”

Reaper: “It is a family. When we bring a child in, we say “You are now a member of our family.”

Would anyone like to share what personally motivated them to join B.A.C.A.?

Nitro: “I'll say this with a very broad brush. Many of us share a similar past to the kids we help because it gives us great insight. it's not about our past or therapeutic; it's about these children, and their future.

Thunder: “I joined because I was one of those children who was abused as a kid. I grew up with motorcyclists and I felt I was stronger and confident around them."

“Then when I came across this group, B.A.C.A., I looked into it and I saw they were on the ground and not just talking. There were helping these kids. Every B.A.C.A. member in the whole organization works to empower children not to feel afraid of this world."

“It moves me to tears to know there are people on the ground.”

Taking the focus off oneself to reach outward can be a healing thing. Some of you have made great personal investments in being there.

Faro: “I stay in it because once you've gone to a level one and seen the reaction of the child who has been abused...."

What is a Level One?

Faro: “Level One is when we bring a child into a B.A.C.A. family. We gather as many B.A.C.A. members as we can get and go the child's house or to a park or a neutral, safe place to meet them for the first time.

“Whatever the child wants to do, we all do it so they come to know we are going to be there for them. If they want to roll down a hill, we all do it with them. We've been in water balloon fights at kids' parties-all kinds of things.”

Nitro: “We are all trained to go into a scenario and assess what could be a building block of empowerment. We want them to trust us. We are setting a foundation for the kids to know we mean what we say and we will do what we say we're going to do.”

Kodiak: “I went to my Level One and it was very impressive because we were there with the family and our biker family and we presented the child with a teddy bear with our biker names signed on it, with a blanket and a pillow and a cut with a back patch on it with their new biker name on it.”

Nitro: “They are then issued two primaries, meaning usually a male and female B.A.C.A. member to be responsible for the empowerment and bonding with the child.

“Many kids have to go to criminal court to testify against their accuser. The primaries work to instill a sense of safety, promising the child “We promise you nothing and no one is going to harm you.” We can stay with them as long as they need us until the age of 18 or so.”

A lot of times people stuff that fear and put it somewhere. It can take time to work through.

Nitro: “Imagine this if you can. We are assigned this child. They are hypersensitive to everything. Some suffer with PTSD so badly they're visibly shaking. Maybe their court date is six to eight months to a year in the future.

“By the time that child gets into that court room they've had that time with their B.A.C.A. brothers and sisters and their primaries. They get up on the stand in the court room and they've been afraid to go outside, to go to bed, to play with their friends, to be a child, period, all that time.

“They get on the stand and look out at us and when the judge asks, they can point and say ”That's the person that hurt me.” That's the empowerment we're talking about. They don't have to be afraid.

Kodiak: “When they make that step to say it aloud in court and the judge asks “ Are you afraid?, they'll say “No; my friends are scarier.”

Faro: We will form a walkway when they go to court so the child can enter surrounded by support and no one can get near her. We come from all different backgrounds but when we are united for a child, we are a force.



Teenage girl making sexual abuse claim sexually assaulted by detective dealing with case

Neil David Kimball, originally charged with raping 15-year-old victim while she was tied or bound, expected to receive three years in prison

by Karen Zraick

A Los Angeles County sex crimes investigator accused of raping a teenager after having been assigned to investigate her previous sexual assault allegations has pleaded guilty to lesser charges, and is expected to be sentenced to three years in prison.

It was at least the third time the detective, Neil David Kimball of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, was accused of misconduct while on duty, though he was not charged as a result of the first two allegations.

District Attorney Gregory Totten of Ventura County, whose office prosecuted the case, said in a statement that Kimball, 46, met the then-15-year-old victim in 2017 when she reported a sexual assault.

He befriended her and then sexually assaulted her, according to the statement.

Kimball was originally charged with raping the victim while she was tied or bound. Kimball was also accused of “witness intimidation by threat of force”.

But Patrice Koenig, a spokesperson for the district attorney's office, said that prosecutors later determined they could not prove that Kimball had used force during the encounter, which she said took place in his trailer in Camarillo, in southern Ventura County.

The girl did not report the encounter. Rather, when a different officer took over her case about a year later, her father told the new investigator about the assault, Ms Koenig said.

Kimball pleaded guilty last week to a lewd act with a child and unlawful sexual intercourse, and is expected to be sentenced to three years in prison at his next appearance, on 8 August. He must also register as a sex offender.

In a statement, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said that Kimball's pay was suspended in March and that it was seeking to terminate him immediately. A lawyer for Kimball declined to comment.

Kimball's plea comes just more than a month after Sara Abusheikh, a Los Angeles fashion designer, wrote in a post on Medium about her experience with the detective after she was sexually assaulted by an acquaintance in 2014, and reported it to the authorities.

Kimball was assigned to her case, but she wrote that he never investigated, and instead said wildly inappropriate things to her.

Ms Abusheikh wrote that Kimball teased her about going back to her assailant and suggested she “let him make love to you gently”.

“His only interest in the details of my rape came in the form of perverse, sick questions, and he – most tellingly – suggested he come inside to get high,” she wrote.

She later filed a restraining order against her assailant, which led Kimball to joke that she was paranoid, she wrote. When she reported his inappropriate behavior to his supervisor, word got back to Kimball immediately, she added.

The next summer, after getting help from a rape treatment center, she met with the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, which declined to prosecute the case, she wrote.

A deputy district attorney told her Kimball was “a fine detective” and insisted there was no evidence to back up her claim, she wrote.

“And the Special Victims Bureau? It only functioned to protect not one, but two, alleged rapists,” Ms Abusheikh concluded in her essay.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office declined to comment on Ms Abusheikh's post.

Last year, Ms Abusheikh shared screenshots of text messages she said were from Kimball with The Daily Beast, as well as records of email exchanges with lawyers and patient advocates from the rape treatment center. She did not return calls or respond to messages seeking further comment.

Kimball, a 20-year veteran of the sheriff's department, was assigned to the Special Victims Bureau in 2013, The Los Angeles Times reported.

The bureau has been involved in high-profile cases, including accusations by a young actor that he was sexually abused by Asia Argento, a leading figure in the #MeToo movement, who had herself accused the producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. She denied the allegations.

In 2009, Kimball was investigated for sexual battery but not charged after an episode at a hotel the previous year, The Los Angeles Times reported.

According to the report, which was based on a prosecutor's memo, the detective had questioned a group of friends in a parking lot.

Afterward, women in the group and Kimball went to a hotel room, where some of the women stripped down to their underwear and got into a hot tub as he encouraged them, the memo stated.

It also said that one woman accused the detective of grabbing her hand and trying to place it on his genitals.

But no charges were filed. Witnesses gave contradictory statements, there was a lack of evidence and the complainant failed to cooperate with investigators, the memo said.

Greg Risling, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County district attorney, confirmed that the office had declined to prosecute Kimball over the hotel incident. In an email, he said that no other cases involving the detective were under review.

The Ventura County District Attorney's Office had also urged any additional victims to come forward, Ms Koenig said, but none did so.

Asked last year why Kimball was selected to serve in the Special Victims Bureau even after the 2008 hotel allegations, the sheriff's department told The Los Angeles Times it would “conduct a review of the internal process” related to the assignment.

The department did not respond to a question about the outcome of that review.

Grier Weeks, senior executive at the National Association to Protect Children, a non-profit in Knoxville, Tennessee, that pushes for child protection laws, said that the sentence was too light considering the severity of the crime.

“There should be more severe penalties for people in positions of authority or trust who assault a child,” he said. “It's something that has to be treated as the most serious type of assault.



Behind the Story: When Online Tutors Witness Child Abuse

by Emily Tate and Jeffrey R. Young

Online tutoring is big business—especially for a growing number of companies that connect native English-speaking teachers with children in China for live video lessons. These services can work really well as second jobs for teachers in the U.S., who may wake up early and get in a couple of hours of tutoring before going in to their traditional classrooms. Others make it their main source of income, and say it gives them freedom and flexibility.

But for all the positives, some teachers say they've wound up facing unexpected encounters as they connect via live video into the homes of students far away. Some of these tutors say they've witnessed parents engage in harsh physical discipline on screen that some describe as abusive. So, what do you do when you've seen something like this? And what should the companies who run these tutoring services do?

EdSurge reporter Emily Tate has spent the past several months investigating these questions, and we published her story this week in collaboration with WIRED magazine. For an episode of our podcast, we sat down this week to talk about what she found out.

Listen to the discussion on this week's EdSurge On Air podcast. You can follow the podcast on the Apple Podcast app, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play Music or wherever you listen. Or read a portion of the interview below, lightly edited for clarity.

How did you first hear about this story?

I first heard about this story about six months ago from a teacher who tutors students online, and she said that she had recently seen something disturbing happen during a lesson. So, she is sitting in her home office, teaching a child in China from thousands of miles away through a computer, and she sees the mother of a little boy come on screen and start beating him. And she had no idea what to do. She was completely thrown off that this was happening. She found it traumatizing, but also didn't know, since she was in the US and they were in China, she didn't know what the laws were, she didn't know what her responsibility was, and she didn't know what the company could or would do about it.

Let's back up a minute and talk about this online tutoring, because it turns out this is actually a big phenomenon, these tutors working with kids in China.

It is a big phenomenon. In the last four or five years, this industry, particularly connecting native English-speaking teachers with children in China, has exploded. There are now dozens of companies that do this, and they are raking in lots of venture capital. They are contracting with over 100,000 US teachers, teaching over half a million students in China, and operating some 200,000 lessons a day.

Tell us a little bit more about how this works for the teachers that use it, typically.

So it's actually a really great setup for the American teachers because they get paid pretty well—usually between $15 and $25 an hour. The curriculum that they teach is pre-made, and they can work at their leisure. They can choose their own schedule, and they can work from their own homes or anywhere in the world. So, it really is a nice setup for them.

And what happens is, if I'm a teacher on one of these platforms, I'll be sitting at my desk in my home, and I will log on to the platform and have usually a half-hour lesson with a child in China. The kids are usually between the ages of 4 and 12, and you're teaching them English, so you're focusing on grammar and pronunciation, depending on the age level. It's happening in real time, and it's all online, almost like a Skype lesson.

It sounds like in your reporting you ended up spending a lot of time with a particular tutor. What was her situation?

Yeah, so you're talking about Jordan. Jordan is a classroom teacher; she teaches in New York. But when she joined one of these companies, VIPKid, which is actually the largest of the online English-tutoring companies, she joined last summer because she was living in Central Europe, and she wanted to be able to keep teaching, but do it from a place where she could explore a different part of the world. So Jordan was teaching between 12 and 18 classes a day, starting from early in the morning until early in the afternoon, and then would go off and spend the rest of the day touring a city.

But a few months into this job, toward the end of the day, Jordan was teaching a lesson with a student that she had worked with just once before. And right off the bat, it felt strange to her. The lighting was pretty dim in the child's room, and it was a four-year-old boy. And his mother was sitting near him, and the whole lesson, she felt like the mother was intimidating him. She would interrupt the lesson, speak over Jordan, speak over the boy, trying to give him the correct answers.

And at some point, Jordan became so nervous that she called in the company's 24-hour support team—they're called Firemen—and someone entered the class and asked her if everything was okay. And Jordan told him that she was uncomfortable, but the support personnel didn't provide any other guidance, and she had to keep teaching the class. She worried she'd have to reach the 25-minute mark in order to get her full pay.

So at this point, she just wanted the lesson to end. So, she starts singing the ABC song with this child, and as they're working through the alphabet, the mother keeps interjecting, giving her son the correct letters. And Jordan says, "Mom, I've got it. I can teach him, mom."

And so they continued the song, and the mother was still there, still kind of shouting. And Jordan noticed that the boy kept recoiling, like he had been hit before. And then the mother hit him right in view of the camera, and Jordan jumped in and said, "No, stop. He's fine."

And then a few moments later, the 25 minutes were up, and Jordan quickly logged out. She was sitting at her desk for a few seconds and realized that she was worried about what was happening to this boy on the other side of the screen. So, she logged back into the lesson, and his camera was actually still recording. And Jordan saw that the mother was using a blue plastic clothes hanger to hit her son repeatedly right on screen. So, though the room was dark, she could still make out what was happening and she could definitely hear him. She said it was “blood-curdling sobbing,” and that with her noise-canceling headphones in her ears, it was particularly traumatic for her.

So at this point, she logs out of the lesson for good, and she has to decide what to do.

Do you have any sense of how often this kind of thing happens?

It's really hard to say, because I have reached out to the companies and I've talked with them, and they won't tell me how often they receive reports of this type of abuse. But these teachers are active in private Facebook groups, and they talk about this issue a lot. I would say I see a new post about it about every week. And then when someone posts, many teachers comment—I would say dozens of teachers comment—on most of these Facebook posts saying, "Yes, it's happened to me. This is what I did."

And what have the companies done, VIPKid and the many others you mentioned, in response to questions and concerns by teachers like Jordan that have seen something like this?

I don't think these companies were expecting this as a consequence of allowing live, online video lessons between teachers and students. They started, and then they grew so quickly that I think it's kind of gotten away from them.

So I spoke with the founder and CEO of a nonprofit in D.C. called the Family Online Safety Institute. His name is Stephen Balkam, and his organization includes members from Amazon and Google to Facebook and VIPKid, who basically said just that: He said if you think about Facebook, for a long time they didn't have live video feed, and that took years. And then you have these young companies that just went right into live video.

But beyond that, I think these companies do seem to have policies in place, the policies are just all reactive. So the abuse will have already taken place before a company policy really comes into play.

So for example, with VIPKid, in November of 2018, they introduced a new feature so that during a lesson a teacher can go and call the Firemen—that support team I mentioned—and say that it is a “critical safety concern.” So, this is gonna alert the support team at VIPKid that a child may be in danger.

But even now, many teachers haven't seen those policies mentioned anywhere. They were sent out in a newsletter, but they were mentioned quite far down the newsletter page. And they're available on a support page in the “Teacher Portal,” but you would have to search that specific term, “critical safety,” or hunt through several tabs to be able to find it. So, it's not exactly the most accessible.

As for the other companies, there's a company called Magic Ears, it actually has four students paired with one teacher during lessons. And it has issued guidance saying that if a teacher sees some inappropriate behavior happening on one of the students' screens, the teacher needs to disable the camera and mute the sound so that the other children can't see it.

Another company, Qkids, in June contacted all of its teachers to let them know that they were required to report any child safety concerns that they witness during class, and the company told the teachers that they wouldn't be informed of how the situation was handled, but that it would be addressed “in a prudent manner.”

So these companies are grappling with the issue. But I talked with some psychologists who study child development and the effects of violence against children, and they say that once a child has been abused, or even once someone has witnessed abuse—so in this case the teachers—the damage is largely done. So, the important thing that these companies need to be doing, according to the psychologists, is getting out in front of this issue.

And that may mean saying in a policy on the company guidelines, “You cannot use violence against your children during these classes.” And that if a teacher sees it or if they hear it or they hear you threaten it, they're ending the lesson and you don't get your money back.

When you reached out to these companies for your story, what was the response?

I did reach out to the companies, and unfortunately none of them made anyone at the company available for a phone or in-person interview with me. But they did answer some of my questions and send a short statement.

So in the case of VIPKid, their PR director told me that, "The safety and security of teachers, students and parents is a top priority for VIPKid, and we take these matters very seriously. We have a process to address these very rare instances directly with the parties involved to ensure their welfare."

The other thing that seems at play is not only are these children far away—halfway around the world, and they're in a different culture, and there's clearly a gap between what the teachers understand about the Chinese system and the reality. It seems like you were looking around at that issue as you did you reporting?

Yeah, this is definitely an important element of the story, because a lot of these teachers, as they witnessed abuse happening on screen, they also asked themselves, "Is this a cultural difference? Am I discriminating against Chinese culture or foisting my Western values on these families by being disturbed by what I'm seeing?"

But across the board, between the anthropologists and the psychologists that I've spoken to, they say that's not the case. They say that what these teachers are seeing on screen, in fact, crosses a line regardless of the country or culture or jurisdiction that they're in.

I spoke with a Chinese-born anthropologist who studies child development and morality in China, and she said when she was growing up in the '80s, maybe a spanking or a slap on the hand was common, but certainly not what these teachers are seeing onscreen—certainly not parents hitting their young children in the face. And she said today, especially, people in China would frown upon that sort of behavior.

But even more than that, the country has moved to make it illegal to hit your children. In 2015, China passed a law banning domestic violence. The law it says that staff members at kindergartens, schools, hospitals and other community institutions are actually required to report violence against children, making it somewhat similar to the mandatory reporting laws that exist in the US and in many other countries.

So what's next? It seems like you're seeing even some teachers petition and raise this issue to some of these companies. What do you think is happening next in this space?

There seems to be—at least in these Facebook groups—a sense that teachers want something to be done. I saw in one of the groups, it was specific to VIPKid, that one of the teachers asked if others would sign a petition asking the company to do more to address these situations of child abuse during their lessons. And I also think that, as the psychologists suggested, there are opportunities for the companies to put in place new policies that protect the teachers as well as the children that they serve.

So this has actually worked well in the US—because state to state, we have very different laws on corporal punishment, and there's a lot of gray area. So, hospitals, schools and churches have instituted something called no-hit zones, where basically, regardless of the law in that state, adults can't hit each other, children can't hit each other and adults can't hit children in these spaces. So I've heard from several psychologists that they think that would work really well on these platforms, too.



When an Online Teaching Job Becomes a Window into Child Abuse

by Emily Tate

The day stared out like most. Around 6 o'clock on a fall morning in 2018, Jordan sat down at her desk, donned her headset, and logged in to her account with VIPKid, a Beijing-based company that connects native English-speaking teachers like her with children in China for live, online video lessons.

Then the marathon began. In 25-minute spurts, Jordan greeted a series of kids between the ages of 4 and 12 with an enthusiastic “hello” and taught them an English lesson. By the afternoon, she had completed about half a dozen one-on-one classes and was nearly finished for the day. One of her last sessions was with a student she'd worked with just once before.

Almost immediately, something felt off. The student, a 4-year-old boy, joined from a dimly lit room. Although he was barely visible, Jordan could make out a red mark over one of his eyebrows. His mother was close by, whispering the correct answers to Jordan's questions and shouting at him each time he made a mistake. “She just kept getting more and more animated,” Jordan recalls.

Eventually, Jordan became so nervous about the mother's behavior that she contacted VIPKid's 24-hour support team, known as the Firemen. A Fireman quickly joined the class and, in a chat box, told Jordan he was looking into the issue. He checked in with her once more a few seconds later, but ultimately provided no further instructions about how to proceed.

The blood-curdling sobbing, the screaming. I have him in my ears. It was bad. Honestly, it was traumatic.” -Jordan, a VIPKid teacher

Jordan resumed the lesson, fearing that if she didn't stick around for the full 25 minutes, VIPKid might dock her pay. Soon enough, the mother started up again. This time Jordan noticed that the boy kept recoiling, as if bracing for a hand to come down on him. And then it did. As Jordan led him through the alphabet song, the mother cut in and struck her son in view of the camera. Frustrated, Jordan paused to address the mother. “Mom, I've got it,” she said. “I can teach him, Mom.”

The session ended a few moments later, and Jordan quickly logged out. Then, concerned for the boy's safety, she logged back in. His camera was still recording, and Jordan saw that the mother was using a blue plastic clothes hanger to hit him repeatedly. “It was a nightmare,” she says of the beating, which continued in plain view of the camera for several minutes. “The blood-curdling sobbing, the screaming. I have him in my ears. It was bad. … Honestly, it was traumatic.”

At the time, Jordan was a relative newcomer to online tutoring. After years working as a classroom teacher in the US, she'd recently moved to central Europe. VIPKid, she says, allowed her to continue doing what she loved—what she felt she was best at—without stopping her from immersing herself in a new culture.

But the experience with the boy left her shaken and confused. As far as she knew, VIPKid had no systems in place to address what she had witnessed. Throughout the onboarding process, and in all the company materials she'd read since, she had never come across any specific guidance. “There's no handbook,” she explains. “Nothing like that.”

After she logged out of the session a second time, Jordan reported the incident to VIPKid. Then she drafted a post in a private Facebook group for VIPKid teachers. “Anyone ever have an issue with witnessing child abuse?” she asked. She explained what had unfolded during her class. “I already wrote a ticket complete with screen shots of the abuse, but is there anything else I can do here? I am so broken up over this.”

Jordan soon discovered that hers was not an isolated case. Some of her colleagues, both at VIPKid and on other online tutoring platforms, were struggling with the same question. In the Facebook group she posted in, and others like it, new reports of parental abuse surface nearly every week.

Of the two dozen online educators I spoke to for this story, about a third said they had never seen a single instance of abuse, even after teaching as many as 1,500 classes. The rest, however, had stories just as harrowing as Jordan's. (Some asked that I withhold their last names to protect their job security.)

There was the VIPKid teacher who saw a mother choke her young daughter and repeatedly throw her on the floor. “I am heartbroken for this little girl,” the teacher wrote. “I wish I could go through the screen and physically stop the mother!”

There was Hannah, a teacher for a tutoring platform called Qkids, who described a session in which, every time the girl got a question wrong, “the mother would whack her on the back of the head. Once it made her fall from her seat.” Hannah, who claims to have witnessed abuse as many as 10 times in more than 1,000 lessons, also described another episode in which the parent covered the camera lens before meting out punishment. “I could only hear what was going on, but it sounded horrific,” she says.

There was Maria, who wrote that she watched her student “get slapped and tossed around like a rag doll for not pronouncing words properly. That image will be forever etched in my brain.”

There was Kayla Nelson, a teacher based in Idaho, who noticed a big bruise on a student's cheek in class one day and asked him what happened. “My mom punched me,” she recalls him telling her.

And then there was Ben Acker, who, after teaching 2,000 lessons without incident, watched a 6-year-old student being abused “hardest as it gets” because the child had missed a word in the lesson. Acker says he started crying and had to end the session abruptly.

The teachers post in these private Facebook groups because they aren't sure how to process, much less report, what they saw. They ask one another the same few questions in many different ways: Has this ever happened to you? Is what I'm feeling normal? How should I respond? Will the company do something about it?

Some worry, too, about foisting their values on another culture. But China itself has moved to restrict parents from hitting their kids. In 2015, the country passed a law that, in addition to banning domestic violence, requires staff members at kindergartens, schools, hospitals, and other community institutions to report violence against children. Jing Xu, a Chinese-born anthropologist at the University of Washington, says most parents in her native country “would frown upon” the disciplinary tactics that English teachers have described seeing onscreen.

Nevertheless, many US teachers still feel they are better off staying out of it. As Mindy, a VIPKid instructor from Michigan, puts it, “We can go to many places in the world, and children are not treated the same way. They don't have a time-out chair they sit in. There are much harsher things people do to discipline their children.”

JORDAN IS ONE OF ABOUT 70,000 TEACHERS —mostly Americans, but some Canadians—who work as independent contractors for VIPKid, which launched in 2014 and now serves more than 600,000 children in China. Of the dozens of companies vying to cash in on the tutoring business, it is by far the largest, having raised $825 million in investment capital since its founding. Other major players include Qkids, Magic Ears, DaDa, and Gogokid, all based in China. According to the Chinese market research firm Yiou Intelligence, online tutoring will be an $11.4 billion industry by 2022.

These companies have caught on quickly, in part, because they offer an ideal arrangement for both their customers and their contractors. Most Chinese students learn English in school from a young age, but the tutoring platforms give them access to native speakers, who help them refine their grammar, pronunciation, and listening comprehension skills. The teachers, meanwhile, get that treasured trifecta of decent pay ($14 to $26 per hour), flexible scheduling, and a premade curriculum.

Nearly all of the online tutors I spoke to are current or former classroom teachers. They usually log into the tutoring platforms early in the morning, when families in China are just getting home for the evening. Some squeeze in a few lessons before leaving for work; others spend the rest of the day caring for their own children. Tutoring, they say, is an easy way to bring in extra cash. Jordan has earned as much as $3,000 a month through VIPKid, and in spite of the incident last fall she has no plans to quit. “Sometimes I have to remind myself I get to live this lifestyle because of it,” she says.

This has gone boom, straight into live video feed, with all the extraordinary benefits that brings but also with the potential problems."
-Stephen Balkam, founder and CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute

But like all thriving young industries, online tutoring has begun to feel serious growing pains. “This has gone boom, straight into live video feed, with all the extraordinary benefits that brings but also with the potential problems,” says Stephen Balkam, founder and CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute, an international nonprofit whose members include VIPKid, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Verizon. All global tech platforms must learn to adapt to a wide array of legal and cultural norms. But VIPKid and its ilk have a special challenge, Balkam says, because they have to do it “in real time and with the intimacy of people's actual homes and their children.”

Jordan's experience appears to be fairly typical. Soon after she reported the incident to VIPKid, she was informed that the video recording of the session would be deleted. (The platform keeps an archive of all live lessons.) Beyond that, the company said, there wasn't much it could do; it had no right to advise parents on how to discipline their children.

But nine months later, as recently as this July, the offending video is still viewable on Jordan's account. She can still see the child's profile, too; he is continuing to take lessons on VIPKid, though not with her. It now seems clear that what Jordan witnessed was not an isolated event, at least not for this boy. In February, a different tutor commented in a private, teachers-only space, “mom did not hit today.” And on June 20, another instructor wrote, “I do not like the verbal abuse and the threats of beatings with a broom.”

Adam Steinberg, a spokesman at VIPKid's US office in San Francisco, said in a written statement that “the safety and security of teachers, students, and parents is a top priority for VIPKid and we take these matters very seriously.” Although he couldn't say precisely how many reports of abuse the company receives each day, he wrote that “we have a process to address these very rare instances directly with the parties involved to ensure their welfare.”

That process, Steinberg said, includes ending classes before the full 25 minutes, deleting the video, and following up with both teachers and parents about the issue. Late last year, about a month after the incident Jordan witnessed, the company also introduced a “critical safety concern” button, which makes it easier for teachers to alert the Firemen if they think a child is in danger. VIPKid declined repeated requests for further interviews on this topic, and would not elaborate on its procedure for referring reports of abuse to local agencies.

According to VIPKid, these policies have been conveyed to teachers through the weekly newsletter the company sends out. They're also described on a support page accessible to instructors through the platform's online portal. But several of the teachers I spoke with—even those who read the newsletters religiously—said they'd never noticed any such policies. One of them finally succeeded in digging up the newsletter from December 11, 2018, in which the “critical safety concern” button was described. It is the seventh item in the email, appearing after notices about new VIPKid-branded merchandise, new augmented reality stickers, and a competition to see who can create the most “fun and interesting holiday-season classroom backgrounds.” The announcement, moreover, does not explain what the Firemen actually do when summoned.

Still, the industry seems to be coming to terms with the challenges it faces. Last month, Qkids sent around an email to its teachers reminding them that reporting of abuse is “strictly required.” It added, though, that instructors who flag inappropriate behavior will not receive any follow-up information from the company, for student confidentiality reasons. “We assure you that our teams will address any concerns in a prudent manner,” the email says.

Magic Ears, which allows up to four students in each class, now advises teachers who witness abuse to mute the audio and shut off the camera to block other students from seeing any disturbing behavior. According to a statement provided by the company, teachers can also report the issue through a help button and Magic Ears will follow up with parents “if needed.” (DaDa and Gogokid did not respond to requests for comment.) As Balkam puts it, “We're making this up as we go along.”

MANY ONLINE ENGLISH TUTORS, especially those with formal classroom training, are familiar with the concept of mandatory reporting. In the United States, as in many countries, teachers who see or suspect that a child is being abused or neglected are required by law to report it to the designated authorities in their state. Yet the line at which physical discipline crosses over from corporal punishment to abuse is subjective and differs across cultures.

The psychologist Robert Geffner, founding president of the nonprofit Institute on Violence, Abuse, and Trauma, says that China has been “late” in acknowledging the harmful effects of excessive corporal punishment, which include heightened anxiety, loss of attention and concentration, increased propensity toward crime and violence, and lower academic performance. But attitudes in the country are changing.

Even before the 2015 domestic abuse law passed, parents had started to embrace a more Western approach to disciplining and child-rearing, says Jing Xu, the University of Washington anthropologist. In the 1980s, when Xu was growing up, she says it was quite common for teachers to rap younger children's knuckles with a ruler or for parents to give them a light spanking. They saw it as “a means toward a good end—to care, to edify, to teach,” she says.

Although the laws have changed, Xu gets the impression that they have not received enough publicity. Many people may not even be aware that domestic abuse against children has been banned, she says. A 2015 analysis by UNICEF China found that more than a quarter of children aged 17 and younger have experienced physical abuse. Other studies have put the figure much higher, particularly for smaller children.

Some of the teachers I interviewed for this story feel that their duty to report abuse is universal, regardless of where their students are located. “I see that a lot on the Facebook groups: ‘It's just a cultural thing,'” says Kayla Nelson, the teacher from Idaho whose student had a bruised cheek. “Who cares if it is? It's not OK.' Elizabeth Gershoff, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin who studies the effects of parental discipline on child development, says numerous studies reinforce Nelson's point. “There's no evidence that just because it's common in a culture it's good for kids,” she notes.

Nor is it good for teachers, even if they are on the other side of a computer screen, thousands of miles away. In fact, some of them may experience vicarious trauma as a result of witnessing child abuse. “It's like first responders to a disaster,” Geffner explains. “It produces almost the same type of trauma as if you were in the situation yourself.” The less tutors know about how to remedy the situation, he adds, the more helpless and hopeless they feel.

Beyond mandatory reporting, experts say there are policies VIPKid and other companies can put in place to protect children and teachers. For instance, Gershoff says, they might follow the example of many hospitals, schools, churches, and other community centers around the US, which have adopted “No Hit Zones.” Even though the laws on corporal punishment vary widely from state to state and are rife with gray areas, these places insist on a special level of protection. Online tutoring companies, Gershoff suggests, could create a policy that essentially says: “If we see it, hear it, or hear you threaten it, we're ending the lesson and you don't get your money back.”

Geffner believes the companies should also coach their instructors in how to identify abuse and neglect, “in the same way classroom teachers get training warning that it might happen, spotting it if it does, and reporting it.” The companies could even come up with a program for educating the parents on different parenting approaches, including corporal punishment—what it is, what research says about it, and whether it is effective. (It isn't.)

For Jordan, who recently moved back to the US for a classroom teaching job and has cut back on her hours with VIPKid, any of those proactive tactics might have been useful. “Feeling like I had more control over the situation would've been better,” she says, than “having to sit there and just watch this horrible act and feel like I couldn't do anything.”




Op-Ed: Validity of Catholic Church and Colorado Sex Abuse Report Doubtful


For thirty years, the Catholic Church has been rocked by a steady roar of sexual abuse revelations. Some of its priests have been serially sexually abusing its children. Many of its bishops have been “covering up” these crimes. The massiveness of these crimes — they occurred in significant numbers in every corner of the Catholic world — has dulled our senses to the personal pain of each story. (To get over the numbness, watch the recent Polish documentary, Tell No One.) This is a universal story that continues in many forms. A few weeks ago, Colorado announced a new chapter.

Colorado's Roman Catholic bishops, the Colorado Attorney General and a former Colorado U.S. Attorney recently informed us that they were going to cooperate in the preparation of a report concerning the sexual abuse of children by Colorado diocesan Catholic priests. This joint report promises to disclose the results of a review by former U.S Attorney Robert Troyer of records of alleged abuse of minors by clergy in the Roman Catholic Church in Colorado since 1950.

The “independent review” apparently will be made of file records maintained by the three dioceses. The report will identify “substantiated allegations of abuse [of minors]” set out in these church records, and also review “the Dioceses' current policies and procedures for preventing abuse and responding to allegations of abuse."

As publicly announced by Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, the review and report will be performed by Troyer. This is based upon an agreement between the three Colorado Catholic diocesan bishops (Aquila, Sheridan, Berg), Attorney General Phil Weiser, and Troyer. Troyer's $300,000 “Special Master” services are being paid for by the three Catholic dioceses ($150,000) and anonymous donors solicited by former attorney general Cynthia Coffman ($150,000). These are “donors” who refuse to be identified.

When you look at all the facts, it is doubtful that the bishops, the attorney general and Mr. Troyer can produce a valid report.

First, the Catholic bishops and the Colorado attorney general have fundamental differences regarding the report's purpose. Within the past few months, ex-Pope Benedict XVI published an article addressing the sex abuse “crisis” in the Catholic Church. Benedict's supporters, including Archbishop Aquila, gave the article wide and enthusiastic distribution. Benedict sees the evil, the “bedrock” sin of the sexual abuse of children by clergy, as a sacrilege, a “befouling” of the perpetrator priests' vows — a sin against the Catholic faith. Benedict's personal theology, and that of his followers, primarily experience these horrors in the self-referential analysis of how the misconduct injures their Church.

Weiser, Troyer and most of the rest of society primarily see the wrongness, the sickening evil of this sexual abuse of children, in the gross injustice to the child, the outrageous violation of human dignity inflicted upon a child, the deeply injured child. To quote Cathleen Kaveney's ‘What Benedict's Letter on Abuse Gets Wrong,' "Benedict's approach has dangerous consequences. If the real victim of clerical sex abuse of children is the Faith, then the overriding task is to protect the institution of the church. If the worst consequence of the crisis is the widespread loss of faith in the church's credibility, then it is better to handle specific instances quietly—so as not to scandalize the faithful."

The Colorado bishops and the Colorado Attorney General are at cross purposes here. And when the parties to this type of agreement have a fundamental difference regarding the purpose of such an agreement, it signals major trouble in the operation of the agreement. This directly leads to the second concern.

The validity of the church review and report is totally dependent upon the completeness and accuracy of the church “records” that are reviewed. History tell us that completeness and accuracy is absent.

For almost all of the period of time under review, the policies of almost all Roman Catholic dioceses was to deny and “cover up” allegations of sexual abuse conduct by its clergy. There was no church protocol compelling church record-makers or record-keepers to prepare and maintain reports of clerical sex abuse of minors, or to maintain such reports in official files. There is no Roman Catholic Church practice of careful and complete maintenance and organization of such records and files that make it practical to recover file information concerning those accused of violations. There is no positive motivation within the Church system for the entry and maintenance of records relating to the abuse of minors by local clergy. Indeed, diocesan maintenance of complete and accurate records of sexual abuse claims against its priests would primarily implicate diocesan officials, especially bishops, in criminal conspiracies, in “cover ups.”

Over the past three years, I have been involved in two different matters that required a review of Archdiocese of Denver records and files. One involved the past conduct of a priest who was alleged to have caused a parishioner to fear for her physical safety. The other involved information concerning the history of a parish that Archbishop Aquila had decided to “close.” In both matters, Archdiocesan files were either incomplete, inaccessible, misrepresented, or some combination of all three. Requests that church records regarding the abusive priest be searched regarding his prior history were deflected by the Archdiocese, and his conduct was characterized by Archdiocesan authorities dismissively as “unprofessional” and “inappropriate.” We have no idea what is in the priest's Archdiocesan “file” or “files.”

With regard to the “church closing” conflict, a letter on behalf of parishioners demanding that church authorities preserve all evidence was met with a letter from an Archdiocesan attorney strongly denying any basis for our preservation of records request.

Finally, Denver's bishops' penchant to fund dicey undertakings with “secret donor” funding burdens the agreement. Aquila's use of “secret” money in his operations is maddening: $1.6 million to build his personal residence with secret donor funding; $50,000 full-page Sunday newspaper ads, secretly funded, in which Aquila supports Romney and attacks Obama, the weekend before 2012 elections. He also informed Denver Catholics to vote for Trump. Now we have $150,000 of secret money raised by former state attorney general Coffman to fund a Special Master's review of diocesan files. Who are these secret donors? What motivates them?

The assumption that a review of Colorado diocesan-produced church “files” or “records,” personnel or otherwise, will present a meaningful record of abuse of minors by Colorado Roman Catholic diocesan clergy, or cover up operations by bishops, is simply baseless. I personally do not see how a meaningful identification of victims and perpetrators can occur without extending the statute of limitations for victims to file legal claims in our courts.

It's not too late in Colorado. Or maybe it is.


Catholic Church

Perpetrators of child sexual abuse must be punished, says Pope Francis

The Pope has said that perpetrators of child sexual abuse must be punished.

In a message to clergy in Mexico, Pope Francis suggested that a culture change was needed in the Catholic Church and that he wanted an "apostolate of prevention" to be implemented to prevent minors from being abused.

He said that prevention was important "because we never know where a child will be abused" and that children in the Church must be protected "so that no one – not a single person – abuse them, that no one might keep them from coming to Jesus."

"Any person – be they a religious, lay person, bishop, or any person – who prevents a child from coming to Jesus must be stopped in his attitudes, corrected if we are in time, or punished if there is a crime involved," he added.

Pope Francis recently changed Church regulations to make it mandatory for clergy to report suspected sexual abuse to superiors, including disclosures made during confessions.

Vos estis lux mundi, "You are the light of the world", was published in May following a meeting of bishops in February to discuss the protection of minors within the Church.

It makes clear that the culture of cover-ups must end and that every cleric, diocese and religious order has an obligation to report abuse.

In the document, the Pope said that suspected abuse must be reported to the Holy See and the "competent civil authorities".

"The crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful," the Pope said.

"In order that these phenomena, in all their forms, never happen again, a continuous and profound conversion of hearts is needed, attested by concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church, so that personal sanctity and moral commitment can contribute to promoting the full credibility of the Gospel message and the effectiveness of the Church's mission."


Show Biz

Kelly Clarkson Accused of ‘Child Abuse' for Giving Sugar-Rich Snack to Her Toddler

by Louise Bevan

What was your favorite snack food growing up? Chances are it was something sugary, something your mom didn't want you to eat, or something endorsed by an overly cheerful cartoon animal in commercials on the TV. Are we spot on?

Maybe there's something to be said for leading kids into the weird and wonderful world of American snack food under parental supervision, after all! Three-time-Grammy-winning singer Kelly Clarkson certainly seems to think so.

However, the mom of two's snack food choice for her little girl, River Rose, was slammed by critics after Clarkson uploaded a video of the toddler enjoying her tasty treat on Instagram. Clarkson gave her little girl Nutella for the first time on a slice of toast, and people were outraged.

The bemused singer was even accused of “child abuse.”

Clarkson, 37, shared a video clip of her adorable little girl snacking on the hazelnut-chocolate spread in her high chair. “River, do you like Nutella?” she asks her excitable daughter. “Yeah,” River replies, with telltale smears of the tasty spread around her mouth.

The toddler even does a little happy dance for added emphasis, and it's almost too cute to handle.

Clarkson amassed a lot of support from fellow fun-loving chocoholics and chilled-out parents from around the world, but then the nutrition police rolled up and the comments turned critical. “There's way too much sugar in that,” wrote one Instagram follower. “I wouldn't give that to my kid. Too young!”

Another advised the singer to “stop eating Nutella. It's been confirmed to cause cancer.” One follower went even further with a controversial claim: “Giving food like this to a child is child abuse,” they wrote.

But Clarkson's fans were quick to jump to the doting mom's defense. Some used a reality check to bring critical readers down to earth, asking: “What do you think is in all the candy that will be in your kids' Easter basket on Sunday?”

“She is adorable and you are a wonderful mom!” shared another supporter. “Who cares what the haters say? Haters always gonna hate!” While another clarified: “The caption also says that it's River's first ever Nutella, so it's not like she is letting her daughter eat a whole jar every day.”

“Nothing wrong with letting your child have a treat!”

The award-winning singer's international fans then jumped in with a little Antipodean humor (Clarkson was in Australia with her kids at the time), suggesting that she could even expand her snack food repertoire. “Way to go Kelly,” they wrote, “might have to let River try Vegemite next!”

While Clarkson's cute video may have divided opinion, there might be a safe haven for River Rose's first Nutella experience after all; the Nutella brand's “global community!” The brand even features a segment on their website where snack lovers can send in their “Nutella Stories.”

The site prints love letters from the Nutella-obsessed, shame-faced confessions and even consumers' best Nutella recipes (although, Nutella on barbecued bananas? We're not so sure about that one!).

Good Housekeeping Institute's nutrition director Jaclyn London defended treats, saying: “Enjoying indulgent foods together with family can be a part of a healthy diet and long-term relationship with food.” Perhaps it's time for the nutrition police to pick their battles elsewhere?

We suspect that River Rose's cheeky chocolate spread mustache might still make an appearance from time to time. And we hope that Clarkson isn't deterred from sharing adorable snippets from her everyday life with her loyal fans online, because we love it.

Life's too short.



Weeks after husband accused of molesting children, childcare provider arrested for failing to report abuse: Cops

by Chris Agee

Authorities in Arizona say a woman is facing criminal charges months after her husband was arrested on suspicion of multiple counts of child molestation.

According to KSAZ, 46-year-old child care provider Leslie Marie Little is accused of failing to report child neglect by George Little.

Police reports indicate investigators interviewed her as part of her husband's arrest, during which time she revealed that a toddler told her that he had inappropriately touched her repeatedly while the girl was in Leslie Little's care. That report was allegedly followed by a similar account by a 12-year-old, a 6-year-old and a fourth child.

How do you protect your children from predators? Join Nancy Grace and a team of world-class experts for the online course ‘Justice Nation: Crime Stops Here'.

Investigators say she failed to report any of the allegations despite the fact that, under state law, she is required to do so.

During an appearance in court, she previously challenged the accounts provided by two of the alleged victims.

Court records indicate she was booked into jail with bond set at $25,000 and is expected to face four criminal counts of failing to report abuse along with one count of child abuse.

Three of the four alleged victims are now reportedly in Department of Child Safety custody.



Workers in Spain's Strawberry Fields Speak Out on Abuse

by Aida Alami

ALMONTE, Spain — A little over a year ago, a young mother left her children in the care of her husband in Morocco and went to work on a strawberry farm near the city of Almonte, on Spain's southwestern coast.

Pregnant with her third child and needing money, she was led to believe she could make a few thousand euros for several months' work — about a year's earnings in Morocco. Instead, she is now stranded in Spain, awaiting trial after joining nine other women from the same farm, Doñaña 1998 d'Almonte, who have filed lawsuits stemming from events there, including accusations of sexual harassment and assault, rape, human trafficking and several labor violations.

Like other women interviewed for this article, the young mother asked that she be identified only by her initials, L.H., for fear of how spouses, family members and others would react when the article is republished in Arabic, as happens with most Times articles on Morocco. The husbands of some of the women, including L.H., have already filed for divorce.

The women said they often had little choice but to endure abuse, and experts agree.

“They are put in a situation where they are deprived of resources, and their sexuality becomes one way for them to survive,” said Emmanuelle Hellio, a sociologist who has chronicled conditions on the farms. “Sexism and racism fabricate situations in which they cannot complain and power relations make things particularly difficult to denounce.”

L.H. said her boss started sexually harassing her soon after her arrival. He pressured her to have sex, promising her a better life and working conditions.

When she resisted “he started forcing me to work harder,” she said, trying to soothe her baby girl, who was born in Spain. “The other girls would help me when it would get too hard for me on the field.”

Now, she lives with the other women in a location she asked to keep confidential, awaiting trial.

“I feel depressed and I am scared to look for work,” she says.

Strawberries are called red gold in Spain, the largest exporter of the fruit in Europe, where they are the basis of a $650 million industry. Andalusia, where the women worked, produces 80 percent of Spain's strawberries.

Under a bilateral agreement signed in 2001, thousands of Moroccan women labor from April to June under sprawling plastic greenhouses to cultivate and harvest the fruit. The agreement specifies that the seasonal workers must come from the countryside, where poverty and unemployment are rampant, and must be mothers, so they want to return home, which most do.

It was seen as a win-win deal: an earning opportunity for the poor Moroccans, which gave Spanish farmers much-needed low-cost labor.

For years, academic researchers and activists have complained about the working conditions at the isolated farms, but the authorities in Spain and Morocco have taken little or no action, officials with local labor unions said.

But over a year ago, the 10 women decided to speak up, knowing they risked losing everything, including the respect and support of their conservative families. They are now paying that price, and would have been crushed long ago if not for the support of unions, activists and online fund-raising.

In addition to the divorces, many of the women said they have been shamed and blamed by some family members and neighbors in Morocco. Many say they suffer from severe panic attacks. During interviews, some cried while others screamed in rage.

The first to speak up was H.H., 37, who said she decided she could no longer endure in silence the harsh working conditions and widespread culture of sexual harassment and even rape at the farm.

“I felt like a slave. Like an animal,” she said during an interview. “They brought us to exploit us and then to send us back. I wish I drowned in the sea and died before arriving in Spain.”

A mother of two, she had worked as a sports trainer back home and enrolled in the farm program after seeing women return to Morocco with $3,500 in savings — more than they could make in a year at home. She and the other women say they were promised many things, like living just four to a room, with a kitchen and a washing machine.

Instead, she found herself in a dusty and overcrowded room with five other women, hiding her food and clothes under her mattress and covering the open windows with cardboard to ward off mosquitoes. Without the training she had been promised, she was slow at first, and others had to help her catch up so she would not be denied work.

Over time, she became fed up with working long hours without bathroom breaks, and of having to be in the good graces of the managers for enough work to buy food, let alone save. She was not assaulted, she said, but was appalled by what others went through. She said abortions were routine, many of them following sexual coercion.

She said the women had become inured to the abuse, and local activists said that anyone who complained was immediately sent back to Morocco.

That's precisely what happened after H.H. sought help from a local labor union and lawyers. When the lawyers arrived at the farm on May 31, 2018, a group of women started sharing their concerns, all speaking at the same time in Arabic.

The activists asked them to write a list of names and complaints. H.H. left with the lawyers, but three days later, she said, the women on the list — more than 100 — were forced into buses and sent back to Morocco, some say without pay they were owed.

Nine women managed to escape, going over and under fences because the main metal gate was locked, ripping their clothes and running in the forest as they found their way to Almonte, a few miles away.

“I had heard stories before but we all thought they were lies until we lived it ourselves,” one of them said. “We realized that when people speak up, they find ways to shut them up.” The nine women joined H.H. in the lawsuit.

While their suits are rare, they are not without precedent. In 2014, a court in Huelva, Spain, found three men guilty of an “offense against moral integrity and sexual harassment.” Their victims were Moroccan women who worked for them in 2009. An article in El País in 2010, “Victims of the Red Gold,” documented a series of sexual allegations by Polish and Moroccan workers.

In response to criticism in the news media last fall, the Spanish government promised to implement safeguards for this season, and the Moroccan minister of labor has also promised improved conditions. But the workers and unions say little or nothing has changed.

Moroccan officials, including the minister of labor and the ambassador in Madrid, Spanish officials, and several representatives of farming associations, declined to comment for this article, as did the owner of Doñaña 1998 d'Almonte.

“Our work stops in Tangier — beyond, it becomes a Spanish affair,” Noureddine Benkhalil, a manager at ANAPEC, the agency that recruits the women in Morocco, told a local TV network last year.

In an email, a commission spokeswoman at the European Union said that it did not tolerate labor exploitation but said Spain was responsible for addressing the issue.

The women say they are determined to see their cases through to the end. The initial whistle-blower, H.H., tries to keep spirits up. Whenever one of the women breaks down, she reminds her that it was their duty to speak so that others could work on these contracts without fear.

“I will never let it go,” H.H. said. “I already lost everything. I have nothing to lose. I will fight until I die.



Italian police arrest 18 for allegedly brainwashing and selling children

Children were made to believe they had been sexually abused and were sold to foster parents

by Agence France-Presse in Rome

Italian police have arrested 18 people, including a mayor, doctors and social workers, for allegedly brainwashing vulnerable children into thinking their parents had abused them so they could then be sold to foster parents.

Police in the northern city of Reggio Emilia made the arrests after an investigation, started in 2018, revealed an alleged network of careers who used methods including electroshock to make the children believe they had been sexually abused.

The network then allegedly gave the children to foster families in exchange for cash, while keeping gifts and letters sent to the children by their real parents hidden in a warehouse that was discovered by police.

The alleged abuse was reported by Italian media and confirmed to AFP by police in Bibbiano, near Reggio Emilia, on Thursday.

Italian 'Satanic panic' case returns to court two decades later

“These accusations, if confirmed, are frightening and shocking,” said Giuseppe Conte, the Italian prime minister, at the G20 meeting in Japan.

The accused include psychotherapists working for a social work association in Moncalieri, near Turin, and the mayor of Bibbiano.

To brainwash the children, those arrested allegedly forged child-like drawings with sexual connotations and used electroshock therapy as a “little memory machine” to create fake abuse memories, while the therapists are accused of dressing up as “wicked” children's story characters.

The investigation, codenamed “Angels and Demons”, revealed a scheme to “pass off as a model welfare system for abused minors what was in reality an illegal business to the children's detriment,” La Repubblica newspaper reported.

“According to investigators, the aim of the arrested group was to take children away from families in difficult social situations and to give them, for money, to other parents,” said the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

Some of the foster parents have been accused of sexually abusing the children they paid money for, according to La Repubblica.

Police declined to say how many children were involved, or of what age.

Hundreds of thousands of euros were involved, Italian media reported.



Norwegian Nightmare: 'Barnevernet' Preys On Children and Parents

by Dale Hurd

One of the first things you notice about Norway when you visit is how beautiful it is. But there is a very dark side of Norway that most of the world knows nothing about. It's called Barnevernet, and it can be as cold and brutal as the Norwegian winter.

Barnevernet means "child welfare." It's Norway's network of local child protection service offices. But to its victims, Barnevernet means anything but protecting children.

'Barnevernet' Takes American Children

After moving to Norway from Atlanta for her husband's employment, American mother Natalya Shutakova's three American-born children were taken by Barnevernet two months ago for alleged child mistreatment.

Shutakova and her Lithuanian husband were jailed for 24 hours and told they could get two years in prison for discussing the case. They're waiting to hear if they will lose custody of their children for good. All three are American citizens.

Foreign Families at Special Risk

Foreigners living in Norway seem especially at risk of having their children taken by Barnevernet.

Video on YouTube shows police tackling Kai Kristiansen outside his home while his mother films it and pleads, "Would someone please help us. Barnevernet is here in our home and they're trying to take our son. I'm Canadian."

Barnvernet moved in after the Kristiansens started homeschooling Kai because he received death threats at school.

It was Barnevernet that took the five children from Romanian and Norwegian parents Marius and Ruth Bodnariu in 2016.

Barnevernet claimed the reason was that the parents were spanking. But an investigation revealed the real reason was officials believed the children were being 'indoctrinated' into Christianity by their parents. Worldwide outrage forced the Norwegian government to return the children. The Bodariu's escaped from Norway and have filed suit before the European Court of Human Rights.

Norway Clogs the Docket for Child Welfare Cases at the European Court of Human Rights

The government of Norway has in the past defended the work of Barnevernet against what it called "wild accusations." But if there's not a problem, why does a nation of only five million people have 26 cases pending before the European Court of Human Rights, and 17 of the last 18?

Observers say that's a staggering number of child welfare cases for one of the smallest nations in Europe.

"There are 26 cases in total at this stage and will probably rise to 30 by within a few months," says Marius Reikerås, a Norwegian human rights council before the European Court of Human Rights.

Reikerås told us, "There is something severely wrong going on in Norway that you are taking children out of the well-working families. We're not talking about child abuse and we are not talking about alcoholism or drug abuse. We are talking about, in general, about normal families that have all the capabilities to provide good care for their children."

Norwegian Expert: Shut Barnevernet Down

Einar Salvesen, a Norwegian psychologist who has been an expert witness in Barnevernet court cases since 1995, says Barnevernet needs to shut down immediately.

"You need to close down all the offices," Salvesen old us. "It's 400 offices. It has become a system of evil in too many cases much more and more cases than we want."

In 2013, Barnevernet took American citizen Amy Jakobsen Bjørnevåg's one-and half-year-old son Tyler because he was one pound underweight. She phoned the Obama White House pleading for help. But she got no help. six years later, her son Tyler has been passed from foster home to foster home and has had his name changed at least twice. And Amy alleges that he has been tortured.

"We do have paperwork that says that he was tied to the bed because he kept standing up in his crib calling for "mommy," Bjørnevåg told us. "It isn't enough that he's been calling for you. And they completely ignore it. And they do everything to make him stop calling so they cut all contact. That's their solution instead of working with families."

Member of European Parliament: Barnevernet a "Monster"

Czech Member of the European Parliament Tomáš Zdechovský has battled Barnevernet, and he calls it a "monster."

"I think that they made a lot of mistakes and they are still doing a lot of mistakes," Zdechovský said, "And this monster is really functioning without any control of somebody."

Expert calls it "Child Trafficking"

Reikerås believes Barnevernet has not been reigned in because this is about a lot of money, and he's not afraid to call it "child trafficking."

"Because we see that billions and billions of dollars are being put into this system each year,' Reikerås says. "And, of course, a lot of people are profiting big time from this governmental pot that you can see. So, saying that this is a form of child trafficking? Absolutely. My opinion is yes."

Norwegian Government: We're trying to Fix It

We presented these charges to Norway's Ministry of Children and Families and it told us that Barnevernet is in the process of being reformed for the, "…strengthening of legal safeguards for both children and their parents."

But it's unclear whether Norway is serious about reform. It expelled a Polish diplomat this year for trying to defend Polish families in Norway from Barnevernet.

The U.S. government has so far done nothing about attacks against American families by the Norwegian government.

A Mother Loses Hope

Amy continues to lose in court and wonders if she will ever regain custody of her son.

"I would do anything to hold him in my arms at least one time, for him to have some sort of sense of where he comes from and his background and his family, that there is a whole family that loves him and misses him.



Aid worker jailed in Nepal for child sexual abuse

A Canadian national sentenced to nine years in jail a month after he was convicted of sexually abusing children.

by Liz Gooch & Mellissa Fung

A high-profile Canadian aid worker has been sentenced to nine years and seven years in jail in Nepal, to be served concurrently, after being found guilty of sexually abusing two boys.

A court in the central Nepal district of Kavre on Monday also ordered Peter Dalglish to pay a fine of $9,112, more than a year after his arrest and a month after his conviction.

"The verdict sends an important message to humanitarian predators everywhere - if you prey on vulnerable children in Nepal, the Central Investigation Bureau will investigate and the courts will prosecute," said Lori Handrahan, a humanitarian expert who has written about the sector's failings.

"The criminal verdict opens a path for Dalglish's victims to sue for civil damages so that they may enjoy restorative justice and heal from the crimes committed against them," she told Al Jazeera.

The sentencing comes amid fears that Nepal has become a target for foreign pedophiles acting under the cover of aid work or philanthropy.

Nepalese police said the sentence imposed on Dalglish, the subject of an investigation by Al Jazeera's 101 East program, was a landmark decision.

"It helps spread the message to the world that Nepal is not safe for pedophiles," said Kabit Katawal, deputy superintendent of the Nepal police.

Local community shocked

Dalglish, who spent almost 20 years working with some of the world's poorest children in Africa, Afghanistan and Asia, plans to appeal the guilty verdict, his lawyer said.

Over the course of his career, the Canadian was employed by major aid organizations like the United Nations, set up his own charity, Street Kids International, and won prestigious awards for his work.

But Dalglish's career was brought to an abrupt halt in April last year, when police burst into the home he built in the foothills of the Himalayas, about two hours' drive from the capital, Kathmandu. Police found two boys aged 12 and 14 inside and took Dalglish into custody.

In an interview last October with Al Jazeera's 101 East at a prison outside of Kathmandu, Dalglish insisted he was an innocent man caught up in a police crackdown.

"I will win my freedom," he said. "I love this country. I will continue to fight to protect kids. Girls as well as boys. I'm not a pedophile. And I've never abused or touched any child inappropriately."

When Al Jazeera travelled to the village near Dalglish's home, local elder, Bikram Tamang, said his arrest had shocked the local community.

'A wake-up call'

International aid organizations have come under fire in recent years for their handling of sexual abuse cases.

Handrahan, the humanitarian expert, believes Dalglish's case should be a wake-up call, but she fears it's largely been ignored.

"Right now, the international aid sector is refusing to look at Dalglish's arrest or any of the many warning signs, reports and allegations that child sex abuse is rampant in our profession," she said.

"Whistleblowers are silenced and forced out. Cover-up, deny, protect the predator remain the norm."

Handrahan said the aid community needed to be more aware of how predators operate, groom and access victims through working in humanitarian jobs, and conduct comprehensive background checks, liaise with law enforcement and monitor their staff's use of electronic networks.

Allegations about aid workers abusing children and women have also emerged from countries such as Haiti, where Oxfam staff were accused of paying earthquake survivors for sex.

A report released in July last year by British members of parliament found that the aid sector has been aware of sexual exploitation and abuse by its own personnel for years, but that it has failed to adequately address the problem.



Greenland seeks to break silence around child sexual abuse

COPENHAGEN - In Greenland, the scourge of child sexual abuse has emerged as a pressing concern with nearly 1 in 3 having suffered abuse in their childhood, and efforts to combat it hampered by a persistent conspiracy of silence.

The sparsely populated autonomous Danish territory is confronted with major social problems, including high levels of suicide and alcoholism. The government highlights alcohol and hash abuse as the number one health concern.

But the recent airing of a documentary on sexual abuse on Danish public television has put the spotlight on the issue, renewing the Arctic island's commitment to tackling abuse of children.

“I was about 6 years old… I was woken up in the middle of the night because someone was touching me. My hands were tied, my knees were tied and he abused me,” said Anna-Sofie Jonathansen in the documentary.

She is a resident of Tasiilaq, a remote village in the south-east where the documentary said nearly half of adults under 60 years of age have been sexually abused as children.

Tasiilaq also reflects another troubling statistic with as many as one in five people committing suicide.

Greenland has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, averaging 1 per 1,000 inhabitants.

“Many children are victims of sexual abuse and experience violence in their homes. For many of them, this leads to a life full of problems and anxieties, which leads many young people to commit suicide,” Jonna Ketwa, president of the NGO Save the Children in Greenland, told AFP.

The pervasiveness of the sexual abuse is heavily linked to consumption of drugs and alcohol and it's more common in violent homes, according to Sara Olsvig, director of UNICEF in Greenland, who also says there is a lack of knowledge of children's rights.

But complicating matters is that among Greenland's 56,000 inhabitants the silence around sexual abuse remains deeply embedded.

“For many of them, that's just the way it is,” Rikke Blegvad, a teacher interviewed in the documentary said.

Naasunnguaq Ignatiussen Streymoy, another resident of Tasiilaq, started a petition for better support for victims and said she had received death threats for putting the village in a negative light.

“There will be consequences because it's not okay to portray their perfect village in this way,” she said in the documentary.

According to a public health study published in April, 20 percent of Greenlanders born after 1995 were sexually abused as children. That share is less than half that of the previous generation when 43 percent of people born between 1975 and 1979 suffered abuse.

And there are signs that the conspiracy of silence is starting to show cracks as more Greenlanders come forward to report abuse to authorities.

In 2018, 436 complaints of sexual offenses, 50 more than the previous year, were filed in Greenland, of which 20 percent concerned minors. That represents eight complaints per 1,000 inhabitants compared with 1.1 complaint per 1,000 in the rest of Denmark.

“Within the police and the prosecution authority we are seeing that, for the moment, the taboo around sexual abuse is ever so slightly being challenged,” said Greenland Police Chief Bjorn Tegner Bay in his annual report.

But he also noted that “there is a long way to go”, and in some areas there were no reports of abuse against children, indicating that the culture of silence still reigns.

“Changes should come from inside,” said Aaja Chemnitz Larsen, who represents Greenland in the Danish Parliament.

“But we need to collaborate with qualified people to gather more knowledge and have a permanent investment,” she added.

Chemnitz Larsen has requested the aid of Copenhagen to help address the issue.

Even Greenland's local parliament, traditionally staunchly mindful of its autonomy, has turned to Denmark, which normally only handles state functions and foreign and defense policy.

In Nuuk, the government, which is sovereign in terms of economic and social policy, has put in place a strategy with the aim of eradicating the sexual abuse of children by 2022.

To this end, it intends to launch information campaigns, particularly aimed at raising awareness on children's rights and respect of physical integrity.

The government has also promised to provide care for all those affected, but to deliver on this promise it needs to encourage social workers to move closer to the territory's most remote areas, where sexual abuse is more frequent.

“There are not enough psychologists or social workers to help… families and victims. We are not even close to being able to help predators,” Ketwa from Save the Children in Greenland, told AFP.


United Kingdom

Buddhist, teacher, predator: dark secrets of the Triratna guru

British-born guru Sangharakshita was mired in allegations of abuse for years. Now it seems the scandal in his wealthy order went far wider than previously acknowledged.

by Jamie Doward

These days it goes by the name of Adhisthana, reflecting its reincarnation as the headquarters of one of the most influential Buddhist orders in the world, the Triratna Community, whose founder, Sangharakshita, lived there until his death last year at the age of 93. With its impressive grounds and gardens, it looks like a serene place for someone to spend their final years. But behind the scenes, the picture is a rather more turbulent one.

For decades the order has been dogged by claims of sexual misconduct, claims that often strayed into allegations of coercion and abuse but which were thought to involve only a handful of individuals at worst.

But now a bombshell internal report, produced by concerned members and shared with the Observer, has found that more than one in 10 of them claim to have experienced or observed sexual misconduct while in the order. Many of the allegations are against Sangharakshita himself, but others make it clear that he was not the only alleged perpetrator. Indeed, the report seems to indicate that the licentious culture the guru encouraged when he established his first center in the 1960s, at a time when Timothy Leary was urging people to “turn on, tune in, drop out”, flourished across the order.

Yet, despite the lurid revelations, Sangharakshita's influence lingers. The Adhisthana website carries many pictures of him, a bespectacled, slight man draped in holy robes. The photographs invite comparisons with Gandhi, but the two gurus come from very different backgrounds.

Born Dennis Lingwood, the son of a French polisher from Tooting, Sangharakshita, meaning “one who is protected by the spiritual community”, deserted from the British army in India during the second world war and wandered the subcontinent, studying with several leading Tibetan lamas.

Two decades on, he returned to London at the invitation of a group of Buddhists in Hampstead, with a mission to set up one of Britain's first monasteries, before leaving for reasons that are disputed. Some claim that he was caught using rent boys, an allegation that the Triratna community said it had not heard before. At the time of his departure, the Hampstead group issued a statement that said: “Whatever may have been said to the detriment of his character in the course of recent speculation and gossip may now be withdrawn.”

Venturing out on his own, Lingwood developed his own, highly interpretative brand of Buddhism, drawing on elements of Nietzsche and Freud. Critics would accuse him of a pushing a “semi-intellectual potpourri of Buddhism” but he shrugged off the attacks, claiming he was helping the religion find new followers in the west.

Many of his ideas were unorthodox. Lingwood encouraged heterosexual followers to experiment with homosexuality as a means of expanding their minds; he was deeply critical of the nuclear family and of mixed-sex communities in general; he encouraged young men to break away from their families.

“I think the son has to cut free and maybe not have much to do with his parents for a year or two,” he once explained.
His thinking struck a chord.

“There was something anarchic and anti-establishment about it,” one man who has been a member since the late 80s told the Observer. “I'd seen the rows my parents had, how they'd tried to amass money and it hadn't helped them. I decided that the nuclear family didn't work for me. I didn't want the get-married-get-a job narrative. I was looking for something different and what it offered helped me.”

As a growing number of predominantly young men flocked to Triratna, then called the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO), it expanded dramatically. Today it has more than 30 centers in the UK alone and operates in 26 countries.

Thousands mourned Lingwood when his funeral was broadcast at Triratna centers around the world. His obituary in the Times suggested that he had arguably done “more than any other person to popularize Buddhism in the west”.

But fissures within the community he founded are now becoming major fault lines. An internal report by nine disaffected members, who call themselves the Interkula, makes troubling reading about the order's historical safeguarding policies and the duty of care it had to its followers.

Its incendiary findings have hitherto gone unpublicized: a current member explained that it was not the Triratna way to share internal criticisms with the outside world. But they were drawn to the Observer's attention by a former member who claims he was manipulated into having sex with Lingwood.

Of 423 respondents to a survey featured in the report, of whom two-thirds are order members and a quarter are “Mitras” – followers who may aspire to become order members – 55, around 13%, said that either they themselves, or someone they knew, had “experienced sexual misconduct by either Sangharakshita or other Triratna order members, in past and recent times”.

The report, which acknowledges that “some good progress” has been made in responding to the allegations, an approach the order describes as a “restorative process”, states: “While many respondents described misconduct between a more experienced male OM [order member] and less experienced male Mitra, as has been described many times in the past, other types of misconduct were also reported, including male order members becoming sexually involved with very vulnerable women … and inappropriate behavior by a female order member.”

Some of the comments in the report are damning. One order member of more than 15 years said: “I know of several cases and the details are awful. They include alleged intervention on the part of one of the most high-profile OMs to try and encourage a victim not to testify to the police if questioned.”

Another said: “Yes, I know three OMs personally who experienced sexual misconduct by other OMs and have not been invited to participate in the restorative process.”

A third said: “I was sexually abused by older order members.”

A fourth added: “I know of four people who this describes. Only one of these was in the UK. I worry that this type of behavior was much more widespread than generally believed.”

“I have friends who were sexually assaulted by senior OMs in recent times,” another said. “They reported it to other senior OMs. Nothing happened.”

It was not just men who were targeted.

“I know of a couple of women ‘friends of the movement' who were pursued by mail order members … both very vulnerable women – one ex-prisoner pursued and one severe mental health problems – entered into sexual relationship with.”

Some of those who completed the survey questioned Triratna's appetite for investigating the abuse.

“I think there is a large denial factor … I'm up for selling assets and making amends as part of us moving on and acknowledging our ignorance of the abuse,” one said.

If it came to that, and several law firms have floated the idea of bringing claims against Triratna, it would certainly have assets to sell. The latest accounts of its charitable arm, the Triratna Preceptors' College Trust, reveal that in 2017, the most recent figures available, it alone was sitting on net assets worth more than £3.3m. It bought Adhisthana several years ago for a rumored £5m.

But this is only part of the picture. The accounts explain that the trust acts as a hub for dozens of charities that operate in the UK and overseas. One member told the Observer that, in Cambridge alone, Triratna had eight or nine properties worth between £700,000 and £2m each. Another member suggested that its entire property empire was worth more than £100m.

It helps that the order is a charity and enjoys tax perks. And the fact that its members are often happy to work in its bookshops or cafes for very little helps keep its cost base low.

Today, much of the trust's income comes from donations and organizing spiritual retreats and meditation courses. Its position at the vanguard of the fashionable mindfulness movement was cemented four years ago when several of its leading members helped a cross-party group of MPs produce their influential Mindful Nation UK report, which extolled the benefits of the new psychological approach in treating mental health problems such as depression.

Mark Dunlop left the order in 1985 after many years working for it. A heterosexual man, he felt compelled to have sexual relations with Lingwood over a four-year period. “He didn't have any charisma,” Dunlop said. “He was a slightly weird guy, in a way that worked in his favor because I thought: ‘I'm not being swayed by his charisma.'

“One theory about narcissists is that they have experienced some kind of trauma in their childhood so they don't have any confidence in themselves, and they create this whole world as a compensation and manipulate other people to build up their own ego.

“That fits with how Lingwood behaved. He built up this fantasy of himself as a spiritual teacher, someone on a higher plane of understanding, but I always sensed he wasn't a happy bunny. There was a sense of dissatisfaction lying underneath. I felt sorry for him, in a way. That's one of the reasons I wanted to help him bring Buddhism to the west.”

It now seems that Lingwood's behavior provided a template that was copied by others who exploited the order's hierarchy. Many who came to it seeking enlightenment aspired to become members. But this made them vulnerable to coercion by those in senior positions.

“There was a general feeling around at the time that you were ‘blocked' if you had an aversion to gay sex,” one former member recalled in an online forum.

One Triratna retreat, in Norfolk, where Lingwood was resident for much of the 80s, was described by the member as “more reminiscent of a San Francisco gay bath-house than a Buddhist retreat”.

A current member told the Observer that in the early 90s a 17-year-old boy with obvious mental health problems ended up in a sexual relationship with an order member in his 40s when residing at a center in the south-east.

Five years ago, an order member at another center in London was caught exposing himself to a young child in a supermarket. After being found to have committed several similar offences, he was suspended indefinitely.

Misconduct has also been reported at centers overseas. One woman who attended an FWBO center in New Zealand in the 90s said: “There was one ordained member when I was there who seemed to treat the center as his own personal Tinder app, hooking up with one woman after another, using his position as guru to great advantage.”

Concerns were first raised about the order in a BBC news report in the early 90s, and then again in 1997 when the Guardian revealed sexual misconduct at one of its centers, in Croydon, south London. That exposé prompted the resignation of one member of the order.

In response to the Guardian's report, one of the order's senior members, Kulananda, wrote to the paper stressing that the abuse was confined to one center and one individual. But in a blog posting 20 years later, Kulananda confirmed he had been in a sexual relationship with Lingwood and that he had come to see that the guru's behavior towards others had engendered a “cultish-ness at the heart of things that, I believe, will ultimately be our downfall”.

The FWBO Files website contains a vast and growing repository of allegations from ex-members expressing similar views.

Towards the end of his life, Lingwood appears to have acknowledged the damage he had unleashed, expressing “deep regret for all the occasions on which I have hurt, harmed or upset fellow Buddhists”. But, even today, the order seems unwilling to confront its past head on: Triratna now describes Lingwood's behavior as “unskillful”, a key Buddhist term, but one which, to outsiders, seems to underplay the consequences of his predatory actions.

The order's safeguarding officer, who goes by the spiritual name Munisha, insisted the order had learned lessons from past mistakes and said every Triratna center in the UK now has a safeguarding officer.

“I'm extremely sorry if misconduct reported to any member of the order was not properly addressed at the time,” she said. “The Interkula's survey includes accounts of misconduct which we would be keen to address. However, some of these are references to misconduct experienced by unnamed others, and we can only address a case where a named complainant is willing to tell us their story first hand.

“It is the policy of Triratna's central safeguarding team that anything reported to us of a criminal – or even potentially criminal – nature is reported to the police, without exception.”

She confirmed that one of the order's most senior members, Suvajra, who some had seen as a potential successor to Sangharakshita, had been “suspended in December 2018 after a rigorous internal disciplinary panel process found on a balance of probabilities that serious ethical misconduct had taken place.” She declined to explain the nature of the alleged misconduct.

Lingwood, of course, escaped such censure in his lifetime, enjoying the tranquility of his final years cosseted away in the idyllic setting of Coddington Court, feted by his followers. Perhaps, though, in the twilight of his life, he anticipated that a higher judgment awaited him. His translation of a Buddhist text – Verses that Protect the Truth – was read out at his funeral.

One verse must have given him pause for thought: “Lead a righteous life, not one that is corrupt. The righteous live happily, both in this world and the next.



Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry: Boarding school ruled by 'hate and fear'

Fort Augustus Abbey has closed and monks are no longer resident

A former resident of a boarding school in the Highlands has claimed it was ruled by "hate and fear".

The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, told the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry about "regimes of physical and emotional suffering".

He described being beaten by a priest until he was black and blue.

The inquiry heard opening statements for its investigation into care given by the Order of Benedictines at its residential establishments.

The witness, now in his 70s, was at the order's Carlekemp boarding school in North Berwick, East Lothian, between the ages of nine and 13.

He said: "I remember being beaten up. When I reflect upon it (the priest) really did lay into me.

"Slapping and punching - I was only a little boy.

"He came up to me, towering over me in his black robes, and really did lay into me.

"It wasn't just a slap - it was quite an uncontrolled attack. It was a flurry of blows, I think there must have been some punches as well."

The witness moved to the order's Fort Augustus Abbey School in the Highlands, where he stayed until he was 18.

Both schools have since closed.

'Priests enjoyed it'

The inquiry heard the boarding school was "away in a world of its own" when it came to the curriculum and had an "extremely authoritarian'' ethos.

He described beatings that would leave boys "black and blue" and suggested children were made to take their pajama bottoms off for punishments as the priests "enjoyed" it.

The inquiry heard the minimum punishment was 12 strokes of a leather strap on the hands, while the maximum would have been 10 hits with a birch branch on the backside.

These beatings were said to have been dealt out daily by the teachers - who were monks - for slight misdemeanors or perceived under-achievements.

The witness said: "The school was really ruled by hate and fear."

'Opportunity to apologize'

It was also heard that an enforced division between older and younger pupils helped breed an atmosphere of "institutionalized" bullying.

The English Benedictine Congregation used the opening statements as an opportunity to apologize to those who had suffered harm while in its care.

The order also announced there had been 10 settlements reached in relation to alleged abuse, as of June, with three claims still to be dealt with.

It was heard funds raised from assets of the order's Fort Augustus Abbey had been put into a trust to provide compensation to victims.

In 2013, a BBC investigation, "Sins of Our Fathers" , uncovered allegations that pupils had suffered physical and sexual abuse at the schools over a three-decade period.

The investigation uncovered evidence of serious physical and sexual abuse at the prestigious Catholic establishments.

The inquiry before judge Lady Smith continues.



Pedophiles to be chemically castrated in sweeping new laws on child abuse in Ukraine


UKRAINE has introduced sweeping new laws to forcibly castrate convicted pedophiles by chemical injection. The legislation will potentially apply annually to thousands of men aged between 18 and 65 found guilty of raping or sexually abusing minors.

Pedophiles will face “coercive chemical castration” under the new system. This “involves the forced injection of anti-androgen drugs consisting of chemicals that should reduce libido and sexual activity”, reported Ukrinform news agency. The law will apply to all child rapes including “unnatural” rape and sexual abuse of children above and below the age of puberty.

In 2017 official figures showed 320 child rapes in Ukraine but the numbers of pedophile sex abuse cases are believed to run into the thousands.

National police chief Vyacheslav Abroskin said this week: “Five children were raped in four regions of Ukraine…. within just 24 hours.

“And these are the crimes which parents reported to police despite their fear and anxiety to do so.

“We can only guess how many latent sexual crimes against children we have in the country.”


Documentary on Cathoilc Abuse

(vodeo on site)

The 50-Year Secret: An ABC7 News exclusive documentary

Documentary Details Former Altar Boy's Never-Before-Told Story Claiming Once Prominent Priest was a Serial Pedophile.

by Reporter Jay Korff

The Catholic Diocese of Arlington and the Catholic Diocese of Richmond released in February of 2019 their list of priests credibly accused of child sex abuse.

The Diocese of Arlington did so “in the hope that providing such a list might help survivors of clergy sexual abuse find further healing and consolation.”

Father William Reinecke, one of the highest-ranking members of the clergy in our region in the last half century, was among those listed.

After speaking with one of his survivors we realized that a much larger, never-before-told story of widespread, serial pedophilia involving Reinecke may exist. And while we can't prove it, there are also strong suggestions of a cover-up in Father Reinecke's case. Officials with the Diocese of Arlington strongly deny these suggestions. Officials with the Diocese of Richmond declined to answer any questions for this story.

So, we decided to dig deeper. After more than five months of investigating we unraveled Father Reinecke's haunting past with the help of people close to him: a former priest, a survivor of Reinecke's abuse and a witness to Reinecke's grooming tactics and abuse. The latter, Kelley Arnold, is the keeper of The 50 Year Secret.

What we uncovered, revealed in a series of stories called The 50 Year Secret, we hope will help victims heal, hold the powerful accountable and illustrate the very real danger children still face today across America.

Becky Ianni: The Survivor

The very things that make us feel safe, accepted and loved, like home, faith, and intimacy, have been forever altered for countless survivors of clergy sex abuse like Becky Ianni of Burke, Virginia.

“He'd abuse me in the basement of my own house and then go up and have dinner with my family. And I would sit at dinner and think doesn't anyone see I'm different,” says Ianni.

50 years after Ianni endured her abuse, voices old and new have come forward to tell as complete as possible the chilling story of Father William Reinecke: one of the most powerful leaders of the Diocese of Arlington in the 1980's and 1990's.

“All of my adult life I carried this secret. I've never told anybody about this,” says Kelley Arnold of Alexandria.

Reinecke's story, of which we will never fully know due to his sudden death in 1992, is a narrative one priest sex abuse expert believes powerful forces within the Catholic Church do not want known.

“They are trying to keep as much of Bill Reinecke's history buried as is possible because it's obvious that he had a long and very detailed history of sexual abuse of young people that goes way back. And they don't want that known,” says former priest Tom Doyle.

In 1965 the oldest Roman Catholic church in Virginia, now known as the Basilica of St Mary in Alexandria, was home to a newly ordained 26-year-old priest named William Reinecke.

That same year 13-year-old Kelley Arnold began as an altar boy at St. Mary. Becky Ianni was in elementary school and was, at the time, an enthusiastic member of the parish.

Ianni says, “He was a brand new, newly ordained priest. He came to our house and he sort of adopted our family. He came and he ate dinner in our house two and three times a week.”

Arnold says, “My parents idolized the man.” In fact, Arnold grew so close to Father Reinecke he eventually addressed him by his first name.

Arnold says, “The parents loved this man. Everybody loved Billy. Everybody loved Billy. You can't get around that fact. He was such a wonderful guy.”

Years later Father Reinecke ascended to Chancellor and Vicar General, among the highest positions in the Diocese of Arlington. In these positions, Reinecke was a part of the conversation about what to do with priests accused of child sex abuse, according to Diocese officials.

Arnold says bluntly, “The pedophile was in-charge of all the other pedophiles.”

When Father Reinecke started at St Mary Kelley Arnold was a teenager, Becky Ianni was in elementary school. As a devoted young parishioner, Ianni spent a great deal of time at church and says soon after Reinecke arrived the abuse began and lasted years.

Ianni says, “This is pictures of me at all the different ages. I became a lot more serious as time went on because of the abuse. I became a different person.” Ianni, now an advocate for abuse survivors with SNAP in Northern Virginia, says Father Reinecke cost her nearly everything: her self-confidence, her faith and her smile.

“I knew that God could read my thoughts and I thought if he knows that this is happening then I'm going to hell so I just buried it until I came across this picture,” says Ianni while reaching for and picking up an old Polaroid off her kitchen table.

Ianni says when she was 48 years old in 2006 she found a haunting Polaroid. It's Father Reinecke sitting beside Becky on a couch during the time of her abuse in the 1960s. After seeing this one picture the memories flooded back.

“I went home and I pulled out my photo album and I came across that picture. It made me really uncomfortable and it made me shudder but I didn't know why. And then, I don't know how long, a couple weeks later I started having flashbacks to the abuse,” says Ianni.

Ianni then appeared before the Diocese of Arlington Review Board, a panel made up of clergy and lay people that decides if an allegation of priest sex abuse is credible or not. She recorded her testimony. Ianni, for the first time, is allowing the public to hear excerpts of her testimony so they can better understand the trauma unleashed upon her and other sex abuse survivors.

“Well, I just wanted to start off by saying that it is really, really hard for me to be here,” said Ianni at the beginning of the recording.

She says later, “I was maybe 9 years old. I didn't know what he was doing. I didn't know what sex was. I just know that it was wrong and he changed my life at that point. I wasn't innocent anymore.”

“My house wasn't safe anymore. The house where I grew up, the house that I loved I couldn't feel safe in it anymore,” said Ianni during her hearing.

The next five quotes are all from Ianni's Review Board Hearing:

"And I started realizing that I wasn't like everybody else. I wasn't normal. Something was wrong with me.”

“It was indicated to me that if I told that I would be bad and I thought that I would go to hell and God would know and I would go to hell. So, I didn't tell anybody. I buried it. I buried it in my head.”

“He was our friend. He was just always there and we always thought so much of him.”

“I wish I knew if he really liked us or was he only nice to us so he could hurt us. But I'll never know because he's not here. He can't say sorry. He can't tell me why.”

“I feel so bad because that was his first parish and I didn't tell on him. I feel so much guilt for those that came after me. And I know that others came after me because I've spoken to them.”

Ianni says it took the Diocese of Arlington 16 months to determine her allegations credible and nearly 2 years to issue a formal, written apology.

Ianni adds, “I think by telling our stories we are telling the next generation it's ok to talk about this. It's ok to come forward. We are going to believe you and it doesn't matter whether the church believes you we are going to believe you.”

With mounting pressure from the public, abuse survivors and law enforcement agencies, more than 100 Catholic Dioceses across the country have released their lists of priests credibly accused of sex abuse. In February, Richmond and Arlington released their lists.

When we reviewed these documents from Richmond and Arlington, we found a profound lack of detail. Officials from both Diocese declined to talk with us on camera. But in prepared statements they stressed how publishing these names will help victims come forward and heal.

Arlington named 16 priests. Richmond 43 clergy. Richmond, in June, added several additional names to its list. Several names appear on both lists, including William Reinecke, because until 1974 Catholic churches in Northern Virginia were a part of the Diocese of Richmond. The Diocese of Arlington was established in 1974.

In most cases, like William Reinecke's case, Bishops only provided the most basic of information about the accused like when they were ordained and died. Nothing close to the entire story.

Ianni says, “They should have put every parish that these priests have worked at. They should say how many accusations there were, when the accusation came, what they did about the accusation. There really is no information, just their status.”

Ianni says after parents complained to the Bishop in the late 1960's about Father Reinecke's chumminess with children he was moved to St. Charles. Diocese officials insist, in looking at Reinecke's file, that Reinecke was never moved due to abuse complaints.

Officials with the Diocese of Arlington say this lack of information is essentially done on purpose to protect victims. A spokesperson for the Diocese of Arlington said in an email, “providing more detailed information would make it possible for a victim to be identified. For parishioners who reach out and ask if a priest on the list ever served at their parish or school, we are responding individually and providing that information.”

Yet, when pressed an official with the Diocese of Arlington stated, “Since Fr. Reinecke's death, the Diocese of Arlington has become aware of several individuals who allege that he sexually abused them as children. All of the known allegations date back to the 1960's and 1970's, prior to the establishment of the Diocese of Arlington and Fr. Reinecke's incardination in the diocese. There is nothing within Fr. Reinecke's file that indicates the Diocese of Arlington had received allegations of sexual abuse of a minor while he was alive, and there is no indication that he was moved from one parish to another due to complaints of criminal behavior.”

In a later email exchange, we pushed on exactly how many people had come forward since Reinecke's death and alleged abuse. Diocese officials stated, “We are aware of eight people that have come forward and identified themselves, alleging abuse by Fr. Reinecke. The Diocese remains ready to speak with victims or others who have not yet come forward and now want to tell their story. We welcome the chance to assist them in their healing and offer pastoral support.”

A Diocese of Arlington official tells ABC7 News that as of June 2019, "Of the individuals who came forward alleging abuse by Fr. Reinecke after his death, only one pursued an official determination of credibility by the diocesan Review Board." That one person is Becky Ianni.

Kelley Arnold: The Witness

(To learn more about Arnold's story click here.)

“You know, there's something very liberating about stopping the secrets,” says Kelley Arnold.

For a half century Kelley Arnold refused to talk publicly about what he witnessed. Now Arnold, a former altar boy in Father Reinecke's parish, is sharing his 50-year secret to hold the church accountable and to apologize for not coming forward earlier.

Arnold says, “It was a wonderful time that we lived in. We just didn't know we were living with a pedophile. In hindsight, we were living with a pedophile.”

Arnold says Father Reinecke paid altar boys, usually 13-to-15-year-old children, to do odd jobs around the parish. Sex abuse experts say this was likely a part of Reinecke's grooming process. They would paint rooms in the rectory and tend to the church's vast cemetery grounds.

Reinecke invited certain boys, in appreciation for their hard work, on overnight trips to his hometown of historic Williamsburg.

Ianni says, “His parents lived in Williamsburg. He was very familiar with Williamsburg and so there was that. Williamsburg was close by. He had been a tour guide at one point. He could take them around, kind of show off and so that's why he took them there.”

Officials with the Diocese of Arlington now admitting “...trips with minors that would not be permissible under today's standards. It became evident that some victims were abused during those trips.”

Arnold says they usually stayed at motor inns like the now-shuttered Lord Paget. He says for a couple years Reinecke went on countless trips with boys.

“It was always the case that I had a bed to myself and Billy had a bed to himself and then Billy would choose the boy that he wanted to sleep with,” says Arnold.

Arnold says at the time he didn't think anything of it. Upon reflection, he suspects Reinecke likely molested boys dozens of times.

Arnold adds, “He and I never had any kind of sexual contact. But I did witness him contacting another kid sexually.”

What Arnold witnessed did not happen, though, in a Virginia motel.

Arnold says, “Billy came up with the idea that we ought to go to Puerto Rico.”

Arnold says in the summer of 1969 Father Reinecke easily convinced a pair of parents to take their sons, Kelley and unnamed boy, on a Trans Caribbean Airways flight to Puerto Rico where they spent four days and nights touring historic buildings and playing along sandy shorelines.

“It was a wonderful time at the beach. We got out on the beach every day. And, of course, You'd pack your things up and the sun would come back out again,” says Arnold.

He says they stayed in a boarding house somewhere on the outskirts of Old San Juan.

Arnold says, “I woke up in the middle of the night and saw him performing oral sex on another altar boy.”

Arnold says the boys agreed to never speak of what happened in San Juan. They feared getting in trouble or worse, the church community ostracizing their families.

“I don't think anyone would believe me,” adds Arnold.

In fact, we asked officials at the Diocese of Arlington about this trip to Puerto Rico and they responded, “We do not have evidence or testimony that he took any international trips with minors.”

Kelley Arnold now seeks forgiveness, certain more children were abused because he didn't come forward.

“I'm sorry that this happened. I was not the perpetrator but I've lived all my life thinking of myself as an enabler, if that makes any sense,” says Arnold.

As it turns out, Father Reinecke tried to not only poison Becky Ianni but he also set loose his demons on her older brother.

Ianni says, “When I first started remembering my abuse the therapist suggested a write my family and so I couldn't write everyone but I wrote my oldest brother and he immediately called back and said ‘yes, I was abused too.'”

Ianni's brother wrote a letter to the Diocese of Arlington in 2006 to support his sister and to reveal his nightmare.

Ianni, reading from the letter, says, “On several occasions he took I and another boy, either Kelley Arnold or another boy, on trips to various places including his parent's home in Williamsburg, Virginia. He would, on a regular basis, be in the bathroom with me when I was taking a shower. He used the excuse that the steam was necessary so he could see to shave. He would sleep in the same bed and during the night he fondled me and the other boys.”

With the help of advocates of abuse survivors, we found additional victims of Father Reinecke. None felt comfortable talking about their haunting pasts.

Father Reinecke's sinister reach, according to Becky and Kelley, was expanding: the unnamed victim in Puerto Rico, Becky's brother and an unknown number of other boys abused on those trips to Williamsburg.

Church officials insist no one leveled abuse allegations against Monsignor Reinecke until after his death in 1992 at the age of 53. So, he was never removed from public ministry or criminally charged.

Officials with the Diocese of Arlington, in an email, state, “There is nothing within Fr. Reinecke's file that indicates the Diocese of Arlington had received allegations of sexual abuse of a minor while he was alive, and there is no indication that he was moved from one parish to another due to complaints of criminal behavior.”

But Becky Ianni and Kelley Arnold says they were aware of a much different story: parents at St Mary deeply concerned about Father Reinecke's interest in boys.

Ianni points out, “The other thing I found out is that two men from our parish went to the Bishop during my abuse.”

“The one man that I spoke to said that they went and they told him that they were concerned about his activities with young boys: the trips and the wrestling afternoons and things like that. And I said well what did the Bishop say? And he said, well, he didn't say anything. He just moved him,” says Ianni.

Ianni says soon after that meeting, Reinecke was transferred to St Charles in Arlington.

Ianni says, “He abused several people that we know in my parish and at least 2 in the next parish.”

Arnold says, “If you are marked so to speak for lack of a better word than the Diocese will move you around and what they did was move him up.”

Father Reinecke was moved 6 times during his 27-year career.

From 1965-69 he was assigned to St Mary in Alexandria and from 1969-74 St Charles in Arlington.

Reinecke attended Catholic University of American in Washington DC from 1974-76. He didn't have a parish but lived at Our Lady of Lourdes in Arlington and then Queen of Apostles in Alexandria.

In the late 1970's he went back to Our Lady of Lourdes. From 1980-90 St. Ambrose in Annandale and from 1990-92 St James in Falls Church.

Arnold says, “The reason that they sent him to school, they paid for his education to move him out of parish life. They were pushing him out of parish life. That was the bottom line.”

One of Reinecke's fellow students at Catholic University was none other than Tom Doyle. But soon the paths of these two men of the cloth would divert in profound ways.

Tom Doyle: The Truth Seeker

(To learn more about Doyle's story click here.)

Doyle says, “I have been involved in this, directly involved, since the very beginning and no one else has.”

Doyle was an ordained priest and lawyer at the Vatican Embassy in Washington DC in the 1980s. He says he was told to keep quiet about a priest sex abuse scandal erupting in parishes across the country.

“The institutional church, and by that I mean the Bishops, wanted to cover it up. And I also learned in time that they not only wanted to cover it up but they had been covering it up, indeed all over the country and as I found out as time went on, all over the world,” says Doyle.

Doyle hardly remained silent. After a stint as a chaplain in the Air Force he left the priesthood to focus all his attention on advocating for abuse survivors. This court certified expert on canon law now serves as a witness in court cases and consults for states and nations investigating priest sex abuse. He says while today's Catholic Church is doing better at dealing with abusive priests and helping victims, the latest released lists from Richmond and Arlington don't tell the whole story.

"The information is either incomplete but even more important the list of names are incomplete," Doyle says. "It's done intentionally. They know they are incomplete and they decide we figured that this one wasn't credible. Well, they are not in a position, the Bishops are not in a position, to decide what's credible and what isn't credible. That whole concept is totally ridiculous where they are going to judge themselves and police themselves because obviously they can't. They haven't been able to do it yet and do it right so they can't start now."

And he adds the lack of transparency about Father Reinecke's past is no surprise either.

"Somewhere along the line someone was too afraid to report him. And a lot of that fear came from the brainwashing by the Catholic Church. He's a priest. You can't turn him in. And I even wonder had somebody turned him in way back then if they would have even been believed. We won't know that. We will never know that," says Doyle.

For more information on how the Diocese of Arlington is responding to the priest sex abuse crisis and resources to help those impacted:

For information on how the Diocese of Richmond is responding and resources to help those impacted:

There will never be a full accounting of the depravity unleashed by Father William Reinecke.

"And I recall receiving a call one day from a friend of mine in Washington who said to me 'Tom, you are not going to believe this but Bill Reinecke committed suicide.' And I said 'What?' And he said, 'Yeah, Bill Reinecke committed suicide.'"

According to published reports, one of Reinecke's abuse victims confronted the Monsignor outside St. James Catholic Church in 1992, demanding Reinecke's resignation for molesting him years ago. After exchanging a few words, Reinecke reportedly told his accuser they would continue the conversation when he returned from a scheduled retreat to Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Virginia.

"He just knew where he had to go and he took that course," Arnold says. A couple days later, on an idyllic property nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, William Reinecke killed himself. A relative discovered his body in a nearby field. Reinecke was 53.

"He just couldn't go on. He could not go on. That's the bottom line," says Arnold.

"I was surprised. I was very sad," says Doyle."I haven't forgiven the church who I feel allowed him to continue to abuse," Ianni adds. "But I have forgiven him. It doesn't do me any good to still hate him."

Father Reinecke's full story will be forever buried with him at Cedar Grove Cemetery in Williamsburg. Reinecke's simple headstone located not far from the very motels where horror unfolded for countless children.

For Becky Ianni, Kelley Arnold and Tom Doyle, the darkest hours of their lives are connected to their faith. Each admitting their once cherished relationship with God has been forever corrupted. But Arnold, by revealing The 50 Year Secret, joins a movement dedicated to revealing the truth and helping heal the broken.

"You might feel like there's no hope. I did. I felt like there was no moving forward. I was going to forever be in this place of pain. And as I began to heal and then I look back now and I've come such a long way. And I want every survivor to know that they can do that to. You can heal. It takes time but you can do it," says Ianni.

To learn more about why clergy sex abuse survivors have a hard time reporting abuse, click here.

Latest Developments

In June, there were a number of significant developments dealing with the clergy sex abuse crisis during the U.S. Conference Catholic Bishops meeting in Baltimore. The Bishops passed a measure creating a new national hotline for reporting sex abuse that will be monitored by an independent, third-party organization.

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, with the Archdiocese of Newark said during the event, "One of the terrible costs of the scandal, this twin headed scandal of clergy abuse and mismanagement by Bishops, is costing people their faith. And what a devastating example of terrible collateral damage. So, I think it's entirely right that we give priority to this.

This comes in direct response to a long list of recent rulings by Pope Francis. In February of 2019, Pope Francis participated in an unprecedented summit on failures within the Church to meaningfully address the worldwide clergy sex abuse crisis. He said then, "I would state clearly: if in the Church there should emerge even a single case of abuse - which already in itself represents an atrocity -that case will be faced with the utmost seriousness."

Pope Francis announced in March tougher laws in Vatican City designed to speed up the reporting of alleged clergy sex abuse. Then, in May, Pope Francis issued first of its kind whistle blower protections for clergy now required to report priest sex abuse and potential cover-ups by superiors. We should note that retired Pope Benedict XVI published a letter in April blaming Catholic priest sex abuse crisis, in part, on sexual revolution in the 1960s.On a regional level, Doyle says authorities in Virginia are investigating the Catholic Church and expects a similar investigation in Maryland.

"We're going to find out that it's been a lot more systemic than we thought. There will be a lot more victims. A lot more perpetrators," adds Doyle.

Tom Doyle estimates 15,000 priests have sexually abused more than 100,000 children in the United States dating back to the 1950s. Doyle says what happened in Pennsylvania in 2018 was a tipping point in the clergy sex abuse crisis. The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General released in August of that year explosive findings from a grand jury investigation. The investigation revealed widespread priest sex abuse of children and a sophisticated cover-up by church officials dating back years.

Becky Ianni and other members of SNAP lobbied Maryland lawmakers in 2019 to drop the statute of limitations for child sex abuse in civil cases. It passed in the House but failed in the Senate.

We asked officials with the Diocese of Arlington their position on dropping the statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases and this was their response: There already is no statute of limitations in Virginia for felony criminal charges. The Diocese of Arlington would support eliminating the statute of limitations for misdemeanor criminal charges relating to the sexual abuse of children. With regard to civil cases, in 2014, the Diocese supported a reasonable increase in the statute of limitations.

The statute of limitations for such cases is now 20 years. Statutes of limitations exist so that cases can no longer be brought when key parties and witnesses are deceased or are unable to recall relevant facts, and other evidence is no longer available. This is a simple matter of fairness that impacts not only the Church, but any party involved in civil litigation of any type. The Diocese recently lobbied, through the Virginia Catholic Conference, to ensure that clergy are included on the list of mandated reporters for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The Diocese of Richmond declined to answer any of our questions for this project but did release a statement that reads in part, "Out of respect for the privacy of survivors of abuse, we are not providing details or information that may be identifiable to them."

Even when we asked officials with the Diocese of Richmond questions that had nothing to do with abuse survivors they refused to respond. They merely forwarded a prepared statement to us. They never directly answered one single question. We should note that in late June, several months after the Diocese of Richmond released its list of priests credibly accused of child sex abuse, church leaders in that diocese added six more names to that list.

Out of an abundance of transparency, we at ABC7 News are posting all of the Q&A between reporter Jay Korff and various officials with the Diocese of Richmond and Diocese of Arlington so you can see the back and forth for yourself. To view the Q&A section of The 50 Year Secret, click here.

To be clear, officials with the Diocese of Arlington did answer most of our questions adding specifically in terms of Father Reinecke's criminal acts. "The abuse committed by Fr. Reinecke is a grave sin and horrendous crime. No person should ever be victimized, and the Church should be a place of peace and joy for all people, especially children," Diocese officials said. "We are aware of eight people that have come forward and identified themselves, alleging abuse by Fr. Reinecke. We welcome the chance to assist them in their healing and offer pastoral support. Since 2002, all allegations of child sexual abuse by members of the clergy are reported to legal authorities immediately. There are instances prior to 2002, where it is not clear from our records whether allegations were reported in a timely manner."

The Associated Press recently reported in May that the number of people leveling sex abuse allegations against members of the clergy has increased dramatically. This data came from the annual report released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection.

The clergy abuse hotline number in Virginia is 833-454-9064 -

The clergy abuse hotline number in Maryland is 410-576-6312 -

For a list of other hotlines in the US go here:

For more information about clergy sex abuse, such as accused priest lists and grand jury reports, go here: