Figure Skater Files Lawsuit Claiming Sexual Abuse by Prominent Coach
by Jeré Longman
Sexual abuse allegations continued to roil figure skating on Friday when a lawsuit was filed against Richard Callaghan, a once prominent coach of Olympians who has faced public accusations of improper conduct that stretch back two decades.
Adam Schmidt, 34, a former skating student of Mr. Callaghan's, filed a lawsuit in San Diego saying that Mr. Callaghan had repeatedly abused him from 1999 to 2001, beginning when Mr. Schmidt was 14 years old. Mr. Schmidt became the fourth male skater to have publicly accused Mr. Callaghan of improper behavior during a period from the early 1990s to the early 2000s.
Also named as defendants were U.S. Figure Skating, the sport's national governing body, and a skating facility in suburban Detroit where Mr. Callaghan taught Mr. Schmidt.
Dean Groulx, Mr. Callaghan's lawyer, said that neither he nor his client was aware of any such accusation or lawsuit and therefore could not comment. Mr. Groulx added that Mr. Callaghan “denies that he has engaged in any wrongdoing at any time.”
Mr. Callaghan, 73, is best known for coaching Tara Lipinski to a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics and coaching Todd Eldredge to a world championship, six United States titles and three Olympic appearances.
He was suspended from involvement in skating last year after a renewed examination of accusations made against him by three former skaters to The New York Times in 1999. The U.S. Center for SafeSport, an independent organization created in 2017 to investigate allegations of abuse, conducted the examination.
Mr. Schmidt's lawsuit followed recent public accusations made by two female skaters that John Coughlin, a two-time United States pairs champion, had sexually abused them. The accusations were made last week by the Olympian Ashley Wagner and, in May, by Bridget Namiotka, a former skating partner of Mr. Coughlin's.
Other charges against Mr. Coughlin were made anonymously. He was restricted from the sport in December 2017. He denied charges of sexual abuse to USA Today and killed himself the following January, one day after he was handed a full suspension by U.S. Figure Skating.
Mr. Schmidt would not comment beyond an interview with ABC, according to his lawyer, John Manly.
Mr. Manly also represents about 200 accusers of Dr. Lawrence G. Nassar, the former American women's gymnastics team doctor, who is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison after being convicted of serial sex abuse. Mr. Manly said in a statement that Mr. Schmidt's case was another “sad example of the culture of child abuse that is rampant in our Olympic sports programs.”
U.S. Figure Skating and the rinks where Mr. Callaghan taught “ignored complaints against him for years,” Mr. Manly said in the statement, accusing the defendants of concealing from Mr. Schmidt's parents and the authorities information that Mr. Callaghan might have abused skaters.
“If they had done their legal duty in 1999 and reported Callaghan to the police, our client and other children could have been protected from this monster,” Mr. Manly said
U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that it did not comment on pending litigation. But the federation added that it “fully supports all victims of sexual abuse and misconduct and encourages anyone who has been abused or suspects abuse or misconduct to immediately report it to local law enforcement, the U.S. Center for SafeSport or U.S. Figure Skating.”
In March 2018, Mr. Callaghan was suspended from the sport. He was coaching in Florida at the time and has previously denied any wrongdoing.
The suspension resulted from a complaint made to SafeSport by Craig Maurizi, 56, a prominent coach who was a former student and coaching partner of Mr. Callaghan's. In 1999, Mr. Maurizi told The Times that Mr. Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with him for a number of years, beginning when he was 15.
The accusations were dismissed at the time by U.S. Figure Skating because they had not been levied within a required 60-day period after the abuse allegedly occurred. Mr. Maurizi's charges received renewed scrutiny after SafeSport decided to investigate
Two other former skating students of Mr. Callaghan's also accused him of improper conduct in The Times article in 1999. Eddy Zeidler said Mr. Callaghan exposed himself to him in a hotel room in 1992. Roman Fraden said that Mr. Callaghan made inappropriate sexual remarks to him in 1994, and Mr. Fraden's parents said they confronted Mr. Callaghan over the remarks.
Mr. Callaghan resigned from the Detroit Skating Club in 1999 and eventually moved to Florida to continue coaching.
In the 1999 Times article, Mr. Callaghan, in denying the accusations, accused Mr. Maurizi of trying to poach skaters to further his own coaching career. And he expressed suspicion that some of his other former skaters were attempting to blame him for their own unfulfilled careers.
“For whatever reasons I don't understand, people love me or hate me,” Mr. Callaghan told The Times in 1999. “I have no clue why. In almost 30 years, I've taught about 500 kids. I don't understand this. The allegations are awful. I can't believe I worked my butt off for kids to be successful in skating to be better people and this stuff happens.”
From 1999 to about 2002, Mr. Schmidt trained at the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., with Mr. Callaghan as his coach, according to the lawsuit filed. In October 2001, Mr. Schmidt attended an event in San Diego called the Masters of Figure Skating competition. He was 16 at the time. The lawsuit, and an accompanying news release, said that Mr. Callaghan “secluded” Mr. Schmidt and sexually abused him at the arena where the competition occurred.
The lawsuit also accused U.S. Figure Skating of having received information that Mr. Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate behavior with other minors but did not report him to the authorities, as required by law.
In the wake of Mr. Maurizi's accusations in the late 1990s, the skating federation has taken a number of steps to strengthen its protection of young athletes. For instance, coaches are forbidden from being alone with skaters under 18. And it is mandatory for everyone in skating to report all witnessed or suspected abuse.
Mr. Schmidt told ABC News that Mr. Callaghan began abusing him at the Detroit Skating Club and that the assaults escalated at the Onyx Ice Arena in Rochester, Mich., which was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. Tom Anastos, the owner of the rink, told ABC he was unaware of those allegations and that if any complaint had been received at the rink “we would have acted on it.”
Mr. Schmidt told ABC that, following practices on the ice, he would go to his coach's office, where Mr. Callaghan touched him inappropriately while the coach was nude from the waist down.
“I didn't understand it at the time, because I was just so obsessed with my career and wanting to please him,” Mr. Schmidt told ABC.
He said he was hospitalized with psychological trauma in January 2017 and disclosed the alleged sexual abuse to a therapist, who confirmed Mr. Schmidt's account to ABC.
“How did this happen?” Mr. Schmidt told the network. Referring to the allegations Mr. Maurizi made against Mr. Callaghan in 1999, Mr. Schmidt added, “Why 20 years ago did everyone know and do nothing?
“Because if they had done something then,” Mr. Schmidt continued, “I never would have been abused.”
New York State
Thousands to take court action over child abuse
by David Klepper
Thousands of people who say they were molested as children in New York state are expected to go to court this week to sue their alleged abusers and the institutions they say failed them, including the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, public schools and hospitals.
It's all because of a landmark state law passed this year that creates a one-year window allowing people to file civil lawsuits that had previously been barred by the state's statute of limitations, one of the nation's most restrictive, that had prevented many victims from seeking justice for decades-old abuse.
Many won't even wait a day. Michael Schall (64), who says his scoutmaster in the Buffalo suburbs molested him for two years beginning in 1968, will be among those filing lawsuits early on Wednesday morning. It's not about money, Mr Schall said, it's about standing up for the "sweet, naive" kid he once was, who had nowhere to turn.
"This is my chance to say: this happened to me," said Mr Schall, who now lives in Portland, Oregon. "It's affected me in so many different ways in my life, in who I am. This seems freeing. It's like I'm bringing something to light that's been held in the darkness for so long."
Wednesday could begin a year of financial reckoning for many large institutions that care for children. A similar law passed in 2002 in California resulted in Catholic dioceses there paying $1.2bn (€1bn) in legal settlements.
A compensation fund for sex abuse victims set up by the New York Archdiocese in 2016 has paid out $65m to 323 victims, the archdiocese says. Those victims have waived their right to file lawsuits. The archdiocese is also suing more than two dozen insurance companies in an effort to compel them to cover abuse claims, anticipating that insurers won't pay the numerous claims filed during the litigation window.
"We don't know exactly what to expect when the window opens," said Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the archdiocese. "We certainly anticipate that there will be lawsuits filed against the archdiocese, as there will be against many other institutions and public entities as well."
The Boy Scouts of America said in a statement that it supports allowing victims to sue individual abusers and organizations even if the statute of limitations had expired - but only if the organization concealed or withheld evidence of the abuse.
The organization has acknowledged that sex-abuse litigation poses a financial impact and said it's now "working with experts and exploring all options available so we can live up to our social and moral responsibility to fairly compensate victims who suffered abuse".
"We believe victims, we support them, we pay for counselling by a provider of their choice, and we encourage them to come forward," the organization said.
The law creating the litigation window passed earlier this year following more than a decade of debate.
Whispers of Sexual Abuse Tailed an Equestrian Legend for Decades. At 81, He Was Barred for Life.
George H. Morris's stature in the sport was nearly unrivaled, even though some in the horse world said they had long been aware of his relationships with minors.
For more than five decades, George H. Morris was the king of equestrian sport, a former Olympic coach whose words — from how to ride to what breeches to wear — were gospel for riders at every level.
He had a magazine column in which he sometimes complimented but often eviscerated riding photos that equestrians submitted to him, and he even had an action figure that spouted his trademark snarky aphorisms.
That all came crashing down Monday when Mr. Morris was barred for life from all domestic and international equestrian sports after an investigation into “sexual misconduct involving a minor,” according to the United States Center for SafeSport, an independent body that investigates sexual misconduct in Olympic sports.
The lifetime ban of Mr. Morris, 81, a vaunted Olympian whose books on horsemanship are called bibles by riders, has roiled the equestrian community.
An “I Stand With George” Facebook page and hashtags, promoted by some of the sport's best-known names and revered champions, have sprouted in his defense, as fury rages at SafeSport's purposeful lack of transparency: To protect victims, SafeSport does not release details of its investigations, other than the result, according to Dan Hill, a spokesman for the nonprofit organization.
And yet even in the complicated world of sexual abuse investigation, the inquiry into allegations against Mr. Morris stands out for a variety of reasons. His stature within the sport is nearly unrivaled. While there is more than one victim, the only one to publicly identify himself is a convicted sex offender who struggled with substance abuse and initially came forward seven years ago, then recanted, then came forward once more. Another accuser is in prison. Many in the sport who have rallied to Mr. Morris's defense have explained away his alleged behavior by saying times were different.
The SafeSport investigation involved more than one accuser, according to three people with knowledge of it who were not authorized to speak publicly about its details and who were unable to disclose the total number.
In addition, in interviews with dozens of former students and professionals who spoke with The New York Times, many said they had long been aware of Mr. Morris's relationships with minors, though few agreed to speak publicly, afraid his status as equestrian kingmaker could wound their careers or chances to win ribbons in the horse show ring.
One of the few who spoke openly about Mr. Morris was a man who said his ex-boyfriend, now deceased, was a former student and victim. The man is currently serving a 20-year prison term after he faked being a plastic surgeon, resulting in the death of a woman he treated.
Mr. Morris has vowed to appeal SafeSport's findings “regarding unsubstantiated charges for events that allegedly occurred between 1968 and 1972,” he said in a statement on Monday. “I have devoted my life to equestrian sport and the development of future riders, coaches and Olympians. Any allegations that suggest I have acted in ways that are harmful to any individual, the broader equestrian community, and sport that I love dearly are false and hurtful.”
Through his representative, Mr. Morris declined to be interviewed or to address any specific complaints about his relationships with riders.
The lifetime ban, which is reserved for the most egregious cases, according to SafeSport, comes on the heels of a wave of revelations about sexual abuse in the horse world. A 2018 Times investigation into Jimmy A. Williams revealed he molested several of the girls he trained over his nearly 40-year career. In June, after SafeSport barred Robert Gage, a trainer based in California, following an investigation into sexual misconduct, Mr. Gage killed himself.
The Times interviewed 53 former students, current top competitors and professionals, some of whom defended Mr. Morris and said they saw nothing untoward. Yet Mr. Morris's relationships with minors were gossiped about from the warm-up ring to popular online message boards at Horse Show Diva and The Chronicle of the Horse.
Several people described Mr. Morris as consorting with underage students throughout his career, particularly during the 1970s. His behavior was waved away at the time as louche but acceptable, or the boys themselves were blamed or perceived as deliberately cultivating his attention for their gain.
Mr. Morris was born in New York City, but grew up in New Canaan, Conn., where he fell in love with horses, according to his memoir, “Unrelenting.” Mr. Morris came to national prominence when he won a team silver medal in Rome at the 1960 Summer Olympics. Later he became the United States equestrian team's chef d'equipe — nothing less than its lodestar — leading the show jumpers to a team gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
In his memoir, Mr. Morris reveals a wilder side, including trips to places like Studio 54 with students who were minors at the time. He estimated the number of his sexual partners to be “10,000 and counting!” though he does not specify the ages of those partners.
From his equestrian facilities on the East Coast, Mr. Morris churned out the country's best riders during the '60s, '70s and '80s, many of whom lived with him on site as working students, competing in the junior, or 18-and-under, division.
Michael D. Cintas, who coached equestrians for the United States Olympic modern pentathlon team in 2008, said he won a scholarship to train and live on Mr. Morris's farm in 1964 when he was 16. Mr. Cintas, who said he was not abused, considers Mr. Morris a father figure. But he said that his coach's reputation for having sexual relationships with boys he would scout and bring to train on the farm was common knowledge among students and barn staff.
“Many people saw what was going on, knew what was going on, and no one said anything,” said Mr. Cintas, who now acknowledges that what was taking place at the Morris farm was wrong.
The United States Equestrian Federation said it could act only if a claim were reported to it. None were received until 2012, Bill Moroney, the chief executive, said in an email responding to questions about Mr. Morris.
“We received one allegation against him in 2012, which was thoroughly investigated by an independent third-party who did not find sufficient evidence to proceed with disciplinary action against Mr. Morris,” Mr. Moroney wrote in the email. “That case remained open in the event additional information, evidence, or witness(es) came forward.”
Jonathan Soresi said he was in a relationship with Mr. Morris as a teenager and was one of the sources of the complaint that led to the coach's lifetime ban. Mr. Soresi, who now operates a horse farm in Flemington, N.J., was a student of Mr. Morris's during the 1970s and the first person to report Mr. Morris to SafeSport, according to two people with knowledge of the investigation.
In 2012, Mr. Soresi, now 63, at the urging of his brother, first reported to the federation a sexual relationship with Mr. Morris that began when he was a minor, according to emails reviewed by The Times.
Complicating the testimony is Mr. Soresi's own criminal history as an adult: He is himself a registered sex offender. In 2007, he pleaded guilty to a felony count for possessing child pornography. Images were found on a laptop he dropped off to be repaired. He was sentenced to probation. He has also battled intravenous drug addiction.
In an interview, Mr. Soresi said he had long struggled with the sense that even as a child he was somehow complicit — Mr. Morris's favorite students were lavished with the best horses, and with his time. Mr. Soresi, from a family unable to afford the high-priced sport, wanted both.
“There was an underlying hope that if I went along with this, I would get what I did not have, which was horses and education,” Mr. Soresi said. Mr. Soresi, who also went by Jonathan Devine, continued to work for Mr. Morris as an adult for several years, after the relationship ended.
Upon meeting with federation officials to discuss the relationship with Mr. Morris, in 2012, Mr. Soresi suddenly recanted. He said he was high on drugs at the time, intimidated by Mr. Morris's status and afraid he would not be believed. Two years ago, sober and inspired by a wave of investigations spurred by top riders, he decided to report again, this time to SafeSport.
“The transgressions of my past do not invalidate the reality of what happened to me,” Mr. Soresi said.
On the same day it barred Mr. Morris, SafeSport also designated Mr. Soresi, who is a riding instructor, ineligible to participate in the sport because of his past criminal behavior involving a minor.
Another live-in student of Mr. Morris's was Michael Hart, an elite rider Mr. Morris discovered in Minneapolis while teaching clinics there, according to “Unrelenting.” Mr. Morris brought Mr. Hart to his farm in New Jersey in about 1974, when he was 16 years old.
While he was coaching him, Mr. Morris and his student were in a sexual relationship, according to Mr. Hart's ex-boyfriend, Dean Faiello, an inmate at the Cayuga Correctional Facility in Moravia, N.Y., where he is serving a 20-year prison term after pleading guilty to assault in the first degree and practicing medicine without a license. Mr. Faiello said Mr. Hart spoke of his relationship with Mr. Morris with pride, as though he had seduced one of the giants of equestrian sport when he was just a boy.
“It was common knowledge in the world that George was having this affair with Michael Hart, who was a junior,” said Michael Sasso, another student at that time who said he was not abused. “That was the '70s. Those things were a lot looser around all that stuff.”
For Michael Hart Sr., Mr. Hart's father, Mr. Morris's life suspension is meaningless for his son. Once a promising young rider when his parents sent him to live and train with the equestrian great, Mr. Hart was later jailed for drug dealing and died in 1995 of AIDS-related illnesses at 37.
“Michael was dazzled by him,” his father said, “and to us we thought, ‘This is an opportunity.' We had no idea. It's late, and it's feeble justice.”
Jeffrey Epstein dies by suicide a month after arrest in child sex trafficking case
by Emma Newburger, Dan Mangan, Spencer Kimball
Jeffrey Epstein, the wealthy financier criminally charged last month with child sex trafficking, has died by apparent suicide.
Epstein, 66, hanged himself in Manhattan's Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he was being held without bail, the sources told NBC News. He was found at 6:30 a.m. Saturday.
He was transported by the FDNY-EMS from the jail to New York Downtown Hospital. When they arrived, Epstein was in cardiac arrest, and subsequently pronounced dead by hospital staff. The FBI is investigating the incident.
Epstein was being held without bail in the jail since his arrest in early July at an airport in northern New Jersey after arriving there on his private plane on a flight from Paris.
He was previously put on suicide watch after he was found semi-conscious on the floor of his jail cell on July 23 with marks on his neck. Multiple people familiar with the investigation say that Epstein was in his own cell, but was not currently on suicide watch at the time of his death.
Attorney General William Barr said he was "appalled" by Epstein's suicide and said the inspector general was opening an investigation in addition to the FBI.
"Mr. Epstein's death raises serious questions that must be answered," Barr said. "In addition to the FBI's investigation, I have consulted with the Inspector General who is opening an investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Epstein's death."
Epstein, a one-time friend of Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, was accused of sexually exploiting dozens of underage girls, some of whom were as young as 14.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges. He faced a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison if convicted.
The New York City medical examiner's office said it is investigating Epstein's "cause and manner of death."
Court documents unsealed
A federal appeals court on Friday unsealed nearly 2,000 pages of documents, including one that contains records showing that President Donald Trump flew on Epstein's private plane in 1997.
Another document showed that an accuser said Epstein's alleged procurer of underage girls, Ghislaine Maxwell, directed the accuser to have sex with former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, a Maine Democrat, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and other prominent people.
Those files released Friday are part of a defamation lawsuit that Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein's accusers, filed against Maxwell several years ago. Both Mitchell and Richardson have denied ever meeting Giuffre. Epstein's former lawyer Alan Dershowitz also has denied Giuffre's claims to have had sex with him at Maxwell's behest when Giuffre was underage.
Epstein's criminal defense lawyer Reid Weingarten did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The U.S. Attorney Office in Manhattan and the FBI NY Office have no comment.
But in a statement to The New York Times, Weingarten and two other Epstein attorneys, Marty Weinberg and Michael Miller, said they could not confirm his cause of death and trusted it would be investigated by the United States Attorney's office and the United States Marshals Service.
"We are enormously sorry to learn of today's news. No one should die in jail," they said, according to The Times.
Marc Fernich, one of Epstein's attorneys, on Saturday blasted prosecutors who he said were "bent on locking up a presumptively innocent man posing no real danger or flight risk," as well as politicians "who wrote the restrictive bail laws that empower them to do it."
He also blamed the press, saying it recharged Epstein with "dated crimes for which he'd long since paid his debt to society under an arms-length plea deal just because he had the misfortune to be a wealthy man in the #metoo era whose former prosecutor happened to take a job with President Trump."
"Unfortunate and predictable"
Brad Edwards, an attorney representing some Epstein accusers, called his death "both unfortunate and predictable."
"The fact that Jeffrey Epstein was able to commit the selfish act of taking his own life as his world of abuse, exploitation, and corruption unraveled is both unfortunate and predictable," said Edwards in a statement obtained by NBC News.
"The victims deserved to see Epstein held accountable, and he owed it to everyone he hurt to accept responsibility for all of the pain he caused."
Gerald Lefcourt, a New York lawyer who previously represented Epstein in a similar case in the mid-2000s in Florida, was stunned to learn he had killed himself.
"It's shocking, totally shocking," Lefcourt told CNBC in a phone interview.
Lefcourt said Epstein's suicide was shocking not only because of the circumstances of where it occurred, but also because of Lefcourt and Epstein's current legal team belief that they could win a dismissal of the pending federal criminal case.
"When somebody is suicidal, you just take better care of them," Lefcourt said. "This is unheard of, where there's a suicide attempt, and he's not closely watched so he can't hurt himself. It's just crazy. It's not understandable."
Controversial 2007 non-prosecution deal
Lefcourt in recent weeks had been consulting with Epstein's current defense lawyers about a non-prosecution deal that Lefcourt had cut with the U.S. Justice Department in 2007, that said Epstein would not be federally prosecuted in Florida as part of a probe there involving suspected sexual abuse of underage girls.
The deal called for Epstein to plead guilty to prostitution-related charges involving an underage girl in a case lodged by a state prosecutor, and to register as a sex offender. In exchange, Epstein and his suspected co-conspirators would not be hit with far more serious federal criminal charges.
U.S. Attorney for Manhattan Geoffrey Berman has said that deal did not prevent Berman's office from filing the new child sex trafficking case against Epstein last month, even though it involves the same time frame, the same conduct and Epstein's home in Florida. Berman said the 2007 deal did not bar him, or federal prosecutors outside of southern Florida, from charging Epstein for the same conduct and time frame.
Lefcourt said Berman is wrong. "The deal, if you read it, says to cover all federal and state liability, and even mentions this statute" of sex trafficking, Lefcourt said. "We were preparing to argue that the deal covers this."
"If you read the agreement, and know that it was approved by the deputy attorney general of the United States, and there was no new women" alleged to be abused since 2007 then the current prosecution "should have been precluded," Epstein said.
Tampering with potential witnesses
Epstein's bail was denied in mid-July when U.S. District Judge Richard Berman ruled he was a potential danger to "new victims" from his apparently "uncontrollable" sexual fixation on young girls, and the risk that Epstein would flee to avoid prosecution for child sex trafficking charges.
"This newly discovered evidence also suggests that Mr. Epstein poses 'ongoing and forward-looking danger,'" the judge wrote. "Mr. Epstein's dangerousness is considerable and includes sex crimes with minor girls and tampering with potential witnesses."
That tampering included payments to potential witnesses and possible co-conspirators on the heels of a series of stories in the Miami Herald about Epstein last winter.
Those articles looked back at the prior Florida state and federal investigations into Epstein in the mid-2000s. Those probes focused on Epstein's hyper-obsessive fixation on receiving daily massages from underage girls and young-looking women at his Palm Beach, Florida, mansion.
Epstein received as many as three "massages" each day at his home from the girls and women, who were paid several hundred dollars per session.
Multiple women ended up saying that the massages were of a sexual nature. And a number of those women said that Epstein engaged in sexual conduct with them when they were underage.
Registered sex offender
Epstein hired a group of high-powered lawyers to defend himself during the probes. His legal team grew after local police, frustrated at what they saw as a state prosecutor's reluctance to bring serious charges in the case, took evidence to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami, the top prosecutor for the area.
That office, led at the time by Alex Acosta, did investigate Epstein.
But in what because a highly controversial decision, Acosta ultimately decided to only sign a non-prosecution agreement with Epstein that let the financier off the hook for serious federal charges.
In exchange, Epstein agreed to plead guilty to minor prostitution-related charges involving an underage girl -- charges that were lodged by state prosecutors. Epstein served just 13 months in jail in that case, but much of that time was spent on work release, and jailers reportedly kept his cell door open at night.
As a result of that earlier case, Epstein registered as a sex offender. Acosta's non-prosecution deal with Epstein generated widespread outrage last month on the heels of Epstein's arrest for the new federal case in Manhattan.
Critics questioned why Acosta, who by then was Trump's Labor secretary, had given what was now seen as a sweet-heart deal to Epstein. The deal is under investigation by an internal watchdog at the Justice Department, and has already been blasted by a federal judge because of Acosta's failure to notify Epstein's accusers at the time it was being crafted.
Acosta resigned as Labor secretary shortly after Epstein's arrest last month.
This week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis asked his state's Law Enforcement Department to conduct an investigation into both the original light plea deal Epstein cut with state prosecutors in 2008, and the circumstances of his stay in jail for that case.
Epstein's suicide came just days after L Brands chairman and founder Les Wexner claimed that Epstein had misappropriated more than $46 million from Wexner and his family more than a decade ago.
Wexner said the money was found to be missing after Epstein was placed under investigation in Florida in the mid-2000s, and as Wexner moved to sever ties with Epstein, who had managed his finances for years. Wexner said some of the money was returned by Epstein in the form of donations to a Wexner-controlled charity.
Sexual abuse of children in care homes, foster care rampant in English county, report says
by Lukas Mikelionis
A new report exposed rampant sexual child abuse in care homes in an English county that lasted for decades, with officials unable to tackle the problem.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse published on Wednesday disclosed that abuse including sexual assault, rape, and voyeurism was widespread during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s in Nottingham City Council and Nottingham County Council's care homes and in foster care.
“For more than five decades, the councils failed in their statutory duty to protect children in their care from sexual abuse,” the report read, according to Sky News. “These were children who were being looked after away from their family homes because of adverse childhood experiences and their own pre-existing vulnerabilities.”
"They needed to be nurtured, cared for and protected by adults they could trust. Instead, the councils exposed them to the risk, and reality, of sexual abuse perpetrated primarily by predatory residential staff and foster carers,” it added.
Around 350 people brought up allegations of abuse dating back to the 1960s, though the true scale of abuse is thought to be much higher, according to the broadcaster.
The report found that 16 residential staff were convicted of sexual abuse of children in residential care between the 1970s and 2019, while 10 foster carers were also convicted of sexual abuse of the children they had in their care. Twelve convictions also are related to abuse of children by other children in the care homes.
The panel wrote in the report that flaws in the care system remain to this day and told the councils to “assess the potential risks posed by current and former residential care staff and foster carers.”
The local police, meanwhile, was also criticized for not providing enough resources for investigations into allegations of historical abuse of children in care and not treating the allegations with “sufficient seriousness.”
One survivor of the abuse told the panel that the experience “ruined my life” and caused long-lasting issues.
“I count myself lucky in some ways, as many survivors are still battling alcohol or drug addictions, have seen the inside of a prison cell, or, devastatingly taken their own lives because of what these animals did to us,” the person said. “I just hope that this won't be a flash in the pan and that this remains in the public eye until the whole system is cleaned up.
#LetHerSpeak campaign helps Grace Tame tell her story of abuse at a Hobart private school
by Lorna Knowles
Her story has been told many times by many people, including the math teacher who groomed and molested her when she was just 15.
"Journalists, commentators and even my perpetrator have been able to publicly discuss my case, I'm the only one who was not allowed to."
After two years battling the Tasmanian legal system, Grace Tame has finally won the right to reveal her true identity.
Grace Tame was repeatedly raped by her 58-year-old teacher when she was in Year 10.
Her abuser, Nicolaas Bester, has spoken publicly about the case many times, but Grace has been gagged by an archaic law which only exists in Tasmania and the Northern Territory.
The law prevents victims of sexual abuse from ever speaking about their experiences, even if they want to.
Grace was forced to obtain a special exemption from the Tasmanian Supreme Court to speak out, a costly and traumatic process.
She's now fighting to have the law changed.
And she wants the world to know the harrowing details of her case, to warn others about the sinister process of child grooming.
Portrait of a young woman
In 2010, Grace was a student at the exclusive St Michael's Collegiate School in Hobart.
She was vulnerable. She had just been hospitalized for anorexia and her mother was about to have a baby. Bester seemed sympathetic.
Grace's mother, Penny Plaschke, said Bester's behavior worried her.
"He put her on a pedestal. He was encouraging her to stay in his office after school … and he gave her a key to his office. He tried to visit Grace in hospital."
Grace's parents complained to the school and Bester was spoken to, but the grooming continued.
In mid-2010, Bester asked Grace to meet him at the school. He led her to a cupboard in the science block.
Grace had confided in Bester that when she was six, another child forced her into a cupboard and molested her.
Bester instructed Grace to go into the cupboard and undress.
"I was in a state of disbelief and sheer terror, and I thought I can't run anywhere. I'm trapped."
Grace came out of the cupboard in her underwear to find Bester standing naked in front of her.
"He had his arms outstretched and walked towards me and pulled me into his naked body and was just holding me," she said.
Over the next six months, Bester repeatedly raped Grace at the school, a hotel and a friend's house.
"It had gotten really painful because a lot of the time he was asking me to go in early before school and he would have his way with me and then I'd have to go and sit in the classroom," Grace said.
Penny said it was obvious her daughter was distressed but she didn't know why.
In April 2011, she received a devastating phone call from the school. Grace had told another teacher about the abuse.
When police arrested Bester, he was found with 28 images of child pornography on his computer.
He pleaded guilty to "maintaining a relationship with a young person" and possession of child exploitation material. His court hearing attracted lurid headlines. Some suggested Grace was complicit in the abuse.
"I couldn't believe that they'd put that on television and in the newspapers — that it was an affair," Grace's mother said.
"When a perpetrator is 58 and a victim is 15, that's not an affair, that's a clear imbalance of power and it's a clear case of sexual abuse.
"I've seen the scars on my daughter's body from self-harming. That is not a relationship."
Bester was convicted and sentenced to 2 years and 10 months in jail. He was released on parole after serving 19 months.
'Men in Australia envy me'
Bester enrolled in a PhD at the University of Tasmania, where Grace's mother, Penny, was also studying.
"Once I was assured that he wasn't going to be crossing my path, I just tolerated it," Penny said.
That was until 2015, when Bester bragged about his crimes on Facebook.
"The majority of men in Australia envy me," he wrote. "I was 59, she was 15 going on 25. It was awesome".
He also made graphic comments about sexually assaulting Grace.
Bester was charged with making child exploitation material and jailed for another four months.
But even after his second stint in prison, Bester continued to paint himself as the
In 2017, Bester did an interview with commentator and sex therapist Bettina Arndt.
"I lost everything, I lost my home, I'd been married for 37 years, I lost my marriage I lost my children, I lost my job, I lost my status in the community, I lost absolutely everything," he told Arndt in the YouTube video.
Infuriated by the interview, Grace decided it was time for her to speak out.
An archaic law
Grace contacted anti-sexual assault advocate and journalist, Nina Funnell for help.
"It was only after we started looking into the possibility of Grace going public that we discovered this incredibly archaic law in Tasmania that prevents sexual assault survivors from being able to self-identify in the media," Funnell said.
Grace and Funnell started a campaign to change the law, known as #LetHerSpeak.
The campaign went global and attracted the support of celebrities and leaders of the #MeToo movement.
Funnell also started an online petition demanding that section 194K of the Evidence Act be scrapped, which has attracted almost 6,000 signatures.
At the same time, Grace was fighting her own private battle to speak publicly in the Supreme Court of Tasmania. After two years and a $10,000 legal bill, she was given special leave to tell her story.
She is the first woman in Tasmania to be granted the exemption.
'It's a mind manipulation'
While Grace has struggled to be heard in Tasmania, an elite police squad in the US has jumped at the chance to work with her.
The Los Angeles Human Trafficking Squad, a world leader in its field, is working with Grace to gain a better understanding of how child grooming works.
Grace said Bester groomed her by gradually undermining her relationship with her parents and her medical team.
"He used various tactics to groom me, and that included isolating me from all my family and my friends and making it so that he was the sole source of comfort and that I was dependent on him entirely emotionally," she said.
"He would say negative things about my family. Like, my mother was pregnant at the time and he would go on rants about pregnant women being unstable … and just planting ideas in my head".
Head of the task force Detective Ray Bercini said Grace's insights were invaluable to his officers.
"It's a mind manipulation, it's a way that these guys are able to control and manipulate victims who are just looking for someone to love them or give them some direction," he said.
"They don't want to disrespect them if they're older, and so a lot of the process that happens in the grooming, that's what draws that bond, and that bond becomes very, very difficult to break through.
"And if I can understand that, then I can have a little more patience and compassion in knowing that that's what's happening."
Tasmania working to change law
The Let Her Speak campaign has also caught the attention of the Tasmanian Attorney-General, Elise Archer.
"I agreed to issue a discussion paper, and we've received over 50 submissions in relation to various views about the operation of 194K," Ms Archer said.
"It's important that we strike the right balance in relation to this, because it may identify victims that shouldn't or don't want to be identified.
"In a smaller jurisdiction like Tasmania, and like the Northern Territory, it is important because people do tend to live in smaller communities and know each other, that we don't unintentionally release the identity of a victim just by reason of their known relationship to another victim."
"So a protection mechanism is important, but I fully accept that having to go to court for a court order is quite an onerous task and also could be costly, so that's why as Attorney-General I've been willing to look at this issue and I'm very open to reform once we've considered the submissions."
'I won't stop'
For Grace, it's been a slow road to recovery.
"It's taken me a while. The first five, six, seven years were really tough. I've abused drugs. I've self-harmed.
"But what's gotten me through is the sense of family that I value and love. And exercise. Self-care. Looking after myself and eating well. I do a lot of yoga teaching and I run.
"One step at a time. That's all you can do. Because some days I just want to fall in a heap".
She is also a talented artist and illustrator. One of her most notable works was an illustration commissioned by her friend, Camilla Cleese for her famous father, John Cleese.
Grace says she is determined to see the law scrapped in Tasmania and the Northern Territory.
"I won't stop until the law is changed," she said.
"It's so important for people to own their own story, their own narrative and to take back control of who they are. And it's so important that survivors know that it's not their fault and to have the support of the community and the support of the law.
Chelsea staff ‘turned blind eye' to sexual abuse
London (AFP) – Young hopefuls at Premier League giants Chelsea were abused for years by a “prolific and manipulative” coach as staff at the club “turned a blind eye”, an independent report said Tuesday.
The report, led by lawyer Charles Geekie, found that the club's former chief scout Eddie Heath, who died in 1983, was able to operate “unchallenged”, abusing boys aged between 10 and 17 in the 1970s.
Victims recalled that Heath used “sexual innuendo” in the changing room, but made sure “that his most serious sexual assaults took place in private,” it added.
Heath's behavior was an open secret among players and staff.
“The boys all knew it was safety in numbers, you didn't want to be the last in the van, you risked being groped by him or having your bum slapped. He was regarded as ‘Nightmare Eddie',” one witness said.
Chelsea said in a statement that “Heath was a dangerous and prolific child abuser” whose conduct was “beyond reprehensible”.
“Although the club today is a very different place from the club then… we will not shy away from responsibility for what happened in the past,” it added.
Claims for compensation are being assessed by insurers for the former European champions.
– ‘Manipulative risk-taker' –
Heath was sacked when England World Cup-winning hero Geoff Hurst took over the club in 1979. But the former striker, now aged 77, denied knowing about Heath's behavior and turned down requests to be interviewed for the report.
Geekie talked to 23 witnesses who claim that they were targeted by Heath, saying they painted a picture of an “audacious, manipulative risk-taker”.
One witness said staff and players “must have known or been suspicious of what he was doing… but turned a blind eye to it.”
One former player described how Heath would come into the urinals and watch, while another said he peered over the shower cubicle while he was inside.
Heath would lavish praise on his “favorites”, inviting them around to his house to watch football matches, offering out money and sweets and befriending their parents.
Many said they were fearful of telling the authorities and getting Heath into trouble, while others “wanted to impress him” to ensure they kept being picked.
One former player said the abuse had had a “massive impact on me and my family”.
Veteran manager Dario Gradi, who worked at Chelsea at the time, also came in for criticism, with the report finding he failed to report Heath despite receiving a complaint that he had indecently assaulted a boy in the showers.
Former dean convicted of child sexual abuse
by MURIEL PORTER
A former Dean of Newcastle, in New South Wales, Graeme Lawrence, has been convicted of the sexual abuse of a 15-year-old boy in the deanery in 1991.
Mr Lawrence, who was unfrocked in 2012 after the diocese of Newcastle's professional standards board found him guilty of sexual misconduct in the 1980s, was convicted in a judge-alone trial in the district court. His conditional bail has been continued until his sentencing in September.
The charges against Mr Lawrence, to which he pleaded not guilty, were that he had invited the boy back to the deanery after a youth-band performance in Newcastle Cathedral, and had then assaulted him. Judge Tim Gartelmann told the court that he was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt of his guilt.
The Bishop of Newcastle, Dr Peter Stuart, responded by apologizing on behalf of the Anglican Church. “We've heard today in court the summary of a terrible set of events for a young man who was involved in a church activity and was indecently assaulted, and it has affected his life,” he said. “He was entitled to be kept safe, and he wasn't.”
Mr Lawrence was Dean of Newcastle from 1984 until his retirement in 2008. During that time, he had a high profile both in the city of Newcastle and in the national Church. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1998 for his part in the restoration of the cathedral after damage caused by an earthquake in 1989. Abuse survivors are now calling for the honors to be reviewed.
Democracy Dies in Darkness
A writer tries to make sense of Larry Nassar's decades of abuse
by Jessica M. Goldstein
Gymnastics is an exercise in cognitive dissonance. A linebacker's grit is packaged in a sparkly, spangly leotard. Adult demands are made of girls who still have their baby teeth. While other athletes perform the pain they feel — think of male soccer players, writhing and howling at the slightest contact — gymnasts are expected to smile, smile, smile, as their sternums break, as their ribs crack.
For decades in U.S. gymnastics, there was one more secret vile contradiction: The doctor who treated thousands of young athletes, supposedly tending to their injuries and ensuring their healthy recovery, was in fact “the most prolific sex criminal in American sports history.”
This is how Abigail Pesta, author of “The Girls: An All-American Town, a Predatory Doctor, and the Untold Story of the Gymnasts Who Brought Him Down,” introduces Larry Nassar. For 30 years or so, Nassar had unfettered access to some of the most promising athletes in the world as he rose from volunteer doctor at a Lansing, Mich., gym to Michigan State University and, ultimately, the USA Gymnastics team.
His violence was relentless and breathtaking in scope. By his accusers' accounts, Nassar abused Olympians at the 2012 London Games and raped children in his home; he assaulted girls in front of their unknowing parents, his body and a sheet obscuring the view as he penetrated his patients with gloveless hands. At his sentencing hearing, presided over by a judge with a real flair for the pull-quote — “I just signed your death warrant” — more than 150 survivors addressed Nassar directly. Their profoundly moving testimony, made all the more powerful for how long its speakers had been silenced, streamed live online and dominated the news cycle. Nassar, who at the time already had been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography convictions, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years more for his battery of sex crimes.
Pesta explores how Nassar found in these girls' formidable abilities an exploitable vulnerability: His targets were trained to withstand brutality, to power through without complaint. A serial predator hunting for victims, he discovered that the gymnastics community was perfectly suited to his goals. It offered him girls who were sheltered from boys and age-appropriate sexual experiences; who were taught to treat their bodies like machines that could function without feeling; who obsessed over their Olympic prospects, the windows for which were brief and rare as eclipses, and would be strongly disinclined to complain and jeopardize their dreams.
The Nassar case has made headlines for years, and Pesta's book aims to disclose what is not already known about a much-discussed national scandal through interviews with 25 survivors. In this effort, she is only partly successful. The biggest revelation by far is the never-before told story of Sara Teristi, a former gymnast who met Nassar in 1988 and, Pesta writes, “may have been his very first target.”
“People don't understand how many broken girls it takes to produce an elite athlete,” Teristi tells Pesta. “A coach can easily go through 300 girls or more.”
When Teristi met Nassar, he was volunteering at a gym run by John Geddert, who would go on to coach the U.S. women's gymnastics Olympic team and is under criminal investigation for his role in the Nassar case. In Teristi's telling, Geddert was a physically violent, mentally abusive tyrant whose reprimands were laced with sexually graphic comments about the bodies of his very young, female charges. She says that she was brainwashed by Geddert, and that it was in this emotionally obliterated state that she found herself in Nassar's office, struggling to train through what turned out to be a broken rib. As her injuries worsened over the years, so, too, did Nassar's abuse. The most harrowing episode was one that she had buried so deeply that it was inaccessible to her when she first spoke with Pesta. When the memory eventually surfaced, the full force of the recollection made Teristi physically ill.
Teristi's is a vital entry in the public files on Nassar. It is also among the few aspects of Pesta's book that lives up to the “untold story” promise of its title. Much of what Pesta includes here has been covered extensively elsewhere.
Pesta is a gentle, empathetic narrator, taking care to show readers the emotional toll of reliving trauma. (She describes interviewing Teristi at an art museum because Teristi “doesn't want this tale anywhere near her home, her children.”) Though her interviews span the full known arc of Nassar's violence, her actual access is relatively limited. Nassar, unsurprisingly, declined to be interviewed, as did the multitude of his alleged conspirators and enablers, including Geddert and former Michigan State University gymnastics coach Kathie Klages, who also is facing charges in this matter. The survivors with names most readers would recognize — Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney — did not speak with Pesta. (Rachael Denhollander, the first survivor to go on the record publicly with abuse allegations against Nassar, wrote her own book: “What Is a Girl Worth?: My Story of Breaking the Silence and Exposing the Truth About Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics,” which comes out next month.)
Pesta has plenty of experience reporting on sexual and gender violence, from sex slavery in Cambodia to the “honor killing” of a girl by her father in Arizona. She also profiled a Nassar survivor in 2017. But “The Girls” doesn't have the lived-in expertise of “Soulless,” by Jim DeRogatis, who broke the R. Kelly story and has followed it ever since; or of Dave Cullen's “Columbine,” the result of 10 years of reporting, of sticking around in a community long after the national media moved on. Pesta's writing lacks the lyrical ache and intensity of Piper Weiss's reported memoir, “You All Grow Up and Leave Me,” about her close encounter with tennis instructor Gary Wilensky, a stalker and predator who killed himself after a thwarted attempt at kidnapping one of his other students.
Jim DeRogatis has been covering R. Kelly's alleged abuse for nearly two decades. He's not done yet.
Although Pesta's reporting and analysis give a thorough, damning portrait of the culture that aided and abetted Nassar, she rarely steps back to put the story in a broader context. The first Indianapolis Star story on Nassar, which broke the sexual abuse allegations of Denhollander and one other former gymnast, was published in September 2016 — two months before the election of Donald Trump, who by then had been accused by several women of sexual violence and would soon be caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women; about nine months before Bill Cosby first went on trial for sexual assault; a year before the Harvey Weinstein story broke and #MeToo exploded across the Internet.
There are parallels among all of these stories — for instance, that Nassar “normalized” his abuse “by doing it to everyone,” like Weinstein allegedly did with his “casting couch” practices — but Pesta does not draw them. The scope of “The Girls” is much smaller. In some ways, her writing mirrors the cloistered space in which these women were groomed and abused, where there is no world beyond the walls of the gym.
'Nothing's really changed': Year after grand jury investigation on clergy sexual abuse, those affected ‘disappointed' by lack of legislation
Year after grand jury investigation on clergy sexual abuse, those affected ‘disappointed' by lack of legislation
by Dave Sutor
Shaun Dougherty, a Johnstown resident and victims advocate, gestures during an interview at The Tribune-Democrat on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. Dougherty spoke about attending a meeting that brought almost 200 bishops from across the world to the Vatican to discuss the church's ongoing issues with child sexual abuse and cover-up.
Shaun Dougherty and Cindy Leech sat, a few feet away from each other, inside the Pennsylvania State Capitol on Aug. 14, 2018.
Robert Hoatson stood, by himself, with his back against a wall.
Together, they, along with about a hundred other individuals, listened as Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro provided details about a grand jury investigation into clergy sexual abuse and cover-up within six Roman Catholic dioceses throughout the commonwealth.
As invited guests, Dougherty and Leech were behind Shapiro.
Leech held a framed photo of her son, Corey Leech, who battled personal demons for years after being sexually abused by Brother Stephen Baker, a trainer at what was once called Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown.
Dougherty, who, as a child, was violated by a priest at St. Clement Church on Lindberg Avenue, had, by last summer, already established himself as a nationally known advocate for victims. Hoatson, co-founder of Road to Recovery, had counseled Leech before his death in 2017.
Now, a year has passed, and all three have watched as victims, their loved ones, advocates, church officials, law enforcement officers and legislators have processed the findings of the grand jury report that pointed to more than 300 priests allegedly committing at least 1,000 acts of abuse.
Leech and her husband, Bernie Leech – residents of Johnstown's Roxbury neighborhood, have spent the year talking with victims and their families about shared painful experiences.
“We met the most wonderful people imaginable,” Cindy Leech said. “It's just heartbreaking that you had to meet them because of this. They're all strong people that have been through so much. We always say we feel bad because – we lost our son, and it hurts – but it was him that went through it. You see how these people have to get up every day and deal with what they do, it's really hard.”
Once devout church-goers, who were often seen at services with their 10 sons, Bernie and Cindy Leech have gone away from the Catholic institution.
“I still believe in God, but I don't need to go to church, a building to talk to him,” Bernie Leech said. “That's the way I look at it now.”
Cindy Leech explained how the abuse of her son changed the family's perspective of the church.
“You look at all these people,” Cindy Leech said. “They go to church. They're blind. They live in a bubble. They're blind. They do exactly what the church tells them to do. And we were guilty of that, too, until you realize if it happens to you, you change, you open your eyes and you see what's going on. Part of me feels bad for the people that are still being led in that direction and they can't see the writing on the wall, unless it happens to them. It's sad.”
She is “disappointed” that the report has not led to changes to Pennsylvania's statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, which currently expire at age 30 for civil actions and 50 for criminal cases.
“We thought once that report was released that things would move forward a lot better than they did,” Cindy Leech said.
Bernie Leech thinks “nothing really changed since the report came out – a lot of awareness of everything, but nothing's really changed.”
In February, Dougherty a Westmont resident, attended “The Protection of Minors in the Church” at Vatican City and Rome, participating in vigils, doing interviews, meeting with members of the Italian Parliament and making a stop at the Embassy of the United States to the Holy See.
Dougherty also gained access to the Vatican's inner circle when he and about a dozen other victims met with organizers of the event, including Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
He directly handed a picture of Corey Leech to those officials. There has been no response.
“We heard nothing from anybody,” Cindy Leech said. “I think that was – to me – like the final straw. There are probably thousands of priests. Somebody couldn't have taken the time to respond, to say something?”
Dougherty has become a recognized victims' advocate, telling his story to news outlets across the world.
He has also championed the cause of eliminating Pennsylvania's statute of limitations, including implementing a two-year, retroactive window during which alleged victims could file civil claims even if the current time limit has expired. New Jersey and New York passed new statute of limitations laws – with retroactive windows – earlier this year.
“Parts of this are incredible,” Dougherty said. “But, at times, I really just find myself shocked still, myself. I would think that I would get used to being shocked, but I'm not used to being shocked. I'm still shocked. I'm shocked that it's been a year they've been able to get away with this in Pennsylvania, for a year. I'm shocked at that. I'm shocked that New York beat Pennsylvania to the passage of the law. I'm shocked that New Jersey beat Pennsylvania to the passage of the law. But, then again, I'm not shocked.”
Going forward, Dougherty said, “After dealing with the Legislature in Pennsylvania for the last three solid years, I really can't tell you what's going to happen with the legislation.”
When Hoatson, an advocate and victim of abuse, listened to the press conference he “felt that Josh Shapiro was speaking to me, too, as a person who has been trying to uncover a lot of this stuff.”
He considers the grand jury report to be “probably the most impactful event perhaps in the history of the clergy sexual abuse movement – the one single act.”
Working with Road to Recovery provides Hoatson the opportunity to talk with victims and supporters from across the country, which he feels provides a broad perspective on the report's impact.
“You hear the Pennsylvania grand jury report quoted everywhere,” Hoatson said. “And, as a result of that, huge numbers of states have begun investigations similar to what Josh Shapiro did. It was almost like a tsunami of investigations began after the Pennsylvania grand jury report.
“A thousand victims, 300 priests, when people heard that their jaws dropped after a two-and-a-half-year investigation. And the attorney general himself went before the cameras and told people how horrific it was, and he obviously didn't hold back. People I think were very uplifted by the fact that an attorney general would come before the public and just tell them the straight truth because the church was never able to tell the truth or wouldn't tell the truth.”
Editor's note : Tribune-Democrat reporter Dave Sutor has been covering child sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown and Pennsylvania since 2013. Corey Leech's abuse was not publicly known until his death in 2017. But, for full disclosure, The Tribune-Democrat would like readers to know the Sutor and Leech families are related.
Coronation Street spoilers: Historic sex abuse storyline revealed for Paul Foreman
by Duncan Lindsay
Coronation Street is to explore the devastating effects of historic child sexual abuse within a family. Gemma Winter's (Dolly Rose Campbell) world is set to be torn apart when it is revealed that her twin brother Paul (Peter Ash) was sexually abused by their stepdad Kel as a child.
In the coming weeks Kel will come back into their lives when Gemma and Paul's mum Bernie (Jane Hazlegrove) is reunited with her ex. It soon becomes evident that while Gemma and Bernie welcome Kel back into the fold, Paul is unnerved by his return and is struggling having him around.
Paul was sexually abused as a young teenager by Kel and the innocent boy was groomed into believing he and Kel were in a consensual relationship. However, when Paul's partner Billy Mayhew (Daniel Brocklebank) discovers his secret he points out to Paul that he was a young child and was in fact being sexually abused by Kel.
The heartbreaking story will explore Paul's struggle to come to terms with what happened to him and his ultimate fight for justice. As the story develops Bernie will find it difficult to cope with the fact that she had no idea what was going on under her own roof. Coronation Street producers and writers are working closely with Survivors Manchester who are advising on the story.
Producer Iain MacLeod said: ‘Gemma and Paul's family background has always been fascinating to me – the inseparable bond of twins but with a huge fault-line down the middle, which we've hinted at but never explained. This story sensitively explores something that is tragically all too common in families in the real world and will highlight the way these painful events still reverberate many years later.
‘It will, I hope, allow people who have survived similar abuse and perhaps suffered in silence to find their voice and speak up. It will also showcase the brilliant talents of Peter Ash, Dolly-Rose Campbell, Jane Hazlegrove and Corrie newcomer Joe Alessi in some incredibly challenging, powerful scenes. I am very proud of this story.'
Peter Ash said: ‘I have known about this storyline for some time so have had the opportunity to speak to Duncan Craig at Survivors Manchester in advance of filming which has been great. His experience was really similar to Paul's so it was invaluable for me to be able to talk about all the conflicting emotions and not accepting or realizing it was abuse until later on in life.
‘I have also spoken to Jack P Shepherd about how he found filming the male rape storyline and he told me about the increase in calls to Survivors Manchester off the back of it which is incredible. It's an important storyline and I want to get it right.'
Duncan Craig from Survivors Manchester said: ‘Following on from our work on the David Platt rape storyline, I am delighted that Coronation Street have once again asked us at Survivors Manchester to help them with this sensitive storyline. We learned so much together before and the effort made last time is allowing us to tackle the finer and complex details of Paul's feelings and behavior. This story is going to resonate with so many male survivors, I'm proud of Coronation Street for committing to making sure it's right.
‘Peter and I have been talking a lot about how Paul would be feeling and I have shared some of my own experiences of breaking my silence which Peter has handled with so much care. I know this story will be difficult but as a survivor I have to say it is vital if we are to understand male sexual violence and abuse. Well done Corrie for being brave enough to tell this true story.
‘Once again, I'm proud to stand with Coronation Street in telling a difficult story as truthfully and as sensitively as possible. Their commitment to being authentic to real life issues is inspiring and I know first-hand the actual impact of these stories being told – our last piece of work together resulted in a 1700% increase in calls to the male survivor helpline.
Liberals spending $22M to combat 'absolute evil' of online child pornography
Funds will expand national strategy that works with industry, police and global partners
by Kathleen Harris
Canada's Liberal government is spending more than $22 million to prevent the online sexual abuse of children, through an expanded strategy that partners with police, digital industry and international allies.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced details of the investment, earmarked in this year's budget, in Ottawa on Tuesday. It expands on a strategy aimed at raising awareness, reducing the stigma around reporting and enhancing Canada's ability to pursue and prosecute offenders.
The investment includes:
Goodale said police-reported incidents of child pornography in Canada increased by 288 per cent between 2010 and 2017, and said this type of crime is notoriously under-reported.
$2.1 million to intensify engagement with digital industry to develop new tools online and support effective operating principles.
$4.9 million for research, public engagement, awareness and collaboration with non-governmental organizations.
$15.25 million to internet child exploitation units in provincial and municipal police forces across the country.
Tuesday's announcement follows a meeting last week with Canada's so-called Five Eyes intelligence partners in London: the U.K., the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, where the sexual exploitation of children topped the agenda.
"Very young girls are the principal victims, and their victimization can last a very long time. The consequences are painful and devastating," Goodale said.
"In the Five Eyes countries, we are totally united in our determination to combat the absolute evil of child sexual exploitation."
Goodale said the national strategy recognizes technology is "increasingly facilitating the easy, borderless access to vast volumes of abhorrent images."
The images are shared around the world, making investigations increasingly complex, he said
Goodale called on private companies to do more to stop the spread of online child pornography, including improving technology to identify offensive and damaging material quickly. He suggested anyone who doesn't step up should be held to financial account.
Public Safety Minister says online platforms should be held accountable over online child exploitation.
"If human harm is done, if a child is terrorized for the rest of their life because of what happened to them on the internet ... if there are other damages and costs, then maybe the platform that made that possible should bear the financial consequences."
Conservatives vow crackdown
Conservative MP and public safety critic Pierre Paul-Hus called Goodale's news conference "nothing but a reannouncement in the dying days of a scandal-plagued government" that will do nothing to help victims of violent crime.
Paul-Hus said the Conservatives are committed to combating child abuse, pointing to policy proposals put forward by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer in May that would impose mandatory five-year prison sentences for anyone convicted of a serious sexual crime against children.
"A Conservative government will always put the rights of victims ahead of the rights of criminals," he said in a statement. "We will ensure that any monster who harms or sexually exploits a child will be behind bars where they belong for a very long time.
Victims speak out as Próvolo Institute abuse trial begins in Mendoza
Some 20 ex-students say they were sexually abused, including cases of rape, by two priests between 2004 and 2016. On Monday, two Catholic priests stood in the dock in Mendoza, charged with 28 alleged crimes, including rape and sexual abuse.
Ezequiel Villalonga signs frantically with his hands to express the power he feels after years of suffering, now that the priests whom he and other former students at an institute for the deaf accuse of abuse are finally going to trial.
Villalonga, 18, is one of about 20 ex-students of the Antonio Próvolo Institute for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Children in Mendoza Province who say they were sexually abused, including cases of rape, between 2004 and 2016.
Their alleged abusers went on trial Monday in a case that Pope Francis has not commented on publicly – despite its closeness to his papacy.
The complaints at the institute came to light at the end of 2016 and created a scandal that deepened when it emerged that one of the accused, the Reverend Nicola Corradi, had been reported for similar allegations at the Antonio Próvolo institute in Verona, Italy, and that the pope had been notified that Corradi was running a similar center in Argentina.
“Those of us from the Próvolo in Mendoza said: ‘No more fear. We have the power,'” Villalonga told The Associated Press with the help of an interpreter, explaining how others decided to come forward after an initial “brave” person did so.
The AP doesn't name alleged sexual assault victims unless they make their identities public, which Villalonga did in an interview in the headquarters of the human rights group Xumek, which is the plaintiff in the trial.
Alejandro Gullé, chief prosecutor in Mendoza, called the trial “unprecedented, one of the most important in this province, one whose importance will transcend this country.”
On trial for aggravated sexual abuse of minors, sexual touching and corrupting minors will be: Corradi, an Italian who is 83 and under house arrest; the Reverend Horacio Corbacho, a 59-year-old priest; and Armando Gómez, 63. The latter two are Argentines and in prison in Mendoza. Corbacho has pleaded not guilty and the other two defendants have not entered pleas.
They are charged with 28 alleged crimes against 10 deaf minors and face prison sentences of up to 20 years. It is the first in a series of trials in which other former members of the now-closed school will be judged. Others implicated include two nuns who allegedly participated or knew about the abuses, as well as former directors and employees who are accused of knowing about the abuse but taking no action.
Prosecutors say that not only were children sexually touched and abused, but were sometimes forced to watch pornography or perform sex acts among themselves.
Jorge Bordón, an institute employee, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2018 in the case for rape, sexual touching and corrupting minors, by forcing children to perform sex acts on each other. But the former students at the Mendoza school believe they can achieve the first prison sentences for priests and clergy at the Roman Catholic institute, which has other branches. They are also demanding Francis strip the alleged abusers of their status as priests in the canonical process.
“Francis was very quiet about the abusive priests, but now the sentence is coming,” said Villalonga. “I know that the pope is afraid because the deaf have been brave.”
The Vatican has not commented publicly on the trial. The Holy See would be loath to be seen as interfering in a criminal trial, and typically defers all comment, as well as the outcome of its own investigations, until after all investigations by civil law enforcement are completed.
In 2017, the Church sent two Argentine priests to investigate what happened in Mendoza.
Dante Simón, a judicial vicar, told the AP that the acts denounced are “horrible” and “more than plausible.” He said the pontiff expressed his sadness and told him that “he was very worried about this situation and it would be a labor.”
In a report submitted to the Vatican in June of that year, Simón requested the application of the maximum penalty to Corradi and Corbacho, that they be made to “resign directly by the Holy Father.” The report must be reviewed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
HISTORY OF ABUSE
The case hits close to home for the Vatican, which is accused of having disregarded the warnings of the alleged Italian victims of Corradi, when just months earlier the pope had promulgated new rules to combat abuse in the Church.
Corradi was singled out for similar abuses committed since the 1950s at the Próvolo Institute in Verona, Italy. His name appeared in a letter addressed to the pope in 2014 in which the Italian accusers mentioned several allegedly abusive priests who continued to exercise the ministry and said that Corradi and three other priests were in Argentina.
“Two and a half years have passed [since the Mendoza case was uncovered] and Francisco has not uttered a single word to the survivors of the Próvolo in Mendoza,” Paola González, whose 16-year-old daughter was an alleged victim at the institute.
According to the investigation, the alleged abusers especially targeted children who spent the night in the institute's shelters, some of whom came from surrounding provinces.
Prosecutor Gustavo Stroppiana said one victim claimed to have been “tied with chains” while abused. “We found prophylactics and birth control pills” in raids carried on the Próvolo institute in Mendoza, he said.
The crimes allegedly took place in the dormitories of the two priests and of the children, in a loft and in a small chapel called the House of God where the children took first communion.
The children, with limited financial resources, didn't dare report the abuse because they were threatened with expulsion or the imprisonment of their parents, prosecutors said. Their communication skills were limited because they were not taught sign language at the school.
Authorities in Buenos Aires province recently ordered the arrest of Corradi for alleged abuses in the Próvolo Institute in La Plata. It is believed the Italian priest went to that center in the 1980s after he was transferred from Verona before heading to Mendoza in the 1990s.
The accusers' relatives say the transfers of Corradi would follow the Church practice at the time of moving accused priests around the world to different parishes and locations.
Many Argentines are wondering why Francis did not remove Corradi from the Mendoza institute after being warned about the allegations against him in Verona.
Corradi's name appeared publicly in 2009 when 67 deaf people said they had been abused in the Verona institute by 24 priests, lay workers and religious brothers. They said he had been moved to Argentina. The Italian priest's name appeared again in a letter addressed to the pope in 2014 that pointed out the potential danger he represented to minors.
The Verona diocese sanctioned four of the 24 defendants, but not Corradi. There was no criminal case because of the elapsed time.
Faced with criticism by the families of the Argentine victims, the Archbishopric of Mendoza said it didn't know the background of the Italian priest when he arrived in the province and that the priest didn't depend on the local church but on a religious congregation based in Italy. It expressed its “solidarity and closeness” with the accusers and considered that “the corresponding responsibilities and sanctions” should be established.
Anne Barret Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, told the AP that she does not expect a response from the Vatican and the pope.
“Pope Francis will continue to pretend that he has no responsibility for the atrocities in Mendoza. If he does respond, it will be a pro forma statement about his commitment to ending child sex abuse in the Church.”
She added that when the crimes at the Verona school made world headlines in 2009 and 2010, “the pope was president of the Argentine bishops' conference. He could have ordered an investigation of the Mendoza and La Plata schools then.”
“And certainly, as pope, he could have acted years ago. He was notified by the Verona victims of Corradi's presence in Argentina.”
Villalonga said he hopes a conviction will restore his calm.
“The pope has ignored us, taken us the deaf for fools,” he said.
Former World Champion boxer Carlos Balmodir jailed for child abuse
A former Argentinian world champion boxer who once went 12 rounds with Floyd Mayweather Jr, has been jailed for 18 years after being convicted of child abuse.
Carlos Balmodir, 48, was told his fate today after being hauled to court in handcuffs wearing a white T-shirt with the word ‘Triumph' on it.
The retired boxer, who has been held in custody since the end of 2016, was found guilty of repeatedly abusing the youngster between 2012 and 2014 when she was aged seven and eight.
His trial at a court in the Argentinian city of Santa Fe – which started on July 25 – was held behind closed doors after courtroom confrontations with reporters covering the hearing.
At one point the former boxer stuck up his middle finger at journalists.
Baldomir is expected to serve out the remainder of his sentence in Santa Fe prison Coronda where he has been on remand since his arrest nearly three years ago.
State prosecutors and private prosecutors acting for the victim and her family had demanded a prison sentence of 20 years when the trial started.
Baldomir, who pleaded not guilty, became a world welterweight champion after defeating Zab Judah in January 2006 in a mandatory challenge for the American's title at Madison Square Garden.
He went on to defend his WBC Welterweight title and won the IBA welterweight title by defeating fan favorite Arturo Gatti in July 2006.
He fought Floyd Mayweather Jr on November 4 2006 in Las Vegas for the WBC, The Ring and lineal welterweight titles. He survived 12 rounds but two judges had Mayweather winning all 12 rounds, with the other giving all but two to the American.
His professional boxing record stands at 49 wins and 16 losses from his 71 fights.
Sydney's Knox Grammar school teacher charged over child abuse material
Nick Warby, a teacher at the private school on Sydney's north shore, charged after a mobile phone was found at a swimming pool
A teacher at a private school on Sydney's north shore has been charged with possessing child abuse material after he left his mobile phone at a swimming pool, police say.
Detectives were called to Knox Grammar on Monday afternoon after “a large number of child abuse images” were found on a phone left at the aquatic center.
Nick Warby, 30, was arrested and taken to Hornsby police station while officers searched his home and seized a number of electronic devices.
It is also alleged drugs – including ice and GHB – were found in the man's car.
Knox headmaster Scott James in a letter to parents said the teacher had been removed from his duties at the aquatic center.
“A colleague discovered inappropriate internet images on a mobile phone which we believe belongs to the staff member,” James wrote in Tuesday's letter.
“Police were alerted. They have advised us that there is currently no suggestion the images relate to Knox boys or swim center students.”
Warby appeared at Hornsby local court on Tuesday afternoon and was granted bail.
He is due back in court on 27 August.
The 30-year-old is the director of aquatic sports at Knox, according to his LinkedIn profile, and has been in the role since early 2017.
The teacher has described himself as a “friendly and enthusiastic educator with a passion for promoting sport and physical activity amongst young people”.
Warby has been a volunteer with Surf Life Saving Australia and the NSW Rural Fire Service.
Sheryl Crow addresses Michael Jackson sex abuse allegations: 'I'm mad at a lot of people'
by Jeremy Nifras
Sheryl Crow is speaking out over sexual assault allegations involving the late Michael Jackson.
In an interview with The Guardian, the "All I Wanna Do" artist talked about her upcoming final album, her connection to younger fans, and her transition towards a healthier lifestyle, among other topics.
But perhaps the biggest bombshells came when she was questioned about the #MeToo movement, and more specifically, her relationship with past tour mate Michael Jackson, whose allegations of sexual abuse were widely publicized in the HBO documentary, "Leaving Neverland."
Crow was a backup singer for Jackson during his "Bad" tour, which ran from 1987 to 1989. In the interview, she described her emotions upon watching scenes from the documentary, which depicted Jackson as an child abuser.
"I happened to turn on CNN the morning after the first half [of 'Leaving Neverland'] aired, and they showed clips of the young man who was on the Jackson tour with us and it made me … I mean, I still feel really …," Crow told The Guardian before trailing off.
The controversial documentary, which aired earlier this year, featured in-depth interviews with Wade Robson and James Safechuck, two men who accused Jackson of sexually abusing them as children, when Robson was age 7 and when Safechuck was age 10. The film's release led to strong and swift backlash against Jackson, with many social media users pledging to boycott his music.
Upon recollecting herself, Crow added, "It's like a death in the family, you know? It's sad. [James Safechuck] was a great kid and the whole time he was with us – which was the better half of an 18-month tour – I always wondered: ‘What in the world are his parents doing?', you know?"
Crow went on to describe how the alleged abuse might have been allowed to happen for so long, claiming there was a "network of people" surrounding the singer who were complicit.
"I think that there were a lot of exceptions made because of the damage that [Jackson] … I mean, he didn't intentionally project it, but it was part of his aura – this almost being untouchable and almost alien-like [figure]," Crow said. "And, yeah, I mean, I'm sad, and I'm mad at a lot of people. I feel like there was just a huge network of people that allowed all that to go on. It's just tragic."
She later told the outlet that for years after the tour, Jackson "actually did not know my name for quite a long while," and when questioned if the two ever reunited after she made it big, she claims the two "never" had contact.
"I saw him at the Grammys and I don't think he ever put together [who I was]," she claimed.
Elsewhere in the interview, Crow reflected on some instances of sexual harassment she's received during her own career, and while she didn't specify any names, the "Soak Up the Sun" singer was confident her abusers would eventually get retribution for their actions.
"I've been through some really painful experiences and sexual harassment, so I have been through it. But I've never had any apologies and I will say that karma is a mean mamma – and that she seems to get even," Crow said.
"I wouldn't wish anyone ill," she said softly, "but me getting an apology now, from someone who doesn't mean it, doesn't matter to me.
Hollywood is driving global sex trafficking epidemic by glamorizing porn, Christian activist says
by Leah MarieAnn Klett
Hollywood's normalization of pornography is feeding the sex trafficking industry, says Noel Yeatts, president of the anti-trafficking organization World Help.
“The United States is the number one consumer of sex worldwide, and we've become numb enough to pornography that we're fine with films and TV shows that glamorize this particular issue,” Yeatts told The Christian Post. “The danger here is that we forget there are people behind this issue, and it causes us to become cold to the sex-trafficking epidemic that is right on our doorstep.”
“As Christians,” she added, “we have an incredible opportunity to make a difference. In this #MeToo world we live in, we can't forget that there are women who have been saying that for hundreds of years, yet no one has been listening. Together, we can change that.”
World Help exists to rescue vulnerable girls from sex trafficking and help them pursue their dreams. The organization ministers in Thailand and India, and focuses on meeting urgent physical needs while also investing in sustainable solutions in the fight against poverty and spiritual darkness. Since 1991, the group has touched the lives of nearly 84 million people and saved countless women and girls from the sex trafficking industry.
“What we do is rescue girls from the sex industry and give them a second chance,” Yeatts said. “We house them in one of our freedom homes and give them an education, spiritual discipleship, and a safe place to live.”
Yeatts cited the high rates of poverty and hardship in tribal communities across both India and Thailand as a driving force behind the sex trafficking epidemic. Oftentimes, girls enter into prostitution because they are expected to provide for their families. Many of them, she revealed, are just 9 to 14 years old.
“A lot of people don't understand extreme poverty drives this business globally,” she said. “In reality, poverty is the pimp. Girls come from rural areas of extreme poverty with the burden of providing for their families. They end up in bars because it's the only place that will give them a safe place to live. One thing leads to another, and before they know it, they're trapped in this industry.”
In Bangkok, a city known as Southeast Asia's “gateway for human trafficking,” upward of 30,000 girls can be found working in well over 1,000 bars, Yeatts said, and that number is growing.
“I talked to one girl at a bar and I was surprised to see how much we had in common,” she recalled. “She pulled out her phone and showed me her son, and then it hit me that our lives could not be further apart. We wanted the same things, like providing for our children, but I have resources and she doesn't. Poverty had robbed her of any opportunity.”
World Help's freedom homes have housed hundreds of girls over the years, giving new life to those captured in the sex industry.
“I'm always struck by the difference between the girls on the street and in the home,” Yeatts said. “In the home, they're little girls dancing and playing, but the laughing and dancing doesn't tell the whole story because these girls' stories were full of physical and sexual abuse, child pornography, and abandonment and hunger. It's heartbreaking.”
“Because of this home, these girls are receiving the help they need and they're beginning to heal,” she continued. “One little girl said to me, ‘I've been lonely for a very long time. But I feel love here. I've begun to dream again.'”
All Christian in the U.S. have a role to play in preventing abuse worldwide, Yeatts said, noting that the first step in ending sex trafficking is educating children.
“I see American men on the streets and in the bars and it makes me wonder — what are we teaching our kids and youth? Why is this behavior normalized and accepted as adults?” she asked. “The way we combat this is to make it unacceptable and stop the demand. When you look at this issue, you have to understand our country is creating the demand.”
All it takes is $50 to help introduce one girl to freedom and break the chains of slavery, Yeatts said, reiterating her belief that “poverty is the pimp.”
“That's why we place such an emphasis on education in our homes,” she said. “Anyone can join this global fight against sex trafficking, whether it's through donations or prayer. I believe that if all of us unite, we can end this vicious cycle.
No excuse for violence against children
by Etienne Krug, Howard Taylor, Zoleka Mandela
Geneva—At the World Health Assembly (WHA) in May, we made the case for why governments and United Nations agencies need to spend more on measures to prevent noncommunicable diseases, injury and violence against children. One of us—Zoleka Mandela—spoke of losing her 13-year-old daughter to a drunk driver, and of suffering sexual violence as a child at the hands of adults who should have been taking care of her. “It was an abuse of power, and it was a violation of trust,” she told the assembly. “It left me emotionally and mentally scarred. It led me to self-harm and to try to take my own life several times. It led to alcohol and drug dependency.”
We hope this personal account of trauma will serve as a reminder to leaders around the world that violence, mental and sexual trauma, and substance abuse are interrelated issues that can have a deep and lasting impact on the lives of children. The evidence for this is overwhelming. In this year alone, an estimated 1 billion children will experience physical, sexual or psychological violence at home, in school, online and in their communities. One in four will suffer physical abuse; if they are girls, nearly one in five will suffer sexual abuse in their lifetimes.
Violence against children is persistent and pervasive, regardless of gender and geography. If we open our eyes, we will see a constant stream of stories about its victims. They come from all walks of life, from a young girl in India who reports that her family sold her to sex traffickers to the French actor Thierry Beccaro, who has revealed that he was brutally beaten by his father throughout his childhood.
What these and countless other trauma stories show is that the impact of violence lasts long after the abuse itself. Victims often experience lifelong social, emotional and cognitive consequences. They are at higher risk not just of depression, anxiety and suicide, but also heart disease, obesity and HIV/AIDS. And these effects are regularly passed down to the next generation, because children who grow up in abusive homes are more likely to become abusers themselves, and to find themselves in abusive relationships as adults.
Still, prevention is possible, response services can be made more available, and the political will to address the problem is at an all-time high. As part of the Sustainable Development Agenda in 2015, world leaders committed to ending all forms of violence, abuse and neglect against children by 2030. To defend the right of every child to live free from fear, neglect, abuse and exploitation, the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children and its associated Fund were established in 2016. The same year, the World Health Organization issued its Inspire report, outlining seven strategies that have proven successful in reducing violence against children.
Health policy is a crucial component of progress, and there are some encouraging signs on this front. In 2017, for example, India's National Health Policy identified gender violence as one of the country's seven major public health concerns. Likewise, Rwanda's national reproductive health strategy now includes prevention and response to sexual violence as a top priority.
In addition to these specific examples, a broader effort is underway to promote universal health coverage for children, and to coordinate policies between ministries of health and child protective services. More governments and public health agencies are recognizing the link between violence and mental health, and are taking positive steps to provide psychosocial support for victims.
But the battle is not won. Violence-prevention and response services are still absent in many areas; where services are available, children are too often treated without the benefit of evidence-based protocols. From medicine and counseling to criminal justice, large segments of the public sector in some countries lack appropriately trained professionals to care for child survivors of violence.
The global health community has confronted similar challenges before. There has been tremendous progress toward ending childhood deaths from malaria, tuberculosis, and other preventable diseases. These gains are the result of political and financial commitments, and of sustained attention and action on the part of governments and multilateral institutions. The same level of commitment and action is needed to address the scourge of violence against children.
Making the investments needed to end violence against children will also accelerate progress toward a number of other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But if we do not make those investments, the hard-fought progress that has already been made toward universal health care, high-quality education and other SDGs will be offset, or even reversed.
Nelson Mandela once observed that, “There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children.” To keep the momentum from the WHA's 72nd session this year, we must appreciate the personal stories and shocking statistics about the ongoing scourge of violence against children. Finding inspiration in the progress made so far, world leaders must redouble their commitment to ensure that all children are afforded the safety and opportunities they deserve.
Zoleka Mandela is a writer and activist. Etienne Krug is director of the World Health Organization's Department for Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence, and Injury Prevention. Howard Taylor is executive director of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children.