Danish PM apologizes for historical abuse in children's homes
The Danish prime minister addressed a room filled with dozens of victims of abuse in state-run homes
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has officially said sorry to hundreds of victims of historical abuse in state-run homes.
From 1945 to 1976 children were sexually abused, beaten and drugged at the homes, an official inquiry found.
The abuse took place across Denmark and campaigners have for years appealed to the state to accept it was at fault.
"The apology means everything. All we wanted was peace of mind," said one of the victims, Arne Roel Jorgensen.
The sixty-eight-year-old told the BBC how the lives of many of the children had been ruined by the abuse. Alcohol, drugs, multiple jobs and failed marriages had all taken their toll.
The Social Democrat prime minister met dozens of victims of the scandal at her official residence at Marienborg on Tuesday.
"I would like to look every one of you in the eyes and say sorry," she told them. "I can't take the blame but I can shoulder the responsibility."
Many were in tears as she said that children had been taken from their parents and instead of getting support and warmth, they received humiliation and abuse.
How did the abuse come to light?
Details about the homes first hit the headlines in 2005, when a Danish TV documentary featured shocking allegations of abuse and mistreatment from victims of the state-run Godhavn Boys' Home, in north-eastern Denmark.
The documentary also uncovered evidence that a psychiatrist had tested drugs on some of the children. Bjorn Elmquist, then an MP who had already been working on the abuse cases, said the drug LSD had been used to counter bed-wetting, leading to many of the children later becoming drug addicts.
Soon after the programme, the National Association of the Godhavn's Boys was formed and an independent inquiry was conducted in 2010.
The report, published in 2011 , investigated allegations of abuse and neglect at 19 homes for both boys and girls, interviewing children, staff and state inspectors.
Despite its limited scope, it documented "alarming physical, sexual and psychological abuse" and researchers found blood traces on a gymnastic horse, indicating children had been beaten on it.
Mr Elmquist, now a lawyer, said many of the victims felt great shame over what had happened: "Some of them contacted me and begged me not to have their names mentioned publicly."
He spoke of boys working in fields who were punished by adults using metal tools and of the overweight master at Godhavn having his own special form of punishment. "He pushed them with his big stomach and they fell down the staircase. He put them on a sofa and sat on top of them and jumped on them," he told the BBC.
Arne Roel Jorgensen found out three years ago that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder because of what had happened to him many years ago.
"Many of us have had failed marriages and we didn't learn how to act in society because nobody told us. I'm 68 now and definitely still living with the effects."
Nobody was ever prosecuted for what took place at the homes and successive governments decided the case was too old to be pursued. Before she was elected in June , Ms Frederiksen promised she would apologize for the state's role.
Poul-Erik Rasmussen, who was at Godhavn in the early 1960s, has fought for years to secure an apology and always felt that recognition was the main aim.
Many of the victims have made a point of not asking for compensation but Mr Rasmussen says he can understand anyone who wants it.
Bjorn Elmquist believes a commission and a fund should be set up to assess compensation, as he considers the abuse a clear infringement of the convention of torture that was incorporated into Danish law in 1984.
"It's not just a case of saying sorry," he says.
Archbishop says prison preferable to complying with child abuse confession law
Priests would have to break the seal of the confessional and report any admissions of child abuse under proposed news laws
by Lisa Martin
Melbourne's Catholic archbishop insists three years jail is preferable to breaking the seal of confession and reporting child sexual abuse to authorities.
Priests will risk prison if they don't report child abuse revealed to them during the sacrament of confession, under new laws introduced in Victoria on Wednesday.
The bill, introduced into state parliament would make religious ministers mandatory reporters of abuse suspicions alongside police, teachers, medical practitioners and early childhood workers.
“I don't think in contemporary and mainstream times, knowing what we know now, that we can do anything other than say the rights of children trump anyone's religious views,” the attorney general, Jill Hennessy, told reporters.
“Ultimately this is about making sure that we start to right the wrongs of systemic abuse.”
Archbishop Peter Comensoli said he'd ask someone who admitted abuse to tell him outside the box but if they refused he would “keep the seal”.
“I hold the principle of mandatory reporting … and I also hold onto the principle of the seal of confession. My own position is that I don't see that as mutually exclusive,” he told ABC Radio on Wednesday.
The archbishop's office later released a statement saying the church welcomed the proposed expansion of mandatory reporting to include religious ministers, but denied the seal of confession was an obstacle to mandatory reporting.
“Confession doesn't place people above the law. Priests should be mandatory reporters, but in a similar way to protections to the lawyer/client relationship and protection for journalists' sources.”
Catholic archbishops in the ACT and South Australia have also vowed to defy similar laws.
Melbourne's most senior Catholic also revealed he saw disgraced cardinal and convicted child abuser George Pell in prison about two months ago, as he awaits the outcome of his appeal over his conviction for sexual abuse.
“I think he has a sense of waiting, as anything there would be a psychological agitation about waiting for what's going to be the outcome of the appeal, but I found him strong spiritually and calm and very conversive,” Comensoli said.
Under the proposed Victorian laws, priests and spiritual leaders face up to three years' jail if they don't report child physical and sexual abuse allegations.
Archbishop's response to mandatory child sex abuse reporting labelled 'pig-headed'
“I would expect anyone who is aware of a commission of a crime would have the wherewithal and the personal ethics to report that crime,” Hennessy said.
The Andrews Labor government's reforms would also allow survivors of institutional abuse to apply to the supreme court to overturn “unfair” compensation settlements previously signed with churches.
Chrissie Foster, who with her late husband fought for years for compensation for their two girls who were abused by a Catholic priest, said there was no excuse for priests who failed to report confessions of abuse.
“The Catholic priesthood tried to get away with a basement bargain deal with all of this. They should pay until they can't stand up,” Foster said.
In the same bill, anyone denied a working-with-children check for serious crimes such as rape and murder would no longer be able to appeal that refusal.
The Blue Knot Foundation, the national center for excellence in complex trauma, hit out at the Catholic church's opposition to the law.
“Whatever justification church authorities present to support this stance, the continued suggestion that the Catholic church is above the secular law of the society in which it operates is unfortunate to say the least,” spokeswoman Dr Pam Stavropoulos said.
Victoria's Liberal-National opposition has previously indicated it would back a law mandating priests report child abuse allegations.
But party leader Michael O'Brien on Tuesday said he wanted to see the details of the bill.
“I'd like to think that in Victoria in 2019, we can make sure we can protect kids and we should also be able to respect freedom of religion. Let's see if the government has got that balance right,” he said.
Crossbench MP Fiona Patten welcomed the government's move, saying “I think that Jesus would mandatory report.
All San Diego diocesan employees meet to hear new steps in abuse fight
by Aida Bustos
SAN DIEGO - Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego gathered all 2,500-plus diocesan employees for the first time in its history to announce an expansion of the fight against the sexual abuse of children not just within the local church but in the greater society.
U.S. Church reforms adopted in the early 2000s have contributed to a dramatic decline in cases of child abuse by clergy. The San Diego Diocese has not had a confirmed incident of sexual abuse of a minor by any of its priests in the past 20 years, records show.
But much more remains to be done to confront abuse, McElroy told the employees at the Aug. 13 meeting at the University of San Diego.
The bishop said Pope Francis, in a directive issued in May, had challenged bishops worldwide not merely to change procedures, but to commit to personal and institutional transformation to eradicate abuse. McElroy then outlined his plan to drive that transformation within the diocese.
In his motu proprio titled Vos Estis Lux Mundi (“You Are the Light of the World”), Francis challenges Catholics to “recognize that while the Church's mission to eliminate sexual abuse must begin with the internal life of the Church and the sin and scandal of clergy sexual abuse, our efforts as disciples of Jesus Christ must also reach into those structures of societal and family life that generate and protect the sexual victimization of minors,” McElroy said.
At the meeting, the bishop:
These are the latest measures taken by McElroy in the past year in the wake of investigations in Pennsylvania and New York, as well as revelations in countries throughout the world, of devastating patterns of clergy sexual abuse of children and systematic cover-ups by bishops for decades.
- Called on every employee of the diocese to report child abuse they suspected was occurring, not just so-called mandated reporters obligated by law to do so, such as teachers and priests.
- Extended the effort to fight sexual child abuse beyond the Catholic Church, calling on all employees to report abuse wherever they suspected it was occurring in the larger society, where most of it occurs.
- Announced the formation of a task force to develop programming to raise awareness among the diocese's families at schools and parishes of the epidemic of child abuse and what they could do to prevent it and to help its victims to heal.
- Unveiled two new diocesan policies regarding communication and social media to advance the protection of minors. One prohibits all employees, including clergy, from communicating privately with minors they met through their work in the church without copying their parents or guardians on any such communications. The other bans all employees, clergy included, from having direct interaction on any personal social media account with any individual minor they met through their work.
At the meeting, McElroy highlighted the moral responsibility each staff member had to fight abuse. The fact that, years later, many co-workers admitted they had seen very troubling indications of abuse but had kept silent was “one of the most tragic dimensions of our history of sexual abuse,” he added.
“The epidemic of sexual abuse of minors thrives because it operates in the shadows,” McElroy said. “If any of us stand by and do nothing, then the evil of victimization triumphs.”
“We cannot erase the horror of the Church's history, nor can we restore the shattered souls and hearts and lives of those we have been victimized,” he added. “But we can move forward as Pope Francis calls us to, utterly resolved to continually expel the sexual abuse of minors from the internal life of the Church, and equally resolved to help transform families and society to purge the epidemic of sexual abuse that rages in our midst.
Claims: Migrant Children Molested in US-Funded Foster Care
by GARANCE BURKE, JULIET LINDERMAN, MARTHA MENDOZA
This story is part of an ongoing joint investigation between The Associated Press and FRONTLINE on the treatment of migrant children, which includes an upcoming film.
After local Guatemalan officials burned down an environmental activist's home, he decided to leave his village behind and flee to the United States, hoping he'd be granted asylum and his little boy, whose heart was failing, would receive lifesaving medical care.
But after crossing the border into Arizona in May of last year, Border Patrol agents tore the man's 7-year-old son from his arms and sent the father nearly 2,000 miles (3,220 kilometers) away to a detention center in Georgia. The boy, now 8, went into a U.S.-funded foster home for migrant children in New York.
The foster care programs are aimed at providing migrant children with care while authorities work to connect them with parents, relatives or other sponsors. But instead the boy told a counselor he was repeatedly sexually molested by other boys in the foster home.
A review of 38 legal claims obtained by The Associated Press — some of which have never been made public — shows taxpayers could be on the hook for more than $200 million in damages from parents who said their children were harmed while in government custody.
The father and son are among dozens of families — separated at the border as part of the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy — who are now preparing to sue the federal government, including several who say their young children were sexually, physically or emotionally abused in federally funded foster care.
With more than 3,000 migrant children taken from their parents at the border in recent years, many lawsuits are expected, potentially totaling in the billions. Families who spoke to the AP and FRONTLINE did so on the condition of anonymity over fears about their families' safety.
“How is it possible that my son was suffering these things?” the father said. “My son is little and couldn't defend himself.”
The families — some in the U.S., others already deported to Central America — are represented by grassroots immigration clinics and nonprofit groups, along with some of the country's most powerful law firms. They're making claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act as a precursor to filing lawsuits. The FTCA allows individuals who suffer harm as a direct result of federal employees to sue the government.
“It's the tip of the iceberg,” said Erik Walsh, an attorney at Arnold & Porter, which has one of the world's leading pro bono programs.
The firm has so far filed 18 claims on behalf of nine families, totaling $54 million, and Walsh says dozens more are likely coming.
The government has six months to settle FTCA claims from the time they're filed. After that, the claimants are free to file federal lawsuits.
The departments of Justice and Homeland Security — both named in claims — did not respond to requests for comment.
In a statement, Health and Human Services — the agency responsible for the care of migrant children — said it does not respond to pending litigation and that it serves children in a compassionate and organized manner through its Office of Refugee Resettlement.
“The important work happening in each of the facilities and programs in the ORR network around the country — work ORR has done successfully since 2003 — takes an experienced team of competent, hardworking men and women dedicated to the welfare of the children,” HHS spokesman Mark Weber said. “We treat the children in our care with dignity and respect.”
Last year, the Office of Refugee Resettlement cared for nearly 50,000 children who crossed the border by themselves, as well as children who were separated from their families under the zero tolerance policy. The agency housed them in foster programs, residential shelters and detention camps around the country, sometimes making daily placements of as many as 500 new arrivals, from babies to teens.
The allegations of abuse and assaults in foster care raise fresh questions about the government's efforts to place younger children with families in lieu of larger shelters and packed detention facilities.
The legal claims, a recent federal court filing and Health and Human Services documents released by Congress earlier this year allege that children have suffered serious emotional trauma after being physically harmed or fondled by other children while in foster care.
Six of the claims for damages involve children who were in foster care. And one recent court filing refers to a migrant child being abused in foster care.
The records released by Congress show the Office of Refugee Resettlement referred at least seven foster care allegations of sexual abuse to the Justice Department in 2017 and 2018. Because some are anonymous to protect the children's privacy, it's unclear if some of the claims are duplicates.
Justice has not responded to repeated queries about those cases from members of Congress.
Three of the four incidents involving physical harm outlined in legal filings occurred at Cayuga Centers in New York, the largest foster care placement for migrant children, housing up to 900 babies and children at a time. The kids are supposed to be placed with Spanish-speaking families who are paid $1,000 per month per child.
In a statement on Friday, Cayuga Centers said it takes the safety of children in its care seriously and reports allegations of abuse to the proper local, state and federal authorities, including the New York State Office of Children Services, the New York Police Department and Office for Refugee Resettlement.
“Child protection is our number one priority. If a concern is raised about child safety in a foster home, it is investigated immediately. Our staff are all mandated reporters,” the group said in the statement. “Children are removed from a foster home immediately when an allegation is raised and if necessary, a foster home would be suspended until cleared following a thorough investigation.”
In one Cayuga home, a foster parent found a little girl being forced to touch another child's private parts and kiss her on the lips, according to a memo submitted as part of a federal lawsuit related to family separation.
The girl was 3 when immigration officials took her from her father in March, after they'd crossed the border in Texas. As a result of her trauma, the little girl began to regress in foster care, having difficulty eating, drinking and using the toilet, according to her attorney. The girl was sent back to Honduras on Wednesday, a month after her father was deported.
One Guatemalan mother whose 5-year-old daughter was placed in Cayuga last year says her little girl still wakes up crying from what she endured at the foster home.
“Now she's scared each time we go out or when she sees a police car or someone in uniform,” said the mother, who has filed a $6 million claim. “She says ‘Mami, don't let them separate us again.'”
Another 5-year-old Guatemalan girl said a boy grabbed her chest and touched her inappropriately, both in her foster home and during daytime classes at a Safe Haven for Children New York foster program, according to a $3 million injury claim. The girl was moved to a new foster home, but there she suffered verbal abuse from her foster parent's mother, who called her names and locked her alone in rooms as punishment, according to the claim.
A spokesman for Lutheran Social Services of New York, which oversees the Safe Haven for Children New York foster program, declined to comment on the allegation.
Two claims blame the government for wrongful deaths: one, seeking $20 million, was filed by the wife of a Honduran father who killed himself in a padded cell after officers pulled his 3-year-old son from his arms.
“Essentially what this policy does, is it makes examples out of families that get ripped apart to deter others,” said John Escamilla, who is representing the man's wife and two children. He said he plans to file a federal lawsuit stemming from his FTCA claim as soon as Friday. “The people making these policies intended this level of suffering, and that's what's unconscionable.”
In another case not involving child separation, a Guatemalan toddler died after a three-week stay in a family detention center. Her mother's $60 million claim alleges the government failed to give the girl proper medical attention.
The government has not settled any family separation cases in the administrative claims stage. But one federal lawsuit is currently in litigation in Massachusetts, and in February, a federal judge in Connecticut approved a $125,000 settlement in a separate case, for a Honduran mom and her son, then 6, who had been detained for four months and threatened with separation under the Obama administration.
Aseem Mehta, a law student at the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School who worked on the case, said the settlement — the first of its kind — sends a clear message that such claims have legal standing. Mehta added that Trump's significantly harsher border policies, including family separation, could make for even stronger cases before courts.
“Our case is a benchmark,” Mehta said. “The most important takeaway is these claims are viable, and courts will entertain them, and the Department of Homeland Security views them as meritorious; they don't settle cases unless they think there's liability they're exposed to.”
Janet Napolitano, who led Homeland Security from 2009 to 2013, said she recalled a number of tort claims were filed against the agency at the time, though she said family separations were rare. The delays in reunifying families and children under the Trump administration may have left the agency open to legal challenges, she added.
“There very well may be some vulnerability there,” said Napolitano, now the president of the University of California.
Lawsuits stemming from family separation policies under the Trump administration are expected to be filed by mid-August.
Attorneys for migrant children have aimed several recent legal challenges at larger facilities that are not state-licensed and have held thousands of teens. Some say misconduct is less easily identified in foster care because it requires a child reporting or a foster parent happening to walk in on something occurring in the home.
“We may never know the extent to which children suffered particular abuses in foster homes,” said Michelle Lapointe, a senior supervising attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The Guatemalan father, now living in Southern California, is still struggling to soothe his son's lasting nightmares. He says his once talkative and outgoing third-grader is now withdrawn and frequently says he wants to leave this world.
“This can't happen again because for those of us who live through this, it is terrifying,” he said.
Thousands from Around the World Join in Dallas for Child Abuse Advocacy Conference
DALLAS (WBAP/KLIF) -- Children's Advocacy Center hosts it's annual Crimes Against Children Conference in Downtown Dallas. The four-day conference at the Sheraton Hotel hosts 5,200 people from around the world. “65-70% are either state local and federal law enforcement agencies, the rest are child advocates, prosecutors, nurses, therapists or anyone who works in the child abuse field and they are hoping to get best practices and take them back to their community,” said Dallas Children's Advocacy Center CEO Lynn Davis. They have over 300 speakers in 500 workshops to teach people how to investigate, prosecute and work with abused children.
“There is something for everyone for the beginner detective from the seasoned detective and they are here to hear from the best of the best,” said Davis. Davis says a lot of the IT companies are here like, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Google as well. “A lot of the child abuse cases we see are coming from the internet…there's been an increase,” Davis said. “These internet based-companies want to know how to best deal with law enforcement agencies and vise versa,” he said. Hetty Johnston traveled from Australia. She's the founder of Bravehearts Foundation and says it's the only one there. “I will walk on coals to get to this conference. It's the best,” she said. Johnston started her company after her daughter was sexually assaulted at age 6. “We don't have child advocacy centers in Australia…we want them,” she said. “There's so much knowledge and contacts here so we can take this back with us and convince our politicians that this is the way to go,” she said. Johnston hopes that by this time next year, more resources will be available for kids in Australia.
This conference also ties into back to school for kids. Davis says there's actually a spike in reported child abuse this time of year as children have been home all summer.
New Law Could Open Floodgates on Decades of Child Sexual Abuse within Jehovah's Witness
by Daniel Avery
It can take years, even decades, for victims of child sexual abuse to gather the strength to go to authorities. By then, the statute of limitations may have run out, leaving them with no legal recourse.
But a law going into effect in New York today could open the door to a deluge of new abuse lawsuits: Signed earlier this year, the Child Victims Act (CVA) temporarily lifts the statute of limitations for civil suits alleging abuse, regardless of the age of the plaintiff or how long ago the abuse allegedly occurred. While the "window" the CVA opens expires after one year, legal experts expect thousands of lawsuits to be filed in the coming months.
Two such suits are targeting the Governing Body of the Jehovah's Witnesses, the ruling council for the faith that formulates doctrine and manages worldwide operations.
In separate filings, Heather Steele and Michael Ewing both named the eight members of the Governing Body as defendants.
Steele, 48, says her first memories are of being molested by an elder, Donald Nicholson, in the mid-1970s when her family lived in New York. At age 10 she finally told her mother, who went to the elders instead of police.
"It was basically them trying to convince us it was in our minds, that none of this stuff actually happened or that we had bad dreams," Steele told The New York Post. The elders "told us that we should pray for [Nicholson]."
Eventually Steele's parents notified secular authorities and Nicholson served three-and-a-half-years in prison. When he got out, though, he was quietly moved to another congregation, where few knew of his past.
Ewing was 14 when he was paired with a Ministerial Servant (equivalent to deacon) to work as "pioneers," going door-to-door to proselytize. Over the next four years, he says, the older man raped him repeatedly—everywhere from Virginia to New York, where his case is being filed.
At 21, Ewing reported the abuse to his father—who, like Steele's mother—went to church elders. At a religious tribunal both he and his abuser were accused of engaging in homosexual activity and disfellowshiped, a severe form of excommunication where family and community cut all ties.
"While public attention has focused on clergy abuse within the Catholic Church, a serious problem of child sexual abuse within the Jehovah's Witnesses has also emerged," attorney Irwin Zalkin, who is representing Steele and Ewing, said in a press briefing.
In a statement to Newsweek, the U.S. Branch Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses said it would not address the cases "out of respect for the judicial process and the privacy of those involved."
"[Our] stand on the subject of child abuse is very clear: we abhor child abuse in any form," it added. "Over the years, Watchtower's publications have addressed this topic with a view to equipping parents to protect their children. In addition, Watchtower's practice is to always follow the law, and we support the efforts of elders in congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses to do the same."
Zalkin first took on the Witnesses in 2010, when he was approached by an ex-member who had heard of his work representing victims of abuse in the Catholic Church. "He was told his perpetrator had been 'dealt with,' Zalkin tells Newsweek, "but it turned out the wasn't the case."
That was the beginning of what he calls "an odyssey" of investigating the Jehovah's Witnesses. "These guys have been flying under the radar for far too long. They've very insular—they don't interact much with the outside world and they try to keep their dirty laundry in-house, too."
He says Steele and Ewing could be the first of many cases filed against the Witnesses in New York, where the group's national headquarters are located.
His legal career has largely involved representing victims of child mistreatment and abuse. He's also helped clients sue other religious groups—including the Baptist Church, the Episcopal Church, Hasidic Jewish organizations and the Living Word Fellowship. But with the Witnesses, he says, it's "a matter of scale."
"Any organization where you have adults in a custodial role, there's a potential for abuse. But with the Jehovah's Witnesses, the scale is massive."
In the past decade he's represented 24 former or current Witnesses, plus about 10 more than settled out of court: In 2012, his client José Lopez claimed he had been molested at age 7 by a man Witness elders had recommended as a mentor—despite knowing he had been accused of abusing boys before. (Lopez settled for an undisclosed amount.)
There have been dozens of other cases filed against the Jehovah's Witnesses, each alleging the church hid or mismanaged allegations of child sexual abuse.
The Governing Body even purportedly maintains a database of suspected molesters that, Zalkin alleges, "dates back decades."
Exactly how many are named is unclear—a former elder told the BBC there were records on 23,720 alleged pedophiles—but the church has repeatedly refused court orders to turn it over to authorities.
William Bowen knows about the database. He's the founder of Silent Lambs, an organization that works to connect victims of abuse within the Jehovah's Witnesses.
"Eighty percent of the people on that database have faced no legal charges," Bowen estimates. "And they've all been convicted 'at the mouth of two witnesses,' he says, quoting Deuteronomy 19:15, the source of the church's policy on abuse: A member alleging any wrongdoing must present two witnesses to be believed.
If they can't, Bowen tells Newsweek, "the perpetrators are considered innocent."
If your claims of abuse are disbelieved, you could face being disfellowshipped, an extreme form of excommunication. "Your own parents won't speak to you—they'll put you on the street or act like you're dead," he adds. "It puts children in real danger. It makes them unable to have a voice."
Zalkin has worked with clients who were disfellowshipped as young as age 13. "They're shunned in their own homes," he says. For adults, being disfellowshipped can have its own consequences.
Many Jehovah's Witnesses work in businesses owned by church members, says Bowen. "So if you're disfellowshipped, you're gonna be fired, you're gonna be cut off from everyone you know."
Silent Lambs originally had victims communicate anonymously, he says, "because the church normally went after them, one by one."
Ex-JW Reddits are filled with stories of depression, drug and alcohol abuse and suicide attempts by people disfellowshipped by the church. An online poll in JWsurvey, a site for ex-Jehovah's Witnesses or those questioning the religion's teachings, 77 percent said they were being shunned.
Bowen, who has worked with more than 10,000 victims since founding Silent Lambs in 2001, says the danger of abuse is more pernicious among Witnesses than in the Catholic Church. "[The Catholic hierarch] just covers up for priests. This policy covers every single member of the Jehovah's Witnesses—whether it's a parent, an elder or just another congregation member."
Zalkin calls Bowen's assessment "absolutely right."
"The two-witness rule—it doesn't matter who you are, they're protecting everyone and anyone. With a biblical law that makes no sense in the modern day."
Bowen was an elder himself for 15 years before being disfellowshipped in 2000 for reporting abuse he had uncovered. But he insists Silent Lambs isn't a "vigilante group" out to get Jehovah's Witnesses. "Im not against them—I want them to be a better church," he says. "If we can just do away with this two-eyewitnesses rule and automatically report abuse to the police. But for 20 years they've refused to do it. It's beyond comprehension—just report it to the police!"
Zalkin describes The Jehovah's Witnesses internal disciplinary process as "secretive."
"They don't tell anyone else why the person is being disciplined. And if someone confesses and demonstrates—in their mind—that they're repentant, repentant, they'll get a 'private reproof,' which is like a 'slap on the wrist.'
In the past, he's filed suits against perpetrators, various congregations and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the Witnesses' corporate arm. But this is the first time his firm has named the Governing Body as a defendant.
"Before, having to sue from another state, we've had trouble even getting a deposition from these guys," he says. "But given that [the Governing Body] operates from the state of New York, and control the conduct of Witnesses worldwide, we think have a good shot."
He's also encouraged by the fact that some of Ewing's abuse happened while he was staying at the Bethel (branch complex) in Wallkill, New York, in the mid-1980s.
Steele lived in New York State when her abuse occurred.
"There was an incredible amount of knowledge among elders about Heather's abuser—he admitted it," Zalkin says. "There's such a volume of evidence. There's very little question of responsibility on the part of the Governing Body."
Zalkin has been able to get the Watchtower to provide documents from the database but says most of the vital information has been redacted. "They're virtually useless—there's no names of elders, or perpetrators. Or explanation of what happened to the perpetrators."
"The Jehovah's Witnesses will tell you this is about their First Amendment rights," he adds. "But it's really about conduct. And when your conduct results in harm to children it's not a First Amendment issue. It's criminal conduct—they're harboring criminals."
Bowen says church leaders have categorically refused to apologize for "the massive and horrendous abuse they've committed over the decades."
In the JWsurvey's poll, 90 percent of respondents believe the Jehovah's Witnesses "have a problem with child abuse." More than half said that either they or someone they knew personally had been molested.
When Candace Conti was 9, she was paired for field service with a man named Jonathan Kendrick. For two years, she alleges, instead of taking her door-to-door to proselytize, Kendrick brought her home and molested her. More than 20 years later, Conti confronted her congregation's elders about the abuse. They claimed that, without two witnesses, there was nothing they could have done.
In 2015 Conti sued Kendrick, her former congregation and Watchtower. In their depositions, the elders admitted they'd known Kendrick had a history of molestation before pairing him with Conti. In 2012, a jury awarded her a record $28 million, believed to be the first time an accuser refused to take a settlement from the Witnesses. (On appeal, the damages were knocked down to less than $3 million.)
In September 2018, a woman who claimed her elders in Thompson Falls, Montana, were ordered not to report her abuse won a $35 million settlement. As a child, she told them she was being molested but, instead of reporting her abuser to police, they suspended the man until he repented—a direct violation of Montana's reporting laws.
In 2016, an Australian commission found that Watchtower demonstrated a "serious failure" to protect children in that country, including refusing to report to police more than 1,000 alleged molesters it had identified over some 60 years. Governing Body member Geoffrey Jackson told the commission that "child abuse is a problem right throughout the community" and admitted, in most cases, the children are usually telling the truth.
But the church is appealing the Montana case, contending the national organization isn't liable for the actions of elders in Thompson Falls. In filings, church attorneys also claimed that Montana law exempts elders from reporting "internal ecclesiastical proceedings on a congregation member's serious sin."
Watchtower is also asking The U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on a 2013 suit filed by a California family whose 9-year-old daughter was molested by Gilbert Simental, a Jehovah's Witness elder: The Fourth District Court of Appeal in California upheld the victim's $4 million award, and ordered the church to turn over its database of abusers.
But the Watchtower claims the documents are protected by clergy-penitent confessional privilege.
"California targeted the faith of Jehovah's Witnesses and impermissibly intruded upon matters of church governance, religious doctrine and religious practice when it ordered Watchtower to produce these intra-faith communications," read its petition to the high court.
Simental was sentenced to 45 years to life but at his 2008 sentencing, a crowd of Jehovah's Witnesses "demonstrated solidarity with Simental, appealing for a more lenient sentence," Mark O'Donnell, a lead whistleblower for victims, wrote at JWSUrvey. "[The victim] and her parents were treated as if they broke the congregation code of silence."
Bowen says the "opening of the window" the Child Victims Act provides could have massive ramifications for victims who grew up Jehovah's Witnesses. But he doesn't believe it'll change how the Governing Body operates.
New York State
Hundreds of Child Sexual Abuse Lawsuits Flood N.Y. Courts
Wednesday was the first day in a one-year window allowing victims of child sexual abuse to file lawsuits, regardless of their age.
by Sharon Otterman
Theodore E. McCarrick, the prominent Roman Catholic cardinal who was defrocked early this year for sexual abuse, brought one of his victims, James Grein, then 30, to meet Pope John Paul II in 1988.
It was a private audience, Mr. Grein recalled as he became one of hundreds of people to begin filing lawsuits on Wednesday under the Child Victims Act. The new state law says that for one year, sexual abuse victims of any age in New York — including, crucially, those whose cases had expired under the old statute of limitations — can take legal action.
After Mr. McCarrick, then the archbishop of Newark, left the room, Mr. Grein said he knelt before the pope and revealed, in the presence of several Vatican officials, that Mr. McCarrick had been sexually abusing him since childhood.
“I told him I had been abused as a child by this man, and I need you to stop it,” said an emotional Mr. Grein, who is now 61. “He put both hands on my head, and told me he would pray for me.”
No other action was taken, his lawsuit states.
Mr. Grein's lawsuit was made possible by the Child Victims Act, which was approved in January and greatly expanded the ability of child sex abuse victims to hold institutions and individuals accountable for abuse.
Victims of sexual abuse in New York were previously required to file civil lawsuits by their 23rd birthdays. Under the new law, they now have until age 55, and for one year, starting on Wednesday, they can be even older than that.
The window may become a powerful lever for clergy abuse victims to find out how extensive the cover-up of sexual abuse was in the Catholic Church and whether top Vatican officials knew about it.
Hundreds of lawsuits across the state were filed on Wednesday, with hundreds more, if not thousands, expected.
They involve defendants that include the Catholic Church to Rockefeller University in Manhattan to the Boy Scouts, as well as public and private schools and foster care organizations. Each suit will attempt to show that individuals and institutions are liable because they failed to protect children from sexual abuse.
Like dozens of other victims, Mr. Grein is suing the Archdiocese of New York, where Mr. McCarrick was serving as a priest when he began abusing Mr. Grein at the age of 11. Mr. Grein, the son of a family friend of Mr. McCarrick's, was the first baby that the young priest baptized. The sexual relationship the priest began with the boy lasted for about two decades, Mr. Grein said.
He Says a Priest Abused Him. 50 Years Later, He Can Now Sue.Aug. 13, 2019
Because his lawsuit claims that Mr. Grein told Pope John Paul II about the abuse, his legal team will seek to depose Vatican officials and gain access to secret Vatican documents.
The strategy underscores perhaps the most powerful aspect of the thousands of lawsuits that are expected to be filed this year: By giving plaintiffs the power to subpoena private institutional records, the lawsuits could open a window into how institutions handled abusers in their midst.
“The cover-up has ended and now we are going right to the top,” Mitchell Garabedian, Mr. Grein's lawyer, said at a news conference on Wednesday in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan. “We are attempting to show that the Vatican knew that McCarrick was abusing James Grein.”
Michelle Simpson Tuegel, a lawyer whose firm was filing cases against Catholic dioceses across New York, said the start of the look-back window was a crucial moment for sexual abuse survivors who previously had no recourse. The discovery process, she said, is crucial.
“It's about so much more than compensation,” Ms. Simpson Tuegel said. “It's healing to know that you're not alone, that they did make mistakes, that you were a child and adults failed to protect you, and that they're going to have to pay for that.”
The lawsuits will also mark the first time that some alleged abusers will be publicly named, leading to a possible domino effect if long-silent victims see others step forward, and decide to do the same.
“This act is having such an impact in ways that aren't even legal ways,” Ms. Simpson Tuegel said. “But in human ways: in opening something up that needed to be opened, as far as the discourse within families, within communities and the larger public.”
For Auset Love, 45, it took more than three decades, she said, to feel that her abuser could be held accountable. She was about 9 when the abuse began, she said Wednesday. A recent immigrant from Haiti, she spoke little English when her homeroom teacher at a Brooklyn public school began molesting her, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn.
Ms. Love said the teacher would call her up to his desk to review a class assignment, then slip his hand under her skirt to rub her vagina. “I'm proud of you,” she recalled him saying. Ms. Love began to perform poorly on assignments and was sent for additional tutoring to the teacher's house, where she said she was repeatedly fondled.
Over the years, as the statute of limitations for recourse ran out, she said she began cutting herself and contemplated suicide. On Wednesday, Ms. Love filed a lawsuit against the teacher and the New York City Department of Education.
“It gives myself a voice, and everyone else who is ready to come, to let the world know what happened to them,” said Ms. Love, a nursing assistant in Westchester County.
The teacher named in the lawsuit retired in 2004, according to a spokeswoman for the education department. “Every survivor deserves to be heard, and we have clear policies to ensure any allegation is immediately reported, investigated and addressed,” said the spokeswoman, Danielle Filson.
Darrell Jackson, 57, who grew up in Brooklyn, joined the Boy Scouts of America in the 1970s when he was about 10.
At the time, Mr. Jackson said on Wednesday, he viewed his scoutmaster as a kind of father figure. Mr. Jackson's father was not around, he said, and he was raised by his grandmother.
“And, you know, it was great in the beginning,” he said. “And then, like I said, it just turned into something else.”
He said he has been attempting to bring a case against the Boy Scouts of America since his late 20s, but could not until the law was changed.
Mr. Grein said Wednesday felt like a moment of redemption. His account of abuse by Mr. McCarrick, publicly disclosed for the first time last summer in The New York Times, was a crucial aspect of the evidence considered by a Vatican court as it convicted and then defrocked Mr. McCarrick.
In February, the Vatican stripped Mr. McCarrick, 89, of his titles and clerical status. He is living in a friary in Kansas, his former spokeswoman, Susan Gibbs, said. Mr. Grein also plans to sue Mr. McCarrick personally, once a look-back window for abuse claims opens in New Jersey, where he has said some of the abuse occurred, his lawyer said.
Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, said Wednesday that the archdiocese would “carefully review the claims made in these suits.” In the meantime, he asked that “people pray for peace and healing for all those who have suffered from the sin and crime of the sexual abuse of minors, wherever it occurred.”
Mr. Grein said at the news conference, “It is our chance, our historical gift from God, that we are able to go forward today and get this done.
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.
Show Biz -- Mexico
Music producer found guilty of sexually abusing a young rising star in Mexico
by Rafael Romo
(CNN) A music producer accused of sexually abusing a young singer in Mexico -- whom he represented and mentored for several years -- has been found guilty of rape and human trafficking.
Mario Enrique Miranda Palacios, 47, heard the verdict against him on Monday after a six-week trial in Tampico, a coastal city in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. He had pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors had accused Miranda of taking advantage of his position and power to push singer Luis Armando Campos -- then a minor -- into sexual acts against his will. When they started working together, the producer was 37 years old and the singer had just turned 14.
Miranda was initially charged with rape, corruption of minors and forced prostitution. But the Tamaulipas State's Attorney's Office elevated the charges to include the more serious crime of human trafficking. In a statement after the verdict, it said that the prosecution had "irrefutably demonstrated the responsibility of the now-convicted suspect."
Campos, the victim, was in the courtroom when the verdict was read, and said he was "satisfied" with the outcome.
"I feel satisfied. I always thought that we had the necessary proof to demonstrate everything that happened," he told CNN. "At the moment the verdict was announced, I felt a mix of emotions: I was nervous, but I was also desperate to find out what the verdict would be. I was also at peace, because I knew that just by speaking publicly, I had achieved something and had demonstrated that everything I said was true," added Campos, who is now 23.
Miranda will appeal the ruling, according to his attorney Juan Jorge Olvera Reyes, who had argued that the relationship was consensual.
"What we were able to demonstrate during the trial is that during the years in question there was a romantic relationship. This relationship involved trips, explicit letters and other proof that we showed during the trial," Olvera said in a statement.
Olvera also questioned whether the verdict was based solely on facts presented in the trial. "Sometimes you wonder how deeply this kind of decision is influenced by public opinion and pressure from higher authorities. Verdicts sometimes do not respond to facts presented during the trial, but to public opinion," he said.
Miranda now faces a sentence of between 30 and 63 years in prison.
"He destroyed my adolescence"
The case first made headlines in Mexico after Miranda's arrest in March 2018.
Campos had gained some fame after reaching the semifinals in the "The Voice Mexico" in 2014. It was during that singing contest that Campos met Yuridia Valenzuela Canseco, the widely known singer in Latin America known simply as "Yuri."
Campos said that Yuri who convinced him that he should report the abuse to authorities. Up until then, he had kept his ordeal a secret.
"He destroyed my adolescence," Campos recently told CNN, referring to Miranda.
Rita Hernández, a board member of United vs Human Trafficking, a nonprofit devoted to protecting victims of human trafficking, says her organization provided legal assistance and counseling to Campos was a vulnerable and young victim, she says, that came from "a broken family."
Campos, then in junior high school, had little money and was no longer living with his parents when he first met Mario Enrique Miranda Palacios, a music producer and talent promoter who offered financial support and help promoting his career.
"This man came out of nowhere, promising an incredible singing career. He does have a beautiful voice. He [Miranda] started involving him in his own productions," Hernández said.
'Vulnerable to abuse'
Campos also says his situation was desperate.
"By the time my mother made the decision to leave (to find work in a different state in order to support the family), he offered to help me and told her that he was going to take care of me because he saw me as a son," Campos told CNN.
At first, Miranda kept his promises, cultivating the 14-year-old's talent and polishing his singing voice.
"Even when the mother moved out of state, Armando stayed behind because the mother was so trusting of this man that was promising him this incredible career and for them, being so poor, his talent was his ticket out of poverty," Hernández said.
Campos says things quickly started to change. When he was still 14, Miranda once asked him to show up early for a rehearsal, Campos says.
"He took me into his office, and it was there where, for the first time, he asked me to take off my shoes and my socks and kissed my feet. He said it was something normal and that he was giving a scholarship at this academy and that I could thank him this way, that it wasn't something bad, that he was not going to tell anybody and that this was normal," Campos said.
'Forced into prostitution'
What started with verbal and sexual abuse soon worsened to forced prostitution, the singer said. The fact that he didn't have his parents around him or any other adult that would've protected him only made him more vulnerable to abuse.
"I didn't have anybody I could tell these things to. I didn't have anybody to turn to," Campos said.
At the time, Miranda was one of the most influential music producers and promoters in Mexico and had gained a reputation as a star maker. From this position of authority, it was easy to attract young, vulnerable victims like Campos, Hernández said.
"He was a teenager. He was a child. A child doesn't have the mechanisms to protect themselves from violence or protect themselves from abuse," Hernández said.
Campos says Miranda coerced him to work as a sex slave for four years starting at the age of 14. He says Miranda would get phone calls from strangers, most of whom were interested in young males. Miranda kept all the money and Campos only had his room and board expenses covered.
Threats of harm to his family, deception by Miranda and psychological abuse, he says, kept him quiet and submissive. Campos says he finally found the courage to ignore the threats and flee after turning 18.
"I think it was anger held inside of me. It was the need to feel peace and calm. I was fed up of the screaming and the threats and that was what gradually built up that anger inside of me," Campos said.
Miranda has long denied the accusations and argued that the relationship was consensual.
In addition to his singing career, nowadays Campos is also an activist who talks openly about what he says he went through.
"As I tell my story to people, I feel like I'm getting free again. It's like a therapy that helps me a lot," Campos said. "And, well, telling my story to people who have recently gone through this, so they can see I'm moving forward also makes me feel good,"
The singer recently spoke at an event in front of members of the Mexican congress. "I feel wonderful. I had never been in this building before," he said after leaving one of the chambers.
Campos said he cried when he learned the man he claims abused him and destroyed his adolescence had been finally put behind bars. The guilty verdict, he said, makes him feel like he has recovered part of the freedom he lost during the four years he was in captivity.
"There were many people who accused of reporting Miranda because I was corrupt and just wanted money. Only I who live through it know exactly what happened. More than earthly justice, I believe in divine justice and God knows how much I suffered," Campos said.
Miranda's sentence is expected to be announced on September 3rd.
CSA on the Internet
How Thorn Is Fighting To Eliminate Child Sexual Abuse From The Internet
Child sexual abuse material has exploded since the dawn of the internet era, while child sex trafficking also has increased as a result of being made easier for traffickers. The number of child sexual abuse files exchanged online grew from 450,000 in 2004 to 25 million in 2015, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. As many as one in seven runaways becomes a victim of sex trafficking, and many of these children are advertised online. Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore cofounded Thorn to combat this problem. The non-profit's mission is to build technology to defend children from sexual abuse online by eliminating all child sexual abuse material from the internet.
Thorn partners across the tech industry, government and NGOs and leverages technology to combat predatory behavior, rescue victims, and protect vulnerable children. The non-profit's products are used today in 35 countries and have helped identify more than 30,000 victims of abuse, 10,000 of whom were children. Recently, Thorn was one of eight recipients to share in an over $280 million grant from The Audacious Project by TED.
In her role as CEO of Thorn, Julie Cordua manages the Thorn Technology Task Force, the largest organization of its kind, uniting technology companies committed to fighting child exploitation. She also collaborates with other NGOs, policy makers, law enforcement agencies, and the private sector in her work. “We started Thorn seven years ago to address the growing problem of online child sexual exploitation. We saw how technology was being used to exploit our children through child sex trafficking, the spread of child sexual abuse material, and online grooming and coercion. Yet there was no concentrated effort to use technology to fight back and stop this abuse,” Cordua says.
Prior to running Thorn, Cordua ran marketing for (RED). During her time with the NGO, she helped raise more than $180 million to fight AIDS in Africa. Back then, she did not know much about child sex trafficking or online child sexual abuse – mostly because these are things we don't talk about as a society. “Most of us don't know the realities of these crimes or how pervasive they are,” Cordua says. “They are hard to talk about. Most people would rather turn away than really dive into the issues.”
Cordua was drawn to this work because she saw an opportunity to harness technology for good. “I believe we can make a dramatic difference incredibly fast and literally transform our world's response to a major issue,” she explains. The more she has learned about online child sexual abuse, the more passionate she has become about her work.
However, Cordua faces plenty of challenges in running Thorn. There is not a lot of money to be made in the field, it is a hard subject for people to talk about, and in technology, the game is always rapidly changing. Nevertheless, at Thorn, she feels she has tapped into a perfect intersection of her talents and her passion to make the world a better place.
“I can see the impact of our work, and that creates passion and drive within me,” Cordua says. “As Thorn has grown from two people to nearly 40, what has added even more meaning to this work has been the opportunity to create an organization that others can be a part of and feel similarly passionate about. We are tapping into technologists and business people who have always wanted to channel their talent to world-changing work and now have a platform to do that.”
Cordua says that she defaults to action in her career and life in general. “I have always learned best by doing,” she says. “So, my advice to others looking to align their career with their life purpose is to first do your homework, talk to a lot of people, and read up on what you're interested in, but then jump in and start working. By working and doing, you'll learn. You'll learn how to fail and how to succeed, and each step will be part of your path of both impact and self-discovery. If you give yourself the grace to evolve, then you won't be paralyzed by the decision-making process and you'll value each opportunity in front of you.
Religious leaders set to face punishment if they cover up child abuse
Victoria's premier says the culture of covering up child sexual abuse must end after Melbourne's most senior Catholic said he'd rather go to jail than reveal if someone confessed to him.
Archbishop Peter Comensoli also said priests who hear confessions have a similar privileged relationship to journalists and their sources, or lawyers and their clients.
Victoria is introducing new laws making it mandatory for religious leaders to report allegations of child abuse, including if they're made during confession.
Premier Daniel Andrews says Archbishop Comensoli's comparison to journalists or lawyers was completely wrong.
"I don't accept that comparison at all. I don't think that's a legitimate comparison in any way, shape or form," Mr Andrews told reporters on Thursday.
"The culture of cover up is over. The rights of children must come before ancient traditions that are a construct of Rome - that's what they are, nothing more than that."
Archbishop Comensoli says he supports mandatory reporting, but is also prepared to go to jail rather than break the confessional seal.
"Confession is a religious encounter of a deeply personal nature. It deserves confidentiality," he said in a statement on Wednesday.
"Confession doesn't place people above the law. Priests should be mandatory reporters, but in a similar way to protections to the lawyer/client relationship and protection for journalists' sources."
There are no legal requirements on journalists or lawyers to report child sexual abuse, but there are ethical ones.
Campaigner Chrissie Foster on Wednesday pointed out Catholic priest Michael McArdle confessed more than 1500 times about his child rapes to 30 priests over 25 years before he was eventually jailed.
Victoria's Liberal-National opposition went to the election with a similar policy, but it is being reviewed along with the entire election-losing platform.
"Child safety is paramount," Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien told reporters.
"What I do want to see though, is have the laws that are proposed been drafted in a way which achieves that end and do they not unnecessarily go and infringe on other religious freedoms."
Mr Andrews attacked his counterpart for a "disgraceful" about-turn.
"No religion, no church, no person, no priest, no politician is free to do anything other than put the safety of our kids first," Mr Andrews said.
"This was his policy, for heaven's sake, only a few months ago."
Clergy are already subject to mandatory reporting laws in South Australia and the Northern Territory, while Western Australia and Tasmania have announced plans to compel religious leaders to disclose knowledge of abuse.
New York State
Child Abuse Victims Act Goes into Effect in NY - Lawsuits Expected to be Filed Against Archdiocese of NY
Over 400 lawsuits have been filed
by Derek Welch
According to the New York Child Victims Act, a new law which was signed earlier this year on February 14, adult survivors of child sexual abuse can now sue their abuser or a negligent institution, regardless of how many years have passed. These adult survivors have one year, starting from August 14, to file their lawsuits.
The one year filing period, which is referred to as a “look-back window,” enables victims to bring forward their cases which used to be beyond the statute of limitations of the state. Initially, most adult survivors of child sexual abuse in New York were cut off if they were older than 23. But with the new law in effect, adult survivors have time to file both civil and criminal cases, and the look-back window is also now open for old cases.
Since the law came into effect, a total of 427 lawsuits have been filed, according to Lucian Chalfen, a spokesperson for the New York Unified Court System. Out of the 427 lawsuits, 169 cases were filed within New York City, while 258 cases were filed from outside the city. 35 suits were filed against the Catholic Diocese of Rochester.
Chalfen added that 45 judges have been set aside solely for the purpose of dealing with these cases, as the state court system was expecting a huge influx of lawsuits. Out of the 45 judges, 12 are in New York City.
There were over 100 lawsuits filed yesterday for childhood sexual abuse in Erie County alone. All of this comes from rights granted under New York's Child Victims Act.
Beyond that act, all of us have a duty to hold our churches and youth groups responsible for such vast pain.
In the coming days, lawsuits field against powerful figures and institutions like the Archdiocese of New York, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Boy Scouts, Rockefeller University, and others are expected.
Joseph Zwilling, director of communications for the Archdiocese of New York said the archdiocese has been anticipating lawsuits since the law was passed in February. He added they anticipate legal actions even though they “continue to invite people to consider our successful program to bring compensation quickly to qualified claimants through the archdiocesan Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program.”
Zwilling also said the archdiocese is asking people to “pray for peace and healing” for the victims of child sexual abuse, as well as their families.
What Jeffrey Epstein's case says (and doesn't say) about human trafficking in America
Most trafficking cases don't look like Jeffrey Epstein's. Here are the facts.
by Anna North
The Jeffrey Epstein case is forcing the American public to reckon with difficult questions about power, wealth, and the apparent ease with which all too many people were able to ignore evidence of abuse.
It's also thrown a spotlight on what may be one of the most poorly understood crimes in America: human trafficking.
The federal government defines trafficking as using “force, fraud, or coercion” to make someone perform labor. That can include sex trafficking. When he died, Epstein was facing trafficking charges in connection with allegations that he paid underage girls for sex.
But experts say most human trafficking cases look nothing like what Epstein is accused of. For one thing, most traffickers aren't multimillionaires with ties to current and former presidents. For another, most trafficking has nothing to do with sex: The majority of trafficked people are forced into other kinds of labor, like domestic or agricultural work. “It's really important for folks to understand that labor trafficking is far more prevalent than sex trafficking,” Jessica Emerson, director of the Human Trafficking Prevention Project at the University of Baltimore, told Vox.
For Emerson and others, the Epstein case is an opportunity to push back on some of the misconceptions around trafficking. But it's also a chance to point out what the women who have spoken out about Epstein have in common with other trafficking survivors: When they met Epstein they were vulnerable, often poor and isolated from family members, or both.
“Trafficking doesn't target people,” Kate D'Adamo, a consultant with the group Reframe Health and Justice, told Vox. “Trafficking targets vulnerability and marginalization.”
Now that Epstein's case is getting public attention, advocates say, it's a chance to push for reforms that would help all survivors of trafficking, not only the ones whose stories make national news.
Most human trafficking is not sex trafficking
“Human trafficking occurs when someone uses force, fraud, or coercion to compel someone to engage in a commercial sex act or other forms of labor,” Emerson explained. Paying a minor for sex is also considered trafficking under federal law, she added, regardless of whether force, fraud, or coercion are present.
Epstein, for his part, was facing two trafficking charges when he died: sex trafficking of minors and conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. Those charges stemmed from allegations that, in the words of the federal indictment issued earlier this year, the money manager “enticed and recruited” underage girls to his homes in New York and Florida “to engage in sex acts with him, after which he would give the victims hundreds of dollars in cash.”
The allegations against Epstein point to a variety of possible criminal charges, including sexual assault. But the office of the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, which issued the indictment, appears to have chosen trafficking charges for jurisdictional reasons.
Typically, cases of child sexual abuse are not handled by federal authorities, said Deborah Tuerkheimer, a law professor at Northwestern University and former prosecutor in Manhattan. However, trafficking, especially if it involves crimes in several states, is more likely to be a federal matter. When asked why the US Attorney chose trafficking charges specifically, a spokesperson noted to Vox that assault of a minor is not a federal crime.
Despite the charges against him, the allegations against Epstein aren't necessarily representative of the broader picture of human trafficking. While experts say there's a lack of reliable data on the prevalence of trafficking in general, the International Labour Organization estimated in 2017 that 24.9 million people around the world were trapped in forced labor, with 4.8 million of those experiencing forced sexual exploitation.
People can be trafficked into labor of any kind, Emerson said, from domestic work to restaurant work to work in a nail salon or massage parlor. “Anywhere there is work and there is a vulnerability and someone willing to take advantage of that vulnerability, you may have labor trafficking happening,” she said.
For example, Fainess Lipenga told PRI in 2017 that for three years she was treated almost as a slave by a Malawian diplomat in the US, forced to work as a maid 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for less than 50 cents an hour. The diplomat took away her passport and locked her in the house, Lipenga said. Eventually, she was able to escape, and she became an advocate for other human trafficking survivors. But because of diplomatic immunity, the diplomat could not be charged.
Experiences like Lipenga's story, in which people are forced into non-sexual forms of labor for little to no money, are far more common than sex trafficking, experts say. But labor trafficking tends to get less attention because it doesn't lend itself as well to salacious headlines. “For lack of a better way to describe it,” Emerson said, “it's not as sexy.”
Sex trafficking doesn't rise around the Super Bowl. It's one of many myths around the problem.
If you've read about sex trafficking in recent years, you may have heard that it spikes during the Super Bowl or other sporting events, or that the average age when minors are first trafficked is 12 years old.
Neither of these claims is correct, Emerson said. The majority of what's publicly presented as data on sex trafficking is “not just wrong but blatantly not true,” she added.
“No data actually support the notion that increased sex trafficking accompanies the Super Bowl,” wrote Kate Mogulescu, an assistant professor of clinical law at Brooklyn Law School, in a 2014 New York Times op-ed. When the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women studied the claim, the group wrote that, “despite massive media attention, law enforcement measures and efforts by prostitution abolitionist groups, there is no empirical evidence that trafficking for prostitution increases around large sporting events.”
A big event like the Super Bowl can increase the demand for commercial sex in the area, Jennifer O'Brien, an assistant professor and researcher at the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, told Slate earlier this year. But the majority of commercial sex is not human trafficking.
Data on the prevalence of trafficking in the sex industry is hard to come by, but D'Adamo of Reframe Health and Justice says the most reliable studies have found around 15 percent to 25 percent of minors who sell sex report having been exploited by a third party at some point. The same kind of reliable data doesn't exist for adults, D'Adamo says, but the prevalence of exploitation might be lower because minors are at greater risk.
Rather than being based in reality, Mogulescu wrote, the myth of a trafficking spike around the Super Bowl “has taken hold through sheer force of repetition, playing on desires to rescue trafficking victims and appear tough on crime.”
In some cases, Emerson said, misinformation spreads out of a genuine desire for answers. People are “horrified that this is happening and they want to know how much this is happening.”
But trafficking is “not a simple issue,” she said. It happens underground, and survivors are often frightened to talk about it, even to the people who are supposed to help them. That's why in her work, Emerson says she focuses less on absolute numbers and more on the factors that can lead people to be targeted for trafficking, like poverty, addiction, or discrimination.
“I don't talk about data,” Emerson said. “I talk about vulnerability.”
The biggest thing human trafficking survivors have in common is vulnerability
A lot of the details of Jeffrey Epstein's case, such as his enormous wealth and his ties to powerful people, make it unusual in the larger world of human trafficking.
But other aspects of the case, said D'Adamo, “are so common.” According to the allegations against him, she said, “he went after marginalized young women” who needed money and who “would probably not be believed” if they came forward to report abuse, D'Adamo said.
“Jeffrey preyed on girls who were in a bad way, girls who were basically homeless,” Courtney Wild, who met Epstein when she was 14, told Julie K. Brown of the Miami Herald last year. “He went after girls who he thought no one would listen to and he was right.''
That kind of marginalization is a common factor among survivors of all types of trafficking, Emerson said. People who are poor or have a hard time getting a job due to homophobia, transphobia, or other kinds of discrimination are especially vulnerable to being trafficked. So are people who are undocumented or whose immigration status is otherwise at risk.
“If I take somebody's documentation or threaten to expose them to immigration authorities, I can force them into any type of labor,” Emerson explained.
Another feature of Epstein's case that is common to other trafficking cases, D'Adamo said, is that according to reports by the women and girls involved, “other people in the community knew” they were being abused. “It wasn't a secret.”
While the image of sex trafficking in the media may be one of shadowy secrecy, in fact the many women who have spoken out against Epstein say they were recruited in plain sight, at malls or outside their schools. And they say that others besides Epstein were aware of the abuse and did nothing to stop it, or even actively helped Epstein in his crimes.
In fact, this week, Jennifer Araoz, who says Epstein began abusing her when she was 14, filed suit against his longtime friend Ghislaine Maxwell and three of Epstein's employers, alleging that they aided in the abuse.
“Jeffrey Epstein and his network of enablers stole from me,” Araoz said, according to BuzzFeed News. “They robbed me of my youth, my identity, my innocence, my self-worth. For too long, they escaped accountability. I am here today because I intend to change that.”
The Trump administration claims it's fighting human trafficking. Advocates say otherwise.
For advocates, a lot of anti-trafficking work is about reducing vulnerability. “You do human trafficking prevention work when you do criminal justice reform, when you do anti-poverty work, when you do anti-racism work, when you work on the issue of homelessness, when you work on the issue of interpersonal violence, when you work on access to immigration relief,” Emerson said. “All of those things make people less vulnerable to being trafficked.”
Preventing trafficking is also about improving labor protections, D'Adamo said. In industries like domestic work where workers still lack basic rights like a minimum wage, it's especially hard to identify and root out exploitation. “If we're going to talk about addressing trafficking, what we're really talking about is lifting the floor for labor,” D'Adamo explained.
To help survivors of sex trafficking specifically, D'Adamo and other advocates call for decriminalizing sex work. Many also call for legal reform around the country to allow people arrested for prostitution to expunge their criminal records, making it easier for them to get jobs outside the sex industry. Someone involved in the commercial sex trade “is more likely to be trafficked or to become more vulnerable to being trafficked if they can't get a job,” Emerson said.
President Trump, meanwhile, has claimed his administration takes an aggressive stance on fighting sex trafficking. “My Administration continues to work to drive out the darkness human traffickers cast upon our world,” Trump wrote in a 2017 executive order in which he proclaimed January 2018 National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
But in reality, many of the administration's actions could actually make the problem worse, advocates say. Trump's constant threats of raids by immigration officials, as well as other policies targeting undocumented immigrants, could make immigrants more fearful of reporting trafficking and more vulnerable to people who could use their immigration status to control them. “The immigration policies that have emerged from this administration have made people unbelievably more vulnerable to trafficking,” Emerson said.
The White House has also banned the use of federal funds to help survivors of sex trafficking clear their criminal records. And under Secretary Alexander Acosta, Trump's Labor Department slow-walked the approval of special visas for immigrant trafficking survivors, making them less likely to come forward, Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post reported earlier this year.
Acosta announced his resignation in July amid growing criticism of his role as US attorney in Miami in granting Jeffrey Epstein a plea deal that allowed him to stay out of prison. That means that he, at least, will no longer have a say over what happens to human trafficking survivors.
When it comes to human trafficking more broadly, the Epstein case has the potential to teach the American public a lesson about how powerful people prey on the less powerful, advocates say, even if the specifics are somewhat unique.
“If we can think about power, if we can think about status, if we can think about need and how all of that plays into these cases,” said Tuerkheimer, the Northwestern professor, “I think we'll have a greater understanding and greater empathy when someone comes forward.
World reacts to Grace Tame's sexual abuse ordeal and survival
Nina Funnell explains the story behind Grace, who was abused by her teacher but has never been able to be identified due to archaic Tasmanian laws. Until now.
Sexual assault survivors, celebrities and other Tasmanians have responded with an outpouring of support for Grace Tame following news.com.au's publication of her horrific story of child sexual abuse.
In 2010, at age 15, Grace was groomed and repeatedly sexually assaulted by her high school math teacher, Nicolaas Bester, while a student at St Michael's Collegiate Girls' school.
For the past nine years Grace has been silenced by Tasmania's gag laws which prevent all sexual assault survivors from self-identifying in media
After winning her right to be named in the Supreme Court, yesterday Grace became only the fourth survivor in the state to be able to speak out using her real identity.
“If telling my story can help even one boy or girl out there and prevent them from being abused then this fight has all been worth it” said Grace.
As part of the news.com.au campaign #LetHerSpeak, Grace is finally telling her story.
Now other victims in Tasmania have also come forward supporting Grace, and pushing for the gag-law to be removed.
One of those is Leia~.
In 1993, Leia was abducted, held at knifepoint, bashed and gang raped in a field in Burnie on Tasmania's north west coast. It was Christmas Eve and Leia was just 16 years old.
After the rapes ended she was told to dig her own grave.
She eventually escaped after the vehicle they were travelling in had a collision and rolled.
The men responsible were later prosecuted and after the ringleader, Geoffrey Michael Haywood, passed away in 2017, aged 51, Leia made the decision to speak out publicly as she no longer feared repercussions.
But due to Tasmania's archaic gag laws, she has been unable to.
Leia~ is currently attempting to gain a court order but so far has been unable to raise the legal funds. It cost Grace approximately $10,000.
“I'm so happy for Grace that she can now use her identity because I know she wanted to,” says Leia.
“But I'm sad she had to go through the court process because it was such a long process and I'm frustrated that now I have to do the same thing. I feel that law reform is moving slowly.”
Steve Fisher, CEO of Beyond Abuse, was the first of only four survivors to ever be granted a court order in Tasmania allowing him to speak.
“It was absolutely crucial for my healing process to get that court order. The thought that I would not be able to speak out under my own name after my perpetrator was sentenced actually made me feel physically ill and it brought back so many memories of feeling so disempowered.”
Steve says that Grace's voice will encourage other victims to come forward and seek support.
“Showing her face humanises her whole story. Survivors can educate the public through their own stories, if they are strong enough to tell them, they can help demystify the stages of grooming and the nature of abuse. Sexual abuse is a huge problem and these voices break the silence.”
Former Hey Dad! child star and sexual abuse survivor, Sarah Monahan has also expressed support saying, “This is fabulous. Everyone deserves to be heard.”
Author, model and activist Tara Moss has also posted saying, “Thank you for your voice and determination, Grace. And thank you to every other survivor who lent their voice to the #LetHerSpeak campaign, in solidarity with Grace and those who still cannot speak because of antiquated and misguided laws.”
One of those survivors who still cannot speak is Leia~.
News.com.au has also been inundated with letters of support.
“As a teacher and a father I found the events described in your article to be beyond abhorrent, but at the same time I was profoundly affected by the strength and fortitude of Ms Tame. She is a hero to women, and to all oppressed people,” one reader said.
“Anger doesn't begin to describe my feelings for how that man who abused her was dealt with and his pathetic punishment. No words can adequately describe it. However I wanted to thank Grace for her bravery and courage in speaking out,” wrote another.
Grace and her family say they have been blown away by the support.
Archbishop of Melbourne Would Rather Go to Jail than Report Confessions of Child Sex Abuse
New law introduced in Victoria could result in priests facing up to three years in prison
by Elisa Meyer
The Archbishop of Melbourne said he would rather spend three years in prison than report to authorities about confessions of child sexual abuse. This is in response to a new law introduced by the Victorian government, which would make it mandatory for Catholic priests to report child abuse revealed to them during confessions. Otherwise, they could face up to three years in prison.
Hours after the archbishop made this statement; the archdiocese stated it was surprised it was not consulted by the government on the bill. The archbishop said the Catholic community was not provided the opportunity to view the draft bill and share their input before it was released to the public.
However, the government claims the archdiocese was offered a dedicated briefing and was also invited to an information session it organized for all religious groups. Moreover, it also says the archbishop was offered a meeting with Luke Donnellan, the Minister for Child Protection, but the offer was not taken up.
Archbishop Comensoli said confession is a “religious encounter of a deeply personal nature” for members of the Catholic community, therefore information revealed during a confession deserves to be confidential. During the ABC radio interview, he also said he believes the principle of mandatory reporting and the principle of the seal of confession are not mutually exclusive.
Attorney-General Jill Hennessy's opinions strongly clash with that of the archbishop. She told reporters she believes the “rights of children trump anyone's religious views,” especially considering the contemporary times we live in today. She added the law is ultimately about ensuring that measures are taken to “right the wrongs of systemic abuse.”
Michael O'Brien, Opposition leader, also expressed his views. He said there must be a way to protect kids while also respecting the freedom and rights of people to practice their religion.
This is absolutely outragious.
In response to this statement, Hennessy said she thinks it's not too much to ask any parliamentarian to support a bill that would make failing to report child sexual abuse a criminal offense. Supporters also say this law would provide victims with the freedom they did not have before.
Vagina Monologues author Eve Ensler on coming to terms with her abusive father
by Diana Wichtel
Activist, feminist and celebrated author of The Vagina Monologues Eve Ensler never received an apology from her father for his sexual and emotional abuse, so she did it for him in an act of “heroic ventriloquism”.
"I keep thinking, okay, it's going to go out of date this year,” says Eve Ensler, calling from New York. “Please let it go out of date. Please let everyone know their vaginas and see their vaginas and love their vaginas by now. But the great thing about patriarchy is how stubborn and persistent it is. It's like the herpes virus. You think it's gone away, until the conditions are ripe, and then it surfaces again.”
We're only a few minutes in and already three vaginas and a herpes. Classic Eve Ensler. She's the American playwright, thespian, activist and feminist whose 1996 play, The Vagina Monologues, has caused women around the world to find themselves giddily chanting the C-word at her behest. Check your primness at the door. It will do you no favors here.
Ensler is amiably in your face, even on the phone. “Right?” she demands. “You know?” Her conversation is an invitation to a collaboration. She talks about her most famous alliance with women – “21 years of vagina madness!” – as a sort of frankencreation with an existence beyond her. “Yes, I put pen to paper and I wrote those monologues, which are fictional monologues based on hundreds of interviews, but there's some energy. I mean, there were 900 [V-Day] productions in February.” February 14, Valentine's Day, is also V-Day, an annual occasion of global activism to end violence against women and girls. It started in 1998, spinning off the global phenomenon that was – is – the Monologues
Apart from cries of “vulgar” and worse from the conservative, churchy end of the spectrum, there have always been controversies. One monologue originally told of the sexual awakening of a 13-year-old girl with an older woman. These days, she's 16. More recently, the odd US university scrapped its annual production of the play because it was perceived to exclude trans women who don't have vaginas. “Which, by the way, was not even true,” Ensler says, “because I wrote a trans monologue many years ago that has been part of the V-Day movement for many years. So, it was interesting that …” Ensler decides not to go there. “Look, I'm going to leave that alone.”
Fair enough. Twenty-one years down the track, she still operates in tricky territory. The play was – is – not everyone's taboo-trashing cup of tea. In 1996, it was revolutionary, broke silences, became an idea greater than the sum of its remorselessly named body parts. It drew people such as Jane Fonda, Oprah Winfrey and Meryl Streep into Ensler's starry orbit. It sparked action for women across communities, countries and cultures. Chant with her, or no thanks, Ensler is a legend.
But we're here to talk about a different kind of collaboration: between Ensler and her dead father. The Apology is a small, startling grenade of a book, with a cover that looks like the sort of black-bordered envelope that used to bear bad news. Ensler has referred to the sexual abuse and violence she experienced from her father before – her 2013 memoir, In the Body of the World, about her experience of cancer, trawled its legacy: drinking, drugs, unhealthy relationships. The new book conjures up the apology she never had from him in life. It represents a reckoning long delayed. “I know, right? Isn't it strange to be past 65 and finally figuring this out.” That's a long time to exist in a sort of emotional limbo. “I think it just took me so long to, first, survive it, then begin to recover from it, then begin to get through my rage about it. All that stuff took stages and time. Nobody had written a book like this. It would have been different if someone had said, ‘You can actually do this and save yourself all those stages.'”
Her father died in 1988. “We'd been estranged for a while. As a matter of fact, no one told me he was dying. They told me a couple of days after he died. And he didn't believe in things like memorials.” There was no goodbye. “There's that passage in the book with me sitting in his closet, smelling his sweater, just trying to make sense of it and let go of it. Which I believe is really what he wanted – to leave his poisons in me. He succeeded for a long time.”
Before he died, he cut her out of his will and tried to ensure his abuse was buried with him. “He was saying to my mother, ‘If she says anything to you, don't believe her.' My mother said, had he not said that to her, she wouldn't have believed me. It was so obvious.”
He always called her a liar. “It never made sense to me, because I was scrupulously, obsessively honest. Because I didn't want to be hurt.” Finally she understood. “He didn't want people to believe me when I finally told. He had to delegitimize me so I would never be believed.” The book was, in part, about freeing herself from who he told her she was. “Exactly.”
The sexual abuse started when she was five. That stopped when she was 10. She cut off her hair, became truculent, he punched her in the face and the beatings began. The Apology is an exposition of an adoring father turned monster. “You were an angel descended to save my soul and I yearned for salvation,” he says. And: “I told myself you wanted this.” It's uncomfortably, unflinchingly graphic, describing not just the abuser's response but the confused response, at first, of the child.
Has she had any negative response to going into such fraught territory? “I was anticipating that and so far it has not happened. I think it's so clear, that complexity, it just screws your mind so badly. If it were just horrible, you could walk away and be done, but because there is some pleasure involved in it – it's your father, for god's sake, the person you love most in the world – it explodes your mind and confuses you for a long, long time after. I think it's so implicit in the book, and that is maybe why people haven't gotten upset about it.” It was the hardest part to write. “I wanted to tell the truth. And the truth has so many layers. I kept going back to that section, to just get my father to go deeper. Like, ‘You haven't really told this completely. Let's go deeper, down another floor.'” It forces a reader to have to try to make sense of what happened. “Exactly. We're so scared to think about what these things are. It's ironic. You have to step into the mess in order to be freed from it. When you start to get very detailed and specific, they lose their ability to control us.”
She makes him say what a little girl longed to hear: “Let me get it right this time”, “Let me be staggered by your tenderness”, “I'm sorry”.
Now she's the one in control and he is consigned to a desolate, lonely limbo, “Floating, unmoored, spinning …” Is there an element of revenge in finally bending her tormentor to her will? “No,” she says, sharply. “No. I didn't want to do a book that was revengeful. I made a determination that whatever he was doing, I would do the opposite. My father was a very vengeful person. I vowed I would never be vengeful.”
So, does that mean she has forgiven the plainly unforgivable? “I've always been wary of the word forgiveness. It's something that often gets mandated – man being the operative word – on survivors of all kinds. ‘You should forgive', ‘Why don't you just forgive, already', blah blah blah. I really don't know what forgiving someone means. What I do understand is the alchemy of an apology.”
The book is meant to act as a model for a process on the part of the perpetrator that is detailed, forensic, accountable. “If someone feels the effect their behaviors have on you, and lets themselves be open to that feeling, and then takes full responsibility, there is this alchemy that occurs. Any rancor or bitterness or hate gets released in that moment. If that's forgiveness, I'm all for it.”
In a time of no platforming, the book gives a platform to her perpetrator, even if channeled through her. Not everyone would do that. “I can only say that I respect and honor survivors' feelings and everyone must choose. I've been doing this work, it feels like, forever and if we do not get under why people are doing this, and if we do not start looking at the seeds of patriarchal abuse, we're going to be here forever.” So, her father speaks about his boyhood. He was the idolized son of an Austrian father and a German mother. His mother's golden boy. His parents followed the parenting advice of a German physician who favored discipline for babies of the no cuddles, no comforting variety.
Her father was spoilt, special, emotionally deprived: a toxic combination. Gaining understanding was painful. “It was hard to feel for him as a boy. It was hard to say, ‘Oh my god, my father hurt.' I would have liked to stay away from that. But it was in that that I really began to get free.” Those feelings are there, anyway. “We know our perpetrators better than we know anyone else in the world. Their feelings are stored in us because they don't feel their feelings. We do. So, in a way, I got to give my father back his feelings. It was, like, ‘Go, take them. They're yours, not mine.'”
The book couldn't be more excruciatingly personal. But we're in the age of the Me Too movement. It's also highly political. “Part of it is feeling that we're stuck. We're really at stalemate. We've called men out, we've broken the silence, we've told our stories, la-la-la. And men are not changing. Men are not taking responsibility.” The big taboo this book breaks, she says, is that it has a man apologizing. “Men do not apologize. Honestly, when have we heard one? When have we heard a man apologize publicly in a thorough, personal and detailed accounting? I can't think of any.”
Inevitably, Donald Trump comes up. Her description of him is best not printed here. “Is he as despised in New Zealand as he is everywhere?” she wonders. You would hope so. Perhaps she could write his apology.
Ensler is a phenomenon, a one-woman consciousness-raising industry. She's already working on making The Apology into a play and translating it into activism. Her website for the book outlines typically monumental goals: “How do we offer a doorway rather than a locked cell? How do we move from humiliation to revelation, from curtailing behaviour to changing it?” The idea is to form apology groups. “People come together and start talking about going through a process: detailed accounting, what was my intention, how did I get here? Then, hopefully, next year, communities can write their apologies and they can perform them on V-Day.”
But will men read it? “Men are reading it and I'm getting such amazing letters saying, ‘Thank you, this is changing my consciousness.' Is it 95% of the population? No, it's not. But it's a beginning.”
Certainly, women have done all the work in this area. In The Apology, she's throwing the responsibility back on the man, her father. “Yeah, which I did for him,” she says, laughing. Oh, well, baby steps. “But, hey, someone said the other day the book was heroic ventriloquism. That sounds about right.”
Ventriloquism, heroic or otherwise, isn't easy. “Oh my god, right? Figuring out what you need to hear. Really going inside and saying what would set you free? What would make it right?”
So, has she been set free? Has it been made right? “At the end of the book, when I said … when he said … I don't know who says, ‘Old man be gone,' it was as if he were a dot in the cosmos and he just went, he was sucked back into it. It was just, like, swoosh.” She makes the sound of an email when you press send. “He's gone. It's been months now. Honestly, he hasn't been back. And the ways that I was tortured by him really seem to have subsided.”
So, where is he? “Now?” Long pause. “I'd like to believe that he is on his way to a higher consciousness.” For her, the book was also something of a spiritual encounter. “I think it was a joint project. It was like, okay, I guess we're doing this together.” Even her vocabulary changed. “I'm not formal like that. There are words such as ‘crepuscular'. It's not my style. Is it that he just so deeply lives inside me and has for so long? Or is there some other kind of presence in the mystical realm? I can't figure it out.” Well, the past is never really safely back there somewhere. “Exactly. Which is why we have to clean it up.”
He's gone. That absence might take some adjusting to. “Oh, I have to tell you, it's very discombobulating. I think survivors of anything, those things are the frame of our life, our identities, to some degree. So, it's very odd to suddenly be in this place where I don't know who I am.”
Being lost isn't a bad thing. “I'm beginning to understand how violence and this whole paradigmatic structure limit women's abilities to be other things. If that's the story you're in, that's the cage you have to wrestle with. But there are so many other stories that you could be out there being a part of or creating. The depth of the occupation is what's becoming very clear to me, feeling the release from it.”
After the book, she says, things changed. “I was suddenly overcome with people wanting to do new projects and none of them were about violence against women. Everything was completely new. It's not that I won't always be concerned about violence against women. My life is for that. But it's not the only story I'm telling anymore.”
No one's been let off the hook. Ensler leaves her father trapped in the cage of the story he made, spinning out there somewhere. “But he's not controlling the narrative any more. I'm not his victim and he's not my predator.” She's pressed send. Swoosh, he's gone.
What Does ‘Lies of Leaving Neverland' Mean? Why Is it Trending on Twitter?
by Caroline Burke
The hashtag #LiesofLeavingNeverland was trending Saturday, in response to a self-proclaimed documentary called “Lies of Leaving Neverland” which was published on August 13 and argues for Michael Jackson's full innocence, in the wake of HBO's “Leaving Neverland,” which came out earlier this year.
The thirty-minute long video (which can be seen in full below and is available on YouTube) argues for Jackson's full innocence in the wake of the allegations made against the late singer by Wade Robson and James Safechuck in Leaving Neverland. Both men allege that Jackson sexually abused them over several years, starting when they were children. Jackson vehemently denied all of the allegations of sexual assault against him throughout his life.
Neither Robson nor Safechuck have responded to the allegations made against them in this video, nor to the allegations made against them by Twitter users across the globe.
Here's what you need to know:
Lies of Leaving Neverland Includes Apparent 2016 Deposition by Robson
The latest documentary Lies of Leaving Neverland includes what appears to be a 2016 deposition by Robson. The video was uploaded by an account that was created on the same day of the upload (August 13) and is under the name “Mark Hostetler.” The caption for the video redirects to a site under the same name, titled “Leaving Neverland Lies.”
Many defenders of the documentary argue there to be inconsistencies between Robson's deposition in 2016 and the story he gave to HBO; it's worth noting that the HBO documentary directly acknowledges, for both Robson and Safechuck, their inconsistent testimonies in the past. What's more, both men explain their reasons for lying about their alleged abuse for many years, with each of them acknowledging how many competing psychological factors contributed to their inability to tell their truth until much later.
In their follow-up interview with Oprah, titled After Neverland, the two went into that issue further in depth, with the TV mogul noting that it's common for survivors of sexual assault to change their story repeatedly before coming out with the truth.
Still, many users believe the new “documentary” to be damning. One fan wrote, “#LiesOfLeavingNeverland Wade said that he was ‘abused' in New York in 1989 after he preformed st the grammys but the Grammys were in Los Angeles and Michael didn't perform at the grammy in 1989?
Surgeon Eugene Gu tweeted, “The media needs to stick to facts, evidence, and the truth or it becomes a monster. Destroying people's lives with lies is completely disgusting and exploits the pain of real victims to get more clicks and views. Horrifying. #LiesOfLeavingNeverland”
Still others argued that the hashtag itself, as well as the documentary that inspired it, are both abhorrent. Mike Wise, a sports commentator and journalist, tweeted, “Fact #LiesOfLeavingNeverland is trending shows you what a digital wasteland Twitter truly is. Whether you believe Michael Jackson was a pedophile or not, the possibility that you joined a warped support group of people who shame adult survivors of child sexual abuse is just sick.”
Leaving Neverland inspired a controversy as soon as it was released. Michael Jackson's family and estate vehemently opposed the documentary, and filed a $100 million lawsuit against HBO following the documentary's release. In January, Michael Jackson's Estate provided the following statement:
“‘Leaving Neverland' isn't a documentary, it is the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, and now in death,” Jackson's estate said in a statement. “The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago and treats them as fact. These claims were the basis of lawsuits filed by these two admitted liars which were ultimately dismissed by a judge. The two accusers testified under oath that these events never occurred. They have provided no independent evidence and absolutely no proof in support of their accusations, which means the entire film hinges solely on the word of two perjurers.”
As for HBO, attorneys representing the company provided the following statement in August, arguing that the documentary is protected under the First Amendment:
“HBO's distribution of this documentary–which recounts the personal stories of two individuals who describe in detail how, as young boys, they were sexually abused for years by Michael Jackson, arguably one of the world's most famous public figures–constitutes protected activity under the First Amendment and California Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16.”
Girls in US
Girls today are seemingly the fiercest America has ever produced. Why can't we protect them?
by Stephanie Ebbert
CARLOS RIVERA LIVED a world away from Jeffrey Epstein, the Palm Beach billionaire who used his wealth, power, and a private jet nicknamed “the Lolita Express” to lure girls to work as masseuses at his mansions and private island. Yet Rivera, a schlumpy 47-year-old mechanic, was likewise capable of attracting girls to his first-floor apartment in Lawrence. He did it by providing the party — allegedly trading drugs and alcohol for sex and sexually explicit photos. The Globe reported last week that authorities now suspect he may have victimized more than a dozen girls in addition to 13-year-old Chloe Ricard, who died after he allegedly left her at the hospital, unconscious. On a step leading to Rivera's doorway, police found a single pair of women's underwear; his bedroom wall was plastered with more than 100 pictures of girls. On his phone, investigators would unearth over 7,000 photos of girls who looked to be in their teens.
Why are so many girls still prone to predation? Even in the midst of a movement that has given voice to grown women's fury about their past victimization, stories about the sexual exploitation of girls keep exploding in real time.
Raised with empowerment bordering on entitlement and reared with the blithe certitude that of course they can do anything, today's girls often seem more confident than those of past generations. But they have not been protected by pussy cats or “girl power.” Their seeming savvy does not make them less susceptible to bad actors. Teenagers are still teenagers — impulsive, rebellious, and with notoriously bad judgment.
The unlucky ones — flailing in uninvolved families, struggling with mental health problems, or stewing in a pit of low-self-esteem — are especially vulnerable to predators' attention. But even the stable and the beloved can be taken advantage of. One of the strongest young women in the world, gymnast Simone Biles, recently broke down in tears as she addressed the systemic negligence that allowed her and some 300 athletes to be sexually abused by their doctor.
“You had one job, you literally had one job,” Biles said of USA Gymnastics, “and you couldn't protect us.”
Today's girls are seemingly the fiercest America has ever produced. Why can't we protect them from predators?
FIRST, SOME WELCOME news:
Girls are actually statistically less at risk than they once were. Violent crime and sexual assaults are down. The early 1990s were a far more dangerous time for women and girls.
“Sexual abuse actually has been decreasing — although we are seeing more of it because people are reporting more,” said Elizabeth L. Jeglic, a psychology professor and specialist in sexual violence prevention at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. “I see that as encouraging.”
She also noted that the risk is not shared equally: Predators gravitate toward those whose home lives, mental states, or circumstances make them especially vulnerable.
“These are kids that potentially are coming from homes where there are problems,” said Jeglic. “They're feeling lonely, vulnerable, depressed. The predators know how to select those children, like you saw with Epstein .. and once they have identified people who are vulnerable, they figure out how to entice them. With some teens, that's drugs and alcohol. With Epstein, that was the luxury lifestyle.”
Most of the girls Epstein recruited — as masseuses and then, for sex — came from disadvantaged families, single-parent homes, or foster care, the Miami Herald reported. Some had friends or relatives who committed suicide; others had seen their mothers abused or had themselves been beaten or molested by their fathers.
Most of the girls Epstein recruited — as masseuses and then, for sex — came from disadvantaged families, single-parent homes, or foster care, the Miami Herald reported.
Girls can be further manipulated to feel as if they are complicit in the crimes against them — even if they are underage and can't legally consent to sex.
“The predators know how to create feelings of guilt and shame,” said Jeglic, saying they might remind the girls, “ ‘You came here willingly.' No one was pulling them into the apartment. They did come.”
If the incidents seem endemic now, that may be because we're processing them differently. The #MeToo movement — which not only unearthed women's tales of abuse but encouraged people to believe and support them — may be making us more receptive to stories of the victimization of girls who are not perfect victims, said Lisa Goldblatt Grace, executive director of My Life, My Choice, a Boston-based nonprofit that works to end commercial sexual exploitation.
“This has been happening for a long, long time that vulnerable kids were being used and hurt in this way,” she said. “We thankfully are at a point now where we see them as victims and not delinquents, which is a major, major shift.”
Reducing the risk of predation, then, also requires looking out for the vulnerable.
“That's where our culture and our safety system needs to come into play and identify these kids who have problems at home, low self-esteem, because those are the ones that will more likely fall for this,” Jeglic said. “We have to identify these kids and give them what they need in a non-predatory way. That's our job.”
Of course, a troubled home is not the only source of girls who are susceptible. Any culture can be toxic. Take the USA Gymnastics team, whose marquee stars, one by one, revealed they had been abused by their team doctor, Lawrence G. Nassar (who also admitted to abusing athletes he treated at Michigan State University).
Last month, a US Senate panel concluded that both USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee “knowingly concealed abuse by Larry Nassar, leading to the abuse of dozens of additional amateur athletes from summer 2015 to September 2016.”
“In the gymnastics situation, it was a culture that was created where they didn't feel safe to report,” Jeglic said, noting that even when they did report, the girls' complaints went unaddressed.
“Everybody can be vulnerable,” she added.
That's especially true in adolescence and the teenage years, when girls' natural instinct to test limits and push boundaries can lead them right into harm's way.
“We often see these stories about girls who want to run away, who are in conflict with their parents, connecting with someone online,” said author Sara Pipher Gilliam. “They see that individual as a way out of a momentary situation or a way to rebel. That rebellion and that pushing against parents is developmentally appropriate. That's a part of adolescence. But that's one reason that girls tend to be vulnerable.”
Last month, a US Senate panel concluded that both USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee “knowingly concealed abuse by Larry Nassar, leading to the abuse of dozens of additional amateur athletes from summer 2015 to September 2016.”
GILLIAM, THE DAUGHTER of psychologist Mary Pipher, jokes that she was the original Ophelia. Twenty-five years ago, her mother published the iconic book, “Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls,” based on their own experiences, interviews with teenage friends, and interviews with Pipher's therapy clients.
The book was a cultural touchstone, opening people's eyes to the perils of adolescence — that fraught journey between a carefree girlhood and an adult world. It alarmed parents, even though Pipher rejected the popular thinking at the time that traced the roots of children's troubled behavior back to parents. Pipher reserved her criticism for the culture at large — a “girl-poisoning culture” — and documented its relentless expectations of thinness, prettiness, smart-but-not-too-smartness, and cruel mixed messages on sexuality, which hounded girls into having premature sex, then ridiculed them for it. The no-way-out trap of it all left girls deadened after adolescence: anxious, anorexic, shallow, a lot less interested — and less interesting — than they had been as children, she posited.
When Gilliam joined her mother to rewrite a 25th anniversary edition of the book, interviewing today's girls about concerns such as school shootings and social media that previously didn't exist, they found very different attitudes.
The girls of the 1980s and 1990s had been “rebels and risk takers,” experimenting with sex, drugs, and alcohol as they tried to wrest independence from their parents. Their description of today's girls: “Cautious.”
Though many of today's teens may seem formidable and fearless, their generation is not as worldly or wild as their predecessors, they found.
Girls today have less sex, and dabble less with drinking or drugs. They talk to their families more and claim their mothers as their best friends. They're dating less and are apt to stay in on a Saturday night with Netflix and group texts. Many are in no rush to get their driver's licenses.
It's encouraging feedback for families, said Gilliam, a former middle school teacher and editor of a magazine for early education professionals.
The downside is, their caution can work against them. They're sheltered. Isolated. Looking at the world from behind a screen.
“Girls are, from our perspective, far less prepared to interface with the real world than previous generations,” Gilliam said.
Today's teens are in constant digital proximity to their parents, which can be reassuring for safety's sake. But since parents are often called to trouble-shoot — say, with a difficult teacher or a flat tire — young people aren't learning to solve problems on their own, she said.
While this may seem counterintuitive, Gilliam and Pipher recommend that today's worried parents cultivate “calibrated risk” for their daughters — challenges that fall short of danger but help them learn to navigate the real world. One mother, for instance, gave her daughter responsibility for scheduling and getting to all her medical and dental appointments. Another, tired of hearing her daughter's complaints of boredom, told her to find and book a flight to visit a relative with her own money. The idea is to foster critical thinking skills and interpersonal interactions without a parent there to smooth the way.
Conversely, though, today's parents are surprisingly hands-off when it comes to their children's electronic devices, Gilliam said. Girls now spend six to nine hours a day online, she said. But mothers in their focus groups, almost to a person, said they don't read their daughters' texts or screen their social media accounts.
“That was quite jarring to us as researchers of this new phenomenon,” she said, noting that mothers would want to know whom their daughters were with for six to nine hours a day. “Because these mothers, for all that they are very caring of their daughters, are really missing out on this big aspect of their daughters' lives.”
So one tip that she and her mother offer in their book — for both communication and guarding against predators — is that parents keep much closer tabs on their daughters' smartphones and social media accounts.
Jeglic, co-author of a book called “Protecting your Child from Sexual Abuse,” also recommends that parents open traditional lines of communication — even the awkward ones, like talking about sex.
“We've ingrained in our culture that sexuality is somehow shameful,” she said, noting that girls often absorb that shame if they are touched inappropriately and infer they have done something wrong. Openness in talking about sexuality, starting at a young age, can make children more communicative if there is something to report, she suggested.
And though the stories about predators can seem pervasive, Jeglic is encouraged that longtime alleged abusers like Epstein and R&B singer R. Kelly are now being held to account. Though Epstein died in jail before facing justice, she's bolstered by signals that authorities intend to pursue charges against those who helped him recruit and abuse girls. She likened it to the pressure put on the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno for the abuse committed against boys by his assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
“The more we hold people who knew and didn't do anything accountable, I think the more people are going to recognize that we can't just be passive observers,” she said. “We need to be active interventionists.