National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

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"News of the Week"  

October 2019 - Week 3
Terri Lanahan
Many thanks to NAASCA's Terri Lanahan, Butte, Montana,
for her research into the news that appears on
the LACP & NAASCA web sites.



Bitcoin money trail leads cops to ‘world's largest' child abuse site

By Lisa Vaas

US, British and South Korean police announced on Wednesday that they have taken down Welcome To Video: a Darknet market that had what the US Department of Justice (DOJ) says is the world's most voluminous offerings of child abuse imagery.

The DOJ called this the largest market for child sexual abuse videos, and that this is one of the largest seizures of this type of contraband. The 8 terabytes worth of child sexual abuse videos, which are now being analyzed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), comprise over 250,000 unique videos, 45% of which contain new images that weren't previously known to exist.

The global crackdown, which has so far led to the arrest of 337 alleged users and the indictment of the website's admin, has led to the rescue of at least 23 victims living in the US, Spain and the UK. The DOJ says that the minors were actively being abused by site users.

The admin of Welcome to Video, who was indicted on Wednesday, is Jong Woo Son, 23, a South Korean national who was previously charged and convicted in South Korea. He's now serving his sentence in South Korea.

The global dragnet has scooped up 337 alleged site users who've been arrested and charged worldwide: throughout the US, the UK, South Korea, Germany, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Czech Republic, Canada, Ireland, Spain, Brazil and Australia. About 92 individuals' home and businesses in the US have been searched.

Five search warrants issued in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area have led to the arrests of eight people suspected of both conspiring with Jong Woo Son and of being website users themselves. The DOJ says that two suspected users committed suicide after the search warrants were executed.

The bust

According to the indictment, on 5 March 2018, a global police force – including agents from the UK, the Korean National Police in South Korea, the US Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI), and the US Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) – arrested Jong Woo Son and seized the server that he used to operate the market.

Welcome To Video specialized in exclusively selling child sexual exploitation videos. The site, which operated from June 2015 to March 2018, had a message on its landing page explicitly warning users to “not upload adult porn.” As of 8 February 2018, Welcome to Video indicated on its download page that users had downloaded files more than a million times.

The material documented abuse of pre-pubescent children, toddlers and infants as young as six months.

Bitcoin doesn't hide “these disgusting organizations”

The indictment alleges that police tracked Bitcoin payments to the Darknet website by tracing the flow of funds on the blockchain.

A forfeiture complaint identifies blockchain wallets allegedly used by 24 suspects in five countries to promote the site and to pay for child abuse. The complaint is looking to claw back that money and return it to the victims.

Users purchased the videos by using points that they earned in a number of ways: by uploading child abuse videos, referring new customers, paying 0.03 Bitcoin (worth approximately US $352.59 as of the time the market was seized) for a six-month “VIP” account that gave them unlimited downloads, and/or by purchasing points incrementally.

IRS-CI Chief Don Fort said in the DOJ's news release that it was “sophisticated tracing” of transactions between the site and those customer accounts that enabled agents to crack the criminal ring:

Through the sophisticated tracing of bitcoin transactions, IRS-CI special agents were able to determine the location of the Darknet server, identify the administrator of the website and ultimately track down the website server's physical location in South Korea.

Fort said that it doesn't matter whether illicit proceeds are virtual or tangible: police can and will track down “these disgusting organizations” and bring them to justice, he said.

Stripping cryptocurrency's privacy protections

As we've previously explained, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and even Monero, which was designed for privacy, rely on blockchains: cryptographically protected, decentralized transaction ledgers.

The robustness of those blockchains relies, in part, on transparency: there are thousands of copies of both the Bitcoin and Monero blockchains in existence, and every copy carefully details every single transaction ever made in that currency.

Changing the history enshrined in those blockchains is effectively impossible. If you've ever spent a bitcoin or a monero, then the proof that it happened is etched indelibly into that currency's blockchain, forever.

Bitcoin users are pseudonymous – their activity is public but their real name is hidden – protected by one or more wallet IDs.

Bitcoin users can be exposed if any one of a wallet's transactions can be linked to a real identity.

In the case of Welcome To Video, there were a number of links to Son's real identity. One such link was multiple instances of unconcealed IP addresses that showed that Son was running the server out of his own home. He also used his name, his cell phone number and his email account at a Bitcoin exchange account.

Besides the charges that led to his conviction in South Korea, Jong Woo Son was indicted on Wednesday in the US on nine charges relating to money laundering and to producing, advertising and distributing child abuse imagery.

HSI Acting Executive Associate Director Alysa Erichs, calling the crimes “unthinkable”, said that technology has enabled them to stay tucked away. However, the criminals who do this can and will be tracked down, she said:

Sadly, advances in technology have enabled child predators to hide behind the dark web and cryptocurrency to further their criminal activity. However, today's indictment sends a strong message to criminals that no matter how sophisticated the technology or how widespread the network, child exploitation will not be tolerated in the United States. Our entire justice system will stop at nothing to prevent these heinous crimes, safeguard our children, and bring justice to all.


Dark Web

Dark web child abuse: Hundreds arrested across 38 countries

By BBC News

More than 300 people have been arrested following the take-down of one of the world's "largest dark web child porn marketplaces", investigators said.

The site had more than 200,000 videos which had collectively been downloaded more than a million times.

It was shut down last year after a UK investigation into a child sex offender uncovered its existence.

But on Wednesday, officials revealed that 337 suspected users had been arrested across 38 countries.

US officials unsealed nine indictments against the site's owner Jong Woo Son, 23, from South Korea – where he is currently in prison.

The UK's National Crime Agency said arrests had been made in the UK, Ireland, America, South Korea, Germany, Spain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Czech Republic and Canada - among others.

The site, named Welcome to Video, was run from South Korea and had nearly eight terabytes of content involving child abuse - enough to store hundreds or even thousands of hours of video footage.

Prosecutors said the site had offered videos of sex acts involving children, infants and toddlers – and specifically asked users not to upload videos featuring adults-only pornography.

The site was "one of the first to offer sickening videos for sale using the cryptocurrency bitcoin," the UK's National Crime Agency said.

It was taken down by an international task force that included agencies from the UK, the US, South Korea and Germany after operating for three years.

It was discovered during an investigation into paedophile Matthew Falder from England, who was jailed for 25 years for sharing abuse tips and images on the dark web .

How global taskforce caught UK paedophile

In the UK, seven men have already been convicted in connection with the investigation, including Kyle Fox who was jailed for 22 years last March for the rape of a five-year-old boy and who appeared on the site sexually abusing a three-year-old girl.

Suspects were identified after crime agencies traced the site's cryptocurrency transactions back to them.

About 23 children have been rescued from active abuse situations, the joint task force said at a press conference about the operation.

They are continuing to trace other children seen in the videos.

"Dark web child sex offenders...cannot hide from law enforcement," the UK's National Crime Agency investigations lead, Nikki Holland, said.

"They're not as cloaked as they think they are, they're not as safe as they think they are."


New York

She Was 4 and Deaf. That's When the Sexual Abuse Began, She Said.

Twelve women who attended a celebrated school for the deaf claim a housemaster abused them for years, and the school did nothing to prevent it.

By Ginia Bellafante

During the last few years, the world has received a thorough education in the psychology of sexual abuse victims — the challenges of coming to terms with trauma, of erasing shame and doubt, of summoning the courage to come forward.

But what if the act of speaking your truth seemed impossible in the most literal sense? What if your abuse amounted to a re-silencing because a twist of genetic fate left you unable to hear or speak, and your silence had confined you all along?

On Wednesday morning, 12 women, all of them students at the New York School for the Deaf during the 1960s and '70s, filed a suit against it in New York State Supreme Court in Westchester County.

Making use of the Child Victims Act passed by the state Legislature this year, one of more than 700 cases to do so, they claim that they were sexually abused by the dormitory housemaster, a man long since dead, who molested multiple girls on a daily basis, leaving them to struggle with the attendant agonies for decades.

Steve Straus, a lawyer representing the school, said in response that the New York School for the Deaf “exists to educate deaf and hearing-impaired children and provide the tools needed for lifelong success. As this matter is in suit, I am unable to comment other than to say that the claims allege conduct occurring about 50 years ago.”

Also called Fanwood, the New York School for the Deaf is more than 200 years old. It had celebrated benefactors from the beginning. DeWitt Clinton was a trustee and served as the first board president.

For decades Fanwood operated as a boarding school. Parents would send children, some of them toddlers, to live there during the week on the theory that deaf children required a lot of work to catch up to their hearing peers.

One of the plaintiffs in the suit, Damita Jo Damiano, was 4 years old when she arrived at the campus in Westchester in 1964. Ms. Damiano came from a multigenerational deaf family in the Bronx; her father went to Fanwood, and her brother was a student as well

Her initial time there coincided roughly with the appointment of a man named Joseph Casucci to the school's supervisory staff. Mr. Casucci had been brought in as a housemaster, a role that left him presiding over the dormitory life of very young girls.

Visiting New York from Colorado where she now lives, Ms. Damiano spoke about the abuse through a sign interpreter — how it began right away and how it continued over and over again. “It was a nightly routine, and we were just little girls,'' she said. “It was the routine we would come to expect: We would do homework, take showers and the abuse would begin. It was normalized.”

When she was young, Ms. Damiano thought about telling her father, but he seemed to be on good terms with Casucci and, at the same time, very temperamental. Once, she recalled, Casucci gave her a haircut. Her father hated it and went ballistic. She worried that if she told him what Casucci was doing to her and other girls at night, that her father would kill him. For decades, she told no one.

Several years ago a study out of the Rochester Institute of Technology showed that deaf and hearing-impaired children suffered from mistreatment disproportionate to children free from those challenges — rates were, in fact, 25 percent higher. Researchers looked at neglect and abuse that was both physical and sexual, and they found that having a deaf parent or a family member who signed was not a protection.

The suit against Fanwood represents one of the first major legal challenges to an institution involving the abuse of the deaf.

The implications are significant not only because the case is likely to compel more deaf victims to come forward but also because it has the potential to create a kind of infrastructure for reporting predation.

Abuse of the deaf is vastly undercounted. A nonhearing person cannot easily call the police; few social workers are conversant in American Sign Language, and hiring an interpreter is an expensive burden for a victim.

“The plight of sexually abused deaf people represents the quintessential tragedy faced by all sexually abused children,'' said Paul Mones, who is representing the plaintiffs in the Fanwood case, and who has represented victims of childhood sexual abuse for 35 years. “Deaf victims are not just silenced by the abuse, but even when they want to report their abuse, they can't communicate it to those in a position to help them.”

The Fanwood suit could not have happened without the passage of the Child Victims Act in New York State, a law that broadly extends the statute of limitations for bringing civil or criminal action in abuse cases. Since it was enacted, similar legislation has been passed in New Jersey and California. Most states still provide only a narrow window for bringing charges.

The genesis of the suit, however, was in social media.

Six years ago, after watching a movie about clerical sex abuse, Marlene Hodge, another plaintiff, wrote a post on Facebook about what had happened at the school. It was something she had never really discussed with anyone beyond her circle of friends at Fanwood who were also experiencing the abuse.

The dorm did not have individual rooms; the beds were laid out in a kind of bunkhouse style, and the abuse was often visible, the women said, to the other girls as they were going to sleep. Ms. Hodge's mother was president of the school's P.T.A. while she was there, she said, but she was too scared to tell her what was going on.

Marlene H. Hodge, a plaintiff in the suit, attended Fanwood starting in 1966. The abuse, she said, began immediately.

Of the suits that have been brought since the Child Victims Act went into effect in New York, only a small number have been filed against individuals. Even when victims want to sue for the symbolic value, hoping to expose their abusers, they have trouble finding lawyers who will take cases with little promise of monetary compensation.

The women suing the Fanwood school are likely to receive some financial reward, but they say they have no interest in a bankrupting a school with such a valuable mission. Graduates of Fanwood have not only gone to college but have also founded their own schools for the deaf.

The deaf world is small, Ms. Damiano explained, and word of the suit will no doubt ricochet quickly. When she first moved to Colorado, she got in touch with other deaf people and built a community. She discovered that many people had stories like hers.

“We are perfect victims,'' she said.



Child abuse victims denied compensation after committing crimes themselves

EXCLUSIVE: Campaigners say the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority is denying help to victims even when their offences are triggered by the abuse they endured


Hundreds of victims of child sexual abuse have been denied compensation because they have later gone on to commit crimes.

The funds are normally available to help deal with issues arising from being attacked – such as paying for counselling, improving security or moving away from their attacker.

But campaigners say the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority is denying help to victims even when their offending was triggered by being abused.

In the past four years 323 claims have been rejected.

Leading abuse solicitor Alistair Smith said: “These are very damaged people who are often being led to offend by the difficult pasts they have had.

“Often they are relatively minor offences, but they are being denied the help they need.”

In 2015-16 there were 26 claims rejected, which almost doubled to 46 a year later.

By 2017-18 that had risen to a high of 140. Applications can be refused if a victim has a criminal record – meant to stop serious criminals getting money off the state. But the rule means compensation can also be withheld for petty crimes.

Alistair previously helped overturn a controversial rule that blocked compensation for abuse by family members who lived with her.

Figures also show 658 victims have been denied compensation because they did not lodge their claim within two years of the complaint.

Alistair said: “The police don't want people to put the application in because a cross-examination could say, ‘You're only in this for the money.'

“It ends up that trials go on for years – for one client, it was six years until she got justice. By the time it comes to put in a claim, it's too late.”


United Kingdom

Aid agencies accused of failure to make good on Oxfam abuse scandal pledges

MPs point to lack of progress on promised safeguarding improvements for whistleblowers and survivors

MPs have accused aid organisations of “dragging their feet” over combating sexual exploitation and abuse in the sector, despite safeguarding pledges made in 2018 after the Oxfam abuse scandal.

Work to improve protection and support for whistleblowers has “stalled”, and more needs to be done to protect survivors, a report by the UK international development committee (IDC) has said.

While MPs recognised efforts across the aid sector to improve safeguarding, they were “disappointed” by the lack of progress in key areas.

In a report published on Thursday, the committee found limited progress had been made among NGOs on transparency, with some organisations still reluctant to publish the number of sexual abuse allegations they had received, and the outcome of investigations.

The committee expressed concerns about the Department for International Development and Bond, the UK network for aid organisations, both of which “seem reluctant to take responsibility for driving up standards on whistle-blower protection”, they said.

Measures by DfID and Bond aimed at providing better reporting and complaints mechanisms have focused too much on theory at the expense of ensuring changes in practice, the committee said. The MPs called for “an end to voluntary self-regulation” of aid agencies, which they said “allows failures on sexual exploitation and abuse to slip through the cracks”.

Pauline Latham, a Conservative member of the IDC, said: “Some of the most vulnerable people in the world are being abused and they are being abused by people they should be able to trust. We need to support these people. This is a huge issue within the industry. We need to move faster and they are just dragging their feet.”

The criticisms came as Alok Sharma, the fourth international development secretary in two years, issued a statement outlining steps made by DfID since February 2018 to put survivors first and drive culture change across the aid sector.

“The international work led by DfID over the last year has generated good momentum and is starting to deliver results,” Sharma said in a statement. However, the accompanying progress report acknowledged that providing support to victims and survivors remains a “crucial challenge”, and recognised that more needs to be done.

Sharma highlighted the introduction of a sexual misconduct disclosure scheme for employers, which had prevented the hiring of at least 10 individuals. He also called attention to the creation of a £10m register, using Interpol and national policing databases, designed to strengthen criminal record checks and stop perpetrators moving around the sector, announced at a DfID safeguarding summit in October 2018.

The MPs urged DfID to champion an independent aid ombudsman, proposed by the Dutch government, to allow an alternative form of access to justice for survivors, and to monitor the safeguarding of the sector as a whole.

“I want Britain to lead the world on this,” said Latham.

Stephen Twigg, the committee's chairman, said MPs had previously urged the aid community to work quickly to develop robust protections focused on “victims and survivors”.

“In the year since, this work has sadly not progressed to the point it needs to be,” he said.

“The success of reforms can only be judged by how they support victims and survivors in humanitarian situations across the globe. It is clear that in this respect much more work needs to be done. There should be sufficient resourcing in place to provide access to safeguarding staff on the ground, and improvement in how whistle-blowers are supported and protected.”

Oxfam failed to report child abuse claims in Haiti, inquiry finds

In June, it emerged that Oxfam is investigating the suspected involvement of its humanitarian workers in a new sex-for aid scandal. The charity was issued with an official warning from the Charity Commission after it found Oxfam had failed to disclose allegations of child abuse in Haiti.

Commenting on the IDC report, Asmita Naik, co-author of research published in 2002 that exposed sexual abuse by aid workers in west Africa, said: “Until these organisations are prepared to speak up and be honest, how on earth do they expect victims on the ground to do so? At the moment, they are still too defensive, too secretive.”

She added: “Where's the sense of urgency? Where are the changes on the ground? It still seems stuck at that top-level policy. That is where it has been for years.”

A DfID spokesperson said: “We will continue to take robust action and are making sure UK aid doesn't go to organisations who fall short of our expected standards.”

Stephanie Draper, CEO of Bond, said: “We value the IDC's commitment to working with all sectors and DfID to improve safeguarding practices. However, it is a shame that months of hard work from the NGO sector to up its game across a wide range of aspects of safeguarding seems to have been overlooked in the committee's report.


Social Media

Child predators target next-gen social media

By Sally Rawsthorne

When Stephanie~ began chatting online to Calvin Hill, she had no idea what it would lead to.

Then aged 13, the girl from NSW's South Coast allegedly began speaking to the Chatswood man 19 years her senior via Kik, an encrypted messaging app that promotes anonymity and encourages users to "meet new people".

It is understood that Mr Hill allegedly claimed to be a 17-year-old boy and allegedly groomed the teen over a period of several months.

Police say Mr Hill then allegedly "met the girl in Batemans Bay and Sydney on several occasions between 2014 and 2018, where he allegedly sexually abused her."

Police began investigating Mr Hill in June this year after being informed of the alleged abuse. He was arrested last week and is now before the courts on a raft of charges.

Cyber Safety Solutions CEO and former Victorian police officer Susan McLean told The Sun-Herald that while the popularity of the app that launched in 2010 "waxes and wanes", it is still the "number one app for sex predators."

Online child sex abuse can range from a predator grooming a teen to meet them in person and sexually assaulting them to live-streaming child abuse to photographs.

Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad Commander Detective Superintendent John Kerlatec said that the advent of apps like Kik, Tellonym, TikTok and Whispr have "created more opportunities" for would-be child abusers.

"Everyone has access to the internet in their back pocket. It's certainly increased the opportunities to groom. In NSW alone this year, we've seen 38 people charged," Det Supt Kerlatec said.

Those arrests - almost one per week - come from a combination of alleged predators allegedly grooming real children online and stings from Strike Force Trawler's undercover detectives.

"While some people may downplay it [the use of undercover officers], we see the scenarios - those people turn up with condoms or a motel room booked".

Police see the same pattern of behaviour repeated by child sex offenders, Det Supt Kerlatec said.

"They build rapport and ingratiate themselves. They could be pretending to be someone that you'd be pleased to talk to, but it's not - it's someone with nefarious intentions.

"The conversation will lead to images and then more graphic images, images that are sexualised."

Parents need to be educated by their children on the ever-changing world of online communication, Det Supt Kerlatec said.

"The people who are on these devices day in day out are far more educated than their parents. Parents should be taught by their kids about what they're looking at and who they are talking to, then pose some scenario questions," he said.

Ms McLean said that parents needed to follow the age restrictions on apps, and only allow children over 13 to use them.

"It's so much easier to trick little children into doing stuff," she said.

While online child sex offenders are predominantly - but not exclusively - men, there is no typical offender, Det Supt Kerlatec said.

"There is no set age, demographic, occupation or socioeconomic background".

Australian eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said that the trend towards encrypted apps - whose messages cannot be intercepted - had created further challenges of child protection.

"[It] is making the job of investigators into serious online child sexual abuse more difficult. It also creates a secondary Dark Web in which platforms can absolve themselves of responsibility for safety."

~ Stephanie is a pseudonym used by The Sun-Herald to comply with legislation prohibiting the identification of child victims of crime .

The apps most popular with child predators

TikTok - A short-form video sharing app that has been downloaded over one billion times. A BBC investigation earlier this year found that while the Chinese-owned app deleted sexualised content directed at children, the users who posted it were allowed to remain on the platform.

Instagram - Owned by Facebook, the photo sharing app is popular with adults and teens alike. Ms McLean's says that Instagram is not "dogs and cats", it's "self-harm and porn".

Snapchat - The self-destructing photo app has UK police investigating three cases of online child abuse per day, according to a Sunday Times report.

Discord - Developed as a means for gamers to talk to each other as they played, Ms McLean says she has had an "explosion" of reports about the app in the past few months.

Likee - The video sharing app that aims to topple Tik Tok is increasingly popular with teens, and has recently introduced a parental control feature.



Twitter: World leaders' accounts not entirely above policies


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Twitter says world leaders aren't entirely above its ban on users threatening violence or promoting terrorism on the site.

The San Francisco company is clarifying its rules as some Democrats say they would like to see President Donald Trump booted off Twitter, his favored platform for filterless communication with the world.

But while Twitter says it will enforce its policies against any user when it comes to material such as child sexual abuse, direct threats of violence against a private individual, or posting someone's private information, it doesn't appear Trump's account is in imminent danger.

A blog post this week expanded on Twitter's policy governing tweets. In June, Twitter said world leaders' tweets that violate its rules but have a clear public-interest value might get a warning label. The label would provide context on the violation and let people to click through to see the tweet if they want to.

While Twitter said in June that it will not use its algorithms to “elevate” or otherwise promote tweets that have a warning label, it now says it also won't let people retweet or comment on them. People will still be able to “quote tweet” the material. Quote tweeting lets users add their own message above someone else's tweet and post it on their own timeline. This nuance shows the fine line Twitter is trying to walk with its policy — it wants to promote free expression and allow people to comment on controversial tweets, but it doesn't want to promote them on their own, without context.

With all that, the company has yet to slap a tweet with a warning label since putting its policy into effect. So is it all for show? Below are some questions and answers about Twitter's policy.


On Tuesday, Twitter said it'll take action on any account — world leader or not — that makes clear and direct threats of violence against a person, depending on the context. What is this context? A world leader interacting directly with another public figure, or commenting on political and foreign policy issues, would “likely not result in enforcement,” Twitter said.

“Foreign policy saber-rattling on economic or military issues are generally not in violation of the Twitter Rules,” the blog post reads. For instance, Trump has threatened Iran on Twitter, prompting his critics to call for his removal from the service. But based on Twitter's policy, that doesn't count as a violation.

But other things, such as promoting terrorism, posting someone's private information such as an address or phone number, promoting self-harm, engaging in child sexual exploitation or sharing intimate photos of someone without their consent could all get a world leader kicked off Twitter.


Twitter wouldn't say what prompted Tuesday's blog post. But there's been growing pressure from Democrats, including presidential candidate and California Sen. Kamala Harris , to remove Trump from Twitter because of what they see as bullying and abuse. In a public letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Harris listed offending tweets from Trump such as one on Sept. 29 when he wrote that he wants Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff arrested and questioned for “treason.”

“No user, regardless of their job, wealth, or stature should be exempt from abiding by Twitter's user agreement, not even the President of the United States,” the letter reads.

But not only has Twitter not removed Trump, the tweets in question are without any warning label. Even with Tuesday's explanation, it is not entirely clear what tweets from a world leader could get one. Since Schiff is also a public figure, Twitter could say it doesn't count even if he is targeted by the president.


Twitter has critics on all sides. Keegan Hankes, research analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project who focuses on far-right extremist propaganda online, called the policy statement a step in the right direction. But, he added, Twitter is essentially arguing “that hate speech can be in the public interest. I am arguing that hate speech is never in the public interest.”

If Trump's tweets were to get a warning label, however, this could fuel his supporters' ire toward Twitter. The president routinely complains, without evidence, that social media sites are biased against him and other conservatives.


Neither Facebook nor Google (or YouTube) have specific policies exempting world leaders from their rules. But Trump's use of Twitter is unique as it is unprecedented, so other social media companies have not felt the same pressure to enact such a policy. All the big social media companies generally ban direct threats of violence, supporting terrorism, as well as hate speech and abuse. But enforcement can be spotty on all counts, and context matters — even in the president's case, many of the tweets that offend his critics could fall in a gray area.

That said, Facebook's recently announced policy of not fact-checking politicians' posts or advertisements has drawn fire from critics including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, another Democratic presidential candidate. To prove her point, Warren took out an ad on Facebook that purposely made the false claim that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had endorsed Trump for president.

YouTube, meanwhile, says it removes material that violates its community guidelines, regardless of who posts it.

“We do not treat politicians any differently,” said YouTube spokesman Farshad Shadloo.


New Zealand

Sex abuse survivors fear cover-up as Jehovah's Witness elders in NZ told to destroy documents

By Phil Pennington

Jehovah's Witnesses church elders in New Zealand have been told to destroy documents, and child sex abuse survivors fear that will lead to the cover up of cases.

A survivor network has given the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care copies of the church's edicts, urging the commissioners to take action.

It has approached the church, which it said assured the commission such documents won't be destroyed.

However, the thrust of church instructions dating back to 2015, and emerging from its world headquarters in the US, and from its Australian regional centre, are counter to this.

RNZ has obtained recent church orders to its highly regulated Australasian congregations with these instructions about hearings and investigations into "wrongdoing":

"When the matter has been finalised all written records from both the original and appeal committees should be destroyed."

"In any case, if it is determined that some brief personal notes need to be taken during a hearing, they should be destroyed once a summation of the hearing has been prepared.

Under a heading 'Filing': "Did the judicial committee chairman destroy all other correspondence, except any letter of disassociation or resignation?"

Elders are required to sign a form saying they have destroyed all electronic and hard copy documents except one official one, when they expel a believer for sinning.

The Australian Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse was told of 1800 likely victims and 1000 perpetrators within the Jehovah's Witnesses across the Tasman.

The inquiry found no evidence the church had reported a single case to the police.

It found seven serious faults in how the church handled cases, including:

If the accused does not confess, an inflexible requirement that there be two eyewitnesses to an incident of child sexual abuse.

Women entirely absent from the decision-making processes of the internal disciplinary system.

Survivors guess there could be several hundred unacknowledged cases in New Zealand, where Jehovah's Witness believers number 14,000 out of a global following of eight million.

A video of the Jehovah's Witnesses' headquarters records a manager telling elders everywhere to destroy documents was leaked last year to the Philadelphia Inquirer paper; in it the manager refers to judicial authorities as the devil, Satan.

"We know that the scene of this world is changing and we know Satan's coming after us. And he's going to go for us legally. We can see by the way things are shaping up. So the organisation has said we've run into difficulties in the past because of the records that we have."

Draft records with personal comments had done particular damage in lawsuits against the church, the manager told fellow elders.

The edicts do not specifically include or exclude documents relating to abuse, but New Zealand survivor network organiser Shayne Mechen, who spent years in the Jehovah's Witnesses, is in no doubt child sex abuse records are in jeopardy.

"There is already evidence that destruction of those documents has happened, they are no longer complete. They go to court and seal up all records."

He has given leaked church documents to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care, including a recent letter to elders.

The commission then delayed hearing his evidence to consider the information, which showed it was taking it seriously but also carried risks, he said.

"That letter there is a reminder of something that started back in around 2015, after the Australian Royal Commission. It may be too late."

The church's Australasian headquarters declined an interview, and issued a statement.

"In answer to your key question, 'does this order include documents relevant to child sex abuse in the church?', the letter you reference does not give any direction to destroy documents relevant to child sexual abuse," it said.

The church maintained that elders had been told not to destroy abuse documents.

A moratorium on destroying documents linked to the New Zealand inquiry was issued early this year.

It applied to churches, making it a criminal offence to destroy evidence, the commission said.

After being alerted by Mr Mechen, it had contacted the Australasian Jehovah's Witnesses Church to remind it of its obligations.

"All potentially relevant material must be preserved... The Jehovah's Witnesses Church has assured the Royal Commission that it will not destroy any documents relevant to the inquiry.

"Where appropriate, the Royal Commission will require institutions to verify by statutory declaration that they have not destroyed or disposed of any such material, and to provide an explanation for any material that has been lost or destroyed."

RNZ has obtained other new church edicts that show the leaders are now allowing believers to go to police with child sex abuse allegations; and also telling elders to be more open with congregations about abuse allegations and perpetrators.

"The congregation's handling of an accusation of child sexual abuse is not intended to replace the secular authority's handling of the matter," said the church's brand new overall guide for elders.

"Therefore, the victim, her [sic] parents, or anyone else who reports such an allegation to the elders should be clearly informed that they have the right to report the matter to the secular authorities. Elders do not criticise anyone who chooses to make such a report."

It was an improvement, but did not go far enough and would run up against a church culture of secrecy and distrust, ex-believer Shayne Mechen said.

"They view this world as being controlled by Satan, the Devil and they try and stay away from the authorities and keep it in-house."

The new guide also contains this statement:

"When discussing child sexual abuse from a congregation standpoint, we are not considering a situation in which a minor who is a willing participant and who is approaching adulthood is involved in sexual activity with an adult who is a few years older than the minor. Nor, generally speaking, are we discussing situations in which only minors are involved... Rather, we are referring to an adult guilty of sexually abusing a minor who is a young child, or an adult guilty of sexual involvement with a minor who is approaching adulthood but was not a willing participant .


United Kingdom

Monk who raped me may be my father, witness tells UK abuse inquiry

By Press Association

A former pupil at a Catholic boarding school in Scotland has told how he was raped by a monk who he suspects to be his father.

The witness, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had a statement about his time at St Columba's in Largs, North Ayrshire, read to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry on Thursday.

The man, now in his 50s, claims to have suffered a serious sexual assault at the hands of a monk before enrolling at the school.

He told how his family had a strong connection with the Marist order, which ran the establishment, and they had gone on a trip to Middlesbrough with a religious brother.

The witness, who was then aged seven, said: “It was then that he betrayed my trust, (he) took me up to his room.

“He had been drinking heavily, he made me carry out acts of a sexual nature on him.

“I was naked from the waist down, he then raped me.”

It was heard he attended the school in the 1960s and 1970s and feared being sexually assaulted again during his first two years there, but this did not happen.

He also told how he believed his mother had been having sex with the same monk.

The witness said: “I have suspicions my mother had a relationship with (him) and he was my biological father.

“When I was 12, I thought he was visiting my mother for sex.

“Why else would he be there?”

Meanwhile, another victim told how sexual abuse at the hands of a former teacher became “normalised”, happening several times a week.

The witness was first admitted to the establishment in 1978 and stayed until 1982.

The inquiry heard the witness had his bed sprayed with water by the man during the night and was then made to go into the former teacher's bedroom.

He said: “I remember having to take my clothes off and I think on that occasion he made me stay in there and had to sleep on the edge of the bed in front of him.”

That was the first time he suffered sexual assault, he said.

But the witness claimed the abuse went on throughout his time at the boarding school, being made to perform acts on another boy as well.

He added: “It was constant, I'm not saying every day, but a number of times a week.

“It just seemed to be something that was part of life at the school.”

The witness also spoke of being told about the death of schoolboy Aldo Moroni, after hearing wailing from a pupil in the building.

He said: “There was a boy screaming upstairs, like he was in pain.

“Some of us started to go upstairs, a lad started shouting at the boys to get back down the stairs.

“Within a number of days, we were told he was dead.”

The inquiry, before judge Lady Smith in Edinburgh, continues on Tuesday.



Are tech giants turning a blind eye to child sexual abuse images?

The millions of online images of appalling cruelty to children cannot be simply dismissed as one of the ‘downsides of tech'

By John Naughton

Last week the New York Times published the most depressing piece I've read in a long time. “The Internet Is Overrun With Images of Child Sexual Abuse,” said the headline. “What Went Wrong?”

The article was the outcome of a major investigation by two NYT reporters – Michael Keller and Gabriel Dance – into what they described as “an insatiable criminal underworld that had exploited the flawed and insufficient efforts to contain it”.

The reporters also found that (as with hate speech and terrorist propaganda) many tech companies failed to adequately police sexual abuse imagery on their platforms, or failed to cooperate sufficiently with the authorities when they found it; law enforcement agencies tasked with the problem are understaffed and underfunded; and the US justice department, despite being given major responsibility for the problem by Congress, has fallen down on the job.

Given the outrage-fatigue that now grips many of us as liberal democracy self-destructs, it would be tempting to just file this disturbing report in the “more downsides of tech” folder and move on. That temptation should be resisted, not just because of the appalling cruelty to children that lies at the heart of this, but also because it raises the question of whether a combination of digital technology and the business models of some tech platforms pose existential threats to the rule of law. Crudely put: are these platforms inadvertently facilitating illegal and inhumane behaviour that neither they nor law enforcement authorities can control?

Everybody knows, I guess, that there's always been child abuse imagery online. That's because the internet holds up a mirror to human nature. All human life is there, and some of that is ghastly. The Internet Watch Foundation estimates that “there are 100,000 people sitting in the UK right now demanding images of the abuse of children”. What few appreciate is the sheer scale of the imagery and of how it has proliferated in the last two decades. According to the New York Times, in 1998 there were about 3,000 reports of it; 10 years later the number had risen past 100,000; in 2014 it was more than 1 million; and last year there were 18.4m reports, which included more than 45m images and videos flagged as child sexual abuse.

The one piece of good news is that these spiralling numbers may reflect better detection by tech companies. Social media platforms are legally required to report images of child abuse only when they discover them – they are not required to look for them, and it may be that they are now looking harder and finding more. So the alarming “spike” in reports might be an indication that companies are doing better – a point that some of their executives made to the NYT reporters.

Pornography – including child sexual abuse imagery – is at least as old as the printing press. But smartphone cameras, broadband connectivity, cloud storage and social media have enabled the imagery to proliferate and disseminate at exponential rates. And vast though the volume of child abuse imagery reported by the NYT is, it's only a drop in the bucket of social media activity. In a talk to Facebook staff recently, the company's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, estimated that “100bn pieces of content” flow through its servers every single day. Given that, looking for child abuse imagery makes searching for needles in haystacks relatively straightforward, even with the best of technology and intentions.

But finding, flagging and reporting illegal content is just the start of the process needed to deal with those who create, disseminate and consume it. Law enforcement agencies have to be ready – and resourced – to locate, investigate and prosecute the wrongdoers. The NYT report suggests that, in the US at least, public authorities are absolutely swamped and under-equipped for the gargantuan tasks involved. Some agencies said that the only way of coping is by focusing only on the youngest victims.

As for the idea that the figure of 18.4m might be a reflection of better detection techniques by social media companies – well, there's a sting in the tail. One of the NYT reporters, Gabriel Dance, tweeted last week that nearly 12m of the 18.4m reports concerned imagery on Facebook Messenger. The reason Facebook was able to report them was because its computers could see the images. But the company says it is planning to extend encryption to Messenger, which means that illegal imagery will henceforth become invisible to Facebook (as content on its WhatsApp platform already is), and therefore unreportable. This will be good for Facebook, of course, because it can shed responsibility as a snake sheds its skin. But will it be good for society? You only have to ask the question to know the answer.


United Kingdom

Paedophile who abused up to 200 children found dead in prison

Richard Huckle, 33, who claimed to have abused almost 200 Malaysian children, died at Full Sutton prison in Yorkshire, England on Sunday, the UK's Ministry of Justice confirmed in a statement.

UK media reported that Huckle had been stabbed to death. Huckle received 22 life sentences at the Old Bailey in 2016 for offences against children aged between six months and 12 years.

The Ministry of Justice confirmed Huckle had died on October 13 but added that it would be "inappropriate to comment further while a police investigation is ongoing."

During his trial, the London court heard Huckle, who worked as a freelance photographer, was arrested in 2014 at Gatwick Airport as he returned home from Malaysia, where he committed most of his crimes. He had confessed to abusing children on a blog he published on the dark web, an area of the Internet not easily accessible to the general user.

According to Court News UK at the time of sentencing, Huckle posed as a Christian English teacher to groom and abuse children, including one as young as six months, in a poor Malaysian community over nine years.

He also committed child abuse in Cambodia, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said.

The photographer took pictures and videos of himself raping children that he groomed from schools and orphanages, and shared the images with other paedophiles on the dark web, Court News UK reported during the trial.In his blog,

Huckle awarded himself "Pedopoints" on a type of scorecard, claiming to have abused 191 children. He forced victims to pose with signs to advertise his business and wrote a 60-page guide entitled "Pedophiles & Poverty: Child Lover Guide" that the judge, Court News reported, called a "truly evil document."

Huckle was caught when Australian police tipped off authorities in an investigation into a paedophile website that officials said had 9,000 members before it was shut down.

The NCA said officials had recovered more than 20,000 indecent images of children from Huckle's computers and cameras, including more than 1,000 of which showed him raping and abusing children in his care.



Sex-Trafficking Victim, 15, Takes Her Own Life After Being Rescued: 'We Got Her Back Damaged'


A Texas teenager's life was tragically cut short after she died by suicide just two years after she was rescued from a sex trafficking ring. She was 15.

The family of Leticia “Letty” Serrano says the young girl just couldn't recover from the time she spent drugged up in captivity by the man who kidnapped her, her loved ones told local outlet ABC13.

Letty was sold to sex traffickers at just 13 years old, according to the outlet.

While Letty's family was able to rescue her after finding her near Moody Park in Houston, she was never the same.



Kansas City foster care problems left kids vulnerable to sex traffickers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — More than a dozen children who ran away from troubled Kansas welfare system and juvenile corrections placements have wound up incarcerated for crimes related to human trafficking, drawing the ire of victims' advocates and some lawmakers who say the runaways were victims themselves.

After former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback took office in 2011 and reduced aid to needy families, the foster care population ballooned from 5,200 to nearly 7,500. Child placement agencies struggled to recruit homes for the additional children. Social workers say that led to an increase in runaways, whom researchers say are vulnerable to sex traffickers, KCUR and The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

The prosecuted runaways include Hope Zeferjohn, who was 14 when she met a decade-older boyfriend while living with her family in Topeka. After a juvenile misdemeanor battery conviction, she was sent to a foster home in Salina, where she was under the oversight of state corrections officials. Her boyfriend found her there, and began prostituting her when she ran away at the age of 15. Zeferjohn, who is serving a six-year prison sentence for aggravated sex trafficking for recruiting other girls for the prostitution ring, is seeking a pardon from Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

"I deserve another chance," said Zeferjohn, now 21. "As long as I get hope, I can give hope to people."

Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay said that as "the right hand of the organization," Zeferjohn was responsible for "recruiting, identifying targets, locating and trying to earn their trust" for Long's sex business. He said that she "had to be held accountable."

Brownback resigned in 2018 to take a job in the Trump administration. He declined comment for this story. His successor, former Gov. Jeff Colyer, turned down Zeferjohn's first request for clemency last year, Kansas Department of Corrections records show. Colyer also declined to comment.

Karen Countryman-Roswurm, director of the Center for Combating Human Trafficking at Wichita State University, is advocating within the legal system for Zeferjohn and 12 other girls who ran away from the Kansas Department for Children and Families custody or juvenile detention in recent years and ended up incarcerated for crimes related to human trafficking. Countryman-Roswurm said the girls should not have been charged because they were victims who were under the control of a sex trafficker.

The situation of Zeferjohn and girls like her has angered some lawmakers, including Rep. Stephanie Clayton, an Overland Park Democrat, who said law enforcement should instead focus on the men paying for underage sex because "they're the problem." Sen. Richard Hilderbrand, a Republican from Galena, said his "heart breaks for these children."

Benet Magnuson, executive director of the Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, which has filed a class action lawsuit against DCF, said problems in foster care are linked to steep cuts to social welfare programs. Data tracked by Kansas Appleseed show the state during Brownback's administration lowered annual expenses for food stamps by $142.9 million, cash assistance by $38.9 million and a child care program by $32.6 million. Changes to the budget in 2016 reduced annual funding for community mental health centers by $30 million and lowered Medicaid reimbursement rates by 4%.

"After pushing those families over the edge," Magnuson said, "the state takes custody of those kids, and after taking custody of the kids subjects them to a dangerously extreme placement instability, denies them mental health services, and then when those traumatized kids fairly predictably run away, Kansas criminalizes them.

"To say it shocks the conscience would be an understatement. This really strikes at the moral foundation of who we are as a state."

Vickie McArthur, clinical director for reintegration, foster care and adoption at Saint Francis Ministries, which provides child placement services in Kansas, said the rapid influx of children created instability because organizations like hers struggled to recruit and keep long-term homes. That led to children bouncing among emergency placements.

"You do that for a little while, and the youths say: 'We're done. We're not doing this,'" McArthur said. Those who decide they're better off on their own and run away often resort to trading sex for a place to sleep, she said. "That oftentimes can lead to, 'OK, for you to continue to stay here, now you need to exchange sex with my friends, and they'll pay me.'"

Tanya Keys, deputy DCF secretary in charge of addressing the runaway issue, said a special response team assigned to prevent runaways — and find children who do flee — is helping. In April, the number of runaways was in the 90s. Now, the number of children in state care who can't be accounted for is below 60.

"Certainly, we do feel the gravity and want all children and youths, young persons, to feel safe and that they have access to the support they need," Keys said. "We do feel the responsibility and understand the responsibility.



Child sex trafficking conference draws attention to Ohio laws that allow minors to be charged

More women have come forward, accusing men in Portsmouth, Ohio, of using their position of power, to take nude photos and sex traffic them.


When Carly Clouse was a kid, her mother and her mother's boyfriend routinely sold her for sex.

But when federal agents moved in to arrest the adults, local police in Texas wanted to arrest her as well and charge her with prostitution, even though she was only 12.

That didn't happen, but it could have.

Preventing that from even being a possibility is a top goal for those hosting the Juvenile Sex Trafficking Conference this week in Cincinnati.

“It's the label of prostitute,” said Linda Smith, a former U.S. congresswoman from Washington state who in the late 1990s founded the nonprofit Shared Hope to fight the sex trafficking and exploitation of minors.

“I can't see any other reason why you would treat a child that was raped over here without money sympathetically, and then bring money to the crime, you flip it and you blame the child. That is totally irrational.”

In fact, Ohio's laws permit charging minors for prostitution, one of the reasons organizers chose to hold the seventh annual conference here.

Ohio is the only state in the nation where a 16- or 17-year old must prove they were coerced, forced or tricked into providing sex for money before another adult can be charged with juvenile sex trafficking.

That goes contrary to the federal definition of juvenile sex trafficking, where any sexually exploited minor under the age of 18 is automatically considered a victim.

In addition, Ohio is one of 21 states where children can still be charged with prostitution even though they were forced into the activity by sex traffickers.

"We really want to encourage Ohio legislators to take a look at this," said Shared Hope Vice President and general counsel Samantha Vardaman.

The state also ranks fourth nationally for overall reports of human trafficking (both sex and labor) to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

The Enquirer highlighted possible sex trafficking of women and minor girls in a series of stories from the southern Ohio town of Portsmouth.

Elsewhere, there have been major sex trafficking rings taken down in Toledo and other Ohio cities since 2000. Three Toledo pastors were convicted earlier this year on federal juvenile sex trafficking charges.

Smith says that coverage, as well as other high profile sex trafficking cases including the solicitation charges against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft as well as the saga surrounding now-deceased former financier Jeffrey Epstein, have brought new attention to the issue.

But a major issue remains with laws that allow minors to be charged in such cases, and Smith says of Shared Hope's top policy goals is to do away with the practice of charging juveniles with prostitution.

"You wouldn't take the rights away of any other victim of violent crime and treat them like a criminal, and that's what we're talking about here," she said. "Since 2000, federal law has said ... this kid is a victim of a crime. So it's basic human rights."

The organization gave Ohio a 79 out of 100 on its most recent report card that ranked states' laws and how tough they are on traffickers and how much protection is given to victims. Kentucky got an 87, primarily because that state doesn't charge any minors with prostitution no matter what the circumstance.

Ohio State Sen. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, introduced a bill earlier this year in the Ohio General Assembly that would change Ohio statutes to match the federal standard for all minors when it came to sex trafficking and prostitution, no matter the age of consent.

"What we have now is a loophole that allows traffickers to come to Ohio and take advantage of 16- and 17-year olds," Fedor said. "This would be a major step toward eradicating child sex trafficking."

Fedor also says her bill would prevent any minor from being charged with prostitution, and that she's hopeful for passage soon given that the Republican Senate leadership recently put her bill on a priority list.

Smith and others say such laws also can retraumatize children through arrests and even stints in jail or juvenile halls. And such experiences make potential victims less likely to cooperate with law enforcement to help convict traffickers, they say.

In fact, one of the phrases repeated over and over again by presenters and attendees is there is no such thing as a child prostitute because normally sex with a minor would be treated as statutory rape at the very least.

Apart from the law issue, Smith and other advocates stress Ohio is actively fighting sex trafficking, especially among children.

The state is one of the few that includes diversion courts set up specifically to handle sex trafficking cases (there are examples in Hamilton County and Columbus). Ohio also has a dedicated statewide sex trafficking task force, and the Ohio Attorney General David Yost told The Enquirer earlier this year he wants to see the General Assembly change state laws to make it easier to convict sex traffickers.

And both of the state's U.S. senators have been active in the issue, with U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Terrace Park, leading the charge to shut down the prostitution site and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, recently reintroducing a bill that would make it easier to convict human traffickers federally.

The convention drew more than 1,100 attendees and runs through Thursday at the Duke Energy Convention Center. It includes sessions for law enforcement, victims advocates and even survivors such as Clouse.

Clouse and others interviewed say that just being aware of the issue and believing in children when they come forward will help. She remembers trying to tell counselors at school and even local police what was happening and being discounted.

"I had told child protective services, I told the school counselor in third grade and he said 'we're not here to talk about that,' " Clouse said, adding that she reported her parents to police, only to have a local officer bring her home and accuse her of lying.

Eventually, Clouse's mother and her mother's boyfriend were caught by federal agents and convicted of various crimes.



Calif. Law Offers New Hope For Child Sexual Abuse Victims

By Scott Gordon

The issues surrounding the appropriate statute of limitations for civil cases involving child sexual abuse have been discussed for years. On Oct. 13, California took a bold step to change the law in this area with the passage of A.B. 218.

Issues concerning the statute of limitations in civil child sexual abuse cases have forced courts to address the policy concerns regarding the appropriate limitation period for these important cases. Concern has been expressed that a filing window that is too long will result in important evidence becoming destroyed, stale or unavailable.

It has been argued that an extended statute of limitations would result in unfairness to potential defendants, who would have to defend themselves long after the alleged acts. It has also been suggested that an extended statute of limitations does not acknowledge the “need for self-reformation by potential defendants.”

However, none of these policy arguments are victim-centered, and they don't acknowledge the real impacts and dynamics of child sexual abuse. A child who has experienced trauma will experience it again and again as they mature and perceive the victimization through different eyes. At some point the victim who revisits the trauma of child sexual abuse may finally truly realize how they have been victimized, and may come forward and disclose their victimization.

This can occur at any time in their lives. Researchers have opined that the disclosure of sexual abuse is a lifelong process. Disclosure is not a single event, but rather a measured and dynamic process. It is well-documented that nondisclosure and delayed disclosure of child sexual abuse are widespread among child survivors of sexual abuse.

In recent years, child sexual abuse cases involving perpetrators who gained access to victims through organizations designed to assist children — including USA Gymnastics, the Roman Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America and the Los Angeles Unified School District — have exploded in the media, and have brought the topic of how the justice system should respond to these cases to the forefront.

Litigating cases involving child sexual abuse incidents that involve a perpetrator using a position of trust to prey on children pose unique challenges. The trauma inflicted on the victims, dealing with cases involving multiple victims, issues involving delayed disclosure and progressive disclosure and discovery, and litigation involving an organizational defendant can all make these cases more complex and challenging to resolve.

These multiple victim child sexual abuse cases coming to light, coupled with the challenges inherent in litigating these cases, has sounded a call to legislatures across the country to respond. In February 2019, the Child Victims Act (S.B. S 4440) became law in New York state. This statute provided a “look-back window” for one year. This window allows victims of any age of child sexual assault to file civil actions regardless of when the abuse occurred. After the “window” closes in a year, victims will have up until the age of 55 to file civil lawsuits regarding their abuse.

In the past, similar legislative efforts have been attempted in California, with limited success. In 2013, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed S.B. 131, which would have expanded the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases for victims 48 years old and older, and provided a one-year look-back window to file claims.

In 2014, S.B. 924 was vetoed. This legislation would have allowed civil actions regarding child sexual abuse that occurred on or after Jan. 1, 2015, to be filed within 22 years after the victim turned 18, or within three years of discovery of the abuse (or of when it should have reasonably been discovered) after the victim reached the age of majority.

A.B. 3120 was vetoed in 2018. This legislation would have allowed victims to file suits until age 40, or within five years of discovery of the abuse. This legislation also provided for the recovery of treble damages if it could be shown that an involved organization tried to cover up the child abuse.

The current legislative session has produced several new laws in this area. A.B. 1510 creates a one-year window to revive time-barred civil actions for claims arising out of sexual assault or misconduct by a physician occurring at a student health center where there are more than $250,000 in damages.

The most significant change in the law was accomplished through the passage of A.B. 218. Under previous law, sexual abuse survivors could file civil lawsuits based on child sexual abuse until they were 26 years old, or any time after the age of majority within three years of their discovery that their injury or illness was caused by the abuse. The new law modified Code of Civil Procedure Section 340.1 to extend the statute of limitations from age 26 to 40, and extend the period for filing after discovery of the abuse from three to five years.

A.B. 218 provides for a “look-back window” of three years. This means that any civil actions for child sexual assault that were barred by the previous law within the past three years can be revived and filed. The new legislation also provides that when a child is further victimized by an effort to cover up sexual assault, the victim can recover treble damages. The legislation defines “cover-up” as a concerted effort to hide evidence relating to child sexual abuse.

The new legislation also modifies CCP 340.1 to state that child sexual abuse actions against nonperpetrator defendants shall not be commenced on or after the plaintiff's 40th birthday, unless the person or entity knew or had reason to know, or was otherwise on notice, of any misconduct that creates a risk of child sexual abuse by an employee, volunteer, representative or agent, or the person or entity failed to take reasonable steps or to implement reasonable safeguards to avoid acts of child sexual abuse.

This legislation was introduced to address the dramatic changes in the social view of child sexual abuse, especially those cases that arise out of a position of trust between the perpetrator and the victim. A great deal of light has been directed at these cases on a national level and this legislation is an effort to combat the stigma and legal obstacles encountered by victims of child sexual abuse.

This new law will pose challenges. The justice system will have to deal with an influx of new cases, and parties will have to litigate acts that occurred years before the filing of cases. However, the burden posed by those challenges will be shifted from child sexual abuse survivors to the accused, involved organizations and the court system.

This legislation marks a major change in the perception and understanding of child sexual abuse and will allow — if not force — society to come to terms with the way child sexual abuse is viewed, treated and prevented. The changes made by A.B. 218 have been a long time in coming. Some express relief that the new law will allow healing and accountability; others fear for the impact on the courts, and on organizations that work with children. As with all change, time will tell.



Work together to protect children from abuse

By LOVELY A. WARREN, mayor of Rochester, N.Y.

We all have a responsibility to assist children who are experiencing abuse. The recently passed New York's Child Victims Act—which provides for the timely commencement of criminal and civil action for sexual offenses committed against children—eliminates barriers that keep survivors from holding their abusers accountable and provides them with the resources they need to take action.

We owe thanks to Governor Cuomo and our state legislature for enacting it into law. Now we must join them in protecting children in need of our help.

First, we must understand that “stranger danger” is not the imminent threat we once thought it was—the real danger of child sexual abuse exists within homes and community settings, where trusting relationships are the norm.

In fact, most child sexual abuse is committed by family members or friends, caregivers or staff of youth-serving organizations, in church, school or home settings.

Parents must be willing to hear—and believe—what their children are saying, even if it is about someone close to them. It is rare that a child makes up such an accusation.

Talk with children about the risks of sexual abuse and use anatomically correct and specific language to name private parts (just as you would name an elbow an elbow). Be specific about which body parts are not for touching or looking. Take action immediately to protect the child by reporting the concern.

Sexual abuse is not a problem limited to girls; boys are being abused as well. The scars left from sexual, physical and emotional abuse last for a lifetime. Studies show that child sexual abuse disproportionally effects low-income families and communities of color. All children, regardless of race or socioeconomic status, deserve to be raised in a safe environment.

Prevention education for children and adults offers promise and I am grateful for the recent passing of Erin's Law, which will mandate sexual abuse prevention education in public schools.

Our community is fortunate to have the Bivona Child Advocacy Center and law enforcement taking these cases seriously and thoroughly investigating every allegation of abuse. It is my hope that these efforts, along with your support, will help make Rochester a leader in protecting our children from abuse.


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