Sexual abuse: In Pakistan, like the rest of the world, not many listen, not many care
Award-winning Pakistani filmmaker Jami said he was raped more than a decade ago
It had to happen. For something untoward to happen in perpetuity, and that too without any fear of accountability, is an expectation with an expiration date. The very act of hiding of an act that is fundamentally wrong is like a forgotten landmine set in a field covered in hard earth and moss. The mere fact of its invisibility is not a proof its non-existence. Silence does not erase an act that causes pain. It merely puts on hold the inevitability of that silence snowballing into a scream that pierces the most apathetic resistance.
One person's story of pain, told on a virtual public platform, becomes the cue for a few more persons to seek the forgotten courage within them to speak up. More voices join the discourse. It doesn't stop. It won't stop. It can't stop. That is the thing about pain. Intensified, it refuses to remain invisible. Very soon, the thousands become millions, and their stories become a singular story: it happened to me too.
It is not a mere hashtag, this two-word global declaration, #MeToo. It is not a social media trend. It is not a viral story with a few-day shelf life. Me Too is the story of countless females, of all ages, teenagers, and even men, who went through hell, and for one reason or the other, chose to remain silent. Some of them were forced to remain silent. Some of them spoke up without being believed. Some of them were believed but shamed. Some of them were sympathized with but were asked to remain silent for their ‘honor', or that of who they were connected with–through blood, marriage, relationship, friendship, work. Some didn't even know what to say. Some pretended as if nothing had happened.
Me Too acted as collective therapy. The silence was broken. You are not alone. What happened to you happened to me too. Your silence is not your shame, it never was. Your silence was your shield against the enormity of the forceful elimination of your right to say no. The universality of Me Too united millions of those who had suffered alone. Me Too became the friend who didn't judge, the silent hand-holding that erased a bit of the pain, the hug that comforted.
Amidst countless true stories of harassment, abuse, rape and violence, there were some false accusations, a few attention-seeking episodes of convoluting of truth, and fabrications for revenge. The false stories of a few in every country, despite having a short-lived damaging effect, do not affect the validity of the Me Too punch that landed with a global crunch into the smug, sniggering, haughty faces of those who reveled in their invincibility.
In May 2019, the Lahore High Court dismissed the petition of wrongful termination and expulsion of Asif Saleem, an assistant professor and a Ph.D student at the University of Lahore. “On the complaint of a female student, an inquiry was initiated, and after Saleem was found guilty he was dismissed from service under the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Amendment) Act, 2012. He was also expelled from the university's PhD program. He filed an appeal before the ombudsperson against his removal but it was dismissed. The Punjab governor also rejected his appeal.”
No one seems to care what happens to Saleem. In a world full of men who do unimaginably bad things to women there are those who even when innocent pay a price for being a man. Is Saleem one of those men? No one knows. No one cares.
On October 20, 2019, Pakistan was shocked at the news of the suicide of a professor of the MAO College, Lahore. Afzal Mehmood was falsely accused of sexual harassment of a student. Mehmood killed himself. He left a note: “I leave this matter in the court of Allah. The police are requested not to investigate and bother anyone.”
Reportedly, “Professor Afzal Mehmood, took his life after his wife separated from him, and the college administration refused to issue a clearance certificate to him even after harassment allegations were proven false.”
Powerful names involved
When Rose McGowan posted a series of tweets on October 13, 2017, accusing one of the biggest Hollywood moguls, Harvey Weinstein, of raping her in 1997, and making her sign an NDA, no one could have predicted the significance of her disclosure. McGowan addressing Amazon's Jeff Bezos tweeted: “I told the head of your studio that HW raped me. Over & over I said it. He said it hadn't been proven. I said I was the proof.”
Rose McGowan changed the face of the Me Too movement started in 2006 by the New York based civil rights activist, Tarana Burke. McGowan's tweets opened a floodgate. The discourse on abuse of women shifted with an urgent imperativeness that left little room for doubt and blame-shifting. Much changed.
Kevin Spacey, one of Hollywood's biggest names, multiple Academy Award nominated actor, was accused of sexual harassment, sexual advances on minors, and sexual assault. Spacey denied any sexual inappropriateness, but apologized “for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior.” Spacey's illustrious career folded faster than he could say he “choose[s] now to live as a gay man.”
Two very powerful men, and their many stories of inappropriate behavior, crossing of line, sexual assault, even rape, use of their status to elicit silence in their victims, covering up by those who knew but decided not to speak up, and getting away with criminal behavior for years in a world that holds sexual abuse as something inconsequential and silence as a virtue. Many more very famous men were accused.
Sexual abuse happens to many, it happens everywhere. In Pakistan, it is what is not to be talked about. Ever.
It starts at home. Children are taught not to speak about certain things. Children are made to believe that certain things didn't happen. Children are trained to be brave but silent. The honor of the family is connected to many things but most simplistically to the body of the female. A daughter is loved and pampered. A daughter is also made the sign of the family's honor. In words, subliminally, through conditioning, in acts of coercion, in wordless expectancy, a female learns the ‘virtue' of silence. Home is the place where a victim first learns the meaning of ‘shame'. When sexually abused, she recoils into a comforting cocoon of ‘it was my fault', ‘I brought it on me', ‘my parents would be shamed if I talk about my pain', ‘what will people say', ‘my body must be protected for my family's honor'.
Imagine what a male child feels when sexually abused. Brought up on big words of boys-don't-cry and courage and resilience, male children, when sexually abused, sometimes grow up into disturbed young men who have issues of trust. Afraid, vulnerable, confused, a young boy after being sexually abused is unaware of even the option of reaching out to a trusted adult. The virtue of silence becomes part of his broken self that he hides so seamlessly most of his life his pain reduces into a nightmare that only he is aware of, haunting him like the image of a bent-neck lady all his life.
And when they speak no one listens.
On October 21, 2019, in an eerie déjà vu of McGowan's October 2017 tweets, a series of tweets appeared on Pakistan's twitter timelines. The award-winning Pakistani filmmaker, Jamshed Mehmood, popularly known as Jami, posted tweets about the horrific rape he was the victim of more than a decade ago. Shocked, Pakistan's twitter and media erupted into a commentary that was expected. While many tweeted in support of Jami, many sniggered. How could a strong, tall, then 34-year-old man be raped? Was he drugged? Was he drunk? Did it happen at gunpoint? Why was he silent for so long? Who is the ‘media giant' who raped him?
Inside the shutdown of the ‘world's largest' child sex abuse website
By Zack Whittaker
This morning, the Justice Department announced that it had brought charges against the administrator and hundreds of users of the “world's largest” child sexual exploitation marketplace on the dark web.
For me, it marked the end of a story I've wanted to write for two years.
In November 2017, I was working for CBS as the security editor at ZDNet. A hacker group reached out to me over an encrypted chat claiming to have broken into a dark web site running a massive child sexual exploitation operation. I was stunned. I had previous interactions with the hacker group, but nothing like this.
The group claimed it broke into the dark web site, which it said was titled “Welcome to Video,” and identified four real-world IP addresses of the site, said to be different servers running this supposedly massive child abuse site. They also provided me with a text file containing a sample of a thousand IP addresses of individuals who they said had logged in to the site. The hackers boasted about how they siphoned off the list as users logged in, without the users' knowledge, and had more than a hundred thousand more — but they would not share them.
If proven true, the hackers would have made a major breakthrough in not only discovering a major dark web child abuse site, but could potentially identify the owners — and the visitors to the site.
But at the time, we could not prove it.
My then editor-in-chief and I discussed how we could approach the story. A primary concern was that the dark web site was already under federal investigation, and writing about it could jeopardize that effort.
But we also faced another headache: There was no legal way we could access the site to verify it was what the hackers claimed.
“Children around the world are safer because of the actions taken by U.S. and foreign law enforcement to prosecute this case and recover funds for victims,” said Jessie K. Liu, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.
The hackers gave me a username and password for the site, which they said they had created just for me to verify their claims. But we could not access the site for any reason — even for journalistic reasons and in a controlled environment — for fear that the site may display child abuse imagery. Only federal agents working an investigation are allowed to access sites that contain illegal content. While journalists have a lot of flexibility and freedoms, this was not one of them.
After a call with several CBS lawyers, we decided that there was no legal way to write the story without verifying the site's contents, something we legally weren't able to do.
The story was dead, but the site wasn't.
One thing the lawyers couldn't tell me is if I should report the findings to the government. That was ultimately my decision to make. It's a bizarre situation to be in. As a cybersecurity and national security reporter, the government all too often is “the nemesis,” often a target of journalistic inquisitions and investigations. But while journalists are told to report and observe and not get involved, there are exceptions. Risk to life and child exploitation are top of the list. A journalist cannot idly stand by knowing there could be a car bomb sitting outside a building, ready to detonate. Nor can one dismiss the idea of a child abuse site continuing to operate on the dark web.
I spoke with a well-known journalist to ask for ethical advice. We agreed to speak on background, from reporter to reporter. Having never faced a situation like this, my primary concern was to ensure I was on the right moral, ethical and legal side of things. Was it right to report this to the feds?
The answer was simple and expected: Yes, it was right to report the information to the authorities, so long as I protected my source. Protecting your sources is one of the cardinal rules of journalism, but my source was a hacker group — it was not the dark web site itself. After all, I was working under the assumption that the authorities would not care much for the source information anyway.
I reached out to a contact at the FBI, who passed me on to a special agent at a field office. After a brief phone call, I emailed the four IP addresses slated to be the dark web site's real-world location, and the list of the thousand alleged users of the site.
And then silence. I heard nothing back. I followed up and asked, but the agent warned that if the site became — or was already — subject to investigation, there was little, if anything, they could say.
I recall the hackers were frustrated. After I told them I wouldn't be writing the story, we are no longer communicating.
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Facebook's Encryption Makes it Harder to Detect Child Abuse
Opinion: The social network needs to develop better ways to help stop the spread of millions of harmful images.
In 2018, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received more than 18 million reports to their CyberTipline, constituting 45 million images depicting child sexual abuse. Most of these children were under the age of 12, and some were as young as a few months old.
Since its inception in 1998, the CyberTipline has received a total of 55 million such reports. Those from 2018 alone constitute a nearly half of all reports over the past two decades.
Hany Farid is a professor at UC Berkeley, with a joint appointment in electrical engineering and computer science and the School of Information. He was part of the team, in collaboration with Microsoft, that developed PhotoDNA.
These staggering numbers don't cover the entirety of online services. Most of NCMEC's reports are automatically generated by an image hashing technology I helped develop called PhotoDNA, which extracts a distinct signature from uploaded images and compares it against the signatures of known harmful or illegal content. Flagged content can then be instantaneously removed and reported.
But not every online service uses PhotoDNA. And child sexual abuse material shared via the dark web, personal correspondences, and services that use end-to-end encryption generally don't get reported to NCMEC or anyone else. Frustratingly, Facebook, the world's largest social network, is set to grow the digital realm where images of child sexual abuse can spread freely.
Earlier this year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that his company is expanding the use of end-to-end encryption on its services, preventing Facebook or anyone else from seeing the contents of communications. Zuckerberg conceded that this comes at a cost. “Encryption is a powerful tool for privacy, but that includes the privacy of people doing bad things,” he said. “When billions of people use a service to connect, some of them are going to misuse it for truly terrible things like child exploitation, terrorism, and extortion.”
Broader adoption of end-to-end encryption would cripple the efficacy of programs like PhotoDNA, significantly increasing the risk and harm to children around the world. It would also make it much harder to counter other illegal and dangerous activities on Facebook's services. This move also doesn't provide users with as much privacy as Zuckerberg suggests. Even without the ability to read the contents of your messages, Facebook will still know with whom you are communicating, from where you are communicating, and a trove of information about your other online activities. This is a far cry from real privacy.
Knowing that tens of millions of examples of the most heartbreaking imagery pass through its services every year, why would Facebook undermine the ability to prevent itself from becoming a safe haven for child predators?
The not so cynical answer is that Facebook is leveraging the backlash from its recent privacy scandals to launch a strategy that provides plausible deniability against the equally loud accusations that the company is not doing enough to suppress child abuse material, terrorist propaganda, crime, or dangerous conspiracies. By encrypting the content moving through, Facebook gets a twofer: It can claim to be ignorant of the abuse, while also telling the public that it cares about privacy. But neither one is true.
Many in law enforcement have argued that shifting to end-to-end encryption would severely hamper law enforcement and national security. The US attorney general, his British and Australian counterparts, and the 28 European Union member states have all urged Zuckerberg to delay the implementation of end-to-end encryption until proper safeguards can be put in place.
Facebook's move has reawakened the fraught debate over whether governments should have a way to pierce encryption. I argue that governments that operate under the rule of law should, with a warrant, be granted the same access to our electronic lives as they are our physical lives. Government overreach or abuse can be adjudicated by the courts, and Facebook can choose not to deploy its services in countries in which governments cannot be trusted.
We should continue to debate how to balance the incremental privacy afforded by end-to-end encryption and the cost to our safety. But even now, Facebook can protect our children at the same time as widening its use of encryption.
Recent advances in encryption and hashing mean that technologies like PhotoDNA can operate within a service with end-to-end encryption. Certain types of encryption algorithms, known as partially or fully homomorphic, can perform image hashing on encrypted data. This means that images in encrypted messages can be checked against known harmful material without Facebook or anyone else being able to decrypt the image. This analysis provides no information about an image's contents, preserving privacy, unless it is a known image of child sexual abuse.
Another option is to implement image hashing at the point of transmission, inside the Facebook apps on users' phones—as opposed to doing it after uploading to the company's servers. This way the signature would be extracted before the image is encrypted, and then transmitted alongside the encrypted message. This would also allow a service provider like Facebook to screen for known images of abuse without fully revealing the content of the encrypted message. Facebook would be wise to adopt either of these options.
We do not need to cripple our ability to remove some of the most harmful and heinous content in the name of an incremental amount of privacy. Zuckerberg has repeatedly expressed his desire to “get it right” this time. The technology exists to get it right. Facebook needs to now do what its leaders and everyone else know is the right thing: protect our children.
Cloudflare embroiled in child abuse row
A charity has accused one of the world's biggest content delivery networks of inadvertently protecting sites that host images of child abuse.
Cloudflare helps websites deliver content faster but some of its clients are known to host illegal content.
The company insists it is powerless because it does not actually host the offending sites.
Campaigners say Cloudflare's services make it easier for clients to avoid detection by "hiding" their locations.
The anti-child-abuse campaign Battling Against Demeaning & Abusive Selfie Sharing claims to have first made the internet company aware of numerous indecent images, including some showing child sexual abuse, on three of its clients' websites over a year ago.
The websites in question reportedly state any takedown notice would be ignored.
And one allegedly allows users to search through a catalogue of abusive images.
Following a Twitter campaign, Cloudflare director of trust and safety Justin Paine asked the charity send a detailed report of its complaint.
"We hope that by making noise, we will finally receive a response from Cloudflare. We're hopeful that they will end their relationship with these sites that profit off the exploitation of non-consenting women and girls," charity advocate Emily Wilson told the BBC.
"All of our efforts have made no difference, and we are now publicizing our efforts to get some public pressure."
Cloudflare states on its website offensive content can be reported through a form , the details of which may then be shared with law enforcement officials if the complaint is deemed legitimate.
BBC News has contacted Cloudflare for comment.
It is not the first time the company has had to defend itself against claims it makes the takedown of illegal content tougher.
The internet giant hit back at the Motion Picture Association earlier this month after the American film body included it in a piracy complaint lodged with the US government.
A Cloudflare representative said at the time: "Cloudflare does not host the referenced websites, cannot block websites, and is not in the business of hiding companies that host illegal content - all facts well known to the industry groups based on our ongoing work with them."
Earlier this year, Cloudflare released a statement confirming it had terminated its services to 8chan , an internet forum used to celebrate mass shootings and spread so-called "manifestos".
It had previously pulled its services from neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer.
Losing Cloudflare's protection made 8chan vulnerable to a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, whereby a website is bombarded with traffic that overwhelms its servers, rendering it inaccessible.
Child abuse victim says Australian's Prime Minister's friendship with his Kiwi rapist's son is 'absolutely monstrous'
By Rebecca Franks
A man who was sexually abused by a Kiwi pastor has blasted Prime Minister Scott Morrison for his friendship with the son of the man who raped him over a five-year period as a child.
Brett Sengstock, 57, was seven years old when Pentecostal pastor Frank Houston started sexually assaulted him — but he didn't expose the man until he turned 16.
The predator was Hillsong founder Brian Houston's father, Frank Houston, a high-profile pastor who used his position of power to sexually abuse young boys.
Scott Morrison wanted his friend, Auckland-born and Wellington-raised pastor Brian Houston, to be part of his delegation for the official state dinner only for it to be "vetoed" by the Americans, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Morrison has dismissed but not denied the story, while Houston said he'd not received an invitation to the White House and had not discussed it with Morrison or anyone else.
Children with disabilities suffer ‘severe neglect and abuse' in Australian schools
Government report reveals a third have been restrained or secluded, and half have been bullied in past year
By Luke Henriques-Gomes
A third of all children with disability have been restrained or secluded at school while half have been bullied in the past year, according to a government-funded report that reveals “severe neglect and abuse” of young people and calls for “special schools” to be phased out.
The report, released by Children And Young People With Disability Australia (CYDA) on Monday, collated the experiences of more than 500 students and their families from a national survey.
Families reported cases including an 11-year-old child with a disability being suicidal, another under 12 hiding from school bullies in a rubbish bin, and a child between seven and nine years old who was “left briefly in a hot school taxi and felt scared that he couldn't get out”.
Canberra school investigated after cage-like enclosure built for special needs student
Mary Sayers, the CYDA chief executive, said the report uncovered children with disabilities were regularly bullied by other students, and at times by school staff, as well as the common use of restrictive practices.
“The overarching message we have from the survey is that there is severe abuse and neglect of students with disability in school,” she told Guardian Australia.
Nearly half (48.2%) of students with disability experienced bullying at school in the past year, including 9.1% who said school staff had been the bullies.
The use of restraints and seclusion was reported by nearly a third of respondents (30%). Most commonly, students were physically restrained, but a small number of families also reported the use of chemical restraints.
About one in five children with a disability had been placed in seclusion, such as solitary confinement with and without supervision in a room, classroom or staff office.
“Often schools we hear are using this as a behavior management technique, rather than actually looking at, well, ‘What would it take to have this child included in the classroom?” Sayers told Guardian Australia. “What it points to is that schools need to really be committed to inclusive education.”
In 2015, news that schools in Canberra were using metal cages to detain students with autism provoked national outrage.
The report found 40% of students with disabilities had been excluded from events or activities, while 15.5% of students who attended a mainstream school said they were separated from peers in a special unit, either permanently or at times.
In addition, about 15% of students with disabilities had been suspended from school and 12.5% of parents said their children been refused enrolment, the survey found.
One family of a young child in rural Western Australia told the survey: “I applied to 36 schools in WA, have attended four, which two have removed him and three would not meet his needs and assaulted him.”
Another said their child had been suspended 60 out of 150 days in the first three terms last year.
Sayers called for the government to adopt a national inclusive education plan that would phase out special schools and separated classrooms/units within mainstream schools.
A letter to… our friends who share autism success stories
Under the plan, teaching students would also take a mandatory semester subject at university to train them to better work with students with disabilities.
It comes as the royal commission into violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability prepares to hold its first public hearings in early November.
The commission is expected to examine issues raised in the report.
‘I don't know about normal love': A church leader's abuse and a woman's years-long struggle
By Justin Wm. Moyer
Lauren Griffis says she was groomed by a Virginia church youth leader from the time she was 11. The man crept into her life, forging bonds with her family before prosecutors say he sexually abused her multiple times at age 16.
Justice was swift. Two weeks after the physical relationship began, Lauren's mother called police. The man was arrested in 2016, serving a year in jail for taking indecent liberties with a child as church leaders struggled to respond to a crisis in their congregation.
With a rise in clergy abuse cases coming to light in the #MeToo era, some church leaders are becoming transparent with congregants, rather than sweeping allegations under the rug. More than a dozen investigations of the Catholic Church were announced last year in the United States, with other scandals among Southern Baptists and evangelical churches.
Experts broadly agree on best practices for church leaders to come forward in abuse cases, but a lack of data and the historical underreporting of sex abuse in the church can make it difficult to know how to address it.
“This issue should never be behind us,” said Boz Tchividjian, executive director of the nonprofit Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment. “It should always be on our radar screen.”
Tchividjian, a former child abuse prosecutor and grandson of famed evangelist Billy Graham, founded GRACE to help churches respond to allegations of sexual abuse and prevent it from happening again. He describes fighting abuse as a “cultural transformation” in churches that could take generations.
The first steps to take when abuse is suspected or reported are clear, experts say: Church leaders should contact law enforcement rather than rely on internal investigations. Accused people should step down from positions of power. Despite Christian dogma to the contrary, victims and perpetrators shouldn't necessarily reconcile, or be encouraged to.
Responsibility for handling abuse cases extends beyond church leadership. Experts say congregants should be prepared to support victims during a reconciliation process that might not have a tidy ending. They might also need training in how to prevent or report sexual abuse.
“Churches want an easy way out — watch an online video, take a quiz and, boom, you're a safer church,” Tchividjian said. “That's a false narrative.”
In 2010, the Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe found himself looking for a way through one such scandal that some thought he never should have taken responsibility for.
Rowe, who is now the bishop of the Episcopal dioceses of Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York, encouraged survivors to come forward with stories about his predecessor, who had abused girls as young as 10 over more than 20 years. Rowe said he was criticized for acknowledging the allegations, for which his diocese took hits to its reputation and its pocketbook.
The diocese repented and tried to do right by its victims, he said — while for those directly affected, it could never do enough. Rather than move past the scandal, he said it is “now an important part of who we are.”
“It can't be the focus of our life and ministry,” he said, “but we must keep it in front of us.”
A new face in a time of crisis
In Lauren's case, her abuser was swiftly caught and convicted as her struggle with PTSD began. She reached a settlement with her Virginia church, but feels abandoned by a faith community she once felt part of.
“Every single thing in life comes back to Derrick,” said Lauren, 20. “I don't know about normal love. .?.?. It's just ruined everything for me.”
Derrick Ryan Trump came to Greenwich Presbyterian Church near Nokesville, Va., in 2010 and was named director of youth ministries. Then in his early 20s, Trump planned Sunday school classes, youth group meetings and mission trips. He often taught a church training course on sexual harassment, according to documents filed in Fauquier County General District Court in Virginia.
Two men charged with ‘indecent liberties' with youths at Virginia churches.
Trump, who didn't respond to requests for comment, came to Greenwich at a difficult time in Lauren's life. Her parents had recently separated.
“With my dad gone, I was left very vulnerable,” Lauren said. “I started talking to Derrick. Once a month, I'd meet him in his office. He slowly became a huge part of my life.”
In court documents, prosecutors said Trump kissed Lauren for the first time on May 17, 2016, at his Fauquier County home. That night on the phone, they discussed sex. Trump was 28. Lauren, 16.
The next day, Trump picked Lauren up at Panera Bread. He drove her to his house and sexually abused her, prosecutors said. Afterward, he dropped her off at Panera, where her mother picked her up. They attended church with the youth group that night “like nothing had happened,” according to court filings.
“Before they had sex, they discussed that what they were doing was wrong,” prosecutors wrote. “The defendant stated that he was willing to face the consequences for his actions.”
The secret didn't last long. Within two weeks, the physical contact was over. Trump told Lauren he had “a sex addiction,” according to court documents; he told his wife and Lauren's mother, Cherie, about their contact on May 27, 2016. Cherie was appalled and contacted police.
“I was in shock,” Cherie said. “It was like I was not even in my body.”
Trump was fired from the church. He faced criminal charges of taking indecent liberties with a child by a person in a custodial or supervisory relationship in Fauquier County, where he lived, and Prince William County, the location of the church. His home was searched, and bedsheets were taken as evidence. He was assigned a risk score indicating he was a lower-level sex offender, and in November 2016, he pleaded guilty to taking indecent liberties with a child.
Trump's attorney, Nadir N. Tawil, said it “looked like love” to his client, adding that Trump confessed to the crimes and apologized to Lauren and the church. “This destroyed him,” Tawil said.
In January, Lauren's older sister filed a police report claiming Trump sexually assaulted her in 2014, two years before his arrest in Lauren's case. Prosecutors declined to bring charges, saying the statute of limitations had passed.
At Greenwich Presbyterian Church and in the Griffis home, a cycle of anger, recriminations, denial and healing was about to begin.
'We were being shunned'
The family never returned to services. Lauren was discouraged from going on a mission trip, she said. As the Griffis family tells it, some church peers stopped speaking to her, unfriended her on Facebook and told her that she “ruined” the youth group.
“It was clear we were being shunned,” Cherie said.
Lauren said she felt compelled to speak out, worried the congregation might think of her as the “other woman” in a “love story” with a married man when she was the victim of a sex crime that resulted from failures in Greenwich's leadership.
The church didn't respond to specific claims the Griffis family made, but said in a statement that Greenwich “remains attentive to the profound impact that our former youth director's sexual abuse has had upon Lauren.”
The statement continued: “As Lauren tells her story, we pray it will deepen her own healing journey and that her courage will help other victims of sexual abuse find hope and strength. From the beginning of this sad ordeal we have expressed transparency and confidentiality. Out of respect for Lauren and her family, we remain circumspect in offering public statements. We continue to stand with Lauren and all survivors of sexual abuse, and pray for the end of this scourge upon the broader church and society.”
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UK child abuse inquiry
Children abused for decades at ‘sadistic' London school, inquiry finds
IICSA report lays bare culture of cover-up and denial that facilitated 30 years of abuse
By Harriet Sherwood
A “sadistic and predatory” atmosphere and a culture of cover-up and denial in a Catholic school allowed sexual abusers to commit crimes against children for decades, an independent inquiry has found.
Senior figures at Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's school in west London, part of the English Benedictine Congregation, were perpetrators of abuse over a 30-year period. Staff members failed to raise concerns because of a “mafia-like” atmosphere and the fear of losing their jobs.
Since 2003, four members of staff, including a former abbot, have been convicted of multiple offences relating to the sexual abuse of more than 20 children.
The independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA) said: “The total scale of abuse can never be known, but it is likely to be much greater.”
Survivors and witnesses who gave evidence to the inquiry described St Benedict's in the 1970s as “cold, grim, forbidding” and a “beastly” place.
The 100-page report said: “The atmosphere was sadistic and predatory and we heard that for many children coming to school was terrible. There was a culture of excessive corporal punishment.
“Physical abuse in many cases was used as a platform for sexual gratification and a means by which to instigate sexual abuse. Corporal punishment was also used to punish boys who sought to protect themselves and others from sexual abuse.”
One survivor who was abused from the age of 12 by Andrew Soper, a former abbot, told the inquiry: “I often wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn't been abused … I feel like I am still in a black hole and just can't climb out of it.
“I don't think I can ever put down in words fully what [Soper] has done to me. He has damaged me for life, and I am afraid that that damage will never go away.”
Soper, who was known as Fr Laurence Soper, was jailed for 18 years in 2017 on 19 charges of rape and other sexual offences. He was convicted after skipping bail and spending five years as a fugitive in Kosovo.
He had joined St Benedict's as a teacher in 1972 and was the abbot of Ealing Abbey – the school's parent body until 2012 – for nine years until 2000.
A survivor who described being anally raped by Soper said he was unable to tell his parents because “their faith was so strong, they would never have believed it from a priest”. He said he continued to suffer mentally as a result of the abuse.
Another monk, David Pearce, the head of the junior school and the then bursar, was jailed in 2009 for eight years – reduced to five on appeal – for sexual offences against five pupils. Fourteen former pupils complained to statutory authorities of being sexually abused by Pearce.
Two lay teachers, John Maestri and Stephen Skelton, were convicted of multiple offences involving more than 20 children between the 1970s and 2008. In 2016 the deputy head, Peter Allott, was convicted of offences relating to child abuse images.
According to the report, many in the school and abbey were aware of abuse but felt powerless to act. “Staff were afraid that by speaking up they would lose their jobs,” it said. The culture in the abbey and the school “was generally closed, defensive and resistant to external involvement,” the report added.
The inquiry heard evidence over five days in February. It sought a witness statement and documentation from the pope's representative in the UK, the apostolic nuncio, which the Holy See refused to provide.
“As a result, the inquiry is unable to fully understand and assess the role that the Holy See may have played,” the report said, adding that Holy See had since provided some documentation and it was being reviewed.
The abbot at the time of the IICSA hearing, Martin Shipperlee, abruptly resigned on its final day. The report highlighted Shipperlee's “leadership failure”, saying his response to abuse was “frequently inadequate, ineffective and ill-judged”.
A new abbot, Fr Dominic Taylor, was elected in July. “It remains to be seen whether Ealing Abbey proves itself capable in the future of ensuring proper safeguarding of children at risk,” the report said.
Alexis Jay, the chair of the inquiry, said: “For years, a culture of cover-up and denial meant children at Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's School suffered appalling sexual and physical abuse.
“A reluctance to respond properly to safeguarding concerns meant significant opportunities to stop abusers were missed. When action was taken, the responses of senior staff, headmasters and external institutions were often poorly judged or flawed. As a result, children were left at risk of abuse which could have been stopped decades earlier.”
The report from the IICSA, released on Thursday, is part of a wider investigation into the Roman Catholic church and the English Benedictine Congregation.
A report published by IICSA last year concluded that Ampleforth college in North Yorkshire and Downside school in Somerset “prioritized the monks and their own reputations over the protection of children … in order to avoid scandal.”
The inquiry's final two-week public hearing into the Roman Catholic church begins on Monday.
Richard Scorer, a specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon, who represents seven victims of abuse at St Benedict's, said: “This report reveals an utterly damning litany of abuse at the school and abbey over many decades, and exposes how senior Benedictine leaders both perpetrated abuse and then covered it up, with the assistance and complicity of the wider Catholic church.
“This complicity continues today with the Vatican's continuing refusal to cooperate with this inquiry.
“The Catholic church needs to be held accountable for its criminality, but unless and until we have a mandatory reporting law, requiring knowledge or suspicion of abuse to be reported on pain of criminal prosecution, these cover-ups will continue. I urge the inquiry in its final recommendations to demand such a law without delay.”
Our View: Don't let children be forgotten victims of domestic violence
The long-term effects of witnessing abuse are clear and must be addressed.
BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD
The body of 29-year-old Melissa Sousa was found in the basement of her apartment building last Wednesday, more than a day after she was last seen putting her twin 8-year-old daughters on the school bus.
Her longtime boyfriend has now been charged in her murder. Sousa's boss told the Morning Sentinel that the boyfriend had threatened Sousa's life several times. “A week ago in the driveway, he pointed a gun at her and the kids were saying, ‘Don't kill my mom,'” the boss told the paper.
And on Oct. 21, an Acton woman was sentenced to 32 years in prison for murder after stabbing her husband in the chest in front of their two young children. “They tried to help their father as he lay dying,” the judge said at the sentencing.
Though we don't usually hear their stories so plainly, children are often victims of domestic abuse just by being with the room. As such, they can carry with them forever the scars of that trauma, not unlike what many soldiers live with after leaving the battlefield.
As we mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it's important to think of the youngest victims of abuse, how that abuse follows them through life, and how we as a society address that trauma.
Witnessing domestic abuse — the incessant arguing and yelling, the controlling behaviors, the threats and violence — hits children right in their developing brains, particularly the parts controlling attention, memory and emotion. It activates fear and other raw emotions, flooding their minds just when they are trying to figure out all these complex feelings.
The toxicity of abusive relationships also affects parents, of course. The instigator, clearly, is an unfit parent, and it can become difficult for the adult victim, too, to meet their child's basic needs for attention and affection.
So just as every cell in a child's body is screaming out for a safe and secure home with parents who are dependable, protective and loving, they are plunged into an unsafe, uncertain world. All of their most complex emotions become tied to stress, and can come pouring out whenever they feel stress in the future.
Such toxic stress impedes their physical, emotional and social development. They can find it difficult to concentrate, be alone, or deal with frustration. They are more likely to experience physical illness and depression. They can have trouble forming relationships.
As adults, they are more likely to suffer from substance abuse disorder or fall into criminal behavior. Sadly, they are at an increased risk of becoming victims or perpetrators of domestic abuse themselves, continuing a cycle of violence.
Both through the cycle of abuse and the enduring damage done to child witnesses, domestic violence has a long reach. Its toxicity is not limited to the lifetime of the relationship but instead reverberates on, sometimes for generations.
There are no simple solutions to domestic violence. We need to talk about it openly and clearly, so that victims know they can come forward, and perpetrators know that it is unacceptable.
We need to put in place policies for early detection and intervention, and resources so that victims have a place to go when necessary.
We need to make sure children have a safe place to go and dependable adults to reach out to when things are bad at home. We need to address directly the trauma those children have experienced.
And we need to teach boys that masculinity isn't about power and control, and how to handle anger and frustration in a way that doesn't end in violence.
We need to remember that the problems unleashed by domestic violence don't stop when the abuse does.
Milwaukee Woman Accused Of Sex Trafficking Girls She Was Supposed To Be Protecting
MILWAUKEE, Wis. -- A woman entrusted with helping at-risk girls is now accused of sex trafficking them.
The victims of the child sex trafficking said they met the woman when she was a worker at Milwaukee Academy who was supposed to be protecting them, but police said she ended up forcing them into prostitution in several states.
Samaria Williams and Kendra Bey, of Milwaukee, are accused of child sex trafficking. Police say Bey met at least two teens at the Milwaukee Academy on Brown Deer Road while working at the facility.
Milwaukee Academy is supposed to be a safe haven and treatment facility for adolescent girls, some of whom have already been victims of child sex trafficking.
The victims said Bey and Williams ended up picking up both girls after they were no longer living at the academy and took them to Chicago, where they were forced do prostitution activities.
The girls were also forced into sex acts with strangers in Milwaukee.
According to the criminal complaint, some of the child sex trafficking charges led to a home near 31st and Wells streets.
The girls told police that Bey "posted ads on Backpage with random names, pictures, and phone numbers" and sold the teens for sex with strangers for several hundred dollars a day each in Iowa, Minnesota, Tennessee and other Wisconsin cities, including several Milwaukee-area homes.
The complaint says some of the prostitution happened at the Royal Gardens Condominiums on Brown Deer Road.
Bey is charged with two counts of trafficking of a child and receiving compensation for human trafficking. Williams is charged with one count of trafficking of a child and one count of receiving compensation for human trafficking.
WISN 12 News tried unsuccessfully to track down Bey and Williams whose court records indicate they are on the run facing arrest warrants.
The Academy said Bey only worked for them for three months before she was fired for failing to show up for work. The allegations stem from 2015.
They also said she had passed a criminal background check.
An APR News Special: "Selling Kids: Human Trafficking in Alabama"
By PAT DUGGINS
A note to our readers, this documentary contains content of an adult nature. Parents may want to consider whether it's appropriate for all ages.
“My friend Becca took to me the hospital, but I hadn't told the hospital what had happened to me,” Dixie Shannon said. She lives in Central Alabama.
“I was just blindly…I just…was just going along with going there. And, the hospital recognized me as a trafficked victim. And, they asked me ‘Ma'am, have you been trafficked? Are you being trafficked currently?' And, I just remember breaking into tears, and just crying, and like…just, finally someone had a name for it,” Shannon said. “Someone had a name for the torment I'd been just been through.”
It happened twice, first when she was 17, and the second time in her mid-20s. Each time, Shannon said her trafficker acted like he was on her side, at least at first.
“This guy was going to give me some more security. He was going to put me in a hotel room, and I was going to take a shower. I just needed to eat,” Shannon said. “He did all of that. He brought me in a hotel room, and he took care of me. And he said ‘This is what I want from you.' And, I was like ‘OK.'”
The phrase "what I want from you" is one you hear a lot from survivors of human trafficking. It's like a code that means you're about to enter “the life.” That's code too, for the world of commercial sex.
“I ended up doing so much drugs, because he was requiring me to do so much…I couldn't take a shower without making a certain amount of money…I couldn't eat…I couldn't do anything…I couldn't rest…I couldn't talk to my kids…nothing," Shannon said. "And, I couldn't do anything. And, I ended up getting to a point where I was I either going to kill myself because I'm going to overdose on these drugs, or he's going to kill me.”
For some of the survivors, their trafficker started out as a stranger.
“He drugged me and I woke up in a hotel room, naked, on a bed, and had no idea how I got there or anything,” said “Ace,” who was trafficked along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
For others in Alabama, their trafficker was a member of their family.
“You might have a mom, who…the only way she can keep her house, or her…wherever she's at…will let her landlord have sexual access to her kid,” said Teresa Collier of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. “That sort of thing happens quite a bit.”
Human trafficking isn't limited just to women. Both men and boys are abused, as well as members of Alabama's LGBTQ community.
“Most of our kids identify as bisexual. And, that's because they've been sold to this person or that person, males and females. So, they don't know what their gender is,” said Lynn Caffery, Executive Director of the shelter Safe Harbor Youth in Huntsville.
Traffickers often use psychological games to ensnare their victims.
“They pick up on that,” said Sharon Robbins, a survivor and founder of the trafficking support group Jubilee Havens and lives along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. “It's almost like they're honed into that. So me, being already abused as a child, I had a lot of insecurities, I was an introvert, so, they picked up on that.”
Cybercrime analysts in Birmingham study sex traffickers when they advertise on the internet in Alabama. This data can track sex workers who live in Alabama, and those who travel into the state like a caravan.
“So, if I can find five girls who are in Atlanta on Monday, and Birmingham on Tuesday, and Chattanooga on Wednesday, that's something we would consider a strong indicator of trafficking,” said Gary Warner, director of the UAB Computer Forensics Research Lab in Birmingham.
How the Deep South handles the issue differs from other parts of the country, according to Crystal Yarborough who is the Executive Director of the Rose Center, a drop-in shelter for victims of human trafficking along the Gulf Coast.
“In the Midwest, it's very much like ‘let's fix that, what can I do about that?'” she said. “In the South, it's very much like ‘Oh, I wish you had not told me about that. I did not want to know that.'”
Christiam Lim is leading a project at The University of Alabama's College of Social Work on human trafficking in the state. His team spent 2017 conducting interviews around Alabama to get a snapshot of how many suspected victims of trafficking asked for help from the police or social service agencies. He said the final number was nearly 1,200 victims.
“The fact is, that there's a prevalence of human trafficking throughout the entire state,” he said. “Clearly whatever we recovering is a smaller percentage of what's happening.”
So small, that some estimates put the real figure at 10 times higher. If that's true, the total could be closer to 12,000, just in Alabama in 2017. Lim said the point is that authorities know what they know, but that's it.
“What that means is there are a lot of professionals in our state who are running across victims of human trafficking, but not identifying them and seeing them as victims of human trafficking,” he said.
But, the College of Social Work found another number that could give an even clearer picture of trafficking in Alabama. It's based on when traffickers come out in the open and advertise on the internet. Two years ago, the college counted those ads and the total was 641,000, just in Alabama, just in 2017.
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WVU Researcher Uses mHealth App to Combat Child Sex Trafficking
The mHealth app, now in prototype, would help educate school nurses and public health workers on how to identify child sex trafficking and offer resources for reporting and helping victims.
By Eric Wicklund
A West Virginia University researcher is using mHealth to educate school nurses and public health workers on how to identify child sex trafficking.
Jamie Ashcroft, director of research at WVU's Department of Family Medicine, is developing the SexEx Rural mHealth platform to tackle a growing issue in rural America: children trafficked as a cash source by people struggling with an opioid addiction. The prototype connected health tool, to be made available as a desktop and mobile app, offers training on how to identify child sex trafficking and resources for reporting and supporting victims.
“The sexual exploitation of children can involve stripping, pornography or prostitution,” she said in a story issued by the university. “There's widespread misunderstanding about what ‘trafficking' actually is. It occurs when one person sells another for a profit. It often gets miscategorized as child abuse, sexual abuse or kidnapping. Many people think it involves movement across borders and believe it's something that only happens in bigger cities.”
Ashcroft's work is an example of how health workers, state agencies and others are using telehealth and mHealth platforms to push on-demand training, education and links to resources in to rural and remote regions where access to care is limited.
The platform also offers some privacy and discretion for both providers and patients dealing with issues like spousal/partner and child abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and care management concerns affected by poverty, religion or other social mores.
Ashcroft received a one-year, $225,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control for the project, and is getting assistance from the West Virginia Human Trafficking task Force, the Randolph-Elkins Health Department, the Cabell-Huntington Health Department and the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department.
Woman, 21, took her own life after finding child abuse pictures on her boyfriend's mobile phone
Shop assistant Lydia Roberts was said to have felt ''violated and hurt'' after she discovered illicit content from a Russian-based website on a second device belonging to businessman Adam Wells
BY AMY WALKER, JOHN SHAMMAS
A young woman killed herself after she found child abuse images on her boyfriend's mobile phone while he was at work.
Shop assistant Lydia Roberts, 21, was said to have felt ''violated and hurt'' after she discovered illicit content from a Russian-based website on a second device belonging to businessman Adam Wells.
The pair subsequently began arguing by text over the discovery and although Wells, 27, returned to their shared flat at lunchtime the row continued and he went on a night out with friends and colleagues.
Wells subsequently found Miss Roberts hanged when he returned to their shared home in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester at 3.30am the following morning.
The company director, who ran an beauty products company, was subsequently hauled into court and ordered to sign the Sex Offender Register for five years for having indecent images.
An inquest heard Miss Roberts, who worked for the retail chain H&M, had a history of suicide attempts and had been prescribed medication for depression.
Shop assistant Lydia Roberts, 21, was said to have felt ''violated and hurt'' after she discovered illicit content from a Russian-based website on a second device belonging to businessman Adam Wells.
She and Wells had been in a relationship for two years but the tragedy occurred on June 10, 2017, after she made the discovery after he went to work.
Recording a conclusion of suicide, Coroner Zak Golombeck told the Manchester hearing: ''Adam and Lydia had been had been corresponding by text message during the course of June 9 when Lydia was at home and Adam was at work for a larger period of the day and later out with friends and colleagues.
''The nature of the messages had been that Lydia and Adam had argued about content found on one of Adam Wells mobile phones.
"Adam Wells had returned home at around lunch time and shortly after him departing, Lydia had continued to message Adam Wells. It continued up until 7pm or shortly thereafter, whereupon no further text messaging or contact was made between Adam and Lydia.
The pair subsequently began arguing by text over the discovery.
''Adam Wells had been out with friends and colleagues and returned home at 3.30am on 10 June 2017 to find Lydia hanging. He telephoned the emergency services and an ambulance attended, but Lydia was pronounced dead.''
''I have considered the totality of the evidence and I am able to conclude that Lydia Roberts took her own life and intended to do so. There is evidence relating to her mental health and the nature of the correspondence taking place on that day between herself and Adam Wells.
''She had a history of attempting to take her own life, also had depression and had been prescribed antidepressants, sadly died on June 10 2017, when she was found hanging at home by Adam Wells. To the family, I offer my condolences.”
Wells subsequently found Miss Roberts hanged when he returned to their shared home in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester at 3.30am the following morning.
Wells appeared at Manchester magistrates court in July 2018 charged with possessing 31 indecent photographs of children. He was sentenced to a 12-month Community order, was ordered to complete 150 hours unpaid work and pay a £85 victim surcharge.
Former sex workers see value in trafficking education
BY RYAN MCKINNON
BRADENTON, Fla. --- When Kimberly Weller applied for a job at the spa tucked into a seedy Bradenton strip mall near the airport, there was no talk about her skills as a masseuse or related work experience.
The job interview was just one question:
"You know what this is, right?"
She knew. She wouldn't be giving massages or pampering soccer moms looking to de-stress. She would be having sex with a steady stream of customers.
The 24-hour brothel, just around the corner from a Manatee County elementary school, charged $60 for an hour with Kimberly. She kept half, plus tips, and was soon making up to $700 a day. She was easily out-earning her fellow graduates from Sarasota Military Academy, class of 2006.
She took the job because she wanted to be in control of how she earned her money, and as a kid, movies like "Pretty Woman" had glamorized life as a sex worker.
"In my mind at least, I was controlling the situation," she said. "I was reaping the benefits that I thought were there."
But life at the brothel didn't bring shopping sprees with Richard Gere. Instead, it was horrifying encounters with beer-soaked construction workers, businessmen on their way to work, grandfathers on vacation.
She had never heard the term "sex trafficking" when she started work at the brothel, and she didn't notice the pattern at first — that every other girl working there had similar stories of childhood sexual abuse. While the spa owner's bank account grew, the girls had all become drug addicts, needing to be high to do the job and needing the job to get high. She was no longer in control.
Teachers and guidance counselors had warned her and her classmates of the dangers of drinking and drugs, but no one had ever mentioned the predators looking to get rich off of broken girls like Kimberly, who believed it was her fault her family member molested her as an 8-year-old.
If a teacher or mentor had intervened when she was in elementary school and told her she was actually being abused and given her someone to talk to, her decisions down the road may have been different, she said.
That is why a new rule adopted by the Florida Board of Education gives her some hope.
This month, Florida became the first state in the nation requiring sex-trafficking education as part of every student's curriculum.
"Tragically, human trafficking is an epidemic in our country," Gov. Ron DeSantis said upon passage of the new rule. "Children of all ages need to know and understand the hazards of human trafficking and how to protect themselves from dangerous predators."
The new policy requires every school district to implement age-appropriate lessons about the dangers of one of the state's fastest-growing industries.
"I think it is going to be an eye-opener for our students," said Valerie Ellery, the Florida Department of Education's new Human Trafficking Education Specialist. "We are very grateful we are able to have this rule passed so we can start doing education."
The new state rule comes at the same time U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, and Alcee Hastings, D-Fort Lauderdale, filed bipartisan legislation that would provide $75 million in grant funding over five years to nonprofits and schools to develop curriculum to "understand, recognize, prevent and respond to signs of human trafficking."
School districts have until Dec. 1 to select a DOE-approved trafficking education curriculum, and teachers will receive training to implement the material into their coursework. One of the lead proponents for the rule was Selah Freedom, a Sarasota-based national organization that works with survivors of sex trafficking and which is already doing trafficking education in seven school districts in Florida.
Getting schools to talk about trafficking isn't easy, Ellery said. The term can conjure images of children being kidnapped and held hostage as sex slaves, and school administrators have been leery of fearmongering.
Ellery wants to get the message out that, in an internet-soaked culture in which one in 10 children have experienced childhood sexual abuse, the reality of child trafficking is far more common and insidious than parents or educators may think.
"Trafficking can occur with anybody for anybody," Ellery said. "We need to be aware and know what are the indicators that the perpetrators are using."
The key to effective trafficking education is making it age appropriate, Ellery said. Kindergarteners won't be learning about sexual assault or life as a prostitute, but will instead talk about "safe and unsafe touch" and the difference between a secret and a surprise.
One of the goals of the legislation is to teach young children that if someone touches them inappropriately, it is important to tell a trusted adult.
"We are talking about safe adults, what fear looks like, how to use our voices if we are in situations where we feel fearful or yucky," said Kyra Montaque, the Southeast Prevention Coordinator at Selah.
Elizabeth Melendez Fisher Good, the CEO and co-founder of Selah Freedom, said of the thousands of women Selah Freedom has worked with over its eight years in existence, 100% had been the victim of childhood sexual abuse, and most kept it a secret.
High school students will learn about tactics used by traffickers and not to be naive to strange adult behavior.
Normal grown men aren't interested in hanging out with high school girls and showering them with gifts, said Good. If a 15-year-old girl all of a sudden has a 27-year-old "friend" who buys her an iPhone, she should suspect he has some other motive.
Good said one of the goals of trafficking education is encouraging female self-confidence.
"If a guy comes over and says, 'You girls are beautiful,' he is looking for the one who looks down and says, 'No I am not,'" Good said. "They don't want to take on a confident girl."
Teachers won't be expected to serve as counselors or therapists under the new state rule. They'll be trained and administer the curriculum, but if a student comes forward with concerns, teachers will direct students to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, through the PolarisProject. Nonprofits like Selah and other groups providing the curriculum will also provide support.
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