New Jeffrey Epstein accusers push for protections for adult sex abuse survivors
By ERIN DONAGHUE
Two women who say they were repeatedly sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein beginning when they were 19 are supporting New York state legislation that would extend the time period for those sexually abused as adults to pursue civil legal action.
The two women, who both requested anonymity, are part of a group of nine who filed a lawsuit in New York against Epstein's estate this month, seeking damages for battery, assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Epstein was facing charges he was operating a massive sex trafficking ring when he died by suicide in a New York jail cell in August.
Epstein's death effectively ended the criminal prosecution against him, but many of his accusers have filed civil suits seeking compensation from his estate. The latest nine claims date from 1985 to the 2000s and include several women who say they were raped repeatedly. Three of the women say the sex abuse began when they were 13, 14 and 15. The two women who spoke with CBS News, called Jane Doe V and Jane Doe VI in the lawsuit filed December 3, were both considered adults when they say the abuse began. They describe Epstein as a powerful "master manipulator" who preyed on their youth and inexperience to control and abuse them.
Those who were abused as children can bring their suit under New York's Child Victims Act, signed into law this year, wwhich extends the statute of limitations for those who were minors at the time they were abused to file civil claims until they are 55. And it opened up a one-year window for those abused before the law was enacted to file claims. But advocates say a gap still remains when it comes to those who were 18 or older at the time of abuse.
New York state law allows a year from the closure of criminal action for victims to bring civil suits, but those who were abused as adults by Epstein still face the worry the claims could be dismissed on statute of limitations grounds, said Jordan Merson, tthe women's lawyer. The proposed Adult Survivors Act would address that issue, he said.
The Adult Survivors Act would open a similar one-year window for previously ineligible claims as the Child Victims Act, placing adult survivors on "equal footing" with child victims, Merson said.
In the Epstein lawsuit, he said, all nine victims were part of the same criminal plot despite their age differences.
"It shouldn't matter if you were 17 years and 364 days old or if you were 19 years old, they were all part of the same scheme, they were all taken advantage of and they were all manipulated in every way possible," Merson said.
The legislation is expected to be debated in the 2020 legislative session, according to a spokesman for New York state Senator Brad Hoylman, who introduced it.
"We both really believe that it shouldn't matter what age you're at when any of this happens to you — you should have access to the same justice system," Jane Doe V told CBS News.
The women are filing the lawsuit ahead of a March 2020 deadline set by a probate court in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where Epstein's estate is based, to file claims for compensation there. The estate's executors have asked a U.S. Virgin Islands judge to set up a voluntary compensation fund to resolve victims' claims.
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Flood of lawsuits expected as N.J. opens window for sex abuse survivors
By Joe Hernandez, Nicholas Pugliese
At 49, Patrick Hennessy cuts an imposing figure from his days as an amateur bodybuilder, with a mountain of trophies arrayed in his Ocean County home.
But he has spent much of his interior life in torment over a closely-guarded secret.
“My ex-wife didn't know. I was married for eight years and she never knew about it,” Hennessy said. “My sisters didn't know. My mother and father — my mother just passed away two years ago. She never knew anything about it.”
When Hennessy was 12, a Boy Scout leader invited him to his Jersey City home before a camping trip. There, Hennessy said, the man fondled Hennessy under his clothes and rubbed his penis on Hennessy for hours.
Hennessy kept silent for decades. He developed insomnia right after the abuse, and later suffered from depression and drug addiction. His marriage fell apart. Two years ago, he seriously contemplated suicide but didn't follow through.
The memory of the abuse is something he's never been able to shake.
“You think about it whether you're sitting in Burger King or playing hockey. Anywhere you are, you constantly always remember,” he said. “It's something that never goes away.”
After 37 years, Hennessy now has a chance to hold his abuser accountable.
A landmark New Jersey law, that takes effect Sunday, opens a two-year window for all past victims to file civil lawsuits against their perpetrators, as long as the abuse occurred in the state.
Many such victims had previously been blocked from suing by a two-year statute of limitations.
The law also overhauls that statute of limitations for future victims. Now, future child victims have until age 55 — or within seven years of realizing an injury was caused by past abuse, whichever is later — to file a civil lawsuit. Future adult victims will have seven years from discovering an injury to sue.
The new, two-year window for child and adult survivors is seen as one of the most expansive in the country, as more states begin to loosen civil statutes of limitations that victims' advocates say are too restrictive and thwart justice.
California, Arizona and North Carolina have created temporary windows for victims to sue.
Others, like Pennsylvania, expanded the civil statute of limitations but stopped short of allowing retroactive suits.
The sea change in New Jersey came amid continued opposition from the Roman Catholic Church, which helped defeat similar measures in previous years.
But the 2018 release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report on clergy sex abuse, and growing outrage over sexual misconduct uncovered through the #MeToo movement, renewed the focus on the state's two-year statute of limitations and amplified calls to change it.
Now, hundreds of child and adult survivors are expected to come forward with their accounts of abuse in the Boy Scouts, the Catholic Church and other organizations.
“We also have the boarding schools, I have no doubt. Sports teams, public schools, even the lifeguards at the Shore,” said Marci Hamilton, founder and CEO of the advocacy group CHILD USA. “Everywhere a child could be and could be taken off alone, all of them were at risk at some point.”
Hamilton, an attorney, has pushed for similar “window legislation” in states across the country as a way to give victims who were blocked by civil statutes of limitations the ability to have their day in court.
Such laws “are good for victims, there's no question, but they serve the larger public good by educating the public and telling the public the truth about the institutions we trust,” Hamilton said. “Parents need them, and so does every person who wants to see children safe.”
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Beyond ‘stranger danger': Look and listen for these signs of child sexual abuse
By Angela Gervasi
Matt Sandusky often discusses — in front of camera crews and at conferences — the sexual abuse that poisoned his childhood.
The attacker was no stranger. Sandusky, now in his 30s, says his adoptive father, former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, abused him for nine years.
Jerry Sandusky's trial on 45 counts of child sexual abuse leading to his 2012 conviction, sent a shockwave through the country. But in many ways, the story was not uncommon: Sexual abuse by a relative, friend or acquaintance isn't the exception. It's the norm.
And Matt Sandusky isn't the only one talking about it.
“The large majority of the time, children are abused by somebody that they know,” said Mandy Mundy.
Mundy trains adults to detect and prevent child sexual abuse. Depending on the research, she said, children know their abusers between 85% and 93% of the time.
“I think one of the first real ‘Aha!' moments for adults is how close to home this really is,” she said.
Debunking ‘stranger danger'
Decades ago, a “stranger danger” safety campaign cascaded into public consciousness. Posters, videos and picture books warned children to avoid strangers. They depicted adults waiting in playgrounds, offering candy, bringing a friendly dog, and imploring an indecisive child to trust them.
Today, experts such as Mundy view “stranger danger” with skepticism. Anyone can pose a threat, she said, but focusing too much on the hypothetical stranger in the park can detract from the larger problem.
“If we hold on to the ‘stranger danger' myth and associate it with child sexual assault, then we're overlooking the children who are being abused by people in their own families, in their own neighborhood, in their own school, in their own circle,” Mundy said.
Jenny Coleman is the director of Stop it Now!, which provides educational resources on assault prevention. After years of working in the field and hearing from abusers themselves, Coleman agreed “stranger danger” isn't the most accurate depiction of sexual abuse.
On the contrary, she said, abusers often try to “become the best friend.”
“We don't want folks to go out there looking for monsters, because they're not going to find monsters,” Coleman said. “They're going to find their own husbands and partners and family members and colleagues and neighbors.”
And once abuse begins, it might be impossible for a child to seek help, said Marie Fordney, who directs the Southern Arizona Children's Advocacy Center in Tucson.
“I do think that we used to put the onus on the child to keep themselves safe. It was the child's responsibility to jump up and scream, ‘No!' and go get help,” Fordney said.
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Age threshold of payments for survivors of childhood abuse lowered
A fund to offer support to survivors of childhood abuse in care has lowered the qualifying age of applicants to help more people.
Coming in with immediate effect, this will benefit survivors who may not live long enough to apply to the statutory redress scheme when it is established.
The Advance Payment Scheme provides acknowledgement to those who were abused in care in Scotland and who are terminally-ill or aged 68 or over.
More than 270 applicants have received a flat rate payment of £10,000 since the scheme opened on 25 April.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said:
“This reduction in age threshold will offer more survivors, who may not live long enough to apply to the future statutory redress scheme, the opportunity to receive recognition and acknowledgement for the abuse they suffered in care and the impact that has had. We know how meaningful that can be for some individuals.
“While clearly nothing can take away the pain that individuals have suffered, the scheme, together with other actions we are taking, will go some way towards acknowledging the grievous harm inflicted on them when they were most vulnerable.”
The Scottish Government has issued more than 260 application packs to abuse survivors. A dedicated phone line, set up to help survivors apply to the scheme, is operated by specially trained staff. The number to call is 0808 169 9740.
Since the scheme opened 274 payments have been made, 263 applications have been sent out, many more have been downloaded online, and 985 phonecalls have been received.
The Advance Payment Scheme comes ahead of planned legislation for a statutory redress scheme, which the Scottish Government intends will pass its final Parliamentary stages before March 2021.
The dedicated phone line operates Monday to Thursday, 10am - 4pm. It will be closed over the festive period from 19 December and will re-open on 6 January.
Financial redress is part of a package of measure the Scottish Government is taking to help support adult survivors of childhood abuse
Pennsylvania's sexual abuse laws leave survivors conflicted
By Marc Levy
When Pennsylvania overhauled its child sexual abuse laws after a years-long battle, absent from the bill-signing ceremony were some of the people who had worked hardest for the changes.
Some sexual-abuse survivors and victim advocates felt conflicted by the compromise package: Missing was a cornerstone of the recommendations by last year's landmark grand jury report on child sexual abuse inside six of Pennsylvania's eight Roman Catholic dioceses.
That recommendation was for a two-year window in state law to allow now-adult victims of child sexual abuse to sue over claims that are past Pennsylvania's statute of limitations.
Republicans who control Pennsylvania's Senate, in a party-line vote, defeated it, 28-20, after longtime opposition by bishops and insurers. As an alternative, they offered the longer, more deliberative process of amending the state constitution to create a two-year window to sue.
That has left survivors and victim advocates knowing they have little choice but to trust lawmakers to pass a resolution to amend the constitution in the 2021-22 legislative session. Then they may have to fend off a legal challenge or a well-funded campaign to defeat it in a statewide voter referendum.
“We had hope up until the end,” said Mary McHale, a Reading resident who told the grand jury of her experience 30 years ago as a 17-year-old in a Catholic high school. “And we're not done. We're not finished, this is just a different route. But it's hard when something's right there and it's tangible, and you have hope and then it's gone again.”
Among the provisions signed into law is one giving future victims of child sexual abuse until their 55th birthday to sue their perpetrators and institutions that may have covered it up.
Many adults in Pennsylvania who were sexually abused as children lost their right to sue when they turned 20, and they say they are powerless to go to court, where a judge can force an institution to divulge what it knew.
“When you talk to victims, the absolute biggest thing is discovery, holding perpetrators accountable to get them off the street, holding institutions accountable so things change,” said Patty Fortney-Julius, one of five sisters from the Harrisburg area who have accused their now-dead parish priest of sexually abusing them as children.
Lawmakers, they say, could vote both to change the law and the constitution.
“They presented this constitutional amendment as their way of ensuring our justice,” said Brooke Rush, who has told of being molested at age 11 by Johnstown pediatrician, Johnnie Barto, who prosecutors say spent decades abusing patients in his exam room. Barto was handed effectively a life sentence in March. “So, if they truly wanted the end result of the retroactive window, there's no reason they shouldn't have let both go forward together.”
While the Senate was holding up the legislation this year, Pennsylvania's dioceses opened temporary victim compensation fund. Many people who applied took the offer of money. But it came with strings attached: They had to agree not to sue.
Rush and others are now questioning whether lawmakers are committed to seeing through a constitutional amendment. They also worry about lawsuits to block it or how it might be fought in a statewide referendum.
“There are a lot of people with the money and interest to see that this thing never comes to light,” said Jennifer Storm, who directs the state's Office of Victim Advocate.
To bring a boy's murderers to justice, a prosecutor wrestled with his own childhood abuse
By MARISA GERBER
Jon Hatami's voice shook and he stared down at the courthouse floor as reporters packed around him. Minutes before, the prosecutor had won a conviction in the killing of Gabriel Fernandez, one of the most infamous and chilling child abuse cases in California history.
When paramedics arrived at Gabriel's Palmdale home in the spring of 2013, the 8-year-old had shattered ribs, a cracked skull and cigarette burns dotting his unconscious body, signs of the torture inflicted by his mother and her boyfriend.
After Hatami was assigned the case, he long guarded the gruesome details inside his mind, unable to speak publicly about the prosecution that had both infused him with deep purpose, but also strained his marriage and eroded his trust in law enforcement. In the fall of 2017, moments after jurors convicted the boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, of murdering Gabriel, Hatami thought it was finally safe to unburden his heart.
During that emotional news conference, he stunned the crowd.
“Sorry,” he said in a hushed voice, swallowing tears. “I was a victim of child abuse.”
“At what age?” a reporter shouted.
“Four, five,” Hatami answered, closing his eyes.
Reflecting on that episode now, Hatami described his public revelation as spontaneous — a split-second decision to highlight his own past. The 49-year-old prosecutor said that as a child, he was physically and verbally abused by his father and kidnapped and shuttled across the country by his mother, leading to years of emotional instability.
And he believes that his experiences and years of self-reflection make him uniquely equipped to prosecute child abuse cases.
“It's my truth,” says Hatami, who refers to himself an abuse survivor. “I know what it feels like to be powerless.”
Prosecuting Gabriel's case also reawakened some of Hatami's own demons, pushing him to grapple with old memories and study his own psyche. His cases often involve cycles of abuse — Gabriel's mother, for example, says she was sexually and physically abused as a child — and he knows that he inherited some of his father's anger. He dreads the thought of treating his children the way his father treated him — of violating their trust, of instilling fear.
These days, when Hatami reflects on the verdict, his eyes well up. He felt such relief for Gabriel and his relatives: Finally, he thought, the system had done something for them. A few months later, in early 2018, Gabriel's mother, Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.
Raised Catholic and now Lutheran, Hatami sometimes thinks about Gabriel in heaven and wonders whether God or some spiritual force led the case to him.
“I think I became a D.A. for that case,” Hatami says, choking up. “I'll never have another Gabriel.”
‘I was so small'
His father could be so fun, Hatami says, but small things — watching a TV show he didn't like or eating food he deemed unhealthy — could set him off, and then his face would shrivel and flush red as he screamed. Sometimes his father slapped him, Hatami says. Other times he yanked him by his hair, smashing his small body into the white walls of their apartment in Queens, N.Y.
In one of his most distinct early memories, he's standing inside a New York courtroom for a custody hearing and his father whispers in his ear, encouraging him to tell the judge he'd rather live with his father. Hatami remembers feeling terrified. He froze, unable to say a thing.
“The court was so big,” Hatami says, “and I was so small.”
After the hearing, his mother, who'd been granted temporary custody, flew him and his younger brother to Florida, leaving them temporarily with an elderly woman who was a stranger to the young boys.
“My mother kidnapped my brother and I,” Hatami adds matter-of-factly; he believes that his mother feared his father planned to flee with the boys to his native Iran.
In an interview, Hatami's father, now in his 80s, acknowledges raising his voice to his son, but denies abusing him physically.
“That's completely out of my character,” he says, suggesting that Hatami might have imagined the abuse — details of which, however, were confirmed to The Times by another close relative who asked to remain anonymous.
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'You grow up hating yourself': why child abuse survivors keep – and break – their silence
The average victim takes 24 years to reveal their secret and disclosure is often the key to recovery
By Linda Moon
Earlier this year Erin Delaney revealed on Facebook a secret she'd kept from almost everyone.
As a child she suffered physical and emotional abuse and severe neglect. The neglect had significant consequences, including a fractured skull from falling – which was only picked up when, after she vomited at school the next day, a member of her extended family intervened and took her to hospital.
The emotional abuse included both parents telling her at different times that the other was dead, or that they weren't her real parents; the physical abuse – the hitting, the kicking – depended on their drug use and moods.
“It was,” the 36-year-old Sydneysider says now, “a challenging journey through life. I never felt safe and I never felt grounded. You grow up hating yourself and thinking you caused it and you deserve it.”
Wondering if she'd lose all her friends once they “knew the truth”, the usually articulate and witty writer withdrew. “I knew it would impact how people thought about me and I was terrified,” she admits. “I began to doubt myself and believe no one would be interested, that someone might use it against me somehow.”
Delaney had always felt like she had two different selves: her secret, real self and a superficial, public persona cultivated to blend in. “I want to hear my real voice because it's been silenced for 36 years.”
Her decision to post her story was inspired by a Guardian article about the widespread misdiagnosis of trauma survivors and her desire to educate people about trauma.
She attributes internalised self-blame, hurtful reactions and dehumanising labels from professionals for why she kept silent so long. She first told her story to the daughter of a Christian family she was staying with as a teen and was reprimanded. At 18, she attempted suicide. The psychiatric registrar told her to do it properly next time. “That pushed me back into my shell for years,” she says.
Delaney, who suffers from complex post-traumatic stress disorder, says society treats different medical conditions unequally. “One of my old school friends had cancer a few years ago and everyone offered to help, while my emotional injuries are a source of shame and isolation.”
Many people have since shared their own secrets of abuse with Delaney. “What broke my heart was it was all in private messages,” she says. “They were too scared to share it openly. I want to take the power away from my abusers and the only power they have over me is my silence and shame. To adult survivors, don't let the fuckers who stole your joy keep stealing it even one more day.”
Kelly Humphries, a 37-year-old Queensland senior police constable, went to the police about her uncle's sexual abuse when she was 19, but she didn't speak publicly about it till her 30s. She has written a memoir, Unscathed Beauty, about her recovery.
“I want people to know they're not on their own,” she says. “There's so much happens behind closed doors [that] nobody ever talks about. I've always known since I was a child I didn't want it to happen to anyone else.”
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Report: Sexual Assault is Common in Immigrant Prisons, but Survivors Aren't Getting Help
Only three of 23 rape crisis centers serving areas where ICE detention centers are located reported providing therapy or other services to detainees.
By Isabela Dias
We've known for a while that sexual assault is likely widespread in immigrant lockups. Adult detainees filed 1,224 sexual abuse complaints with the Department of Homeland Security between 2010 and September 2017. And in the past five years, thousands of immigrant children who arrived alone at the border have also reported abuse in federal custody. Now, in a new report centering on Texas detention facilities, advocates say that the government is not only failing to protect those in its custody, it is falling short of providing them with support services required by law.
According to a Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA) survey published last week, rape crisis centers and advocates have “very limited interaction” with detention facilities operated by ICE, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), or the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Of the 23 surveyed Texas rape crisis centers near ICE facilities, only three reported providing therapy or other services to victims. None of the eight participating children's advocacy centers near CBP facilities said they worked with law enforcement to investigate claims of child abuse.
The report also found that the majority of detainees who were referred to rape crisis centers were sexually assaulted on their way to the United States, not while detained. The finding raised eyebrows. “Given the reportedly high prevalence of sexual violence within immigration detention facilities, this appears to reflect a bias in the institutional response in favor of survivors assaulted by coyotes [smugglers], but against survivors assaulted inside government facilities,” the authors wrote.
Katherine Strandberg, a criminal justice analyst with TAASA, says the group started working on the report at the height of the family separation crisis in 2018. “When all the kids started being detained and separated [at the border], we knew it was a recipe for sexual violence to happen,” Strandberg says. “In the last year, we found out that's true … and nothing is being done to deal with this trauma even though we have the resources.”
In response to an Observer inquiry, an ICE spokesperson said that outside victim services must be requested by the detainees, who receive information on how to report sexual abuse via postings, orientation materials, and the ICE National Detainee Handbook. CBP didn't provide a comment.
“N othing is being done to deal with this trauma even though we have the resources .”
The report states that outside support service providers are generally ready to provide counseling, but face many barriers. Without cooperation from the facilities, it is difficult to communicate with victims or ease a survivor's reluctance to make a complaint.
In the four years that Maribel Arrondo has been a sexual assault services coordinator with the Purple Door, a Corpus Christi nonprofit, the organization has never received a request for services from ICE or the nearby CBP facility. In the past, she told the Observer, they were only able to offer training to staff at the Bokenkamp Children's Shelter, rather than directly support the kids detained there. “We serve on the basis of when we get a notification from detention, juvenile, or state prison,” Arrondo says. “All it would take would be a phone call, but that has never occurred. I'm not sure why.”
In 2003, Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) to develop standards for preventing and responding to sexual abuse in prisons. The law was extended to immigration detention in 2014. Among the zero-tolerance policy's provisions is a requirement that facilities “use available community resources and services to provide support to detainees” and establish agreements with “organizations that provide legal advocacy and emotional support.” Detention centers must also inform detainees about local or national organizations that can help them, even if their allegations haven't been substantiated.
The TAASA report shows, however, that facilities housing immigrants are by and large failing to utilize community-based support services, even when signed agreements are in place. Hope Alliance, a Round Rock organization serving domestic and sexual violence survivors, signed an agreement with ICE four years ago to assist detainees at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor. According to the organization's vice president, Patty Conner, they have never had a referral. “Given that the [agreement] is in place, I would expect to get calls,” Conner says. “That would allow for services to be sought and rendered in an appropriate and confidential way as opposed to just something that marks a checkbox.”
Allegations of sexual assault inside the Hutto lockup go back to the mid-2000s, leading advocates to push for the facility's closure and lawmakers to call for increased accountability. In 2017, Laura Monterrosa, a 23-year-old asylum-seeker from El Salvador, was put into solitary confinement and threatened with deportation after speaking out about being sexually assaulted by a female guard. Authorities didn't refer Monterrosa and another woman with similar allegations to outside help, but conducted an internal investigation that found the allegations were unsubstantiated; afterward, lawmakers questioned whether Hutto was flaunting PREA requirements. Last year, a PREA audit concluded that Hutto met the standards, including for access to outside confidential support services.
Without requests from administrators at the facilities housing immigrant survivors of sexual assault, short-staffed nonprofit leaders say they are limited in what they can do. As the report suggests, service providers can contact detention center administrators to make sure that detainees have access to a free crisis hotline and educational material. But fear of retaliation and threats of deportation are often strong deterrents, advocates say.
“The immigrant detention system is fundamentally dangerous,” Strandberg says. “This is the kind of community-level public health crisis that we're not engaging with at all, and we need to.”
One in 10 Malaysian children are sexually abused, usually by those they trust
By S. INDRAMALAR
By being more aware about child sexual abuse and not blaming victims who come forward, we can protect children from sexual violence.
One in 10 children in Malaysia – about 750,000 – are sexually abused, according to community studies.
In 95% of the cases, their sexual abusers are people known to them. Mostly, the abusers are their fathers or stepfathers.
“In Malaysia, the primary abuser is the father. The second primary abuser is the father and the third primary abuser is also the father, ” says Datuk Dr Amar Singh, a consultant pediatrician who has worked with sexually abused children for over three decades.
Citing three local community studies (Amar, 1996; Kamaruddin, 2000; and Choo, 2011) on the incidence of child sexual abuse in Malaysia, Dr Amar says that sexual abuse affects from 8% to 26% of children. The accepted average is 10%.
Police statistics on victims and the number of cases reported to the Welfare Department, however, are lower.
In 2017, out of the 1,582 rape cases reported to the police, almost 80% (1,257) involved victims (all women and girls) below the age of 18.
A total of 1,290 molest cases was recorded involving children under the age of 18, of which about 3% were boys.
A total of 269 incest cases were reported, of which 66% involved children under the age of 15.
Meanwhile, a booklet published by the Penang state government's Women, Family Development Committee found that one in three girls and one in six boys experience sexual abuse before they reach the age of 18.
Globally, it is estimated that only about 10% of cases are reported.Child sexual abuse is a grossly under-reported crime; in fact, the most under-reported of crimes.
A child is sexually abused when he or she is forced or tricked into sexual acts.
Sexual abuse isn't just using a body part or object to rape or penetrate a child but also includes touching any part of a child's body inappropriately, whether they are clothed or not, making a child undress or touch someone else, lying on top of a child and rubbing against him or her, kissing or making a child perform oral sex or performing oral sex on a child.
Sexual abuse, says Dr Amar, is the most heinous of crimes – even more traumatic than rape.
“Mostly, children are sexually abused, some are raped. Sexual abuse is almost always by someone whom the child knows and trusts, and it is repetitive and can happen 100 or 500 or 1,000 times over months or years.
“Rape, though horrific too, often happens once and is perpetrated by a stranger.
“Sexual abuse is far worse because, often, it happens in the child's own home by people they love and who say love them.
“I have worked with someone who was sexually abused for 15 years before she had the courage to run away, ” says Dr Amar.
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Netherlands / United Kingdom
‘We have to speak out … and be heard': Life after sexual abuse
After decades of denial and cover-up, adult survivors are coming forward, helped by radical new initiatives
By Yvonne Roberts
On 2 June, Noa Pothoven, 17, died at home in the Dutch city of Arnhem having refused all fluids and food. She had been sexually assaulted at the age of 11 and raped at 14, and suffered from anorexia and depression. She spoke of her “unbearable suffering” in the aftermath of the attacks – “I have not been alive for so long,” she wrote.
For survivors of childhood abuse, the potential long-term impact of their experiences is only beginning to be exposed; taboo, secrecy and shame still prevail. Yet, slowly, as inquiries are held and more cases come to court, greater numbers of adult survivors of childhood abuse are beginning to come forward. While some can cope well, for others lives and families are torn apart as the root causes remain hidden. Is society doing enough for adult survivors, who, too often, are overlooked, pathologised and criminalised?
Jimmy Savile, “eccentric and flamboyant”, garlanded with honours and awards, died in 2011 aged 84, never having paid for his crimes. A year after his death, he was revealed as a prolific and ruthless sexual predator throughout five decades. Concerns had been raised since the 1960s and suppressed. He had fame and power, so was free to abuse in plain sight.
Since then, a number of prolific offenders have appeared in court including Peter Ball, a bishop who was protected by the establishment, Barry Bennell, a football coach, and the pop singer Gary Glitter. In addition, groups of mainly Asian men, in cities including Rotherham, Nottingham and Oxford, have been given lengthy jail sentences for violently sexually exploiting vulnerable young girls, the victims treated by police and social workers as “child prostitutes”, their plight ignored.
In 2014 the government established the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) to examine how institutions, including hospitals, care homes and boarding schools, have handled their duty of care to protect children. The inquiry has launched 14 investigations and has set up the Truth Project, “I Will Be Heard”. So far, more than 3,000 survivors of abuse have related their experiences at the hands of trusted adults, family members and in institutions.
Four years ago in Leeds, Savile's birthplace, Tessa Denham, 58, a counsellor, coach and chief executive of the Women's Counselling and Therapy Service, organised a workshop. Sixty colleagues from healthcare, the police, GPs, voluntary organisations and the city council attended. “The decades of denial and cover-up were beginning to crack,” Denham says. “That made me think, as a city, ‘What should we do? What do we need to do?'
“Abuse has shaped me. It still affects my daily life,” she says. “I was abused by my grandfather and my stepfather. Yet for years I'd tell everyone that I hadn't been affected. It was only when I went for counselling in my 30s that I began to join up the dots of my own behaviour.
“I'm middle class, mouthy and I don't lack confidence. Imagine what it must be like for someone who has none of those resources. Some survivors cope, others experience addiction, unemployment, prison, chaotic, shattered families, and still the secret is kept. That's why we passionately believe it's time to make a difference.”
The difference is a potentially groundbreaking holistic city-wide project called Visible, launched in Leeds on 10 June after two years of plannning. The aim is to proactively support adult survivors and open up a national conversation about the extent of need and why long-term government funding is essential.
The ambition is that projects like Visible are replicated across the country.
“It was as if we all gave a collective sigh of relief,” says Sinéad Cregan, Leeds adult services commissioner and chair of Visible. “Phew! At last we're going to try and do something. More and more people at inquiries are talking for the first time. Yet, across the country, the response has not been good enough.”
What will Visible do in practice? Survivors say that many professionals don't recognise trauma, and they don't ask the right questions because they don't know how to handle the response. Visible hopes to conduct research into what works best, increase public understanding, and train a range of professionals including police, magistrates, employers, commissioners, GPs, teachers and social workers to ask the right questions so that a range of appropriate help is offered. “We want to act as a catalyst.” Denham says. “When money is tight, there are no quick fixes but the door has begun to open.”
“Phil”, 52, is on Visible's steering group. He waited 40 years before disclosing that as a boy he was abused by two men who threatened to harm his family if he told anyone. “It was when my son was the same age that I told my wife. I had a breakdown. I was worried the same thing would happen to him. I'd text him all the time.
“I waited 12 months before I got into the mental health system. I've self-harmed, I've tried to take my own life. I was interviewed by the police about Jimmy Savile because I worked with him as a hospital porter – and that's when it got worse. I see the devil with the abusers' face. I hear voices. In an ideal world, I'd like for people to speak out and be heard.”
In May, the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse published a report that drew on a survey of 365 survivors. Long-term consequences of abuse may include physical ailments, changes in brain function and development, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and dissociative disorder, an involuntary flight from reality that may include significant memory loss, depression and suicidal thoughts.
In the survey, 90% said their intimate relationships were negatively affected, 89% said their mental health was negatively affected, 72% said that it had damaged their career, and 46% said it had a detrimental effect on their financial situation (because they often had to pay for therapeutic help they couldn't access otherwise). Only 16% said the NHS mental health services met their need. “I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and the mental health system,” was one response.
“The spectre hanging over them infiltrates every aspect of life,” Sarah Champion, Labour MP and chair of the APPG said in the Commons. “A trigger can be anything – the same aftershave that their abuser was wearing or a feeling of being in an enclosed space. Unless we recognise that these people are victims of crime, they will not be able to lead their full lives and reach the potential that we all deserve to achieve.”
“Deflection, denial and disbelief” has too often greeted those who speak out about abuse. Yet its scale is clear. The number of recorded sexual offences against children under 16 in England and Wales more than doubled in the four years to 2017 from 24,085 to 53,496.
A 2015 survey of 400 adult survivors indicated that the abuse had begun, on average, at the age of seven and continued for long periods; 90% hadn't seen their abuser brought to justice. The average wait before survivors tried to access services had been 20 years, and not even then had individuals disclosed abuse. For one in five who disclosed at the time, the abuse continued on average for a further six years.
Last year NHS England announced improved provision for victims of sexual abuse. The five-year strategy has an investment of £4m a year until 2020-21. “It's welcome but it's a drop in the ocean,” says Fay Maxted, chief executive of the Survivors Trust, which represents 130 organisations. “In real terms, funding has dropped significantly in the last 10 years.”
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Task force calls for new laws, education to combat child sex abuse
By Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
A task force the governor created to help guide lawmakers on possible changes to state laws involving child victims of sexual abuse in Arizona made its final recommendations on Friday.
During its meetings, which began this summer, the task force's discussions have ranged from preventative education, better reporting mechanisms within schools and data sharing between police departments to increasing awareness of changes in the law and changing criminal statutes.
It appears that almost all the priorities discussed during the meetings have ended up in the 12-page document that outlines the task force's recommendations to Gov. Doug Ducey.
“My sincere thanks to the task force's co-chairs, Maricopa County Attorney's Office Chief Deputy Rachel Mitchell and Senator Paul Boyer, as well as everyone who dedicated their time and energy to develop these recommendations. I look forward to working with all members to implement them,” Ducey said in a press release about the task force's recommendations.
Ducey announced the creation of the Justice for Victims of Child Sex Abuse Task Force at a ceremonial signing in May of a new law to expand the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue their abusers or the organizations that protected them.
The task force consisted of victim advocates, lawmakers and law enforcement from across the state.
Boyer, who championed the statute of limitations issue throughout the previous session, was the co-chair of the task force.
The task force's recommendations are broad.
The first recommendation is to include child sex trafficking in the criminal statute of limitations. There is no such statute of limitations for sexual molestation, sexual explotation and sexual contact with a minor under state law, but child sex trafficking has a statute of limitations of 7 years.
The task force also recommended that state law change in regards to the definitions of who is considered to be in a “position of trust.” Currently state law includes a child's parent, stepparent, adoptive parent, legal guardian, foster parent, teacher, coach, instructor, clergyman and priest as people who are considered as being in positions of trust.
The task force wants to add relatives by blood or marriage within the third degree except for siblings, employers or bosses, adults in the same house, persons 10 years or older who the child has a relationship with or has a relationship with the family and revise two other categories. It also wants teacher or educator to include any adult school employee and clergyman to include priest or youth pastor.
“Position of trust” is important for prosecuting child sex crimes, because prosecutors do not need to show a lack of consent in cases involving a minor between the ages of 15 to 17 if the defendant was in a position of trust. Additionally, if the defendant was in a position of trust, it elevates the crime from a class 6 felony to a class 2 felony.
The task force also recommended that the law be changed to allow any judge overseeing a child sex abuse case or child sex trafficking case to prevent a defendant from personally questioning his or her victim in court.
Another statutory change the task force wants to see is enhanced probation on sex crimes.
Currently, sex trafficking related crimes do not require special probation terms. The task force recommended that anyone convicted of sex trafficking have similar probation terms as those convicted of gang or white collar criminal offenses.
The task force also recommended that additional funding be provided for forensic interviewing of victims.
Other funding recommendations include setting up a statewide program to provied grants to counties to allow them to re-examine DNA in cold-case child sexual abuse allegations.
The task force also recommended that the Arizona Department of Public Safety begin conducting a study on creating a statewide database for all law enforcement in the state to use to track confirmed sexual predators and sex traffickers. Currently there is no such system in place.
The task force also further advocated for increased awareness of the civil statute of limitation changes enacted earlier this year, chief among them a civil window for anyone to file a lawsuit that ends in December 2020.
Funding for community organizations that provide aid to victims of child sexual abuse and adult survivors was also recommended, as was funding for a 24-hour statewide hotline to report incidents of abuse that would include counseling and referral services.
The task force is also hoping for some data on the new law that spurred its creation, recommending that the courts collect data on the number of new civil cases filed in order to help the state further understand how the law worked and guide possible future statue of limitation changes.
One recommendation that has already drawn some controversy and will likely draw some going into the January session will be the recommendations on education.
The task force is recommending that the Arizona Department of Education create a statewide training program on mandatory reporting, as well as provide additional resources to students on sexual abuse.
The task force also wants the education department to create curriculum centered on social media and cell phones, and how they are used by sexual predators. It further suggested the Department of Education create policies to ensure educators are using social media appropriately with their students.
Teaching children how to spot sexual predation and sexual abuse is another recomendation, including age-appropriate classes on the issue, something that could run afoul of anti-sex education Republicans in the upcoming session.
However, the recommendations are not all about curriculum.
The task force wants to give the Arizona Board of Education the authority to investigate sexual misconduct of uncertified teachers. There are currently 6,000 uncertified teachers in the state, none of which can be investigated by the board.
Additionally, the Department of Education only has a staff of six to investigate claims of sexual misconduct, so the task force is recommending additional funding to deal with the high caseloads that each of those investigators have.
The task force is hoping to spread awareness for the Childhelp National Abuse Hotline.
Lastly, the task force is also recommending that foster children in DCS care are given age-appropriate materials and resources about sexual abuse and sex trafficking before they are placed in a group home or foster home.
Sex abuse compensation rules 'must change'
By Emma Ailes, BBC
Rules that mean some victims of childhood sex abuse are denied compensation must be changed, MPs have told the Victoria Derbyshire programme.
Those with an unspent criminal conviction or victims deemed to have "consented" to abuse despite being a child, are among those denied payouts.
Victims also have to claim within two years of reporting abuse, described by MPs as an "unrealistic timeframe".
The Ministry of Justice has launched a review into the compensation system.
The guidance contains a number of exemptions. These include victims who may have been groomed into performing sex acts online but not physically assaulted.
It also states that victims of child sexual abuse can be disqualified from the scheme on the basis that "consent 'in fact' is different from consent 'in law'."
Even in cases involving under-16s, it says "where the sexual activity is truly of the applicant's free will no crime of violence will have occurred".
The report from the cross-party group of MPs for adult survivors of sexual abuse, said many of the 400 survivors it consulted found applying to the Criminal Injuries and Compensation Authority (Cica) "traumatising and complicated".
"Too often, Cica acts as a second trial for the survivor, placing the onus on them to prove their case once more," it said. "This compounds a complicated, onerous process."
'We'll never forget what he did to us'
"David" and his younger brother were both sexually abused by their older half-sibling when they were children. His younger brother was awarded £11,000 in compensation, but David was refused because of a decades-old conviction for conspiracy to commit robbery.
"He was like a bogeyman in your childish, nightmarish dreams.
"As I got older the abuse made me feel quite worthless and dirty. I didn't feel like normal kids did and in a way I tried to destroy myself as well. By getting in trouble with the police I felt a bit like vermin really, like people see rats.
"A lot of nights I would drift off to sleep thinking about my childhood and how it had basically led to where I was in that prison cell. I turned my life around when I came out.
"When I found out he had been abusing my younger brother, it destroyed me. We'll never forget what he did to us, we'll be living with that for the rest of our lives.
"Money, no matter how much they give me, would never take the thoughts and nightmares out of my head during the day and the night.
"It would help, but in a way, more than the money, it would signify that the actual government are accepting that the way you've turned out - you'll end up getting in trouble with the police, you'll end up how a lot of people do, who've been abused."
Ministry of Justice figures, released in response to a written Parliamentary question earlier this month, revealed how many victims have had an award withheld.
In 2018-19, of 4,972 resolved child sexual abuse cases, 111 victims were denied due to unspent convictions, while 52 people were denied because the time limit had been exceeded.
In 2017-18, of 5,619 cases, 140 were denied due to unspent convictions while it was withheld in 411 cases due to the time limit.
The average payment to victims in January this year was £13,130 for male victims and £12,758 for female victims.
The MPs say the government should publish a revised compensation scheme "without delay" including measures to:
- abolish the unspent convictions rule for survivors of child sex abuse
- abolish the time limit for application for compensation for sex abuse and violent crimes
- extend the definition of violent crime and scheme eligibility to include non-contact forms of child sexual abuse
- recognise that children cannot consent to their sexual abuse
An unspent criminal conviction is one that remains on someone's record, as they are considered still in the "rehabilitation period". For sentences of over four years, a conviction is never "spent".
Sarah Champion MP said it was a "scandal" the scheme had not yet been reformed.
"The whole scheme needs comprehensive reform so that victims and survivors are put at the centre of the process because, right now, it is all about saving the government money not supporting people to rebuild their lives shattered by crime."
The report also found seven in 10 survivors said they had not been given appropriate support when attending court as a witness, and two out of five had not been given the opportunity to give evidence remotely or behind a screen.
Three out of four said they were not informed about their abuser's parole or the process involved.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said it was "vital" that victims of child sexual abuse received every support possible to recover from their ordeal.
"We have increased funding for emotional and practical support twice this year, and the total amount for victims has nearly doubled since 2013," the statement said.
Majority of childhood sex-abuse survivors achieve complete mental health
Social isolation, chronic pain, and a history of substance dependence or depression are impediments to recovery
UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
TORONTO -- Most research on child sexual-abuse survivors focuses on negative consequences such as depression and suicide. A new study instead examines factors associated with resilience and flourishing among adult survivors.
"Remarkably, two-thirds [65%] of the childhood sexual-abuse survivors in our sample met the criteria for complete mental health -- defined as being happy or satisfied with life most days in the past month, having high levels of social and psychological well-being in the past month, and being free of mental illness, suicidal thoughts and substance dependence in the past year," reported lead author Dr. Esme Fuller-Thomson, Professor at the University of Toronto's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work (FIFSW) and Director of the Institute for Life Course & Aging. "While the prevalence of complete mental health among childhood sexual-abuse survivors is higher than we had expected, it is still substantially less than that found in the general population [77%]. Greater understanding of factors associated with complete mental health among survivors is an important first step in helping survivors achieve the level of well-being found in the general adult population."
The negative association between childhood sexual abuse and complete mental health was completely explained when we took into account the individuals' history of mental illness, substance abuse, chronic pain and social isolation. In other words, we now have an understanding of the pathways that decrease resiliency among child sexual-abuse survivors.
"If the survivors had been depressed at any point in their life, the odds of them currently being in complete mental health declined dramatically. This underlines the importance of mental-health interventions for this population. A promising intervention, cognitive behavioral therapy [CBT], has been tested and found effective at reducing post-traumatic stress disorder and depressive and anxiety symptoms among childhood sexual-abuse survivors," said co-author Dr. Ashley Lacombe-Duncan, a recent doctoral graduate from the FIFSW and Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of Michigan.
"Having a confidante was found to be the second-strongest single predictor of complete mental health, increasing the odds of past-year complete mental health nearly sevenfold. Given the importance of family and social-support systems, brief interventions to address trauma post-experience and bolster social and familial support are also called for," suggested Dr. Deborah Goodman, Director, Child Welfare Institute, Children's Aid Society of Toronto.
Sexual-abuse survivors who had chronic pain had half the odds of complete mental health compared to those who were free of chronic pain. "It is important that health and social-service professionals help sexual-abuse survivors get the treatment they need to address both their physical health problems, such as chronic pain conditions, in addition to their mental-health concerns," said Dr. Barbara Fallon, Professor at the FIFSW and Canada Research Chair in Child Welfare.
The study, published online ahead of print in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology , was based on a 2012 Canadian nationally representative survey of 17,014 adults of whom 651 were childhood sexual-abuse survivors. Those who were physically abused during their childhood or who had been exposed to chronic parental domestic violence were excluded from the analysis. "By expanding our research focus from the devastating consequences of childhood sexual abuse to factors correlated with well-being in adulthood, we may be able to help design more effective interventions for those affected to not only survive, but thrive," said Fuller-Thomson.
Fighting the Good Fight Against Online Child Sexual Abuse
Several websites popular with sexual predators were thwarted last month after a determined campaign by groups dedicated to eliminating the content. It was a rare victory in an unending war.
Across the internet, sexual predators flock to websites where they share images of child sexual abuse. Seven years ago, three such sites went online. Groups dedicated to protecting children quickly started sending email notices to remove the illegal imagery. As the imagery grew more extreme, the sites drew hundreds of thousands of visitors and found ways to hide behind tech companies. Finally, one group in Canada overwhelmed the sites, forcing the images offline with a computer program that sent more than a million of the notices. It was an epic battle, but can it be repeated?
By GABRIEL J.X. DANCE
In late November, the moderator of three highly trafficked websites posted a message titled “R.I.P.” It offered a convoluted explanation for why they were left with no choice but to close.
The unnamed moderator thanked over 100,000 “brothers” who had visited and contributed to the sites before their demise, blaming an “increasingly intolerant world” that did not allow children to “fully express themselves.”
In fact, forums on the sites had been bastions of illegal content almost since their inception in 2012, containing child sexual abuse photos and videos, including violent and explicit imagery of infants and toddlers.
The sites managed to survive so long because the internet provides enormous cover for sexual predators. Apps, social media platforms and video games are also riddled with illicit materia, but they have corporate owners — like Facebook and Microsoft — that can monitor and remove it.
In a world exploding with the imagery — 45 million photos and videos of child sexual abuse were reported last year alone — the open web is a freewheeling expanse where the underdog task of confronting the predators falls mainly to a few dozen nonprofits with small budgets and outsize determination.
Several of those groups, including a child exploitation hotline in Canada, hunted the three sites across the internet for years but could never quite defeat them. The websites, records show, were led by an experienced computer programmer who was adept at staying one step ahead of his pursuers — in particular, through the services of American and other tech companies with policies that can be used to shield criminal behavior.
But the Canadian hotline developed a tech weapon of its own, a sophisticated tool to find and report illegal imagery on the web. When the sites found the tool directed at them, they fought back with a smear campaign, sending emails to the Canadian government and others with unfounded claims of “grave operational and financial corruption” against the nonprofit.
It wasn't enough. The three sites were overwhelmed by the Canadian tool, which had sent more than 1 million notices of illegal content to the companies keeping them online. And last month, they were compelled to surrender.
“It's been a wonderful 7 years and we would've loved to go for another 7,” the sites' moderator wrote in his final post, saying they had closed because “antis,” short for “anti-pedophiles,” were “hunting us to death with unprecedented zeal.”
The victory was cheered by groups fighting online child sexual abuse, but there were no illusions about the enormous undertaking that remained. Thousands of other sites offer anybody with a web browser access to illegal and depraved imagery of children, and unlike with apps, no special software or downloads are required.
The three shuttered sites had hidden their tracks for years using the services of Cloudflare, an American firm that provides companies with cyberprotections. They also found a hosting company, Novogara, that gave them safe harbor in the Netherlands — a small country with a robust web business and laws that are routinely exploited by bad actors.
Cloudflare's general counsel said the company had cooperated with the nonprofits and law enforcement and cut ties with the sites seven times in all, as they slightly altered their web addresses to evade targeting. A spokesman for Novogara said the company had complied with Dutch law.
Last year, Europe eclipsed the United States as the top hosting location for child abuse material on the open web, according to a report by Inhope, a group that coordinates child abuse hotlines around the world. Within Europe, the Netherlands led the list.
To report online child sexual abuse or find resources for those in need of help, contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678.
In an interview in The Hague, the Dutch minister of justice, Ferdinand Grapperhaus, said he was embarrassed by the role Dutch companies played. “I had not realized the extent of cruelty, and how far it goes,” he said.
When hotlines like the one in Canada learn about illegal imagery, they issue a takedown notice to the owner of the website and its hosting company. In most cases, the content is removed within hours or days from law-abiding sites. But because the notices are not legally binding, some owners and web hosts ignore or delay.
Several Dutch hosting companies will not voluntarily remove such content, insisting that a judge decide whether it meets the legal definition of so-called child pornography. Even when they agree, abuse imagery reappears almost at once, setting the cycle back in motion.
The Dutch police say they do not have the resources to play what is essentially an endless game of Whac-a-Mole with these companies, according to Arda Gerkens, a Dutch senator who leads Meldpunt Kinderporno, the Dutch child abuse hotline.
“It takes a lot of time,” Ms. Gerkens said, “and basically, they are swamped.”
That means results like last month's, while relished by hotlines around the world, are likely to remain rare.
‘Our Little Community'
The trio of shuttered websites first emerged in early 2012, according to domain records and transcripts of online chats.
Their professed goal was to offer an easily accessible digital space for pedophiles and sexual predators to indulge their twisted obsessions, which had often been shunned even on notorious websites like 4chan and 8chan.
At least initially, the sites steered clear of imagery that was obviously illegal, the records show, focusing instead on photos and videos of young children posing in revealing clothing. Even so, the founder of the sites identified in the transcripts expressed surprise in 2014 that they had “lasted so long.”
But the Canadians were already on to them. By then, the small hotline had been alerted to dozens of illegal images on the websites.
As the sites gained in popularity, child sexual abuse content became more and more common. The transcripts, which include over 10,000 time-stamped messages on a chat app, show how the founder, a man identifying himself as Avery Chicoine, reveled in the opportunity to interact with others who shared his interests.
“What we got here,” he wrote in 2015, “is our little community.”
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S.F. tech firm Cloudflare accused of protecting child-sexual-abuse websites, report says
Cloudflare lawyer says firm is working with investigators
By ETHAN BARON
San Francisco cybersecurity firm Cloudflare's services protected three child-sex-abuse websites for years, according to a new report.
The company, which sells website performance, reliability and security services, shielded the three sites from identification despite being notified by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children about abuse imagery on the sites, according to the report Monday in the New York Times. The sites have since shut down.
Cloudflare lawyer Doug Kramer told this news organization on Monday that since the company's founding, it has taken online sexual exploitation seriously and has “worked hard to understand our role and what we could do to help, despite the fact that we don't host content and aren't in a position to remove content from the internet.” Cloudflare works with a number of international groups to support their investigations by providing information about Cloudflare customers, Kramer said.
One of Cloudflare's most-popular services hides clients' internet addresses, “making it difficult to identify the companies hosting them,” according to the Times. “The protections are valuable to many legitimate companies but can also be a boon to bad actors.”
An executive at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children told the Times that starting in 2014 the center sent Cloudflare notices about the three sites, including thousands of notices last year, the report said.
A Canadian non-profit fighting child sex abuse that also investigated the sites provided records showing that since early 2017, more than 130,000 child-sexual-abuse reports were made about 1,800 sites Cloudflare protected, the Times reported. As of this month, the company was offering services to 450 sites that had been reported to the Canadian group, according to the Times, which cited the group's records.
Kramer told the Bay Area News Group in an emailed message that Cloudflare's cybersecurity services can protect a server from attacks, but that protection can make it hard for investigators to find and remove illegal content.
“We have worked to get rid of any barrier caused by our services for investigators and have included more than 60 entities … in our ‘trusted reporter' program to expedite information to them,” Kramer said. The company announced last month that it would develop a tool to allow investigators to get information “instantaneously,” Kramer said.
Cloudflare also has taken steps to cut services to a website when it becomes clear the site is dedicated to sharing child-sexual-abuse material or if the site operators don't take appropriate measures to take down such content, he said. He did not specify which sites had services cut or when any actions were taken.
The moderator of the three sites last month posted a message titled, “R.I.P,” according to the Times, which credited the Canadian Center for Child Protection with forcing the sites' closure.
“Rare Victory' in Fight Against Internet Sharing of Child Sex Abuse Photos
By TCR Staff
Images of child sex abuse are being shared by online predators, cloaked by technology, and tech companies, government, and authorities are “no match” for the crisis, reported The New York Times in an in-depth investigative series published in September.
The story, “The Internet is Overrun With Images of Child Sexual Abuse. What Went Wrong?”, reported: “Last year, tech companies reported over 45 million online photos and videos of children being sexually abused — more than double what they found the previous year.”
The investigation found “an insatiable criminal underworld that had exploited the flawed and insufficient efforts to contain it.”
In a follow up story published today, “Fighting the Good Fight Aganst Online Sexual Abuse,” the Times reported that several sites popular with sexual predators were thwarted last month after a determined campaign by groups dedicated to eliminating the content.
“It was a rare victory in an unending war,” said the Times.
While government agencies and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children are described as inadequate in their handling of the crisis, the tech companies are the direct cause of the explosion in this horrific abuse, the investigation found.
“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,” the story concluded.
In interviews with police and even the FBI, law enforcement admitted to being “crushed” by the exponential growth in this crime and forced to prioritize the cases with the youngest victims, many as young as 3 years old.
The Justice Department, which had been given a major role in dealing with the crime by Congress, “neglected even to write mandatory monitoring reports, nor did it appoint a senior executive-level official to lead a crackdown,” a ccording to the New York Times.
“And the group tasked with serving as a federal clearinghouse for the imagery — the go-between for the tech companies and the authorities — was ill equipped for the expanding demands”
The Times's reporting revealed a global problem “but one firmly rooted in the United States because of the central role Silicon Valley has played in facilitating the imagery's spread and in reporting it to the authorities.”
The crisis is poised to get even worse.
Encryption and anonymization can create “digital hiding places for perpetrators,” the story reported. Facebook announced in March plans to encrypt Messenger, which last year was responsible for nearly 12 million of the 18.4 million worldwide reports of child sexual abuse material.
Data obtained through a public records request “suggests Facebook's plans to encrypt Messenger in the coming years will lead to vast numbers of images of child abuse going undetected. The data shows that WhatsApp, the company's encrypted messaging app, “submits only a small fraction of the reports” Messenger does.
When Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, announced that Messenger would move to encryption, he acknowledged the risk it presented for “truly terrible things like child exploitation.”
Ex-Sheriff's Lieutenant Gets Life Terms for Child Sex Abuse
By The Associated Press
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A former southwest Missouri sheriff's lieutenant has been sentenced to six consecutive life terms for sexually abusing an 8-year-old girl.
Greene County Judge David Jones said during sentencing Friday that he hopes 68-year-old David Hastings never leaves prison, the Springfield News-Leader reported.
"You should never be released to do this to another child," Jones said.
Jurors found Hastings guilty in October of 11 felonies, including statutory rape, statutory sodomy and child molestation.
Assistant Greene County Prosecutor Stephanie Wan said Hastings groomed the victim before sexually abusing her for more than a year. Wan said Hastings, who maintains his innocence, has never taken responsibility for his actions.
"He is a complete and utter danger to the community," Wan said.
Hastings plans to appeal, according to his attorney, who asked for a 10-year prison sentence.
Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott told the News-Leader in 2018 that Hastings did not leave the sheriff's office on "good terms," but that he left before Arnott became sheriff in 2009.
13 sex trafficking statistics that explain the enormity of the global sex trade
By Cara Kelly, USA TODAY
Sex trafficking is a massive, worldwide problem that can take many forms.
One of the most prolific: America's multibillion-dollar illicit massage industry.
The prominence of illegal parlors and their ties to sex trafficking drew national attention in February with the arrest of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and hundreds of other men who police say solicited sex acts in Florida spas. In March, Martin County Sheriff Will Snyder told USA TODAY that the spas involved had “all the trappings of human trafficking.”
Law enforcement has ramped up it's tough-on-trafficking language in recent years, touting raids on illicit spas as proof of crackdowns. Yet, a USA TODAY investigation into recent high-profile raids in Florida found the outcomes don't match the rhetoric. Only one woman in the raids that saw Kraft arrested faces a charge related to trafficking. And in other cases, USA TODAY found instances where business at sex spas returned to normal within months of police activity.
The exact number of sex trafficking victims forced to work in illicit massage parlors is unknown. But reporting methods and analysis have improved in recent years, and advocates and researchers largely agree that the problem is growing, to as many as 9,000 illicit spas in the U.S. alone.
“These places have really benefited from being underestimated for decades,” said Brad Myles, CEO of Polaris, a nonprofit that operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline. “I think now there are certain communities finally kind of tapping into the reality that they've been underestimated and tapping into the enormity of the challenge.”
Here are 13 statistics that help explain the scope of the problem.
1. There are more than 4 million victims of sex trafficking globally
A study from the United Nations' International Labour Organization estimated 3.8 million adults and 1 million children were victims of forced sexual exploitation in 2016 around the world.
2. 99% are women and girls
The vast majority of sex trafficking victims are women and girls, though men, boys, trans, intersex and nonbinary individuals can be victims as well. The International Labour Organization estimates that 99% of the adults and children forced into sexual exploitation in 2016 are female.
3. There is no official estimate of sex trafficking victims in the U.S.
The State Department releases an annual report on human trafficking with breakdowns for individual countries, though it is largely focused on government actions to address the trafficking and does not estimate the total number of victims. However, in its 2019 report, the State Department found the top three nations of origin for human trafficking victims were the United States, Mexico and the Philippines. It does not break that figure down for sex trafficking alone.
Polaris tracks the number of reports made to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, a figure often used by researchers. In 2018, it received 5,147 reported cases of human trafficking. Of those, 3,718 were related to sex trafficking.
4. 7 in 10 victims were exploited in Asia and the Pacific region
According to the International Labour Organization report, more than 70% of sex trafficking victims were located in Asia and the Pacific, compared with 14% in Europe and Central Asia and 4% in the Americas.
In illicit massage parlors in the U.S., the vast majority of reported trafficking victims are from China, with a notable number from the Fujian province in southeastern China. South Korea forms the second highest group.
5. 1 in 7 reported runways in the U.S. in 2018 is likely a victim of child sex trafficking
In the U.S., sex trafficking victims include immigrants as well as American citizens. Though there is no official number, advocates and researchers say the number of domestic victims is high.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 1 in 7 of the more than 23,500 runaways reported to the nonprofit organization were likely victims of child sex trafficking.
6. Girls in foster care are particularly vulnerable
In recent years, a pipeline from the foster care system to trafficking has gained attention.
A report from the Human Rights Project for Girls, Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality and Ms. Foundation for Women supports that finding. Titled “The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline,” the report found that girls who grow up in the instability of the child welfare system, particularly those placed in multiple homes, are “vulnerable to the manipulation of traffickers who promise to love and care for them. Indeed, some traffickers purposely troll for youth in certain group homes because they are aware of this vulnerability.”
7. Profits from forced sexual labor are estimated at $99 billion worldwide
According to a 2014 report from the International Labour Organization on forced labor, commercial sexual exploitation accounted for two thirds of the profits from forced labor. And forced sex work commanded the highest profits per victim compared to other types of labor like domestic work.
8. Profits are highest per sex trafficking victim in developed economies
Though the number of victims is highest in Asia, the annual profits per victim were highest in developed countries because traffickers can charge more for sex acts. The International Labour Organization estimates annual rates of around $80,000 per victim in developed countries and $55,000 in the Middle East.
9. There are an estimated 9,000 illicit massage parlors across the U.S.
Polaris estimates that more than 9,000 illicit spas operate across America. In a 2017 report , the nonprofit found that illicit parlors are in business in every state – in suburban strip malls as well as big cities.
According to a 2014 report from the Urban Institute, the number of illicit parlors is growing and they're expanding beyond hubs on the East and West coasts.
10. Profits from illicit massage parlors are estimated at $2.5 billion
In its report, Polaris calculated the total based on a national average of two women working at each illicit massage parlor, with an average of 12 men visiting each parlor a day spending $60 per visit, based on commercial sex review boards.
Similar estimates were calculated by researchers who published a 2017 article in the Journal of Human Trafficking. Researchers found the industry brought in $107 million annually in Houston, and extrapolated that figure to $2.8 billion nationally.
11. Events like the Super Bowl increasingly are monitored for sex trafficking
Efforts to combat trafficking around major events have increased in recent years, most notably around the Super Bowl.
"It's not necessarily about football or the NFL," Courtney Dow, an outreach coordinator for the Atlanta-based nonprofit Dream Center, told USA TODAY before Super Bowl LIII in January. "When groups of men get together, usually trafficking and exploitation increases.”
In May, police arrested four men on human-trafficking-related charges following a sting around the Kentucky Derby. Louisville Metro Police said those arrested were from out of town and had responded to online advertisements for sexual acts with minors.
Advocates are split on whether events increase trafficking, however.
"We actually think that trafficking is a major issue 365 days a year," Miles said. "The same 20,000 pimps are moving around to where the action is."
12. Prosecutions of sex trafficking are down in the U.S.
The State Department's 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report found the Department of Justice opened significantly fewer human trafficking investigations in 2018 compared to 2017, dropping from 783 to 657. It also reported significantly fewer prosecutions: 230, down from 282.
That holds true for cases specifically focused on sex trafficking. Of the prosecutions, 213 were for sex trafficking, down from 266 in 2017.
13. Victims are still arrested for crimes they were forced to commit by traffickers
The State Department's report found that at the state and local level, victims are still being arrested for crimes they're compelled to commit such as commercial sex work, including child victims.
This comes despite a push for “safe harbor” laws, passed in at least 34 states, which are meant to stop child sex trafficking victims from being prosecuted for prostitution and other charges related to commercial sex. Forty-four states have passed laws allowing survivors to seek a court order vacating, expunging or sealing convictions that resulted from acts traffickers forced them to commit.
Need help? See something?
The National Human Trafficking Hotline is confidential, toll-free and available 24/7 in more than 200 languages.
Text: “BeFree” (233733)
How can social services lose 18,000 children - and not look for them?
by Darcy Olsen
This year, an estimated 18,000 American children will disappear, but their families will not be looking for them. Neighbors will not canvas the streets. Our Facebook feeds will not show their pictures. And after six months, the records of their existence may close entirely.
This is the fate awaiting children who vanish while in the care and custody of America's child-protection system. Some run to escape abuse. Some follow false promises of love and security. Still others are kidnapped outright.
No matter the reason for falling off the grid, many of these boys and girls will resurface on the black market as child sex slaves. According to the FBI, more than half of trafficked children in America were in the care of social services when they disappeared. That is a damning statistic for a system whose sole purpose is to keep children safe.
Arizona can close cases after 6 months
Withelma “T” Pettigrew, one of TIME magazine's 100 most influential people, was one of those children in foster care who became a trafficking victim. T testified to Congress : “I spent, for the most part, the first 18 years of my life in the foster-care system. Seven of those years, I was a child being sexually trafficked on the streets, Internet, strip clubs, massage parlors ... Traffickers, pimps, exploiters have no fear of punishment because they rely on the lack of attention that occurs when these young people go missing.”
Making matters worse, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children found that “historically, many of these children were not being reported missing.” To correct that, federal law enacted in 2014 required that state agencies must report a missing child to law enforcement within 24 hours. Reports of children missing from care have since more than doubled.
But reporting a child missing is only a first step in what should be a 24/7 search. Every missing child counts, regardless of race, gender, age or social status.
The state is the legal guardian of these children, but Arizona law allows a case to be closed after the child has been missing from care for only six months. That responsibility should end only when the child is in a permanent and safe home — not because the child has disappeared.
Keep searching until they're found
Giving up on finding a child after six months is contrary to the very purpose of being a guardian. Closing the books also gives predators a green light: If you can keep a kid hidden for six months, you're home free. Predators should know that we will never give up on finding these children — ever.
Twenty years ago, families relied on newspapers, flyers and milk cartons to find a missing person. Today, social media can spread the news of a missing child in seconds. The ability to rapidly disseminate the word has saved many lives. Children who vanish from state care should be entitled to no less, and Arizonans would be eager to help.
Similarly, all of us can support the hard work of local law enforcement by becoming more aware of potential predators around us by checking the sex-offender registry.
Arizona would benefit from a robust conversation between law enforcement, child-protection workers, private agencies and the children and families who have lived through this experience. With a goal of modernizing and strengthening safety procedures, we can work to provide the same safeguards for children in state care that we would demand for our own.