| Today's NAASCA news:
May 25, 2013
Oak Park survivor of childhood sexual abuse offers workshops to help others
by MEREDITH MORRIS
OAK PARK — Duane Hughes is determined to make a difference by helping prevent the incidence of childhood sexual abuse.
Hughes himself learned to thrive after such abuse, having suffered years of torment by his stepfather.
“You have a person in your life who's supposed to be someone of authority, someone you respect,” Hughes said, recalling his own abuse, which lasted from when he was 9 to 15 years old.
“It felt like there was something wrong with me,” he said. “That's how it started. But that turned out to be a complete manipulation.”
Hughes recently launched Are You Playing Hurt In Life (R U PHIL), an educational and advocacy initiative that targets adults who are in a position to identify and advocate for children being sexually abused, as well as survivors recovering from that abuse.
His effort includes keynote addresses, workshops and mentoring programs based on his “Playing Hurt in Life Playbook” principles that Hughes adopted to express himself as an abuse survivor. By sharing the playbook, he intends to help fellow survivors define their voices and express themselves to the world.
“The key to the whole thing is that it's from the survivor's point of view, which makes it a little bit different,” Hughes said.
Hughes, now a 46-year-old father of five, grew up in Tennessee, Washington, Texas and Oregon. His family's mobility resulted in a lack of long-term connections that is typical in childhood sexual abuse situations, Hughes said.
“Silencing of voice, shame; those types of things are weapons for abusers. The only way to disarm them is to talk openly,” Hughes said.
Hughes found refuge in sports, which boosted his self-esteem and led him to become an all-state high school athlete. He later earned a Division I scholarship to play football at Oregon State University.
R U PHIL builds on a truth Hughes gleaned from football: playing when you are hurt is part of the game. Following his own abuse, Hughes “played hurt” for more than 20 years.
Today, R U PHIL keynotes address child advocates, including coaches, teachers, parents, community groups and others. The workshops are similar in content but hours longer and more detailed.
“In my keynotes and my workshops we talk about some of the patterns associated with abusers,” Hughes said. He also works to “give the advocates an understanding of the stereotypes projected on us [survivors] by society and how we may or may not deal with them.”
Some stereotypes associated with childhood sexual abuse survivors include promiscuity, tendency to become abusers and questions of sexual orientation, Hughes said.
Another branch of Hughes' work is mentoring childhood sexual abuse survivors.
Childhood sexual abuse statistics are hard to find because abuse is often hidden. Yet based on reporting percentages, the incidence could be anywhere from 260,000 to 650,000 children a year, according to the advocacy group Stop It Now!
Hughes said his recovery took time.
“After the actual abuse stopped, I still had to live in the same house with him,” he said of his stepfather. “After leaving the house, just starting to understand what I'd been through, I could feel that I was hurt. I was fully functional but carrying around this extra weight for a long period of time. I knew I was limited emotionally.”
Hughes said half of all males who are sexually abused as children have suicidal thoughts; 20 percent attempt suicide.
“Over the years I just continued to work at healing myself. I knew I would do something to apply my experience to helping others but didn't know what,” he said.
Hughes, who holds an MBA, is also an entrepreneur with more than 15 years in sales and management.
“I hope I can leave in my wake many people on the path to healing, whatever that may look like, and on the path to doing something similar to what I'm doing,” he said. “I didn't have mentors for this. All I had was the principles I learned from coaches, sports and my professional life that have made me successful.”
PREVENT AND SPOT SEXUAL ABUSE
To schedule an “R U PHIL” keynote or seminar, visit RUPHIL.com or call Duane Hughes at 708-851-1427. Fees may apply.
Priests, nuns form group to keep church honest on sex abuse issues
by Ben Feuerherd
New York -- A group calling itself “Catholic Whistleblowers” celebrated its launch at a Manhattan news conference May 22.
The group's message:
Catholics who blow the whistle on the sexual abuse of minors in the church deserve a network they can turn to for support;
A decade after the church issued “zero tolerance guidelines” for abuse, it is still mishandling these cases;
The bishops who mishandle these cases must be held accountable.
Founding member Dominican Sr. Sally Butler of Brooklyn, N.Y., said the creation of a nationwide “whistleblower protection program” is necessary. “Clearly, the women and men who work for the church now fear reprisals for speaking out,” she said.
Attorney Marci A. Hamilton, the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at Cardozo Law School in Manhattan, said that she and her team of five law students have promised to defend any whistleblowers who come forward.
Hamilton, a children's rights activist, said she sees the current sexual abuse crisis as a civil rights issue for children. “This boils down to the pursuit of truth,” she said.
Eight founding members of the group gathered at Cardoza Law School to read prepared statements and field questions from the media. The group comprises current and former priests, women religious, and laypeople who support survivors of sexual abuse.
Presenters at the news conference included: Butler; Hamilton; Fr. John Bambrick of the Trenton, N.J., diocese; Robert Hoatson, co-founder of Road to Recovery, a group that works with survivors of sexual abuse; Fr. Ken Lasch, a retired priest of the Paterson, N.J., diocese; Fr. Ronald Lemmert, a priest ordained in New York; Notre Dame de Namur Sr. Maureen Turlish; Fr. James Connell of Milwaukee; and Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle.
In his statement, Bambrick discussed why he is involved in Catholic Whistleblowers. Bambrick was one of two priests to testify before the U.S. bishops in Dallas in 2002, when a zero-tolerance policy on sex abuse was established. At the Dallas meeting, Bambrick said, former St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop Harry Flynn, who chaired the bishops' ad committee on sexual abuse by priests, publicly demanded that Bambrick hold the bishops accountable.
“He turned to me and said, ‘John, as a priest I want you to hold us to these promises we make to you today; I want you to confront us and hold us accountable.' ”
But, according to the group, a decade after the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was drafted, bishops who fail to uphold it do not face repercussions from the church.
Referring to bishops who have violated the Dallas Charter, Bambrick said, “I can draw a straight line from west to east. We have witnessed chicanery in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Kansas City [Mo.], and just this month in Newark, N.J.”
Hoatson pointed to the case of Fr. Michael Fugee of the Newark archdiocese, who was not removed from ministry after allegations of child abuse were lodged against him.
“I notified the media in 2009 of the appointment of child abuser Fr. Michael Fugee as hospital chaplain at St. Michael's [Medical Center] in Newark,” Hoatson said. “He was … subsequently appointed to two other leadership positions within Newark archdiocesan headquarters.”
Later, though he was supposed to be under supervision, Fugee attended parish youth group events and even overnight trips in the Trenton, N.J., diocese.
Lemmert offered a list of appeals that Catholic Whistleblowers would like met:
New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, should use his influence to press the Vatican to remove Newark Archbishop John Myers because of his mishandling of the Fugee case.
All bishops and legislators should remove all statutes of limitations on child sex abuse cases.
The bishops should create protection policies for all priests, nuns and other church employees who report child sexual abuse or cover-up to civil authorities.
The group recently wrote to Pope Francis with a list of six recommendations. “ Most importantly ,” the group's leaders wrote (emphasis in original), “establish within the Holy See an international body composed of Survivors of Clergy Sexual Abuse, lay professionals and clergy who will be responsible for the facilitation in all dioceses of a dialogue between the Church and victims/survivors of clergy sexual abuse.”
The letter also called for any “pledges of secrecy” by church officials to be revoked and for files regarding clergy sex abuse to be made public.
Participants at the event offered a range of ideas for meeting these goals. Certain members said they believe change will come “from the bottom up” if enough lay Catholics pay attention to the problem. Others advocated withholding financial support from dioceses to pressure church leadership.
Lasch said that he believes the Dallas Charter is not only improperly implemented, but also fundamentally flawed. Limiting the charter's “young people” to those below the age of 18 omits an important group of potential victims, he said. The charter is “not applicable in responding to vulnerable adults who have been victims of sexual harassment, attempted rape and rape by Catholic clergy or religious,” he said.
For some members of the group, the answer to the sex abuse crisis does not stop with reform of the Dallas Charter or acknowledgment of whistleblowers. Civil law must also be amended.
Turlish said statute of limitations reform is integral in the fight for justice. “No religious denomination … should be depended upon to police itself regarding the sexual abuse of vulnerable populations,” she said. “That is society's responsibility.”
“I wouldn't trust them [the U.S. bishops] to do what's right, given their track record,” she told NCR .
For Butler, changes in civil law need to go beyond statute of limitations reform.
Butler worked in Brooklyn public housing projects for more than 40 years. It was decades after her service began that she learned three priests she worked with had molested countless children, including her foster son. Fed up with the inaction of the Brooklyn archdiocese regarding these cases, she and other sisters contacted The New York Times in 2002 and told their story.
Butler said she is “particularly concerned about people of color in poor parishes throughout the country who have not been able to report the abuse.” She said that people of color “usually cannot trust the church — a white institution — or the criminal justice system.”
We know who to suspect. Or, at least, we think we do. It's why we teach kids about "stranger danger" and inappropriate touching, to be wary of the overly affectionate priest, the weirdo teacher, the touchy-feely coach. Still, we're not that naive. Solemnly, we acknowledge sexual abuse happens in families, too - all those nightmare horror-stories of older relatives and parents sneaking into kids' bedrooms at night. Yet there's another form of sexual abuse, one that only seems to be discussed in inverse proportion to how often it happens. Greatly under-reported, sibling sex abuse, researchers agree, is the most common form of intra-familial sexual abuse, a scenario far more common than fathers abusing daughters.
Carmen Burnet was four when her brother Samuel,* eight years her senior, started molesting her. Samuel, as the eldest of the five siblings raised by their mother (their father left when Carmen was two), was the only one to have a bedroom to himself. "If he invited one of the younger kids to his bedroom, that was like you were the special one," Carmen says. "Occasionally, he would let one of us go into his room and look at his toy soldiers or whatever, things we couldn't normally touch or look at. What I remember happening was me going into his room on that sort of pretext. Then it turned into something different: him getting me to take my underpants off and looking at me, and maybe touching me a bit. Then the day just went on as normal, as if nothing had happened."
Looking back on it now, Carmen says that it started out as "not a very bad thing". The sort of thing, she says, that was hard to pin down as definitely being wrong or weird. When the family moved from Sydney to Canberra in 1987, what Samuel did escalated in frequency and intensity. Samuel openly loathed having to move to Canberra, and Carmen now looks back and suspects she became an outlet for his frustration, adding that he was abusing the other siblings verbally and physically, too. "He got more forceful," she says. "The sorts of things he was doing definitely felt much more full-on." Quietly, she explains the abuse began to involve full penetration.
Carmen was 12 when she finally told her mother that Samuel had repeatedly abused and raped her between the ages of seven and 10. Unlike many other parents who are told one of their children is sexually abusing another, Carmen's mother believed her immediately. After all, Samuel had been six-foot tall for as long as anyone could remember, with muscles and a tremendous capacity for violence. "The times that police got called to our house for domestic violence were because he'd beaten up our mum so badly that she was unconscious," Carmen says. "He was a pretty dangerous sort of person."
Carmen's mother responded to the news the only way she knew how: she went out and confronted Samuel about the sexual abuse. "She came back with him, we all went inside and she then immediately wanted everything to be all right," Carmen says. "She didn't want there to be 'any dramas' and she wanted us to be friends. Immediately, there was this pressure on me to be fine and conciliatory and not be mad at him." The message was clear: it was up to Carmen whether this family could move forward or not. Carmen now sees her mother's strategy as completely inappropriate, but adds that "I think she felt out of her depth".
Afterwards, Carmen's mother booked the two siblings into counselling at a family health centre in Canberra. "Which was not what I wanted," Carmen says. Here she was, trapped in a room with a complete stranger and the brother who had sexually abused her so violently that on one occasion she had to see a doctor to ensure permanent damage hadn't been done to her genitals and internal organs. "It just made me feel worse," she says of counselling with Samuel. "I was speechless. I couldn't manage to say anything. I was totally intimidated by him. He was really smarmy and wanting me to forgive and forget, be friends, leave all that in the past. Mum thought it was fine for him to try to hug me, try to talk to me. I wanted to avoid him as much as possible."
Dr Gary Foster from Living Well - a Queensland-based organisation that supports male survivors of sexual abuse - points out that young people who experience sibling sexual abuse often don't know how they want their parents or guardians to respond. When considering disclosure, ghastly possibilities and questions race through their minds. "For instance, 'Are they going to kick him out?' 'What's going to change?' Or, 'They might never kick him out, so then I have to live in the same family.' "Often, Foster says, abuse victims opt to keep the peace instead. "They think, 'It would be too distressing and upsetting for my parents. And I'm kind of managing it. Maybe I can just push through, block it out.'"
It's the attitude and approach adopted by Zach, another victim of sibling child abuse. For Zach, however, it meant he found himself being forced to invite his older brother Billy - who groomed Zach to repeatedly masturbate and perform oral sex and analingus on him - to be groomsman at his wedding. To this day, Zach, now 25, still hasn't told a single member of his family what Billy did to him. By the time Zach's wedding came around, no one except Zach and his fiancée knew his brother had molested him. His fiancée was horrified by the prospect of Billy even attending the wedding and implored Zach to confront his brother.
"But I was uncomfortable doing that," Zach says. "I guess I came to a place where I thought, 'My life has really turned out all right.' I was almost halfway through my uni degree, I was moving towards a pretty great career, and I was getting married to someone I loved deeply. In that respect, I thought, 'Well, this hasn't screwed me up too much; I've overcome it. We can move forward, he can be a groomsman and we don't have to worry about what happened in the past - we can have a great future."
When he reflects on the wedding itself now, Zach struggles to find the words. "It was the best day of my life, but it was also ..." He trails off. This is the thing about sibling sexual abuse: as much as you want it all to remain in the past, it's impossible to shake off. And as much as you might want these people out of your orbit, family is still family.
Jack lives just outside Sydney. He's 51, but good skin and a lean body means he looks a decade younger. Wearing a black muscle shirt and metal scorpion pendant, Jack also looks tough, like someone who could beat the living snot out of you if it came to that. But it's clear that Jack is gentle: a husband who married his childhood sweetheart; a dad who still kisses his adult kids goodbye. In his spare time, he writes poetry. The only time Jack seems to get angry or upset is when he talks about his childhood - in particular, his older brother Dennis. "Forgiveness didn't work for me," he says.
Of the sprawling bunch of kids who grew together in Sydney's west, Jack was the youngest. Dennis was six years older. Jack was intelligent and bookish, while Dennis was the family's golden-haired child and clearly their dad's favourite. Dennis was also - in Jack's words - a bastard. "He'd tie grasshoppers to skyrockets; crucify lizards on the back fence. He used to take me for a ride on a billy cart or pushbike and we'd get a certain distance from home, then he'd give me a belting and leave me to walk home crying."
Every night around 5pm, their dad would call Jack for his bath. One evening, Dennis came in the bathroom while Jack was getting dressed and produced a $1 note. To a kid in 1968, that represented a lot of money. If Jack wanted the money, all he had to do was what Dennis asked. "What he did," Jack says, staring dead ahead, "was he sat down on the chair that was in the bathroom and got me to sit on his lap. He proceeded to stick his penis up my backside, which hurt and felt very wrong. I cried. He was hissing at me: 'Shut the f... up', 'Open up your arse' - that type of thing." Jack was seven; Dennis was 13.
This happened four or five times - Jack can't be sure - except that on subsequent occasions Dennis no longer bribed Jack with money. If Jack didn't co-operate, Dennis belted him hard instead: bit him, punched him, slapped him around. Jack only escaped his brother's rapes once, when he reached between his legs, twisted Dennis's balls with a clamp-like fist and refused to let go until Dennis released him. Jack shakes his head thinking about it now. "With me crying and trying to basically fight Dennis off, I look back now and I wonder why nobody heard, why nobody intervened. The only thing I can think of is they were just used to him being a prick to me."
When Jack started waking up with Dennis in bed beside him - either raping him or attempting to - he demanded to know how Dennis even got there. Dennis said their father put him in the same bed so the brothers could share warmth on cold nights; Jack confronted their father and told him to stop it. When their father asked why, Jack came out with it: that Dennis was "doing things to my bottom". Jack says he will never forget the expression on his father's face when he told him. "He looked at me with utter disgust. It could be argued that he was disgusted with my brother, but I felt then, and I still feel now, that his disgust and contempt was for me. His reaction was, 'What do you want me to do? Beat him up?' I was lost for words. Of course I wanted him beaten up; of course I wanted him punished. But it never happened."
For a while though, the abuse stopped. Eight years later, Jack was 15 and had just met the girl whom he'd eventually marry. Out of nowhere, Dennis - still living at home - started raping Jack again. "I had no chance fighting against him," Jack says. "A 15-year-old against a 22-year-old? It's not going to happen. To my eternal shame I got to the point where I thought, 'Let him get on with it.' I didn't see any point in going to Dad."
To Jack, it seemed no one would ever believe him, anyway. It would be years later - decades, in fact - when he figured maybe the police would.
How frequently sex abuse occurs between siblings in Australia is impossible to gauge. Dr Daryl Higgins, a child-abuse expert from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, says the statistics just aren't available. One 2011 US study, however, estimated half of all adolescent-perpetrated sexual offences involved a sibling, while a 2012 UK study concluded sibling incest was the most common form of family sex abuse - at least five times more common than parent-child incest. In Australia, the New Street Adolescent Service - a NSW program addressing under-18s who have sexually abused people - consistently finds that roughly 50 per cent of their clients' victims are siblings. Still, Higgins says it's difficult to get exact numbers or estimates in this country. "Small-scale studies tell us what issues [victims] face," he says, "but it doesn't tell us about how prevalent it is."
Complicating matters is the question of how to define sibling sexual abuse. At what point does normal childhood sexual experimentation become molestation and rape? Do kids and teenagers even know what they're doing is wrong? In the 1980s, researchers defined sexual behaviour between siblings as abuse when there was an age gap of five years or more. While most cases of sibling sexual abuse do fall into that range (a 2010 study of 17 female victim-survivors showed a median age gap of 4.18 years), many researchers nowadays point out that using age as a criteria ignores cases involving slightly older siblings, twins, and younger siblings who might be physically stronger or use coercion.
Helen Kambouridis, a senior psychologist at Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital who has worked with young victims of sexual abuse for 15 years, says because there are so many grey zones, it is also unhelpful to label minors who abuse their siblings as "perpetrators" or "offenders". "We don't use that language," she says. "Effectively, they're kids. And they're kids who - for the most part - have been victims of some sort of trauma of their own, possibly sexual abuse. Part of the difficulty we face is [asking], 'What's underneath this? What's motivating a kid to engage in behaviour like this?' What we do find is kids who have been exposed to a sort of trauma that has basically screwed with their template for relating with people."
This isn't always the case, however. Talia looks back on her childhood and says she can't explain what she did to her two younger sisters. The eldest of three girls, Talia - now 25 - is five years older than her middle sister and six years older than the youngest. When Talia was nine, she would play games with them, usually one at a time, re-enacting scenes from the film Grease . "It started as just childish games," she says, "like playing doctors and nurses. Then it ... stopped being games." Soon, their play involved genital touching and coerced oral sex. "There was trickery involved. I never threatened them but it was, 'Make sure Mum doesn't find out. Make sure we don't tell her.'"
Talia visibly shakes talking about it now, looking ashen with regret. "If it had ended at doctors and nurses - being naked around each other, looking and touching at bits and pieces - I think I could justify that and be okay. And while I've got all the symptoms of someone who has been sexually abused - highly sexualised behaviours; abusing others - I'm pretty sure that never happened. I kind of wish it had, because then I could explain my behaviour. Not to get excused, but there would be a reason as to why I did it."
Strangely, neither of Talia's sisters seems to recall any of this happening. Talia has never broached it directly with them, but says that whenever sexual jokes or stories come up, she watches them closely for anything in their response to confirm they know what Talia knows. They've never reacted. It is possible they were too young, or simply don't regard the incidents in the same way Talia does. Either way, Talia has decided never to broach the subject with them. In fact, she's never told anyone what she did between the ages of nine and 11, except for her psychologist and Good Weekend. Not even her husband knows. "The thing that hurts me the most is they're the two people I love most in the world, and they're the ones I've hurt most."
In early 2012, Talia had a nervous breakdown, set off by work pressures but fuelled by the roaring tide of guilt over what she did to her younger sisters years ago. Drinking heavily, Talia violently cut herself repeatedly and had to be admitted to emergency. Later, her psychologist suggested to Talia that what happened with her sisters wasn't abuse, but "sexual play that went too far". Talia disagrees. "I've decided to see it as abuse and deal with it that way." After all, Talia works in psychology herself and has read the literature. She can't let herself off the hook. "My main reason for thinking it's abuse is because there's a five-year age gap," she says. "I should have known better."
"I should have known better." it's a thought that ricochets in parents' minds, too, after they discover one child has been abusing another. "I don't think people, one, think it's possible, and two, would even want to think it was possible," Kambouridis says. "I can't think of a worse position for a parent to be in. You've raised two kids in the same way, and one of them did this to the other? How did that happen?"
Often, parents respond with blanket denial or they downplay its severity. When Sofia emails Good Weekend , she says her story seems minor compared to other stories she's heard. "In the scheme of things, I'm not terribly damaged by it," she writes. When she later tells her story to me in person though, it's clear what happened to her in childhood still deeply affects her. "My cousin and my brother ..." she begins, then catches herself, gulping. "Sorry," she says, blinking tears. She tries to start again. Much of the pain Sofia now feels, she explains, is that her mother didn't believe that what her cousin and brother did was sexual abuse.
Sofia was seven when her mother, older brother and extended family all stayed together in a beach house one summer. A male cousin - five years her senior - and Sofia's brother told her they wanted to show her "what grown-ups did". They took her into a private room, started kissing her on the mouth, then undressed her and touched her with their genitals. Sofia had no vocabulary to express what was going on. "I was seven," she says. "I had no idea of sexuality." The incident repeated itself several times over the summer. School reports from before that summer described Sofia as outgoing, happy and confident. Afterwards, she was described as quiet, shy and not interacting so much with the class.
Some years later, while still in primary school, Sofia's friend Raelene confided to her that her father had sexually molested her. Horrified, Sofia told her mother, who responded by saying, "That can't be right. She must be lying. Kids lie." After counselling in her 20s, Sofia understood that what her brother and cousin did to her was sexual abuse, too. She rang her mother. All she wanted, looking back, was recognition and acknowledgement that it happened. "They were just experimenting," her mother said. "They didn't mean any harm." Just like that, the conversation was over. "I was extremely disappointed," Sofia says. (Later, when Sofia told an online friend that her brother had molested her, she went outside, bent over and nearly threw up.)
"How would anyone react?" Kambouridis says of parents being told of sibling sexual abuse. "There's clearly no kind of guidebook - not least because there's not a lot of awareness of this sort of stuff. I don't know that there could be anything more difficult than to open yourself up to that."
Jack was 21 when he realised he could kill his brother. Both Jack and Dennis had children by now. They were at their mother's place, horsing around with their kids under the garden hose, when Jack lifted Dennis right off the ground. For the first time, Jack realised he was now the stronger brother. It would take nothing, he thought, to smash open his brother's skull and spill his brains all over the cement. A quiet, tense moment of shared understanding passed between them as Jack put Dennis down. "It was a huge moment," Jack says now. "It made me think I wouldn't have any problems with this ever again, that I was finally strong enough to defend myself."
Still, Jack couldn't shake his bedtime ritual of thinking about all the times Dennis had raped him. "There was a voice in my head, saying to me, 'When are you going to do something about this?' ”Another voice would talk back, "I don't want to hurt my mother. I'll do it in 10 years' time, or 20 years' time." Decades passed. By the time Jack was 45, he was close to losing it. He'd developed intense anger-management problems and had volcanic road rage. His entire family noticed it. What they didn't know was that Jack was also regularly contemplating suicide. "It was like a monster," he says of his rage towards his brother. "It just got bigger and bigger and it was dominating my whole life." One day, he finally told his wife by saying, "You know I've never really liked my brother. Here's why." That first revelation was like a crack in the dam. From there, Jack told his adult sons and his GP, who referred him to a counsellor. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Against the advice of his counsellor, Jack decided to confront Dennis in person. When Dennis - now deeply Christian - admitted to the abuse and asked Jack to forgive him, Jack left feeling stronger and happier. "But it only lasted a few weeks," he says. "Then I started to think, 'Hang on, I let him get away with too much.'” In 2010 Jack spoke to police, who eventually arranged for him to wear a wire tap while talking to Dennis. That evidence propelled Dennis to plead guilty to three acts of buggery that had occurred in 1976. Sentenced to a year for each crime, to be served concurrently, Dennis is still in prison. Jack says he sleeps much better nowadays.
Carmen Burnet, however, has mixed feelings about taking Samuel to court. When she took him to trial in 1993, when she was 17, it was one of the ACT's first incest trials. "The catalyst for deciding to go to the police was that he was trying to get custody of his daughter, who by then was 2 1/2," she says. "I just thought, 'No, I've got to do something to protect her. I am not going to just stand by and let him potentially do the same thing to her.' I don't know that he would have, but the fact that he'd been so lacking in remorse or guilt or anything in relation to me made me feel pretty frightened."
Carmen describes the court experience as "nasty", adding that she wasn't allowed to give evidence via video link but instead was forced to give evidence in person, with dozens of journalists and complete strangers staring at her and listening to her testimony. Of the six charges - including carnal knowledge, sexual intercourse without consent, and acts of indecency - Samuel pleaded guilty to only one minor charge of "committing an act of indecency", and a jury found him not guilty of all the others. Samuel was given a good-behaviour bond and ordered to pay Carmen $500 in compensation.
"I felt [like] I hadn't been believed," Carmen says. "Of course, I knew rationally that there was always the risk of an acquittal, but I wanted to believe that if I did the hard thing - of going through the courts - that would be worth it. That people would see and understand and that he would get convicted. When that didn't happen, I was left with this huge void of disbelief. I hadn't prepared myself for that possibility at all. It was total shock. The only way I'd been able to go through with it was with the belief he'd be convicted."
Carmen says the one thing that made it worthwhile was that Samuel was prevented from gaining custody of his daughter. In the scheme of things, though, it was a small victory.
Carmen spoke to Good Weekend immediately after an appointment with her psychologist. Right now, Carmen has intensive psychotherapy three times a week to address the complex PTSD she developed as a result of her sexual abuse and the resulting court case. "That's been an ongoing thing that, periodically, totally disables me," she says, adding she has received the disability pension since 1998. "Most of the time I can function to some degree, but I haven't had the sort of stability that you'd need to be reliable for a job."
Two-and-a-half years ago, Carmen's PTSD got so bad that she started a new regimen of medication and underwent intensive psychotherapy three times a week. When asked how she is now, Carmen smiles a little. "I've only been in hospital twice in the last two-and-a-half years," she says, "so that's not too bad." Now, Carmen has non-existent or patchy relationships with her remaining siblings, though is close to some of her nieces and nephews. She has no contact with either parent. In all of this, though, she's also been able to find love: she's been married for the past four years.
But, she says, "It's always going to be an aspect about myself and about my past that I somehow have to navigate or deal with. It doesn't go away. It still really hurts to have had trust betrayed so badly ... by someone who was a brother. And to have not been safe and protected in a situation where that's what we should have had: safety and protection."
Living Well's Gary Foster says all those feelings sexual-abuse survivors experience - shame, confusion, self-blame - are only amplified when the abuser is a sibling. "Say there's an uncle who's 25 years older," he says. "There's the sense that, 'This was an abusive relationship and there's not much I can do.' Or if you're attacked out of the blue, it's like, 'What more could I have done?'"
Sibling-abuse victims, on the other hand, are often initially invited into the behaviour from someone with whom they already have an intimate bond. "It can mess with your mind so much more," says Foster. "Abuse might happen at night, yet they'll go down to breakfast and everybody's behaving normally. They go on holidays with the family [together]. In front of everybody, it's all fun. You become trained very quickly in pretending and covering this up, even though you've got this incredible emotional turmoil happening. It's hard enough for adults to get their heads around the issue. Imagine what it's like for a 10-year old."
For Sofia, her confusion over what her cousin and brother did to her was that it didn't fit the classic narrative of sexual abuse. But one thing that has changed since undergoing counselling as an adult is she no longer carries any shame over what her brother did. "I'm not ashamed for myself," she says. "But I'm ashamed I'm related to him."
* Except for Carmen Burnet, all names of victims, perpetrators and family members have been changed.
Lifeline 13 11 14; Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800.
The inner child still weeps
Accounts of sexual abuse at the Home for Colored Children echo with the sting of anguish
Tessie Brooks is 14.
She's just run away from home, and been lured into sleeping with an older man.
Soon, the authorities come calling and she lands in the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children on the outskirts of Dartmouth.
In the two years that follow, she'll become a “lover” of a worker there, having sex with him up to five times a week in the back of his car, or in the locked third-floor “sick room” at the home, or behind Graham Creighton Junior High School just down the road.
She'll be brought from the orphanage to his house and meet his girlfriend, his mother, his grandmother and his friends.
She'll be coached how to tell other staffers at the home that she's going to a friend's house or to see another worker at her place.
But really she's meeting the man, who is in his mid- to late 20s, to have sex.
She'll learn to lie for him, and for herself, and to pick on another girl who said he'd raped her.
And when the time comes, he'll drive her to the nearby gas station, where she'll just happen to run into her previous boyfriend, who has since become a pimp.
Not long after, at 16, she's told she has to leave the orphanage. With no skills or education, there's nowhere to go but back to the boyfriend, to work for him as a prostitute in Montreal.
Ten years pass. She runs drugs for dealers, and sells them. On the streets, she asks men if they want “some company.”
Her pimp butts out his cigarettes on her chest. In a small Montreal apartment, she watches as he takes a searing hot coat hanger to another one of his “girls,” and listens to her screams.
Now 45 and living in Ottawa, Brooks wonders how society can gasp at the thought of children being abused but fail to honour her story now that she's an adult — a story that is hauntingly similar to those told by scores of young people who have passed through the doors of the Dartmouth orphanage.
Brooks says she'll have no peace until someone believes her. She's been praying for a public inquiry so she and all the others who allege they've been assaulted at the home can have their say.
But that's not going to happen. The Nova Scotia government is instead forming an independent panel to look into the claims of former residents. The province recently appointed a social worker to come up with the terms of reference for the panel.
That's not what Brooks and other former residents have been fighting for, they say. They fear their stories of what happened to them won't ever make it into Nova Scotia's public fabric.
Brooks trusts few people and has been feeling tortured since learning that the RCMP decided not to charge the home staffer she claims destroyed her childhood. (The Mounties have said they didn't have enough evidence to lay charges in her case and more than 40 others involving alleged abuse at the home.)
“I'm mad at the home, I'm mad at Children's Aid,” she says of the organization that was supposed to help protect her.
Brooks is doing this interview at a Halifax hotel, having travelled here to tell her story. Her voice often trembles, and tears sporadically stream down her face.
She can't understand why other orphanage staffers who knew about her abuse — and she can name names — didn't tell the authorities.
And last year when it looked like the home worker who raped her might face criminal charges, he phoned her, threatening suicide.
His crimes had now somehow become her problem, Brooks remembers.
“He called me. He said he's choosing clothes for his funeral. I could hear the trembling in his voice. It's a tremble of guilt.”
Brooks says she struggles to be a good mother to her three children because she's had no role models.
“How the hell can I teach my children? My life is shattered,” she says.
“I want my kids to live a normal life. I want to be at the table with them and have ice cream.”
And when it looked like her story would finally come to light, she sat her teenagers down and told them the truth.
“My kids didn't want me to expose that I'd been a prostitute,” she says. “(But) they believe in me.”
And then it was time to tell her grandmother, who is in her 90s. It was a disturbing conversation, as Brooks had always been the sun in her grandmother's eyes.
Roselyn Borden thinks she knows why some people won't believe Brooks or other child survivors of sexual abuse.
“It doesn't surprise me at all,” says Borden, a counsellor at the Gatehouse, a Toronto non-profit for adult victims of child abuse.
Borden, too, suffered because no one would believe that her foster father had molested her.
“You can tell the world your story, and people just won't believe,” says Borden, a black woman originally from New Glasgow who was brought up in a white foster home in Peggys Cove.
She has worked at the Gatehouse on contract since November.
Borden says her foster mother didn't take her seriously when she revealed that her foster father had been raping her for five years, starting when she was about eight.
Both her foster parents are now dead.
“The ones close to you don't believe you,” she says during a telephone interview from Toronto. “I think that's their own guilt.
“As survivors, you look for belief from our families. You're not going to get that. In order for them to believe you, they're going to have to admit they did something wrong.”
Society appears more than willing to believe that a child relating such a story is telling the truth, Borden says.
“I think it's because adults think (adults) have had time to … make up stories. Kids can't make this up. There are certain things that they can't make up because of their innocence.”
Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse may have had their innocence torn from them, but they're still children underneath.
“They're robbed,” Borden says.
She tells those she counsels to write a letter to their “inner child.”
She was surprised at what she wrote herself, learning that her own childhood lay just beneath the surface.
“I could actually see my little … head, walking around happy,” she remembers, reflecting on days before she was abused.
“It's amazing that little child is still in there.”
But that's not what society sees when it hears adult survivors of childhood abuse reveal their truth, Borden says.
“That's why we need more awareness and education,” she says. “Back in the day, (abuse) was so hidden.” You're a “liar or a mental case” if you allege abuse.
“(Victims) need a voice. If they don't have that same voice that was taken from them as a kid, and it's been taken from them as an adult, they're not going to really heal.”
If no one listens, survivors question themselves, Borden says.
“They start thinking, was it a dream? That's when you have your mental health issues.”
Sybil Power is chairwoman of the Nova Scotia group Survivors of Abuse Recovering.
“There is a disconnect for society when they see an adult who is speaking of the abuse they suffered as a child,” Power says.
“Because what they see is the adult, not the child, in front of them.
“That makes it more difficult to access that compassion they might otherwise have if they were looking at a child.”
Power, whose group has been counselling adult victims of child abuse for 20 years and now helps 40 to 50 people a year, thinks the public doesn't want to address “the enormity of the issue.”
“If society were to have to process the scope of this epidemic, that (roughly) one in three girls and about one in six boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18, then we would have to look at our neighbours, friends, organizations, and within our own homes, for the perpetrators.”
Research suggests that up to 60 per cent of victims repress or have a “delayed recall of abuse,” Power says.
Dr. Vicky Wolfe, psychologist in the child welfare mental health clinic at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, says that when children or adults finally tell their story, it can be very damaging if the people they confide in don't believe them.
“That belief is so important for children,” Wolfe says.
Often, they are already experiencing other problems as a result, and therefore their loved ones might be reticent to acknowledge it actually happened, she says.
“Perhaps when they tell when they're teenagers, they may have already started with some emotional reactions that are troublesome, and people might think this person is not trustworthy because they have a number of emotional problems,” she says.
“Sometimes in that situation, you will have people question (the victim).”
Wolfe says predators can be very convincing, so a parent or caregiver might have trouble believing a child or teenager's claims.
The perpetrator has usually taken his or her time “grooming” the child for future abuse, she says, so a parent only sees a caring coach, teacher, friend or relative who's just helping out.
The victim may then be seen as having a “character flaw,” says Power, who agrees with Wolfe.
With no support or acknowledgement, adult victims of child abuse almost always turn to self-medication to dull the pain, experts say.
They have trouble sustaining intimate and/or close relationships and turn to alcohol or substance abuse to quell their troubled minds and retreat, Power says.
They become drug addicts, alcoholics or, like Brooks, walk the streets because that's all they know.
The latter is the route Harriet Johnson took for a time, after being raped twice at the home by the same staffer who'd assaulted Brooks.
Johnson's allegations, contained in affidavits that are part of a proposed class action against the province that goes to court next month for certification, accuse that same staffer of luring her into prostitution for him.
She still shudders at the memory of her early days at the orphanage.
“I do go back to that child. I still shake, I'm scared,” she says in an interview from her home in Montreal.
“Harriet is that same scared little girl,” she says, reading from a letter she wrote to herself. “Harriet feels no one's going to believe her. Harriet is just one black child that lived in misery, filth and hell.”
Like Brooks, Johnson suffered when she learned that police wouldn't be laying charges of abuse against her attacker or other former staffers at the home.
Some forward steps were taken when the home settled its part of the class action with the former residents, but that's not enough, Brooks and Johnson contend.
They're seeking vindication in order to move on.
Some have tried reinventing themselves.
“I decided to change the spelling of my name, but I never, ever knew why until I was almost 40,” Borden says.
Formerly Rosalind, she became Roselyn.
“I started fresh with a new one, with a name for a child that wasn't abused,” she says. “To step away from that person … to a new person.”
Johnson's path is under construction, but her quest for people to believe her builds with every day.
The apparent lack of belief “makes us look like lying black children,” she says, adding that she has felt “useless” for most of her life because no one would take her stories seriously.
Her “inner child” is still suffering. “Harriet is only 44,” she says, again reading from her letter. “But Harriet is only eight. Harriet will never grow up.”
A fear that no one will ever believe them keeps many victims from ever telling their story, Borden says.
Statistics show that only about 30 per cent of abused children ever come forward, Wolfe says. But even that percentage is a vast improvement over the past, she says.
“Even today, with all the work that's been done, still kids don't disclose.”
And that means little chance of healing and moving on, Wolfe says.
Brooks, Borden and Johnson can attest to the fallout. Only now they're raising themselves up.
Johnson is still reeling from her past. Many days, the sorrow in her voice is marked, and she also took her pain out on herself. She once poured bleach in her bath to wash the “black” off her skin.
“That's how scarred I am,” she says.
Borden, now steaming ahead, still has flashbacks and trust issues. Helping others who've gone through similar troubles is cathartic, she says.
Brooks laments the loss of her childhood. She never got to further her education. Even today, she still struggles, having only recently attained papers to become a health-care worker.
“That's what upsets me the most,” she says, her voice quavering. “I know I could do much better.”
She is out to erase the “raw reality” of her former life.
Brooks hopes for a good future for that 14-year-old little girl she once knew — and atonement for her perceived sins.
“The road is so shattered.”
Dead Pa. baby's dad believes in 'divine healing'
A Pennsylvania couple who believe in faith healing have been charged with murder after a second of their children died.
by Maryclaire Dale
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — After their 2-year-old son died of untreated pneumonia in 2009, faith-healing advocates Herbert and Catherine Schaible promised a judge they would not let another sick child go without medical care.
But now they've lost an 8-month-old to what a prosecutor called "eerily similar" circumstances. And instead of another involuntary manslaughter charge, they're now charged with third-degree murder.
"We believe in divine healing, that Jesus shed blood for our healing and that he died on the cross to break the devil's power," Herbert Schaible, 44, told Philadelphia homicide detectives after their ninth child, Brandon, died in April. Medicine, he said, "is against our religious beliefs."
The Schaibles were ordered held without bail Friday, two days after their arrest, although defense lawyers argued that they are neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community.
"He is incarcerated because of his faith," said lawyer Bobby Hoof, who described client Herbert Schaible's mindset as resolute.
"He's strong willed," Hoof said. "(Yet) he's mourning this son. He's hurting as any dad would."
The only people theoretically at risk are the couple's seven surviving children, who are now in foster care, the lawyers said.
A judge acknowledged that the couple had never missed a court date in the first case but said he worried that might change amid the more serious charges. And he feared they may have supporters who would harbor them.
"Throughout this country … there are churches like the Schaibles' whose members and leaders probably don't think they did anything wrong and might be willing — to paraphrase the Schaibles' pastor — to put their interpretation of God's will above the law," Common Pleas Judge Benjamin Lerner said.
About a dozen children die each year in the U.S. when parents turn to faith healing instead of medicine, typically from highly treatable problems, said Shawn Francis Peters, a University of Wisconsin lecturer who has studied faith-healing deaths.
In Oregon, four couples from a faith-healing church have been prosecuted, the most recent in 2011 when a couple was sentenced to more than six years in prison for manslaughter in the death of their newborn son.
The state legislature that year removed faith healing as a defense to murder charges. Members of the Followers of Christ have consistently refused to speak with journalists.
Defense lawyer Mark Cogan declined to comment Friday on whether the legal actions have changed the practice of any church members. Some testified at the 2011 trial that they do get medical care.
At the Schaibles' sentencing in February 2011 in their son Kent's death, they agreed to follow terms of the 10-year probation, which included an order to get their children regular checkups and sick visits as needed. Catherine Schaible, 43, let her husband speak for her and never addressed the judge.
"It's very clear that the law says that religious freedom is trumped by the safety of a child," Common Pleas Judge Carolyn Engel Temin explained.
But a transcript of a later probation hearing that year shows probation officers were confused by their mandate to oversee the required medical care and felt powerless to carry it out. The family was not being monitored by child-welfare workers, who are more accustomed to dealing with medical compliance.
"I think that we all on the jury thought that it would not happen again, that whatever social and legal institutions needed to be involved in their situation would just take over … and that the mandated visits would be robust enough that they would not be able to do this again," Vincent Bertolini, a former college professor who served as jury foreman at the Schaibles' first trial, said Friday.
That jury convicted the couple of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment.
Like other cases Peters has studied, the Schaibles belong to a small, insular circle of believers. Both are third-generation members and former teachers at their fundamentalist Christian church, the First Century Gospel Church in northeast Philadelphia.
Their pastor, Nelson Clark, has said the Schaibles lost their sons because of a "spiritual lack" in their lives and insisted they would not seek medical care even if another child appeared near death. He did not return phone messages this month, but he told The Associated Press in 2011 that his church is not a cult, and he faulted officials for trying to force his members into "the flawed medical system," which he blamed for 100,000 deaths a year.
"These are people who have been brought up in these communities; their beliefs are reinforced every day," Peters said. "They're not trained intellectually to question these doctrines, where the rest of us might engage in critical inquiry, weighing the benefits of medicine versus the benefits of prayer."
A handful of families, including one in western Pennsylvania, have lost two children after attempts at faith healing, according to Peters, who wrote "When Prayer Fails: Faith Healing, Children and the Law."
Peters isn't sure that courts have the means to prevent the problem, since such people don't fear legal punishment, only Judgment Day. Some believe death "is a good outcome," given their belief in the afterlife, he said.
"They don't want to harm their children. They're just in this particularly narrow — and very, very dangerous — way misguided about the potential of medical science," he said.
He believes that "empathetic" intervention, through dialogue between church and public health educators, could help some "get to a point where they allow their beliefs and practices to evolve."
But there's a risk that could backfire, and drive these communities further underground, he said.
For the Schaibles, a third-degree murder conviction could bring seven to 14 years in prison or more.
Said Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore: "Somebody is dead now as a result of what they did — or didn't do."
Two Long Beach men arrested for felony sex trafficking
by Joe Segura
Lebrette Winn, left, and Eric Avery were arrested by the Long Beach Police Department as two suspects in human trafficking.
Two men held two women and a 16-year-old girl captive and forced them to work as prostitutes in Los Angeles and Orange counties until the adults escaped and sought refuge in Hawthorne, police said Friday.
The teenager was rescued in an Inglewood motel.
Lebrette Winn, 22, and Eric Avery, 24, both of Long Beach, were arrested May 16 at a traffic stop near The Pike at Rainbow Harbor in Long Beach.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office this week filed nine felony counts against Winn, and two felony counts against Avery, police said. The charges include human trafficking, pimping, pandering, mayhem, kidnapping, and other sex-crime charges.
Winn and Avery are scheduled for a preliminary hearing June 4 in Long Beach Superior Court.
The investigation began shortly before midnight May 15 when Hawthorne police officers notified the Long Beach Police Department that two women had escaped from a suspect who had kidnapped them in Long Beach and was forcing them to perform acts of prostitution, Long Beach police Lt. Dan Pratt said.
The victims, one of whom was held for four months, had escaped their captor while in Culver City, and were able to make their way to Hawthorne, where they contacted authorities, police said. It is unclear whether the women were held by just one of the suspects or both.
While they were held, the women were forced to perform acts of prostitution throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties, and one of them was sexually assaulted by one of the suspects, police said.
The investigation took Long Beach police to Inglewood, where they located the 16-year-old victim at a motel, police said. It is unclear whether the younger victim was held with the other women or separately.
"We don't know how many other victims are out there," Pratt said Friday. "We just want to get the message out for any and all women to come forward so we can help them. "
State and county leaders have taken measures this year to crack down on sex trafficking, particularly in the South Bay-Long Beach area, where there have been a number of reported crimes. The county formed a sex-trafficking task force in November.
State Attorney General Kamala Harris described sex trafficking as one of the world's fastest growing enterprises. California is one of the nation's top four destination states for human trafficking, which is believed to be a $32-billion-a-year business.
Authorities earlier this month arrested a Long Beach man, Marquis Horn, 34, on a federal indictment that alleged he worked with another Long Beach man, Roshaun Nakia Porter, 37, to coerce women to work as prostitutes.
In this week's arrest, Long Beach police believe there are more victims. Police asked anyone who is or has been a victim of human trafficking to come forward by calling 562-570-7219. Any victim in need of assistance also is encouraged to contact detectives.