| Today's NAASCA news:
March 12, 2014
Healing the wounds of childhood sexual abuse at The Gatehouse
Toronto man running ‘double-Boston marathon' to raise awareness, funds adult support programs
by Tamara Shephard
Jean-Paul Bedard collapsed on the ground about halfway through running the Boston Marathon last year.
He was crying. But he wasn't injured physically. He was bleeding emotionally.
Weeks before the race, the Toronto man had opened up to family and friends about the sexual abuse he suffered as a child. Running had helped him battle his drug and alcohol addiction.
On that sunny day in Boston, those dark childhood memories once again gripped his mind. The husband and father became overwhelmed by grief.
After medical personnel attended to him, Bedard pulled himself together and finished the race.
Then, the earth shook. The first of two pressure-cooker bombs exploded, projecting shrapnel into runners and crowds of supporters.
Bedard and his wife, Mary-Anne, were fleeing into the subway when the second bomb went off.
Bedard felt the trauma of the Boston Marathon bombing acutely. In fact, the horrific incident triggered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, diagnosed by a doctor.
For weeks, the English teacher had trouble focusing.
He gathered the strength and courage to call The Gatehouse, an unique Etobicoke-based group support centre for adult survivors of sexual abuse, and a child-friendly location where investigating police officers and child support workers interview children, youth and families during sexual abuse investigations.
This year, Bedard is returning to Boston to run a “double-Boston marathon,” an 84.4-kilometre feat undertaken by few.
The ultra-marathoner who represented Canada in the 89-kilometre ultra-marathon in South Africa is running a “double-Boston marathon” to raise awareness of childhood sexual abuse and its impacts on survivors, while spreading the message that healing from trauma is possible.
Bedard is directing his pledges to support The Gatehouse programs for survivors of childhood sexual abuse because “they helped me and countless others realize that what happened to us as children does not need to destroy us as adults,” he said on The Gatehouse's website.
To date, he has raised more than $10,000. Bedard's experience of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as an adult, triggered by stress or a trauma that unearths the trauma of childhood sexual abuse, is all too common, Brad Hutchinson, The Gatehouse's new manager, said in a recent interview.
Often, it is an experience of distress as an adult, whether panic attacks or PTSD, that compels adult survivors to find the strength to disclose childhood sexual abuse. For others, it is a well-worn fatigue with living with the trauma's lingering impacts.
Courage is what bring survivors through The Gatehouse's door.
“People get to the point where they're fed up with their life. ‘I'm done,' they say,” Hutchinson said. “Some are in Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous in recovery. Some have a food addiction. But they've stopped functioning because they haven't unrooted the core issues. A lot are angry.”
Since it opened in 1998, The Gatehouse has helped more than 15,000 child and adult sexual abuse survivors, Hutchinson reported.
Hutchinson became The Gatehouse's manager in January. He is a published author, Shaolin Kung Fu instructor and ministry-trained restorative justice facilitator who trains educators, police officers and social workers on its principles.
Reclaiming and healing that wounded inner child is the work of childhood sexual abuse recovery. The Gatehouse facilitates survivors' healing through adult group support programs; one for men, another for women. Male and female survivors come together in the program's second phase. The groups are offered three times a year, at no charge.
“It's not therapy,” Hutchinson explained of The Gatehouse's support groups. “But there is something really powerful about sitting with a group of men experiencing what you experience. It takes away the isolation. People say, ‘Really? There are people like me?' Men here understand there are a lot of men out there like them.”
High-profile male survivors of childhood sexual abuse like Sheldon Kennedy and Theo Fleury, former NHL stars who came forward publicly to report being sexually abused by former coach, Graham James, and Bedard through his running, help to “lessen the taboo” of men discussing childhood sexual abuse, Hutchinson said.
All three men have become advocates for childhood sexual abuse survivors.
In 1997, James was convicted for sex assaults against three players, including Kennedy. Last year, the Manitoba Court of Appeal more than doubled James' sentence to five years citing a mistake by the trial judge. James pleaded guilty to molesting Fleury and his cousin, Todd Holt, when they were teenagers.
What happens developmentally when a child is sexually abused?
A loss of voice, a sense of shame, or both, Hutchinson said.
“Two things happen when a child is sexually abused,” Hutchinson explained. “The child loses their voice. Sometimes, the person threatens, ‘I'm going to hurt your mom, dad, brother, sister, you.' Or, they feel shame. There is a shift from the authentic self of the inner child, what I call the ‘creative energy within you'. The trauma keeps that down and pushes you off your path.
“When the voice comes up 15 or 20 years later, it gets you back on your path.”
The Gatehouse's Adult Support groups are 15-week curriculum-based psycho-educational program for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse are led by two facilitators, at least one of whom is a survivor. Facilitators lead discussions to help survivors out of isolation and into inclusion as they heal.
Survivors learn tools to develop or enhance positive coping skills and trauma impacts, and discuss issues such as triggers, anger, the inner child, sexuality and resiliency and flashback and grounding techniques.
During Phase One, female survivors meet on Tuesdays from 7 to 9 p.m., male survivors meet Wednesdays from 7 to 9 p.m.
Male and female survivors then meet in a combined group in Phase Two for eight weeks to incorporate yoga, mindfulness-living techniques and Tai Chi, while discussing belief systems, meditation, moving out of being stuck and transformation.
Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse often fear discussing the abuse will create darkness. Instead, it invites the light, Hutchinson said.
“The more you talk about it, the less power it has over you,” he said. “The greatest fear survivors have is all this ugliness coming up. But it's not true. Once it's out, it's light. Participants say: ‘I have a 1,000-pound gorilla off my back.'
“The hardest part is walking up to (The Gatehouse) door. I'd tell people, ‘Just walk up to the door. You'll feel better.' Most people continue on to a program.”
This spring, The Gatehouse will begin installation of an expansive healing garden on its property.
To donate to Bedard's run, visit Canada Helps at bit.ly/1ekYNb7
To seek support for childhood sexual abuse, to make a financial donation or learn more about its programs and other resources, call 416-255-5900 or visit www.thegatehouse.org
Survey: Florida among nation's best in domestic violence response times
by Alexandra Seltzer
While results of a national domestic violence survey exposed a need for more domestic violence resources around the country, it also put the spotlight on Florida programs, which received a 100 percent in response time for such victims on a randomly selected day in September.
There were 1,649 domestic violence programs participating in the Sept. 17 survey, called A 24-hour Census of Domestic Violence Shelters and Services, to show a snapshot of a day in the life of domestic violence.
Florida was among several states, including California, Kansas and Illinois, whose programs received a 100 percent response time. South Dakota received the lowest response time of 45 percent.
The 2013 survey was the eighth time the National Network to End Domestic Violence conducted the census.
In Palm Beach County, certified programs Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse and YWCA Harmony House participated. Safe Space participated in Martin and St. Lucie counties, according to a Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence spokeswoman. There are 42 certified domestic violence centers in Florida.
Palm Beach County has seen its share of recent domestic violence tragedies:
• On Feb. 24 Horacia Simeus was on the phone with a victim advocate when investigators say she was hacked to death by her boyfriend with a machete in suburban West Palm Beach. The 27-year-old was working on getting a restraining order against him.
• On Feb. 18 in West Palm Beach investigators say Brittania Gay was shot to death by her boyfriend who later killed himself.
• On Jan. 13 in West Palm Beach police say Jennifer Berman fatally shot her daughter Jacqueline and son Alexander before killing herself.
On the surveyed day, 2,122 adults and 1,149 children were helped in Florida. The state came in behind California, New York and Texas in serving the most people.
However, 154 of those requests for aid were not met in the state. The reason the calls were unmet could be because of reduced government funding, not enough staff, private funding cuts or reduced individual donations, according to the survey. Across the country, 1,696 staff positions including shelter staff or legal advocates have been eliminated in the past year.
“Every day in this country, victims of domestic violence are bravely reaching out for help, and it's essential that they have somewhere safe to go,” said Kim Gandy, president and CEO of the national network said in a statement posted on its website. “We have made so much progress toward ending violence and giving survivors avenues for safety. But continued program cuts jeopardize that progress and jeopardize the lives of victims.”
When services aren't available, the victim likely goes back to the abuser, becomes homeless or end up living in their cars, the statement said.
On the certain surveyed day, an advocate in Florida worked with a survivor to help build her résumé and practice interviewing. The advocate also helped the woman with an appropriate interview outfit and a bus pass to be able to attend the interview.
In the end, the woman was offered the job.
UNIQUE hosts human trafficking awareness event
by Natasha Dodson
In support of Women's HerStory Month, a nationally recognized month highlighting empowering stories about women, Sacramento State showed a film on teenage prostitution Thursday, followed by a lecture by human trafficking survivor Chong Kim, whom the film was based on.
In her book, “Broken Silence: Surviving Human Trafficking & Child Exploitation", Kim described her three-year captivity which included drug addiction and physical and sexual abuse before her heroic escape.
“When I heard who (Chong Kim) was, I researched her story and wondered why more wasn't being done (to prevent this issue),” said freshman philosophy major Katrina Cainglet. “It's crazy to see it happening here (in the U.S.).”
Every 40 seconds a child goes missing and approximately one out of eight are sold into human trafficking, according to amberalert.com
Kim, a United States citizen who was born in South Korea, was kidnapped at 19 and sold into slavery by a man whom she had known as her boyfriend.
Her naivety from an abusive childhood caused her to trust him, which she said is a common problem amongst young adults.
“I had low self-esteem and was very vulnerable,” Kim said. “I believed him when he told me he loved me. He was so dreamy.”
Kim shared harrowing details of her years in captivity and talked about the warning signs and preventative methods. She brought attention to the fact that it can affect anyone.
“The message that Chong Kim has needs to be heard by more people and not just women,” said UNIQUE'S program advisor Ajamu Lamumba.
Junior mathematics major Melanee Tano said the event was eye-opening and nothing she could ever have imagined.
“Watching the movie was really intense and people should be more aware and more careful how they interact with people,” Tano said. “I will be more cautious.”
Prior to being kidnapped, Kim said she battled with low self-esteem and her vulnerability made for an easy target.
She felt as if the torture endured was punishment for something she did in her lifetime. Using humor to help heal, Kim found solace in educating young adults about trafficking in hopes to attack the root of the problem.
“Predators know exactly what to look for,” Kim said. “Social media has made it easier for them to watch you.”
Increasing awareness of human trafficking, Kim holds multiple workshops and advocates around the country for more universities to get involved.
She is part of various Facebook organizations and survivor groups. For Women's HerStory month, UNIQUE has sponsored events that support the contributions that women have made to society highlighting challenges they are faced with on a daily basis.
They collaborate with other campus departments such as Women's Resource Center, Pride Center and Associated Student's Inc.
For the past 10 years, Kim said she has used her tragedy to educate young adults about safety measures in hopes that it will save lives.
She works alongside those who are striving to end slavery and injustice empowering victims and survivors alike.
“Don't tell me that you are sorry,” Kim said. “Tell me that you are angry enough to do something.”
Amendment to child abuse bill fails
by Billy Hesterman
SALT LAKE CITY -- An amendment to legislation that would call for child abuse prevention classes to be taught in Utah's public school brought out emotional revealings from Utah's senators on Tuesday morning.
When Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, attempted to amend H.B. 286 to have the class become an opt-in for Utah's students -- the current bill calls for students to have an opt-out option -- multiple lawmakers rose to oppose the amendment and revealed that they themselves had been victims of child-abuse situations.
Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, was the first to reveal that he was a victim of child abuse from someone who was not a member of his family.
Osmond stated that he had a great family but that his experience was not discussed in the home. He said that allowing schools to talk to students about child abuse will help prevent situations like his from happening again.
"We need to take a stand on this and teach our kids how to protect themselves," Osmond said.
Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, also opposed the amendment and described an event that took place when he was in elementary school.
Thatcher spoke about walking to school and following the same route that the other kids in the neighborhood used. On one day though he was walking alone on the route and was attacked by an older man.
"I fought like a demon," Thatcher said. "I screamed my little 70 pound head off."
Thatcher said he was able to make enough noise to gain the attention of another adult who came to his rescue but not before the attacker had ripped the zippers on his jeans off. He said keeping the bill as is, and resisting Dayton's amendment, would allow Utah to teach its students that it was okay to fight back when an adult is attempting to do something they should not be doing.
"This is happening and if we do not act it will continue to happen," he said.
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, also discussed a situation that took place with him when he was a child.
Weiler said he was at a campout with his local LDS scout troop and was shooting at the rifle range when a man came up to him and asked if he could take a picture of the two of them together. The man then asked if Weiler would take his shirt off.
Weiler said as a young boy he didn't think anything of it and took his shirt off and posed for another picture with the man. The man then left.
Weiler said his parents never talked to him about situations like that and said he was grateful that the episode didn't go any further than it already had. He supported voting down Dayton's amendment as he said it would allow more children to be taught on how to handle scenarios like the one he found himself in.
Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, spoke in support of the amendment as he said rhetoric being used in the Senate was making the argument that the state knows better than families on how to raise children.
"I think the opposition is misdirected," Madsen said.
Madsen said students are more likely to face abusive situations from a teacher in a school than they were in the home and said the best strategy to fight against abusive situations would be to encourage more families to discuss abusive situations and not through school teachers.
Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, also supported the amendment as he said the responsibility to teach children about abuse was that of the parents. He said having the opt-in provision was a tough balancing act for him to weigh but that he trusts Utah's parents to make the right decision on the matter.
"I still have faith and trust in parents, especially the parents in this state, they will do the right thing," Valentine said.
The motion to amend was narrowly defeated.
Dayton said her reason for the amendment was to give parents greater control on the material their children may be subject to. She noted the material taught in a child abuse prevention course may be sensitive for some children to hear.
The Senate gave initial approval to the bill on a vote of 20-8. The Senate will vote on the bill one more time before giving it final approval.
Sponsor: Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City
What it does: Allows for school districts to teach child abuse prevention courses.
Online child abuse images becoming 'more extreme, sadistic and violent'
MP Damian Green raises issue at event to plan creation of central image database to help find victims and abusers
by Alan Travis
Online child abuse images are becoming more extreme, more sadistic and more violent, with a higher proportion depicting the abuse of younger children , a Home Office minister has said.
Damian Green, the minister for policing and criminal justice, said the number of individual children depicted in online abuse images, and therefore in need of protection, was estimated to run into the tens of thousands.
Green raised the issue at an event with policing and online experts to plan the creation of a child abuse image database by the end of the year. The project is designed to produce a single, central, secure database of illegal images of children to help find the victims, as well as prosecute their abusers.
"We need to free up valuable police time from having to repeatedly view the same images found over and over again on seized computers," Green said. "Instead the police need to be able to search seized devices for illegal images more quickly, to know what colleagues across the country are investigating, and have technical assistance to ask where is the child, and how quickly can he or she be safeguarded?"
Green said he had heard of cases where the sharing of an image between international police partners one afternoon had led to a child being found and protected on the other side of the world by the following morning.
Green said that in 1990 there were an estimated 7,000 hard-copy images of child abuse in circulation. The development of the internet meant there were now millions of such images online, with the number of individual children depicted running into the tens of thousands.
"They are photographs and videos that record children being abused and raped," said Green. "Even more disturbingly, the research shows that these images appear to be becoming more extreme, more sadistic and more violent, with a greater proportion depicting the abuse of younger children.
"It's why I don't use the phrase 'child pornography'. It has got nothing to do with pornography. There is no legal 'child pornography'. These are vile, disgusting images."
The database project builds on the initiative developed at a Downing Street summit last November when Google and Microsoft agreed to make changes to their search engines to prevent images and videos of, or pathways to, child abuse being returned from a blacklist of search terms, to make it harder for offenders to find the material.
Now, whenever somebody searches for a blacklisted term, clear warning messages appear on screen outlining the consequences of the offender's action and encouraging them to get help. The messages appear against 13,000 search terms on Google alone.
CAC another weapon in County's arsenal against child abuse
by CLINT FOSTER
PALO PINTO – In 2013, there were 198 confirmed cases of child abuse in Palo Pinto County. As a result, Child Protective Services removed 65 children from their homes.
With so many children at risk, one local group is looking to curb those statistics and safeguard Palo Pinto County's most precious resource: future generations.
The recently formed Children's Alliance Center for Palo Pinto County – headquartered in Mineral Wells – is an advocacy center that exists to assist in the investigation and prosecution of child abusers and the treatment and rehabilitation of victims and non-offending family members.
A contingent of CAC representatives, led by District Attorney and CAC President Mike Burns, were on hand in the Palo Pinto County Courthouse Monday morning to give a presentation to the Palo Pinto County Commissioners' Court. Burns formally introduced the non-profit organization and its purpose and requested a quarter of the thousands of dollars worth of unclaimed capital credits the county is set to receive from the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.
Last month, commissioners unanimously approved a request for the funds, which the county has not received in two years. County officials expect to get over $8,000 from the state to be divided evenly amongst local programs that help abused children: the Child Welfare Board, Hope Inc., the Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) and, now officially, the CAC for Palo Pinto County.
The local CAC – which is the 69th child advocacy facility in Texas – provides necessary services to law enforcement, prosecution and medical and mental health providers that they might actively pursue child abuse cases. It also provides a forum in which these cases are handled.
"Historically, all of these disciplines have addressed child abuse under their own protocols," Burns said. "CPS did their thing, law enforcement did their thing, hospitals did their thing and there was little communication between the agencies.
"The effectiveness of both the prosecution of the offender and treatment of the child has been vastly increased under the CAC model. It's less expensive and more efficient. Communication is key."
Burns said the "heart and soul" of the CAC is a multidisciplinary team and a forensic interviewer.
In the interviewer, the CAC has a specially trained, neutral individual – governed by the family code – who excels in obtaining evidence from children in regard to the criminal prosecution of child abuse cases.
When a child is brought to CAC, the interviewer conducts a private exchange with the child that is both recorded on DVD for law enforcement use and watched live on the other side of the building by CAC personnel. After the interview is complete, the multidisciplinary team comes together to discuss the case and follow it through every phase until its total completion.
CAC hopes to start serving local children within the next couple of months. Needless to say, the CAC model is one that Burns and the rest of the CAC staff firmly believe in.
"I've been privileged to serve as president of the corporation," Burns said. "It's been one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career. It is a very worthwhile project."
County Judge David Nicklas expressed his support for the program after the presentation.
"(We want to do) everything we can for the kids of Palo Pinto County," he said.
CAC Executive Director Libby Cluett said she was grateful for the support of the county and CAC's many generous donors. She and her coworkers are eager to begin the work that they are so passionate about.
"Since we're the new guys in town, it's wonderful to have the support of the Commissioners' Court and the county," she said. "We just got our certificate of occupancy, Monday (for our building at 203 SE 3rd Ave. in Mineral Wells). The next step is to move in."
Among the many organizations to donate to CAC are the Brazos Foundation, which gave $25,000, and the Mineral Wells Rotary Club and Kessler Foundation, both of which gave $10,000. Cluett said there have also been many generous individual benefactors, to whom CAC is most appreciative.
But, like most non-profits, CAC still needs to raise more money so they can best serve the endangered youth of Palo Pinto County.
Their biggest fundraiser coming up – entitled "Bags, Bingo and Badges" – is set to be held April 3 at Clark Gardens. For the price of a $30 ticket ($35 at the door), which includes 20 game cards, individuals can play bingo for the chance to win designer handbags, retailing from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars.
The doors will open at 5:30 p.m. for the event that will also feature heavy hors d'oeuvres and the option to buy additional bingo cards for a better chance to win.
It's not only a chance to score a designer bag for a fraction of its value, but also to help a worthwhile cause to help the children of Palo Pinto County.
And the event is not just for women. In Burns' words, it's also a chance for men to come home heroes by bringing their significant other a high-class purse.
Tickets are available for purchase at Titan Bank, Ace Hardware and Cole's House of Flowers for $30. Cluett said prospective patrons can also buy tickets from her, directly, or from any of the CAC's board members. Or call 940-445-7380.
Community challenge | We are the answer to ending child abuse
by Steve Beshear
What is the cure for keeping children from dying from abuse and neglect? The answer is “all of us.”
The truth is we know what works, and we are taking steps to prevent these tragedies. This is the primary goal of the Face It campaign, a 10-year child abuse prevention effort led by Kosair Charities. Face It believes that we can all be the face that ends abuse. Whether you are a parent, a neighbor, a child care worker or a pediatrician — everyone has a role to play in ending child abuse.
We applaud the Kentucky General Assembly for “facing it” in 2014 by recently passing HB 157 and sending the bill to Gov. Steve Beshear for his signature. HB 157 will reduce the number of babies who die from shaken baby syndrome and other forms of physical abuse. The legislation requires a one-time, one-hour training for pediatricians, radiologists, family practitioners and emergency medicine and urgent care physicians on recognizing signs of pediatric abusive head trauma and physical abuse that have only recently been added to medical school teaching.
Studies indicate that doctors need this important training. In fact, random samples from the University of Louisville's pediatric forensic database showed that more than half of children under age 4 who were treated for serious physical injuries had been seen by a medical professional at some point before the trauma. In these cases, the medical professional documented injuries on the child that should have been red flags for child abuse, but were not recognized as such.
We thank Representatives Addia Wuchner and Susan Westrom, who were the primary co-sponsors of HB 157, and the Kentucky House and Senate for unanimously passing the bill this session. No physician wants to miss signs of child abuse, and this bill will help make sure that doesn't happen.
We hope that just as legislators are “facing it,” everyone in the community will also be the face that ends child abuse.
You can play a role at the upcoming Face It Rally on April 8 at 11 a.m. at the Big Four Bridge in downtown Louisville. Come show your support, and celebrate the passage of HB 157. We have a long way to go in ending child abuse, but together, we can make that dream a reality. Face it. End it.
About the Face It Movement: Face It was conceived and created in 2012 as a response to the public outcry against the increasing number of child abuse deaths in the Commonwealth, officially launched on April 9, 2013, as a 10-year initiative led by Kosair Charities. Its vision is that by 2023 all children in Jefferson County will be free from abuse and neglect. Face It directly addresses the increasingly unacceptable number of child abuse deaths in Jefferson County and the surrounding areas with best practices in child abuse prevention, community engagement and the promotion of effective policies to improve the child welfare system.
President – Kosair Charities
GERARD P. RABALAIS, M.D.
Chairman, U of L School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics
MELISSA L. CURRIE, M.D.
Kosair Charities Division of Pediatric Forensic Medicine
Family of Alleged Child Sex Assault Victim Doesn't Want Her To Testify
by SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES
The grandfather of a 6-year-old girl who was allegedly sexually assaulted by a 67-year-old man has argued she will be further traumatized by testifying at a trial this week in Berrien County Court in Michigan and his concerns have been echoed by those involved in the trial.
"There's many, many strange people, there's a judge up on a stand, it's an extremely intense and strange environment and you're talking about something that is so important," local social worker Libby Christianson told ABC affiliate WBND.
It's hard enough for adults to testify in court, she said.
"To do that to a child, I think could really compound the trauma they've already experienced," Christianson said.
Jury selection began today and according to prosecuting attorney Michael Sepic, unless there are problems, the girl will testify.
"This case is like a thousand others," Sepic told ABCNews.com. "None of us wants our children to have to testify, but I think the grandfather had hopes it would not actually go to trial. It's a necessary evil of the system when you are dealing with kid cases."
Luis Medina, a friend of the girl's grandfather, has been charged with sexually assaulting the girl. Her name was withheld for privacy reasons and the victim's grandfather has not been identified.
Sepic alleges that the assault happened when the little girl, whose family is from neighboring Indiana, was staying overnight with her grandparents on a boat that was moored in a marina on Lake Michigan.
Medina's lawyer, Brian Berger, was unavailable for comment because he was in court today, but a spokesman at his law office said Medina has denied the allegations of abuse. Court papers were unavailable today.
Sepic said Michigan law provides for special courtroom arrangements so a child victim does not have to face her alleged assailant.
"The child did testify at a preliminary evaluation some weeks ago and had no difficulties," he said. "If the child goes up on the witness stand at the trial and will not answer questions, then there is an alternate statute provided for that."
Research over the decades shows that more sexual abuse cases are coming to light and children are increasingly being admitted as witnesses in court proceedings, but there are no national statistics on how many.
A Bureau of Justice Statistics report shows 1.6 percent of children between the ages of 12 and 17 have been victims of rape/sexual assault.
In one study published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 1993, New York child witness expert Stephen J. Ceci estimated that as many as 100,000 children end up participating in family court or criminal justice proceedings in the State of New York alone.
"A very large number of kids join the court every day all over the U.S.," said Ceci, who is professor of developmental psychology at Cornell University. "The number is quite high."
"There has been a lot of research looking at the impact of testimony in open court by children," Ceci told ABCNews.com. "Studies find it is stressful for kids, but it doesn't seem to have any long-term damaging effects. When followed up six to 12 months later, the kids who testified were matched up with kids who didn't and they seemed similar on mental health tests."
"They also feel better for having had their day in court -- the biggest studies say that," he said. "They felt like even if the jury went against them and the judge went against them, kids say they felt better for having told honestly what happened to them."
The problem, according to Ceci, is that by its nature, sexual assault is a "very private act" and if a child is not available to testify against the assailant, the case is rarely prosecuted. "There is never a third party witnessing it."
But without child witnesses, assailants often go on to repeat the crimes, sometimes against the same victims, said Ceci.
"Because both sides want to win, having a child on the stand isn't easy," he said. "Defense attorneys can confuse a child, harass a child and create conditions so in the closing arguments the child's testimony looks inconsistent. It's the same for the prosecution."
One of the ways courts make it less stressful on children is to shield them by putting a barrier with a one-way screen between the child victim and the defendant so the jury and those in the courtroom can see the testimony, but the child cannot.
"A lot of defense attorneys don't like that," said Ceci. "To make a one-way screen, you put a spotlight on it and it looks like the glare of the police headlight and makes a spectacle and easier to convict. It makes the defendant look like he is on display and doesn't taint the child's demeanor."
Sometimes courts use closed-circuit television in a judge's chambers so the jury can hear testimony.
"None of these things are ideal," said Ceci. "There is no getting around the fact that it's very stressful. Ask anyone. Even for young adults. You have to go and tell strangers, with a man in black robes high up with a gavel about these very intimate things."
Sexual Abuse Survivor and Advocate Applauds State Leaders for Child Protection Legislation as she Embarks on Fifth Statewide "Walk in My Shoes" Journey
Lauren Book says Florida Leads Nation in its Commitment to Child Protection
TALLAHASSEE, Fla., March 11, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Just days away from beginning her fifth "Walk in My Shoes" journey across Florida, sexual abuse advocate Lauren Book recapped how far Florida has come in strengthening the law to protect children and applauded legislative leaders for swiftly passing sweeping legislation to strengthen Florida's process for civilly committing sexually violent predators.
"I am proud to live in a state where our elected officials make protecting our children from dangerous predators a top priority," Book said. "When you look at the laws passed over the past five years, it's clear that we've made a big impact and Florida is a safer place because of it."
As the House prepared to take up a package of comprehensive, bipartisan reform legislation to protect children and punish offenders, Book held a news conference with legislative leaders outside the Florida House Chambers. Book, who founded Lauren's Kids to raise awareness about childhood sexual abuse and advocate for change, begins her fifth annual 1,500-mile "Walk in My Shoes" walk across Florida on March 16 in Key West. The Walk ends on April 22 on the steps of the Historic Capitol in Tallahassee.
Book used the occasion to recap legislative milestones of the past five years and to praise the 2014 Legislature for making child protective legislation a priority from the opening day of the legislative session.
The 1,500-mile "Walk in My Shoes" statewide journey raises awareness about the devastating effects of child sexual abuse, educates communities about prevention, encourages victims to speak up and get help, and promotes passage of tougher laws to protect children and punish perpetrators.
"As both a parent and a legislator, ensuring the safety of children is one of my top priorities," said Speaker of the House Will Weatherford. "I appreciate Lauren's support for our 'protecting vulnerable Floridians' agenda."
This bipartisan legislative package passed through the Florida Senate unanimously on the opening day of session.
"We walked into this session knowing that we wanted to address the laws governing the treatment of sexually violent predators," said Senate President Don Gaetz. "By passing this legislation on day one, we've made it clear that this is an important issue and we will not allow dangerous predators who harm our children to walk the streets."
Since the first "Walk in My Shoes" statewide journey five years ago, Lauren's Kids has successfully advocated for the passage of many landmark laws, including:
2010 - Extending Statute of Limitations: Eliminated the statute of limitations for both civil and criminal prosecutions for crimes committed against children under 16.
2011 - Walk in Their Shoes Act: Expanded the admissibility of collateral crime evidence in cases where a person is charged with child molestation or a sexual offense.
2012 - Protection of Vulnerable Persons: Requires all Floridians report known or suspected child abuse and if a report is not made, the non-reporter will be charged with a felony. Also requires colleges and universities report abuse or face up to a $1 million fine.
2013 - Expanding the Hearsay Exception to Adolescent Victims of Sexual Abuse: Allows an out of court statement made by a victim up to the age of 16 as admissible evidence in a civil or criminal proceeding dependent upon certain findings of the court.
This year, Lauren's Kids is championing legislation to close loopholes in the justice system, mandate community supervision of sex offenders and require college campuses to notify students and staff about sexual offenders who live nearby.
In addition, the organization is also supporting legislation to eliminate the statute of limitations for certain sexual crimes committed against a child younger than 16, increase mandatory minimum sentences for sexually violent predators and those who offend against people with developmental disabilities, and expand the identifying information sex offenders are required to register with law enforcement to include things such as email addresses, screen names and information on the vehicles offenders can access.
"We recognize that no single law or policy can end the scourge of child sexual abuse from our state," said Rep. Matt Gaetz, chair of the Criminal Justice Subcommittee. "But that must never stop us from being catalysts for change and continuing to push for legislation that moves us closer to a zero tolerance policy."
Book said she is gratified by the large number of state leaders supporting these important measures. In addition to Speaker Weatherford, President Gaetz and Rep. Gaetz, she acknowledged the efforts of Sens. Lizbeth Benacquisto, Rob Bradley, Garrett Richter, Jack Latvala, Joe Negron, Eleanor Sobel, Oscar Braynon, Greg Evers and Denise Grimsley, as well as Reps. Gayle Harrell, Travis Hutson, Daphne Campbell and Dane Eagle.
To download the Lauren's Kids multimedia package, visit: www.laurenskids.org/downloads
Lauren's Kids is a nonprofit organization that works to prevent abuse and help survivors heal. The organization, which has offices in Aventura and Tallahassee, Florida, was started by Lauren Book, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who endured six years of abuse at the hands of her nanny. Lauren's organization offers a 24-hour crisis hotline, prevention curriculum, annual 1,500-mile awareness walk and legislative advocacy. For more information, visit: laurenskids.org
SOURCE Lauren's Kids
Paedophile gangs targeting children in state care in Victoria for sexual abuse
by Dan Oakes
Organised gangs of men are sexually exploiting children in out-of-home care and enticing them into trading sex for money, drugs and alcohol.
An ABC investigation has found children as young as 12 are being exploited by the men.
Some of the children have been transported between towns and even interstate, while the ABC has also been told that some abuse has been filmed by paedophiles.
It is understood that police have identified between 30 and 40 children who are living in Department of Human Services residential care that may have been exploited in this fashion in the past 18 months, but the number could be higher.
The suburbs around Dandenong are believed to be an area of particular concern to police and the department.
Police have found it difficult to charge the perpetrators, as the victims, many of whom come from traumatic backgrounds, are reluctant to give statements implicating their abusers whether through fear, a mistrust of authority or a belief that they are not actually being abused.
The Department of Human Services and Victoria Police have spent two years working on a new approach to tackling the issue, which revolves around better sharing of information and educating workers on how to recognise the signs of sexual exploitation.
Police are also practising disruptive policing.
This can mean charging the abusers with drug or property offences to bring them into the criminal justice system and keep them away from their victims.
Staff from the department have also been embedded in the police sex crimes unit.
"What we would say is that these young people are not competent to make a decision, and using that word 'prostitution' implies that they are making a lifestyle choice, working in the sex industry," the department's chief practitioner, Robyn Miller, told the ABC.
"They are children, they are young people, they have this history of trauma. They are not competent to make that decision.
"It is abuse and we name it that and we have a zero tolerance.
"Our whole approach has been to raise consciousness within police and with carers that this is not adolescent behaviour, it is not experimentation, it is sexual exploitation and it is a form of abuse."
Men would choose a girl to have sex with
In one case that did go to court, a number of men in Shepparton were charged with child sex and prostitution offences after having sex with girls in return for cigarettes, cash and shopping trips.
At the plea hearing of the ringleader, Emran Dad, in 2012, the court heard that he gave a 13-year-old girl a pack of cigarettes in exchange for sex.
Another girl, 16, said Dad would contact her via Facebook, then drive her to the house of a friend of his.
The girl said other girls were at the house and that men would then turn up and choose a girl to have sex with.
She said they would be paid about $200 each time this happened, depending on the sex acts they would perform.
She said Dad would receive a separate $150 payment for organising it.
"The young people that we work with have experienced such loss and grief and pain that they are really vulnerable to people giving them attention, and these offenders are expert manipulators," Ms Miller said.
"They are disgusting in the way that they entrap our young people, so they will use social media in an expert way and will befriend, so it's like they will pretend to be something they are not."
In a statement, Victoria Police said there had been a number of successful prosecutions for exploitation offences of this nature and that there were ongoing investigations.
Calls for 'thorough inquiry' into exploitation
The State Opposition's Jenny Mikakos says there must be an investigation.
"There needs to be a thorough inquiry into how this has happened," she said.
But Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge says the exploitation precedes the current Government.
"It's only the Coalition Government that has responded comprehensively," she said.
She says 2,000 police, child protection and care workers have been trained disrupt the exploitation of children.
Bernie Geary, the commissioner for children and young people in Victoria, says while he is not aware of these specific cases, he knows the system is "open to abuse".
"I know that our system is far from perfect and when children who are not properly assessed have tumbled into living in situations and bringing their own pain and trauma with them, sometimes that impacts on each other," he told AM.
"The children can be assaultive towards each other or sometimes they can be assaulted by people outside.
"The [incidents] that we're talking about is something that hasn't come before me and I'm really interested to know more about it.
"I intend to make very strong inquiries of the department and get information as to that."
From "Shaken Baby Syndrome" to "Non-Accidental Head Injury" – The Continuing Research and the Law
David Bedingfield of 4 Paper Buildings charts the recent history of scientific research into serious non-accidental head injuries suffered by babies and the response of the family and criminal courts in England and Wales.
by David Bedingfield, barrister
Non-accidental head injury remains the most common cause of fatal child maltreatment. An analysis by the NSPCC released in November, 2013, puts the number of babies under one suffering from a serious non-accidental head injury in England and Wales each year at approximately 24 per 100,000. At least half of the survivors have significant neurological impairments.
Few doubt that most of these children were victims of parental abuse.
The difficulty, of course, is that no one doubts that in the very recent past physicians (and judges and jurors) wrongly found that parents or other carers had caused significant head injuries to children by shaking. Physicians believed that diagnosis of certain injuries to an infant's head almost inevitably meant that the child had been shaken by the child's last carer. Since at least the turn of this century, however, medical and bio-mechanical experts have begun to offer proof that this "certain diagnosis" was in fact all too uncertain.
The Medical Research
The history of the evolution of the scientific research – and the legal responses to that new research – is brilliantly set out by the U.S. academic Deborah Tuerkheimer in an article in the Washington University Law Review that should be mandatory reading for any child law practitioner handling cases involving allegations of shaken babies.
Professor Tuerkheimer first sets out the research regarding infant head injuries that led to convictions for murder of children routinely being handed down by juries on both sides of the Atlantic, despite no eye-witness evidence of the crime and repeated protestations of innocence by heretofore blameless parents. All of these convictions were based solely on scientific evidence by experts, who explained the importance of what has now been called the "classic triad" of symptoms in shaken baby cases:
|1) retinal haemorrhages (bleeding of the inside back surface of the eye);
2) subdural haemorrhages (bleeding between the hard outer layer and the spongy membranes that surround the brain); and
3) cerebral edema (swelling of the brain).
The presence of those three signs had been considered – certainly prior to 2001 – as pathognomic – or exclusively characteristic – of SBS.
The presence of the "classic triad" has in the past been taken to mean that a baby had been shaken hard enough to produce what were conceptualised as whiplash forces. The application of ". . . rotational acceleration and deceleration forces to the infant's head causes the brain to rotate in the skull. Abrupt deceleration allows continuing brain rotation until bridging veins are stretched and ruptured, causing a thin layer of subdural haemorrhage on the surface of the brain." The scientific underpinnings of SBS, as Professor Tuerkheimer notes, have crumbled over the past decade. The medical establishment now accepts that the term "shaken baby" is misleading, and non-accidental head injury, or Shaken Impact Syndrome, have been suggested as replacements.
Professor Tuerkheimer sets out the logical fallacy that underlies much pre-1999 research regarding Shaken Baby Syndrome: researchers selected cases by the presence of the very clinical findings and test results they sought to validate as diagnostic. Not surprisingly, as Professor Tuerkhimer notes, the studies tended to find their own case selection criteria pathognomonic of SBS. The circularity of the logic is represented by the equation: "SBS = SDH + RH [inclusion criteria], therefore SDH + RH = SBS."
The difficulties surrounding the "admissions" by carers that they shook the child are obvious: Did they shake the child after discovering the child was unconscious? How hard did they shake the child? How long? Did any symptoms precede the shaking?
Experts also began to consider the expertise of biomechanical engineers and pathologists. The shaking that had been thought to be required, these studies seemed to show, would certainly have injured the cervical spinal cord and neck. In many cases, no injuries to the neck or spinal cord were shown. The conclusion, at least by some experts, was that the child could not have been shaken to that degree if no neck injuries were shown. Advocates in cases where no injuries are revealed to the neck and spinal column must question the experts carefully with regard to the degree of force that would be required to cause the classic triad. Some experts, it would seem, have now backtracked on their previous contention that only extremely rough handling could cause these injuries. It is also right that some new research showed that relatively short-distance falls may cause fatal head injuries that look like SBS-type injuries.
In the mid to late 1990's, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revolutionized the field of radiology. MRI enabled a far more detailed assessment of the pattern and extent and timing of injuries than had its precursor, computed tomography (CT). These new radiological findings revealed the presence of triad symptoms in cases where it had been accepted that the cause was not shaking: for example, in cases of accidental injury, or in cases where medical disorders such as autoimmune deficiency had been diagnosed. These conditions could be seen by less subtle and nuanced diagnosis to be NAI.
The importance of the Louise Woodward case also should not be underestimated. The British au pair's case was perceived as one that revealed the divide in the scientific community. Scientists challenging the SBS dogma, according to Professor Tuerkheimer, ". . . emerged as a significant force in terms of numbers as well as influence." (See 2009 Wash LR, p. 15.) Defenders of the SBS diagnosis began in the face of these arguments to adapt their analysis in subtle but important ways. No longer were physicians willing to state with certainty that the constellation of symptoms must in every case indicate that a child was abused. In particular, new studies generated new explanations for the presence of subdural haematomas and retinal haemorrhages. Most physicians by this time began to concede that the triad was not necessarily induced by shaking. A differential diagnosis must always be considered. This was a dramatic evolution in mainstream scientific thinking.
Professor Tuerkheimer points out other difficulties with the SBS diagnosis. In particular, it had been previously thought that the perpetrator of abuse was necessarily the person with the infant immediately prior to the loss of consciousness. Studies have since shown that children suffering fatal head injuries may be lucid from more than 72 hours before death. This research, of course, makes it difficult if not impossible to pinpoint the time of the injury and the identity of the perpetrator.
The Law's Response
As a result of these new medical advances, the Court of Appeal (Crim) in 2005 considered four cases on appeal. The cases are reported as R v Lorraine Harris, Raymond Charles Rock, Alan Barry Cherry and Michael Faulder  EWCA Crim 1980,  Cr App R 5;  2 FLR 412, CA. Though the cases concern the criminal standard of proof and the verdicts of juries, the Court of Appeal's judgment is required reading for practitiners in family proceedings handling non-accidental head injury cases.
The Court of Appeal in Harris held that no longer would the classic triad "automatically or necessarily" lead to a conclusion that the infant had been shaken. The appellants had all appealed in separate cases against their convictions for either manslaughter or murder or inflicting grievous bodily harm. Each case involved SBS. In each case, at the time immediately before each of the victims became seriously unwell, each had been in the sole care of the respective defendant. All had been convicted after jury trials. Each appealed on the basis of fresh evidence. The argument was essentially this: The previously accepted hypothesis in cases of SBS depended on findings of the classic triad: brain swelling and loss of brain function; subdural haemorrhages; retinal haemorrhages. Between 2000 and 2004 a team of doctors led by the neuropathologist Dr Geddes had produced three papers setting out the results of their research into the triad. In the third paper (known as "Geddes III") the team put forward a new hypothesis: This hypothesis (known as the "unified hypothesis") challenged the infallibility of the triad. The new hypothesis did not seek to show that the triad was inconsistent with NAHI, but it did seek to show that it was not diagnostic. At least prior to the trial, Dr Geddes and her team contended that it was likely that the brain swelling itself caused the subdural haemorrhages and retinal haemorrhages.
Dr Geddes accepted in cross-examination during the hearing, however, that the unified hypothesis was not likely correct, and that the brain swelling did not likely cause the subdural haemorrhages or retinal haemorrhages. Therefore the unified hypothesis was not a credible alternative explanation for the appearance of the classic triad.
But that was not the end of the Appellate Court's examination of the issue. The Court noted that there remained a body of medical opinion which did not accept that the classic triad was inevitably diagnostic of abuse. Common sense suggested that the more severe the injuries the more probable it was that they would have been caused by greater force than mere "rough handling."
In the case involving the defendant Harris, her four-month old son had collapsed and died. The evidence was solely the classic triad, without other medical evidence of injury or rough handling. The new evidence, according to the Court of Appeal, threw doubt on the significance of the subdural haemorrhages that were found. It threw doubt on the evidence of injuries to the brain. The finding of retinal haemorrhages was powerful supporting evidence of shaking, but on its own was not diagnostic of shaking. Accordingly, the conviction was quashed.
In the case of the defendant Rock, however, the triad did not stand alone. There was no dispute that the defendant had shaken his partner's 13-month-old daughter and no dispute that she had suffered an impact to the back of her head. Rock's explanation could not account for the injuries. The Court of Appeal did, however, reduce the defendant's conviction from murder to manslaughter.
The defendant Cherry was convicted of manslaughter after the death of the 21-month-old daughter of his partner. He contended the child fell from a chair some 6 to 8 inches off the floor. Two elements of the triad were present. There were two separate sites of scalp bruising. The conviction was upheld.
The defendant Faulder's seven-week-old son suffered a non-fatal injury to his head. The defendant contended the child fell from a chair. The prosecution first contended, based solely on the existence of the triad, that the child had been shaken. The Crown then changed its case to contend the child was likely beaten several different times, citing the number of bruises the child had. The Court of Appeal, noting the potentially credible alternatives put forward by the defence, held that the conviction was unsafe.
After Harris , the then Attorney General Lord Goldsmith conducted a seven-month review of 88 SBS cases, including guilty verdicts and guilty pleas. See The Rt Hon The Lord Goldsmith QC, The Review of Infant Death Cases: Addendum to Report Shaken Baby Syndrome (HMSO 2006). The AG's review was criticised by Professor Tuerkheimer and others, primarily because Lord Goldsmith considered admissions by defendants as corroborative of the diagnosis. Lord Goldsmith also considered the presence of chronic subdural haematomas as corroborative evidence. Professor Tuerkheimer contends research shows that the presence of subdural haematomas to have limited value as corroborative evidence of shaking. Three of the cases reviewed by Lord Goldsmith (3.4% of the total reviewed) were seen to be unsafe and gave rise to referral to Criminal Court of Appeal. As Professor Tuerkheimer points out, Lord Goldsmith's systematic review and the Court of Appeal's decision in Harris appreciably altered the course of SBS prosecutions.
In March, 2011, as a result of the review by Lord Goldsmith as well as the new research findings, the Crown Prosecution Service issued new guidance with regard to bringing what the CPS now refers to as "non-accidental head injury" cases:
NAHI cases will usually be diagnosed by the triad of internal head injuries set out above;
To prove a NAHI case, the Crown will usually require the triad of injuries PLUS supporting evidence;
The "unified hypothesis" is a theory used by the defence experts to challenge the triad diagnosis; however the theory has not been endorsed by the Court of Appeal;
CPS policy is to resist challenges to the triad diagnosis based on the unified hypothesis;
The defence may also try to introduce bio-mechanical evidence; to do so, the defence would be required to demonstrate its relevance to the case;
Expert evidence must be dealt with in accordance with the CPRs;
The Strategy and Policy Directorate must be informed of NAHI cases in which these issues arise.
The Latest Research – a Middle Way Forward?
Practitioners should also be aware of new research by the Canadian pathologist Evan Matshes, published in July, 2011, by Academic Forensic Pathology, the journal of the US National Association of Medical Examiners. Matshes's research shows how death from shaking could in fact occur, not because of the traditional triad of injuries to the brain, but because of injuries to the child's spinal column that directly impacted the child's ability to breathe. The new findings, in fact, split a lot of the difference between the warring camps on Shaken Baby Syndrome. In investigating the deaths of 35 children, Matshes did autopsies in a new way. The usual practice is to dissect only part of the spinal column. Matshes instead dissected the spine down through the neck and into the nerve roots. In the 12 babies whose history showed evidence of injury from hyperflexion – severe whiplash, from either shaking of from a car accident – he found bleeding in the nerve roots of the part of the spinal column at C3, C4 and C5. Matshes then compared this to the spinal columns of a group of 23 children for whom there had been no solid evidence of an injury from whiplash. (This group in the main died from smothering or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.) Only one baby in this group had bleeding in the same C3, C4 and C5 region. That child's history, interestingly, made shaking a distinct possibility, though it was denied by the carer.
The key to the finding is that C3, C4 and C5 control the child's diaphragm. Babies depend on their diaphragms to breathe, much more so than older children or adults. As the New York Times reporter Emily Bazelon points out in her story reporting Dr Matshes's findings, Matshes's work, if proved correct, could be the missing piece of the puzzle: the causal mechanism that the biomechanical experiments have not accounted for. The New York Times reporter approached four experts, two supporters of the traditional shaken baby diagnosis and two critics. They all agreed the paper, while based on a small sample, pointed to a new area worthy of more research. Dr Waney Squier, a paediatric neuropathologist who has often given evidence in the UK in these cases, told the Times reporter that "It is now terribly important to look at the neck." Squier also pointed to a methodological weakness in the paper: the study was not double blind. The researchers, in other words, knew the histories of the babies when they conducted their research. Pathologists doing autopsies, however, are ethically bound to know the subject's history. There can be no randomised controlled double-blinded studies in forensic pathology, for obvious reasons.
The paediatric neurosurgeon Norman Guthkelch, whose research 40 years ago was one of the most important early pieces of research that tended to connect head injuries in young children to violence, has agreed that Matshes's study is a vitally important new contribution to the debate. Dr Guthkelch told the US public broadcaster National Public Radio in the summer of 2011 that he worries that doctors and other medical experts are too quick to diagnose shaken baby syndrome, without considering other possibilities.
The difficulty with the study is that it is unlikely that in every case involving suspected NAI these types of autopsies can be undertaken. There are time-consuming extra steps involved. The spinal column has to be placed in formaldehyde for up to a month in order for the bone to soften before the pathologist can begin the testing process.
The Current Approach of Family Judges
Critics of the new research argue that shaking is still the most likely explanation for rhetinal haemorrhaging and subdural haematomas. 14 That said, it is clear that judges look at all other possible explanations before making findings. 15 All courts ow consider the various differential diagnoses set out by Professor Timothy David in his seminal article: "Non-accidental Head Injury: The Evidence." 16 Several differential diagnoses must now be considered:
|1) congenital malformation;
2) "metabolic disorders;
3) haematological diseases;
4) infectious diseases;
5) autoimmune conditions.
But more importantly, courts must consider, as Mr Justice Hedley did in the case of R (A Child)  EWHC 1715 (Fam), whether the cause of the injury is simply "not presently known or understood". In that case, Hedley J cited Moses LJ in the criminal appeal of Henderson and others  EWCA Crim 1269, CA:
|"There remains a temptation to believe that it is always possible to identify the cause of injury to a child. Where the prosecution is able, by advancing an array of experts, to identify a non-accidental injury and the defence can identify no alternative causes, it is tempting to conclude that the prosecution has proved its case. Such temptation must be resisted. In this, as in so many fields of medicine, the evidence may be insufficient to exclude beyond reasonable doubt an unknown cause."
In the case before Hedley J, there were three possible causes of the subdural haematomas found in the child: firstly, a peri-natal event, although there was nothing of note in this case to specifically point to this; secondly, a non-accidental, inflicted head injury; and thirdly, a cause that was not known or understood. Hedley J stated that a conclusion of "unknown etiology" was not a professional or a forensic failure; it simply recognises that there is much we do not know and that it is dangerous and wrong to infer non-accidental injury merely from the absence of any other understood mechanisms. After reviewing all of the evidence before him, Hedley J was able to make a finding that the cause of the subdural haematomas was one of unknown etiology. In that case, however, it must noted that there were no retinal haemorrhages, and no encepalapathy or brain disturbance. The child, however, suffered from a fracture of the leg. Hedley J, after examining the evidence, found that the fracture was caused by accident.
Another case that is mandatory reading for any advocate appearing in a head injury case is Baker J's careful judgment in the case of Re JS. This was ct-fa fact-fearing within care proceedings. The local authority sought findings that the head injuries suffered by the child were inflicted by his parents when the child was 15 weeks old.
Baker J heard evidence over 15 days from six leading experts in their fields. Baker J gave a summary of the up-to-date research in this area, in particular with regard to subdural haematomas and retinal haemorrhages. After considering the evidence, Baker J found that the father was responsible for the injuries by shaking the child, and that the mother had failed to protect the child from the father and therefore contributed to the harm suffered by the child.
Practitioners will take particular note of two reports cited by Baker J. The first, Intracranial Haemorrhage in Asymptomatic Neonates: Prevalence on MR Images and Relationship to Obstetric and Neonatal Risk Factors 18 , reviewed three studies (by Looney and others; Whitby and others, and Rooks and others) that showed subdural haematomas occur much more frequently at birth than was previously recognised. The Rooks paper indicated that 46 per cent of neonates had subdural haematomas seen by MRI within 72 hours of delivery. Most of these subdural haematomas had resolved within one month. All had resolved by three months. In the trial before Baker J, the experts refused to rule out the possibility, however, of chronic bleeding that persisted past three months.
With regard to retinal haemorrhages, a report by the Welsh Child Protection Systematic Review Group was cited by the experts. This report, by Maguire and others, is entitled Which Clinical Features Distinguish Inflicted From Non-inflicted Brain Injury—A Systematic Review . The review showed that apnoea and retinal haemorrhages are present in a high percentage of inflicted brain injury cases. As the expert reported to Baker J (at para 62):
|". . . non-abusive head injury was a rare cause of retinal haemorrhage and, when present, compared to those in abusive head trauma, was more frequently unilateral, fewer in number and restricted to the posterior pole. Retinal bleeding is much more likely to be found in cases of abusive head trauma with the retinal bleeding described as multi-layered, extensive and extending to the periphery, but. . . can occur in non-abusive head injury where they are more likely to be unilateral, non-extensive and restricted to the posterior pole."
Baker J was careful to note, however, that while the appearance of retinal haemorrhages may be associated with abusive or non-abusive head trauma, the appearance of the retinal haemorrhages is not diagnostic of a particular cause.
Practitioners involved in any fact-finding hearing where non-accidental injuries have been alleged should follow the 10 Legal Commandments given by Mr Justice Baker in the case of Re JS  EWHC 1370, at paragraphs 36-45.
The burden of proof lies with the local authority.
The standard of proof is the balance of probabilities.
Findings of fact must be based on evidence, not speculation or suspicion.
When considering cases of suspected child abuse, the court must consider each piece of evidence in the context of all other evidence. A judge must view the totality of the evidence in order to come to the conclusion whether the case has been made out to the appropriate standard of proof.
In serious non-accidental cases, including head injury cases, the opinion of medical experts must be considered in the context of all other evidence. The court must weigh up expert evidence against other evidence. There may be cases where a court determines that the weight of the evidence is at variance from that reached by medical experts.
In assessing the expert evidence, the court is assessing the evidence of a group of specialists, each bringing a different expertise to bear on the issue. Each expert must keep within the bounds of his or her expertise. The expert must defer, where appropriate, to the expertise of others.
The evidence of the parents or other carers is of the utmost importance. Credibility and reliability are key issues.
Witnesses often tell lies. The court must bear in mind that a witness may lie for many reasons, such as shame, misplaced loyalty, panic, fear and distress. The fact a witness has lied about some matters does not mean he or she has lied about everything.
A court must take into account the possibility that the cause of an injury or condition is simply unknown. This does not affect the burden or the standard of proof. It is simply a factor to be taken into account in deciding whether the causation advanced by the party holding the burden of proof is established on the balance of probabilities.
When seeking to identify the perpetrators of NAIs, the test regarding whether a particular person is in the pool of possible perpetrators is whether there is a likelihood or a real possibility that he or she was the perpetrator. To make a finding that a particular person was the perpetrator, the court must be satisfied on a balance of probabilities. It is desirable, where possible, for the perpetrator to be identified. But a judge should not strain to do so.
Mrs Justice Theis's judgment in the case of London Borough of Islington v Al Alas and Wray  EWHC 865 (Fam) must also be parsed carefully by any advocate appearing in an SBS case. The facts were as follows: The child Jayden Al Alas Wray was born on 7.3.2009 and died little more than four months later, on 25.7.2009. The local authority contended this was a straightforward SBS case: the child suffered from the classic triad of injuries, and also suffered from fractures and multiple sites and of varying ages. After a hearing that lasted some six weeks, Theis J conclusively found all allegations not proved. She found that all of the fractures were caused by rickets, which had been misdiagnosed by the child's treating physicians. The death was attributed to a constellation of benign causes:
|1) severe vitamin D deficiency;
2) ongoing seizures leading to raised intracranial pressure, retinal haemorrhages, and subdural haematoma, culminating in hypoxic ischemia brain injury and death.
Theis J also found that there were significant intervening events between admission to hospital and the child's death that played a role in causation, including what the judge termed "sub-optimal" medical treatment by the University College London Hospital team.
Both Great Ormond Street and UCL, which had treated the child, attributed all his injuries to NAI. GOSH did not pick up radiological evident signs of rickets, and specifically excluded any underlying metabolic bone disease to account for the fractures. This clinical misjudgement led to the erroneous conclusion that the skull fracture occurred at the same time as the child's collapse and was therefore linked to the cause of death. As counsel who conducted the case for the mother stated in an article published in the June edition of Family Law, "GOSH could not have been more wrong."
The Court, after hearing argument, decided it was not appropriate to shield the identity of the child and the treating physicians. All experts and treating physicians were therefore named in the judgment.
One factor that will always be considered by the court (under the category of "other evidence") is the reliability or credibility of the evidence given by those caring for the child at or near the time the injury is noticed. An example is the recent decision by Mr Justice Keehan. See A Local Authority v DB, RB and SM  EWHC 4066 (Fam).
In that case the child, aged 19 months, suffered the following injuries, some combination of which were fatal:
|a) a large space occupying right sided subdural haematoma, causing a midline shift;
b) widespread cerebral infarction with secondary brain swelling;
c) bilateral retinal haemorrhages, affecting all parts of the retina;
d) bilateral perimacular folds;
e) extensive haemorrhage into the orbital connective tissues;
f) extensive haemorrhage into the collagenous dual sheath of both optic nerves;
g) extensive haemorrhage in the subdural space around both optic nerves;
h) marked papilloedema in both eyes.
Keehan J also pointed out what was NOT present:
|a) no skull fractures were identified;
b) no rib fractures or fractures of the long bones were seen;
c) there was no swelling or bruising on the right side of the head;
d) there were no suspicious marks or bruises found on the child's body;
e) there was no damage to the child's internal organs caused by a grip or a shake;
f) there was no contusion to the brain;
g) the subdural bleeding was unilateral and not bilateral and multi-focal; and
h) the child (19 months of age) was outside the usual age range at which children ordinarily sustain injury by shaking.
One area of contention involved the question of whether an arteriovenous malformation in the child had bled spontaneously and had destroyed itself in the course of the haemorrhage. The paediatric neurosurgeon Mr Richards agreed that one "possible" but rare cause of the subdural bleeding in the child could be spontaneous bleeding of this sort, but stated in his written report that such cases are extremely rare. In the course of the experts' meeting, the forensic pathologist Dr Cary was reported to have said this: "I would just like to make the point though from earlier discussion I think it was felt that a spontaneous bleed was so unlikely to be completely unrealistic in these circumstances."
Mr Richards agreed. In Mr Richards' view, ". . . it [the spontaneous bleed from an arteriovenous malformation] was the only potential alternative [explanation] for acute disaster like this to trauma, and I think it is extremely highly unlikely to the point of being virtually implausible." (See para 76.)
Mr Richards explained that the vast majority of arteriovenous malformations bleed into the substance of the brain. No bleeding was found on post mortem exam of the substance of the child's brain. It was also extremely rare for an arteriovenous malformation to rupture spontaneously and extremely rare for the evidence of the existence of an arteriovenous malformation to disappear. It is also right, Mr Richards stated, that arteriovenous malformations would not cause the retinal bleeding found in the child's eyes.
In all fatal cases of suspected NAHI, an opthalmic pathologist will be asked to review the evidence. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists have recently issued updated guidance regarding the appearance of a child's retina after suspected abusive trauma.
Only in the last two years have paediatric and forensic pathologists begun providing to ophthalmic pathologists the orbital connective tissue surrounding a child's eyes. There is a difference between the anatomy and physiology of the eye compared with the orbital connective tissue, and it is clear much research remains to be done.
In the case before Keehan J, leading counsel for the father took the consultant ophthalmic pathologist Dr McCarthy through the various differential diagnoses that must be considered. Dr McCarthy in this case concluded that the evidence pointed (in his view conclusively) to an inflicted injury. The extent of the retinal haemorrhages seen in this child, the fact they were bilateral, the fact there were also haemorrhages in the optic and nerve sheath, in the orbits of the eye and in the orbital connective tissues – all of this taken together meant the retinal haemorrhages were not likely caused by raised intra cranial pressure. In Dr McCarthy's view the retinal haemorrhages were caused by trauma.
But at least as important as the medical evidence for Keehan J in this case was his consideration of the evidence of the mother and father. Both were seen to be kind, loving and considerate people. This was not a family with a history of violence or drug abuse. The parents did not present with the sort of chaotic lifestyle that courts often see in NAHI cases. The contact between mother, father and the other children of the family was seen to be of a very high quality.
On the other hand, the mother clearly drank more alcohol than she was willing to acknowledge. And more important, the mother and father were willing to lie about that. It was also right that the father lied about his whereabouts on the night of the injury, and had given various and inconsistent accounts about how often he was up feeding the couple's new born child (not the child who suffered the fatal injuries). The father also gave inconsistent accounts of how the child looked when he discovered the child lying face down in the child's cot. Both parents were found by the judge to have been untruthful about their movements on the day before and the day of the incident. The fact that five text messages between them had been deleted from their phones also raised questions in the judge's mind.
Keehan J gave himself the direction required of Crown Court judges when directing a jury in similar situations: the fact that a defendant has been found to have lied about something does not necessarily mean the defendant is lying about whether he or she committed the criminal act at issue. People may lie for a variety of reasons not connected with the alleged crime that was committed. Judges and juries must consider this when seeking to determine whether the defendant (or respondent) in fact caused the injuries complained of.
But for Keehan J, the parents' unsatisfactory evidence made the medical evidence even more compelling. It is right, as Hedley J pointed out in Re R (A Child), that courts must consider whether the medical evidence should simply be disregarded. Some head injuries in infants are simply unexplainable, and we are not at a point where the medical evidence can simply without any question rule out all possible causes save an inflicted trauma. But where the parents have been found to have lied about crucial matters, the court must consider carefully whether those lies are in fact positive evidence that each parent knows more than they are revealing. Keehan J, after making findings regarding the parents' evidence, had no difficulty in also finding that either the mother or the father caused the injury, that the injuries would have been obvious to the non-caring parent, and that both were colluding with each other to hide the truth from the court.
British man sentenced to 16 years on child exploitation charges
CINCINNATI — A British man who traveled to Ohio in 2011 to engage a minor in illicit sexual activity was sentenced Tuesday to 16 years in prison. The sentencing follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Richard Castle, 47, a resident of the United Kingdom, has been sentenced to serve 192 months in prison in connection with a trip he made to Ohio from his home in the United Kingdom in order to have sexual relations with a juvenile in June 2011.
Members of the Metropolitan Police Service's Extradition Team and International Assistance Unit, housed within New Scotland Yard, arrested Castle at his home in Northampton, England, on Jan. 12, 2012.
"This case is a disturbing reminder that international borders are no longer a hindrance for child predators," said Marlon Miller, special agent in charge of HSI Detroit, which covers Michigan and Ohio. "However, today's significant sentencing should assure victims around the world that HSI and our partners in the international law enforcement community are committed to aggressively targeting those engaged in these heinous acts."
A federal grand jury indicted Castle on Feb. 15, 2012, and he pleaded guilty on Oct. 3, 2013, to charges of coercion of a minor, traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual contact with a minor and transferring obscene material to a minor. Castle admitted that, posing as a male named Richard Joshua Parker, he used the Internet between March 2009 and June 2011 to coerce a juvenile to engage in illicit sexual activity. He flew to Dayton in June 2011 to engage in illicit sexual relations with the juvenile and stayed approximately three weeks. Castle also admitted that he transferred obscene materials to this same juvenile.
"Threats against our children can come from any corner of the globe," said U.S. Attorney Carter Stewart. "We must become partners with law enforcement agencies around the world in order to fight child exploitation effectively."
The case was investigated by HSI, the Englewood Police Department, and the Vandalia Police Department with support provided by the Miami Valley Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory, and the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the U.S. Marshals Service, the HSI Attaché London Office, and the ICE Office of the Principal Legal Advisor. The Criminal Division's Office of International Affairs also provided assistance with Castle's extradition.
This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2013, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form . Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page .
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.
Male neighbour was given permission to sexually assault girl (5) by her mother, court hears
by Neil Fetherston
The child was the victim of horrific sexual abuse by her mother as well as by the neighbour from the age of five, Roscommon Circuit Criminal Court was told.
It was also revealed in court how the little girl was led around in a dog lead by the neighbour before being raped.
Her father is to stand trial later this year on charges of sexually assaulting his daughter.
The 47-year-old woman had pleaded guilty at a previous court hearing to a total 12 charges, including sexual assault, wilful neglect or ill-treatment, as well as using her daughter for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
Last year the neighbour was given an eight-year sentence after he pleaded guilty to raping the child.
That sentence is currently under appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
All of the charges took place between 2004 and 2008 in the west of Ireland.
None of the abusers can be named due to reporting restrictions to prevent the identification of the victim.
The offences came to light after the girl was taken into care with her siblings in 2008.
She initially said that her mother had been slapping her.
Garda Naomi Sloyan said that in statements from social workers and the victim, it was revealed that the mother had also taught her daughter to masturbate when she was five.
It also emerged that the child often went without food and was unable to use utensils or brush her hair when taken into care aged nine.
The male neighbour used to babysit the girl and her siblings twice or three times a week at her original family home and began abusing her.
The girl later revealed that the neighbour had told her mother about what he was doing to her and the mother said that it was fine by her – he could do it as long as he liked.
The child made it clear that when the neighbour was in the act of abuse, her mother was in the home.
The woman had been having an on-off affair with her neighbour. She also revealed that her mother had tickled her in her private parts.
The mother blamed her behaviour on the fact that she was drinking heavily at the time – cider, vodka and Coke.
But she agreed that her daughter was telling the truth.
She had found the change of homes upsetting.
"I try not to think of the crime. I thought it was everyday life and I was too afraid to tell anyone," she said.
The court was told by prosecuting counsel Caroline Biggs that the maximum sentence for the sexual exploitation of a child was life imprisonment, while the maximum tariff for sexual assault was 14 years.
The mother was released on continuing bail to the resumed sentence hearing in May.