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August 29, 2014

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California

California bill defines what it means to say ‘yes' to sex

by Gail Sullivan

The California state senate unanimously approved a bill on Thursday that defines when “yes” means “yes” to sex.

Instead of “no means no” – the phrase commonly associated with sexual assault prevention – the law would require “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement” by each party to engage in sexual activity. If Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signs the bill into law – he has until the end of September – colleges and universities would have to adopt the so-called affirmative consent standard to continue receiving state funds for student financial aid.

The move comes as universities across the country are under pressure to improve how they handle sexual assault allegations. Several California colleges are on the Department of Education's list of 55 institutions under investigation for allegedly mishandling sexual assault complaints. The language of the bill is based on the recommendations of a White House student sexual assault task force.

Under the proposed standard, the fact that a person didn't say “no” is no defense in a campus sexual assault investigation.

In addition to consenting up front, the bill requires affirmative consent to be “ongoing throughout the sexual activity,” meaning that sexual partners must agree to each step of a sexual encounter as it progresses and consent can be revoked at any time. The standard would apply to all sexual encounters regardless of whether the parties are having a one-night stand or are in a long-term relationship.

One thing the bill doesn't say is that affirmative consent must be verbal. The bill's original language warned “relying solely on nonverbal communication can lead to misunderstanding,” but that language was removed as was the requirement that consent be “unambiguous.” Nonetheless, as Slate's Amanda Hess pointed out, this fact was lost on commentators, some who lamented the standard would redefine most sex as rape and would require students to agree to a verbal or written contract before sex.

Students, too, were somewhat confused. “I feel like their hearts are in the right place, but the implementation is a little too excessive,” Henry Mu, a 24-year-old biology major at California State Long Beach told the Press-Telegram. “Are there guidelines? Are we supposed to check every five minutes?”

While the bill doesn't spell out what “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement” looks like in practice, it's very clear what doesn't count as consent: lack of protest or resistance, silence, unconsciousness or being asleep or too intoxicated to understand what's going on.

The bill also requires colleges to implement “victim centered” sexual assault prevention and outreach programs to teach students about “the practical implications of an affirmative consent standard” that would “hopefully,” Hess wrote, “spark honest conversations about what is and isn't over the line.”

Sexual assault prevention advocates welcomed the bill, which challenges the idea that victims have to resist an assault in order to have a valid complaint. “The survivors [of sexual assault] are going to be positively affected because they are going to be going into a system that no longer asks them why they didn't do something,” Denice Labertew, the director of advocacy services at the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, told Inside Higher Ed in June.

But critics say the proposal unfairly burdens those accused of sexual assault. “How does a person prove they receive consent “shy of having it videotaped,” Joe Cohn, the legislative policy director at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, told Inside Higher Ed. Cohn said the policy reverses the presumption of innocence for the accused, which he called a “dramatic and important shift.”

The California state university system supports the bill and has already updated its policies to include similar language. Other universities including Dartmouth and Yale have also adopted affirmative consent policies.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/08/29/california-bill-defines-what-it-means-to-say-yes-to-sex/?tid=hp_mm

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Texas

Official Texas Department of Public Safety mobile app now available on iOS, Android

AUSTIN – MicroAssist, a technology service provider specializing in facilitating the delivery of State and Local services to the public, has created a mobile app for the Texas Department of Public Safety that provides up-to-date details on most wanted fugitives and sex offenders and information related to human trafficking.

Another real-time feature allows app users to submit suspicious activity through iWatch Texas for further analysis and processing.

MicroAssist's CEO Sanjay Nasta said that following an 18-year track-record of excellence in helping DPS find innovative ways to deliver public safety services to the citizens of Texas, his company was selected to create the department's app.

“It's the first statewide mobile app of its kind in the U.S. that helps citizens track, identify and report on potential criminal activity. With the rise of the mobile generation, organizations with mission critical content – like DPS – greatly benefit from expanding their reach to a wider and technology-oriented audience. Fortunately, we were able to leverage the work we previously performed for DPS, including the DPS Sex Offender Registry, to create a highly intuitive and easy-to-navigate app that runs on smartphones and tablets running both iOS and Android operating systems,” Nasta added.

The new Texas DPS app has a very clean, organized look with four main programs – Fugitives, Sex Offenders, Human Trafficking, iWatch Texas – immediately viewable from the home-page. There is also a Featured News section at the very top that offers breaking news on a variety of DPS-related topics.

“With a more mobile citizenry comes a host of new development challenges, including adding interactive elements like mapping and geolocation functionality, so that users can retrieve information from addresses or current location of the mobile device – which we were pleased to be able to do with this app,” said Nasta. “This Texas DPS mobile app is designed to provide immediate value for the citizens of Texas, and is also flexible enough for DPS to add other features and services in the future.”

The mobile app is available for download on Android and iOS. Search for Texas DPS.

http://www.yourhoustonnews.com/tomball/news/official-texas-department-of-public-safety-mobile-app-now-available/article_e8038648-2f26-11e4-9995-001a4bcf887a.html

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United Kingdom

Commentary

This culture of silence and denial around child abuse must end

I know from my own experience how difficult it is for victims to speak up, so when they do it is vital that we listen, believe and treat them with respect

by James Rhodes

Horror creates the before and after – Dunblane, Columbine, Hungerford, Rotherham.

Rotherham stands apart for many reasons: the sheer number of perpetrators; the sheer numbers involved (some survivors, some, sadly, inevitably victims) – 1,400 conservatively estimated – the contents of two state secondary schools or 127 school football teams. But there is a more devastating reason it stands alone: the resounding silence. The countless children who were brave enough to come forward at the time and afterwards, who were disbelieved, punished, mocked, accused and summarily dismissed.

We are told to keep quiet from the earliest, pre-verbal stages of life. Children should be seen, not heard. Don't answer back. You have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Don't speak until spoken to. Put up and shut up.

And then a child, doused with petrol and threatened to be set alight, gang-raped and forced to watch others suffer the same, digs deep down and somehow finds the extraordinary courage to stand up and say “this happened to me”. She risks the all-encompassing shame, the reliving and recounting of unimaginable horrors, the video evidence, diagrams of who did what and where, being questioned repeatedly by adults trying to pick holes in her story, the blame, recrimination, taunts, insults; the final, ghastly ripping of the child out of a child. She does it anyway.

I didn't. I wasn't that brave. I waited 25 years before going through all that. I was finally heard and believed, and the police tracked down and charged the teacher who raped me. But pick any one of those 1,400 children and look at their experience of the aftermath of abuse and hang your heads in shame.

There is a large section of society for whom talking about child abuse is in itself as bad as child abuse. We are complicit in the shaming, silencing, blaming and castigating of those who are our most defenceless and vulnerable, and it must not, can not, should not stand any longer.

No good can come out of the Rotherham inquiry. There are no mitigating circumstances or silver linings. There is no upside. But there is, once again after the Westminster paedophile dossier, Jimmy Savile, Kincora, Rochdale and too many others, an opportunity to make a commitment, clearly and compassionately, that any child who is brave enough to say the unspeakable will be heard, believed and treated with respect.

That does not mean those accused should be tried through the media, castigated or emotionally lynched before due process has been afforded. It means that those who commit these acts will be held accountable, not shielded and protected. And that the starting point for those dealing with the alleged victims will be one of credibility and honour.

Abuse thrives on silence. It exists because those who have endured it believe at a cellular level that they are in the wrong. They believe they are inherently evil. They believe it is their fault. Is that any surprise given the monstrosity of the Rotherham case?

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/28/silence-denial-chld-abuse-rotherham

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Brownsville

Grant offers tuition help to victims of abuse

by Christina R. Garza

Some survivors of domestic abuse will be able to reach their educational goals thanks to a tuition assistance award from the Brownsville non-profit organization Friendship of Women.

Executive Director Gloria Ocampo said the Health and Humane Services Commission gave the agency a $3,500 grant to promote economic stability. Ocampo said only one person has received the tuition assistance funds so far but she urges more people to apply before the Aug. 31 deadline. The assistance may be used at any CameronCounty secondary public or private institution.

Ocampo said Friendship of Women served 1,500 survivors of domestic abuse from 2012-2013.

Victims Service Director Daisy Lopez said the organization offers a variety of services like counseling, temporary housing, food, education, relocation services and shelter services to men, women and children who have suffered domestic violence.

“We have many children that come through our shelter that are not eligible for other services but are victims of secondary trauma from seeing their mother victimized,“ Lopez said.

The Texas Council on Family Violence reports 12,356 adults stayed at domestic violence shelters in 2006.

Ocampo said client safety is the No. 1 priority at Friendship of Women, which leads the organization to operate under a low profile.

“We have to maintain the safety and security of our clients; a lot of people don't know about Friendship of Women, so we might be missed here and there by donors,“ Ocampo said.

Lopez said the shelter can house up to 30 people.

Ocampo described as rewarding the moment the first person received tuition assistance funds.

“She wouldn't stop smiling,” Ocampo said of the recipient.

Lopez said applicants must meet the following requirements before they are awarded assistance:

Must be an adult or child survivor of domestic violence.

Must be registered in a vocational or secondary education program.

Must register with Friendship of Women Inc. as a client.

Tuition must be incurred by Aug. 31.

For more information or to apply, call (956) 544-7412.

http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/premium/article_835a4428-2e60-11e4-be56-001a4bcf6878.html

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Utah

Actress, child abuse survivor Jan Broberg speaks out with new documentary 'Stolen Innocence'

by Erin Zeltner

At some point during their childhood, one in three girls and one in seven boys will be sexually abused, and an estimated 85% of those children are abused by people they know. At age 12 and age 14, actress Jan Broberg was kidnapped, repeatedly sexually abused, and raped by a close family friend, and was so brainwashed that she believed that her abuser was her soulmate. Now, a grown-up and well-adjusted Broberg is currently filming a documentary to tell her story, in hopes of educating families about how to protect their children from being preyed upon, especially by those they know.

On Oct. 17, 1974, 12-year-old Broberg went with a close family friend to go horseback riding after her piano lesson. She didn't return home to her family in Pocatello, Idaho. Broberg was drugged, strapped down in a motorhome, taken to Mexico, brainwashed, and repeatedly sexually assaulted before being able to go home.

Unbeknownst to her family, the stage had been being set for that horrifying day for over two years by her abductor. Robert Berchtold, a charismatic father of five, fellow Mormon church member, and the Broberg family's closest friend, had managed to seem perfectly harmless and even loving to all of the children in the Broberg family.

“We were so close to him and his family," Broberg said. "If you were going to will your children to someone in the event of your death, my parents would have willed us to him. That was the level of trust that was there.”

Berchtold was beloved by all of the Broberg children. He took them boating and played with them by giving them piggyback rides and "rough-housed" with them around the Brobergs' living room. He was the perfect picture of the perfect family friend, and over two years he had gained the trust he needed to be able to make his move.

After abducting Broberg, Berchtold brainwashed her by keeping her drugged for four days and played recorded alien-sounding voices, which had a specific message for her: She was only half human and they, the owners of the voices, had been watching her since her birth. She had a special mission to complete -- she needed to have a child that was destined to save the world. The father, of course, was to be Berchtold, and she needed to keep the aliens a secret at all costs. Anyone she told would be instantly vaporized, and if she failed to complete her mission, there was a fallback plan -- her sister was also half-human, and they could use her instead.

“There was no way I could have had a baby. I was completely undeveloped at that time, very prepubescent, and I still was at age 14," Broberg said.

When Broberg returned to consciousness, she saw Berchtold in the motorhome, covered in blood. He called her by his pet name for her, Dolly. "Dolly, what happened to us?” he asked. In her disarray, and after hearing the strange voices for so long, Broberg believed that they had both been kidnapped by aliens and that they were to complete a special mission together. She was willing to comply with anything that was necessary to conceive her child, and she felt a closeness and a camaraderie with Berchtold which attached her to him for the next two years.

After being discovered by Mexican police five weeks after the kidnapping, Broberg was returned to her family and Berchtold entered a mental institution, and to plan, not a word was uttered to her family or to police about the sexual contact. Her family, their neighbors, and even the police believed that Berchtold had temporarily lost his mind due to too much stress.

Berchtold sent her hand-delivered notes by using his connections with other patients at the mental institution. Often, she was told to wait for his calls at payphones, and she complied by telling her mother that she was going for a bike ride. After being released, Berchtold was able to easily gain physical and sexual contact with her by having her meet him secretly. Two years after the first abduction, Broberg was taken by Berchtold again and was secretly enrolled in a Catholic school in California, where she was finally found by the FBI.

Berchtold again resurfaced in Broberg's life many years later, when she spoke at a Bikers Against Child Abuse conference at Dixie State College of Utah in St. George, where he hit a conference participant with his van in protest. Not long afterwards, he took his own life.

Aside from her activism on child abuse awareness and prevention, Broberg has enjoyed a successful career in Hollywood, guest starring on such television shows as "Touched by an Angel," "Criminal Minds," and "Everwood," and in movies, including Elijah Wood's 2012 thriller "Maniac." She is best known to Southern Utah audiences for her work in theater, having performed at Tuacahn and the Neil Simon Festival.

Since Broberg came out with her story, six other women have come forward as childhood victims of Berchtold. Because so few children are able to speak out, Broberg said that pedophiles will act again and again without jail time.

“Why are we making this documentary? So often, child victims don't have the words or communication skills to talk about anything that's frightening in a sexual manner. They feel scared and threatened, and there is usually some subtle brainwashing that takes place, which makes it difficult for them to out the person they're being abused by," Broberg said. "I think it's especially difficult when, and this is the case more often than not, the child is being abused by someone who has a place in their lives. They don't want to address the problem because that might mean that someone they or their family loves may be removed from the picture, and may suffer consequences.”

Because sexual abuse often happens to children who know their abuser, Broberg wants to warn families about how to prevent possible issues or stop abuse that's ongoing. She urges parents to pay attention to their children and what they say about specific people in their lives, and that parents should be engaged in watching their children's behavior when they're around other adults or teenagers. She said that because most kids won't speak up when they're being abused, parents have to closely watch and listen for warning signs.

“Some people might criticize my family and how things were dealt with, but I really hope that people learn from the documentary. We were a very normal family who trusted another seemingly normal family," Broberg said. "Pedophiles look normal. They're usually very well-groomed and well-kept. They're friendly to everyone, but what people don't usually realize is that they're being friendly for a reason. They're often very intelligent people who understand how to manipulate good people's emotions and trust.”

“What I'm hoping will happen with this film is that people will have an ‘aha!' moment. I want parents to watch and think, ‘Do I have a susceptibility in my life? Why does my daughter always act a little different around Uncle Joe, or why does my son say he doesn't want to go to Grandpa's house?' Is there a certain person in their lives who goes above and beyond to do nice things for their children?" Broberg said. "Truly, truly, it can happen to anyone. I just want people to start listening to their gut about these sorts of things. Just because it's someone you know doesn't mean it's safe.”

Broberg and her documentary team are still looking for funding to finish the film and get her message of warning and hope out to as many people as possible. To be a part of the cause or for more information, visit: stoleninnocencedocumentary.com

http://www.suindependent.com/news/id_6500/Actress,-child-abuse-survivor-Jan-Broberg-speaks-out-with-new-documentary-Stolen-Innocence-.html

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It Must Be My Fault

by Elisabeth Corey

When I was a child, I was told that everything was my fault. Eventually, I believed it.

In reality, none of it was my fault. As an adult in recovery, I intellectually understand that now. But my unconscious parts are still working that out. My unconscious parts are still trying to make sense of the illogical.

I have struggled with self-worth my entire life. While I don't see myself as capable of doing good things, I do see myself as powerful at manifesting the bad. More than likely, this comes from my understanding of the abusive adults in my childhood. I felt the same way about them. And I internalized that.

So, when bad things happen in my life, as they inevitably do, my overactive brain finds a way to make it my fault. I find a way to make it punishment for something I did or for who I am. And this happens unconsciously.

When I ended relationships with people in the past, I spent weeks or months attributing every negative experience in my life to the pain I caused that individual. Many of these relationships were abusive, and yet, I was not allowed to make the best choice for me. I was not allowed to be so selfish. On an unconscious level, I saw it necessary to experience punishment for the act of standing up for myself.

This continues today. When I make a parenting mistake, which happens more often than not, I believe I deserve to be treated poorly because I am a bad parent. When I say one wrong thing, I assume people will never want to interact with me again. When I muster the courage to write an article with a strong opinion, I expect an on-line backlash of massive proportions. I expect followers to leave in droves.

And while that is bad enough, it doesn't stop there. My innate “badness” is also the cause of a world of problems … the world of problems. My unconscious can attribute almost anything to me.

There's a tornado in Oklahoma? It is probably because I yelled at the kids yesterday. There's an earthquake in Asia? I am sure that would not have happened if I hadn't messed up that presentation. And honestly, the world would just be a better place if I had never been born. And yes, that is an exact quote from my childhood.

With these bizarre attempts at “cause and effect” running through my unconscious, it is not surprising that motivation is challenging. If I am innately bad, how will I ever do good things? That would be impossible, right? What is the point of all this writing? What is the point of that interview? What is the point of all my parenting research? If I am meant to be bad, how can I ever be anything else?

Unfortunately, this underlying current of futility follows me wherever I go. If something looks like it might be an amazing opportunity or a chance for success, I have to pass that up. I can't get my hopes up because it can't work out. In my life, it just isn't allowed to work out. I am not a good enough person for that to work out.

This unconscious child part of me keeps things as mediocre as possible to avoid the downfall that is inevitable. And it battles everyday with that part of me that knows I can do amazing things.

But I keep working to convince that child part otherwise. I gently point out the amazing things I am doing. I make it a point to take in the difference I am making. I do my best to be hopeful and optimistic. I do my best to understand that I am capable of creating a positive future. And I work to forgive myself for the little things, even the big things.

But sometimes, I hurt others. In those times, I need help from others to move forward.

I have written in the past about the importance of believing survivors of sexual trauma. There is nothing more healing that hearing the words, “I believe you.” But there is a phrase that finishes a close second. If you are working with a survivor to help them heal, and they do something wrong, even something you take personally, remember the words “I forgive you.”

If a survivor is able to find the strength to say they are sorry and they receive forgiveness in return, it can be life changing.

It can give them the strength to forgive themselves in return.

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/08/27/it-must-be-my-fault/

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Indiana

Opinion

How to respond to horror of child abuse

by Matthew Tully

On the list of troubling things in this world, things that are nearly impossible to fathom, the top line must be reserved for the sick reality that people are willing to hurt little kids.

And when those people are the parents and caregivers of kids, the feeling of disbelief is even stronger.

But here we are, week after week, hearing horror stories about children in this city being abused by the people whose most important role is to protect them. The stories have come out of homes and a day care, and anyone who has spent time around police, child advocates and courthouses knows that the stories that rise to the level of front-page news represent only a fraction of the problem.

A father (a title he holds in name only) this week was arrested after his 4-year-old son died. The man, police say, beat the child over and over, with his fists and belt, causing injuries so severe and waiting so long to call for help that there was nothing doctors could do. The 29-year-old father, with a long criminal history, will, I hope, never see a day of freedom again.

I know everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but come on. The man has admitted his actions to police. He's not only guilty, he is evil personified. We can sit and talk about the root causes of crime, and I do all the time and it is important, but what the hell is going on when vile people like this are allowed to spend even a minute around any child?

It doesn't get worse than this case. Please remember, though, amid the current debate over public funding of preschool for at-risk children, that for every victim who suffers as horribly as little Derick Jones did, many more suffer lesser yet still cruel levels of neglect and abuse. And even more children simply don't receive the life experiences that every child deserves. They need our help.

Most of us read about Derick, or the 22-year-old woman who recently left her newborn child in a trash can on the Westside, and are as heartbroken as we are unable to imagine such situations. That disbelief and distance are probably why the horrific child-molestation case coming out of a Far Northside day care has so infuriated many of us. After all, we all at some point trust others to watch over our children.

How could a day care employ a man whose actions had, according to police, raised concerns in the past? How could day-care workers not follow basic procedures requiring that they report incidents immediately? How could they allow the suspect in this case to spend time with the victim after the abuse was reported?

Heads must roll.

I probably need to acknowledge that I am not sure why I am writing this column. I guess I'm doing so because I sense that recent headlines have left fellow Hoosiers and fellow parents shaking their heads, wondering what the hell is going on. I guess I needed to vent, and I appreciate those of you who were willing to listen.

I wish I had the answer to this problem. I don't.

But I do know this: We can't let the horror stories stop us from trying to break the cycle of violence and dysfunction that traps too many children. Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said it well this week when he told me that nothing is more powerful than an army of people willing to mentor, support and encourage children who come from unjustly challenging homes, families or neighborhoods.

So here are ideas of how to help.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis is trying to raise millions of dollars to increase the number of children it serves. The United Way of Central Indiana's ReadUP program, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana , are seeking volunteers for programs that have been proven to keep more children on a path toward success. The Women's Fund of Central Indiana is working to help young at-risk women find a path toward economic and personal stability. Giving time or money to these groups, and so many more, would be a worthwhile move. Or you could call City-County councilors (327-4242) and encourage them to support the mayor's proposal to send thousands of 4-year-olds to high-quality preschools.

It's easy to be discouraged by horror stories, and those stories can make it easy to wonder if anything can be done to help our city's kids. But it also is important to remember that the answer to that question is a resounding yes.

http://www.indystar.com/story/opinion/columnists/matthew-tully/2014/08/28/tully-respond-horror-child-abuse/14738253/

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United Kingdom

Who can child abuse victims turn to if they are not believed?

A report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham has highlighted examples of victims not being taken seriously by police and the council's child protection service. Although the abuse that took place between 1997 and 2013 may have been identified and investigated on occasions, its seriousness is said to have often been "underplayed" or even "disbelieved".

Some of the more than 1,400 victims of abuse by gangs of men of predominantly of Pakistani origin identified by the report are now speaking out about their experiences.

But what can a child or young adult in a similar situation do if they feel they have exhausted all official lines of help?

Some victims are moved to contact their MP about their case or make an official complaint to the police force they have had contact with.

Victims can also complain about social services, in the first instance through the relevant local authority .

But charities working with victims say having an independent voice to speak on their behalf is important.

"Any children who feel they are not being listened to can turn to a charity which can speak up and lobby on their behalf to get the support they deserve," a spokesman for the Children's Society said.

In cases where victims have reported the matter to police only to be told the case is not being taken further, social services themselves may be a point of contact, the Children's Society spokesman suggested.

"Where a victim has been told there is 'no realistic prospect of a prosecution' it is important to recognise that they could be getting help from social services, which may still be in a position to put child protection measures in place," he said.

Victim Support says the situation highlighted by the Rotherham report is one its case workers have heard all too often.

Karen Froggatt, who is in charge of the charity's specialist work with children and young people, said: "It can be utterly devastating, to have revealed intimate details of sexual abuse, to then find they do not believe you or you are treated with contempt."

She said: "If any crime victim feels they have not been believed by the authorities, then they can come to us for help and support. We will never pass judgement and anything we're told is always kept completely confidential.

"We make sure crime victims get the respect they deserve and the support they need, whether that help is practical or emotional."

She added: "Our case workers will follow up with social services and the police to check if everything is happening as we would expect."

'Long-lasting effect'

The Office of Children's Commissioner for England produced a report last year into child sexual exploitation entitled If only someone had listened.

An abridged version of the document was written specifically for children and young people and suggests they contact a trusted adult, an independent advocacy service or charity such as the NSPCC's ChildLine if they were victims of abuse.

When police or prosecutors decide to stop an investigation, victims can seek a review of the decision through the Crown Prosecution Service's Victims' Right to Review scheme.

The College of Policing, meanwhile, says training is designed to avoid the type of situation that arose under South Yorkshire Police's watch in Rotherham in the last 16 years.

Chief Constable Alex Marshall, chief executive of the college, said: "The guidance highlights warning signs officers should be using to identify risk to children who may be exhibiting behaviour that they are already being sexually exploited and it also provides advice on investigations involving those victims who may not want to pursue an allegation.

"Investigators should also adhere to the Victims' Code which is very clear that victims should be at the centre of police, prosecutors and partner agencies' work.

"The way in which victims are spoken to, the language and terminology used, will have a long-lasting effect on the individual and victims need to sense belief straight away to have confidence in the police."

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-28965216

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Vermont

Lawsuit accuses Vermont of ignoring child abuse

by Dave Gram

MONTPELIER – A lawsuit filed Wednesday against the Vermont Department for Children and Families alleges that social workers failed to act on reports of abuse and neglect of two Ludlow children for four years until local police intervened.

Brattleboro lawyers Tom Costello and Sharon Gentry provided copies of the suit and other documents to The Associated Press as it was being filed in Windsor Superior Court.

The suit alleges that a 12-year-old boy and his 11-year-old sister living with their father, stepmother and several disabled adults frequently had to sleep on the floor, were repeatedly physically abused, and were exposed to inappropriate sexual activity in the home. The suit alleges the children were so poorly fed that the boy would ask to do the dishes so he could eat scraps from the plates. It says the boy was kept locked in a room much of the time.

According to the lawsuit, the department's Springfield office began getting reports from the children's grandparents of likely abuse in 2008. The department opened a case in 2010, but the children's troubles intensified during the next two years before they were removed from the home, according to the lawsuit.

DCF Commissioner Dave Yacovone said Wednesday he could not comment on the lawsuit or cases involving juveniles. The lawsuit comes as the department has been under the spotlight following the deaths of two toddlers whose families had been under its supervision.

According to the lawsuit, the grandparents told the state agency that the children were not being properly bathed and their clothes were filthy and that the children often spoke of being beaten with hands, shoes and a backscratcher.

The lawsuit also alleges the couple, Richard and Krista Hudson, kept the disabled adults against their will to collect Social Security and other benefits. Ludlow police began investigating allegations of abuse of vulnerable adults in March 2012. Their attention turned to include the children, who were removed from the home by May of that year.

Krista Hudson later pleaded guilty to abusing both her children and the adults. She is serving a three-to-eight-year prison sentence. Richard Hudson struck a plea deal in which he agreed to testify against his wife for a shorter sentence. Gentry said he was released from prison this month.

http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/politics/2014/08/27/lawyers-sue-department-children-families/14694187/

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Scotland

'Child Abuse': Kids As Young As 12 Receiving Govt-Funded Contraceptive Implants

by Donna Rachel Edmunds

Children as young as 12 are being given contraceptive implants by government health boards in Scotland, many without their parents' knowledge, raising concerns over their vulnerability to sexual exploitation.

The drugs have not been tested on minors, and the long term health effects of using these drugs on children are not known. But still almost 3,500 minors have received the long term contraceptive implant since 2010, the Daily Mail today reported.

The manufacturer, MSD, has confirmed that the “safety and efficacy in adolescents under the age of 18 has not been established”.

A Freedom of Information Act request established that 3,562 implants were prescribed to under 16s between 2010 and 2014. Greater Glasgow and Clyde issued the most, fitting 1,523 of the implants; the other four health boards were Grampian, who fitted 397, Ayrshire and Arran, 382, Lanarkshire, 291 and Borders, 131. However, five other boards including NHS Lothian refused to release full details so the true figures may be much higher.

At least 20 of the implants were given to 12 year olds across those five boards, despite side effects being common amongst adults who use them.

The plastic implants are inserted in an arm just under the skin, and work by releasing progesterone to prevent pregnancy. They last for up to three years, and can be inserted by nurses or doctors.

“To provide schoolgirls with long-acting reversible contraception is to play with fire,” said Norman Wells of the Family Education Trust.

“It is effectively giving them a licence to engage in illegal sexual activity and denies them the protection that the law on the age of consent is intended to give.

“Not only does prescribing the drugs to underage girls make it more difficult for them to resist sexual pressure from their peers, but it also makes them more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by older sexual predators.'

“It is deeply disturbing that parents are frequently left in the dark and know nothing about the high-stakes gamble being taken on the physical and emotional well-being of their daughters.”

Patricia McKeever, editor of the Catholic Truth newsletter, highlighted the hypocrisy of the state, saying: “This is child abuse. I am not a medical person but it cannot possibly be helpful. Parents need to be more vigilant – you cannot trust the state with your children.

“It is hypocritical of the Government to say they want to protect children from abuse in the home and then at the same time they are setting them up to be abused.”

Last February the Scottish Parliament passed the Children and Young People Act, which legislates for every child in Scotland to be appointed a state guardian to safeguard their interests and oversee their safety. The guardians have legal authority to access information from the local council, the police, the NHS and so on.

In 2010, Highland Council piloted the scheme and since that date have designated a remarkable 8,000 children to a “child's plan”, suggesting that many thousands of families are having their privacy invaded.

Commenting on the new law, Emma Carr from Big Brother Watch wrote “Resources should be focused on those families in genuine need and on those children in real danger. As soon as you create an army of guardians they are going to have to justify their positions and that will mean more paperwork, more intrusion and more families being treated as suspects when they have done nothing wrong.”

Christian groups were again vocal in their belief that families, not the state should be granted responsibility for their own children, with a spokesman from the Church of Scotland saying “The concept of a named person diminishes the role of parents, with no obvious benefit for the most vulnerable in society, a point we have consistently made in our responses to the Scottish Government and to the Parliament's Education Committee.”

http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-London/2014/08/28/Children-12-are-being-given-contraception

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20% Report Child Sex Abuse Downloads at Work

by Tara Seals

While it may seem horrifying to believe, a full 20% of respondents in a recent survey of UK professionals said that they were aware that someone in their workplace had downloaded child sexual abuse (CSA) material while at work.

That's according to NetClean, which added that shockingly, of those, just 3.5% lead to criminal investigations and in the vast majority of cases (69%) nothing happened.

“We know from experience that child sexual abuse content (CSA) is not an issue that ceases at the entrance to the workplace,” the company said in a statement emailed to media. “However, part of the problem with tackling the spread of CSA material is that people still underestimate the scale of the problem. There's an inherent belief that it is the ‘local weirdo' accessing illicit images and not the person sat opposite them in their day-to-day jobs.”

Indeed, the figures run counter to conventional wisdom. A third (33.3%) of respondents believe that just one in every 10,000 people look at child sexual abuse sites at work. A further 34% estimate that the number is just one in every million.

“This is simply not true,” the company said. “From our experience, one in every 1,000 employees will look at CSA content at work so the problem is much more commonplace.”

Part of the issue is increasing mobility, NetClean noted. The growth in portable USB devices and mobile storage means there is a disturbing trend of offenders increasingly bringing illegal images or videos into the workplace.

“In fact, many businesses are already unwittingly storing, and allowing the movement of, illegal images and videos across their networks,” it said

On a positive note, organizations have started proactively introducing measures to prevent the spread of CSA content in the workplace. The majority of those surveyed (78.7%) have an internet use policy in place that covers child sexual abuse sites, and in a quarter of businesses (24.1%) the drive to purchase blocking software is coming from the board of directors.

However, more still needs to be done. Just 9.2% of those surveyed believe that it is employers that have a responsibility to stop child sexual abuse content. Instead, the majority of respondents believe that responsibility to tackle the issue lies with individuals (34.8%), government (29%) or ISPs (22%)—a view NetClean disagrees with.

“Today's employers have a moral duty to tackle child abuse images on corporate networks,” the firm said. “The people who view these images are participating in a cycle of abuse; perpetuating a market for ringleaders to continue producing material that makes more children suffer. Relying on web filters alone won't solve the problem.”

Regardless of where one feels the responsibility lies, organizations can certainly easily go one step further and use proven methods, such as file matching, to flag indecent images and cross reference them against existing ones on police databases to keep corporate networks clean from illegal content.

http://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/news/20-of-workers-report-child-sex/

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Is UK child sex exploitation 'endemic'?

Report on child sex abuse in British Asian community highlights issues that may affect the entire nation.

by Simon Hooper

The true extent of child sex exploitation in British Asian communities has been underestimated because of taboos about discussing the subject and reporting abuse, campaigners have warned following the publication of a shocking report exposing how hundreds of girls were systematically raped in the town of Rotherham.

The investigation estimated that at least 1,400 children, typically "young white girls", were groomed and sexually exploited between 1997 and 2013 by "large numbers of male perpetrators" mostly from Rotherham's small Pakistani-heritage community.

But the report by Alexis Jay, a former chief inspector of social work in Scotland, also raised issues about under-reporting within British Asian communities, citing concerns that abuse affecting ethnic minorities was often "hidden from sight".

Shaista Gomir, chair of the Muslim Women's Network UK and author of another report into child sex exploitation, told Al Jazeera that many British Asian victims were still falling through the net because traditional notions of shame and honour made them less likely to come forward.

"This is being played up as a racial crime, that it is Asian men on white girls, but there are girls from their own community also involved. That shows very clearly that they don't differentiate and they will try and get their hands on any girl they can," said Gomir.

"These girls have specific vulnerabilities because there is still a tendency to hold girls responsible for the honour of the family. The number of Asian girls involved could well be a lot higher but they will not be reporting it because they don't want to bring dishonour on their families."

Jay's report criticised local officials, politicians and police for a "blatant" collective failure of leadership, and said they had suppressed and ignored three earlier internal reports that should have set alarm bells ringing long before the convictions on child sex offences of five local Asian men in 2010 brought the town into the media spotlight.

It also found officials had sought to play down the ethnicity of perpetrators because of concerns of being accused of racism, with some local councillors seemingly unwilling to address the issue because they feared it would damage community cohesion and "give oxygen" to far-right groups.

"Councillors did not engage directly with the Pakistani-heritage community to discuss how best they could jointly address the issue," the report said.

"Some councillors seemed to think it was a one-off problem, which they hoped would go away. Several staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist; others remembered clear direction from their managers not to do so... This was at best naive, and at worst ignoring a politically inconvenient truth."

A failure to act

Muhbeen Hussain, a local political activist and founder of a group called British Muslim Youth, said it was unacceptable that officials and political leaders appeared to be using political correctness and community relations as an excuse for their failure to take action.

"We accept that there were a large number of Pakistani men involved. The Rotherham Muslim community did not know what was going on, I can assure you, and it is a shock to all of us," Hussain told Al Jazeera. "But the police knew, the social services knew and the council knew and they failed to react and that is what is so disgusting and devastating."

Hussain said the Muslim community needed to do more to break down barriers to talking about sexual issues through education programmes and greater awareness of the dangers that young people faced.

"The fact is that, in the Pakistani Muslim community, sexualisation in general is a taboo subject. So you have something that is undercover because it is taboo, and then when you have someone acting in a criminal manner it is even more undercover."

Gohir said British Asian girls were also at risk because men from within their own communities were able to manipulate cultural norms to prevent them from reporting abuse, and called for more research into why men of Pakistani heritage kept cropping up in child sex cases.

"Our report indicates that where Asian men can get hold of Asian girls they will probably prefer Asian girls because they are deemed lower risk and less likely to report. Predators know these girls are really, really vulnerable because of honour and shame issues. They will rape them and photograph and film it and then blackmail them."

She believes the Rotherham report has highlighted issues affecting communities all over the UK and said that searching questions needed to be asked of every local authority and police force in the country.

'Endemic' abuse

Sheila Taylor, chief executive of the NWG Network, a charity working to tackle child sex exploitation, agrees, describing levels of abuse in the UK as "endemic". She said that more resources needed to be invested in giving victims lifetime-long support to help them recover from their experiences.

"We are whipping Rotherham, but I could name you other areas where the situation is worse and they are doing nothing," Taylor told Al Jazeera.

But she fears the focus on Rotherham, and other well publicised cases of exploitation involving Asian men and white girls, may distract attention from other groups at risk and allow perpetrators preying on less visible victims to escape detection.

She cites a case in the central UK town of Derby in 2012 in which the convictions of a group of mostly white middle-aged British men attracted little media attention, and a new report by the children's charity Barnado's which found that one in three sexually exploited young people were male.

"We are perpetuating one model because every time there is a court case [involving Asian men] there is media scrutiny and there is an inquiry. So if you are looking for sexual exploitation you look for Pakistani males and white girls, and when you look for something you find it. But, all the time we are focusing on Pakistani males, we are allowing somebody else to get on with it."

In Rotherham, Hussain called on local Muslims to join him in demanding that every case of abuse dating back to 1997 should be reinvestigated and perpetrators prosecuted.

"Our community believes in the rule of law, and our community believes that criminals should be brought to justice. But we need to speak up because our community has been labelled," he said.

"We need a collective initiative saying we want prosecutions, because if that doesn't happen a lot of people are saying relations will never be the same, or will take generations to mend."

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/08/uk-child-sex-exploitation-endemic-201482981619568961.html

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New York

Why The Times Identified and Photographed Teenagers in a Sex Abuse Article

by MARGARET SULLIVAN

Several readers wrote to me concerned about a Times article earlier this week that told the stories of some Dominican teenagers who described sexual abuse by a former priest and Vatican official. They told me they were surprised and dismayed to see the young people identified by name with their photographs used in an accompanying gallery.

One reader, Julio César Diaz, who said he read the article with particular interest because he is Dominican, said in an email:

I can't help but feel a little sickened by the fact that several child sexual abuse victims are named in the article. Their photographs also appear in the gallery accompanying the article. I don't think it's ethical to do this. I think sexual abuse victims' identities should be protected, especially if the victims are still children, as is the case of Darwin Quervedo, who is 14 right now, according to the article, or Francis Aquino Aneury, who is 17. Or do these protections apply only if the victims are Americans?

And Dan Hortsch of Portland, a former ombudsman for The Oregonian, wrote, in part:

Were the boys named as victims in the story given the opportunity to not have their names reported and their faces photographed for use with the story? Presumably they knew that they were being photographed, but did The New York Times explain that they could remain anonymous? If not, the matter is definitely disturbing.

Presumably, too, that is the practice with other victims of sexual abuse unless the victims approve use of their names and photos. And then the articles normally would explain that they were willing to be named and photographed.

I understand the need for credible sources, but these victims of sexual abuse are no different from anyone in this country. The fact that one boy, 14, is described as speaking “haltingly, with eyes downcast” about his experience makes clear the embarrassment.

These readers raise important concerns. I asked the article's author, Laurie Goodstein, who covers religion for The Times, to explain how the teenagers were approached on this subject.

She responded:

The teenagers identified in the story as abuse victims not only gave us permission for us to use their names and take their photographs, but wanted their stories to be told. There is no double standard here. I have found that some victims of sexual abuse feel that by going public, they may help prevent other people from being victimized by their abusers, and in this they find some purpose in their suffering. In the case of these specific children, they wanted to give their testimony to someone because they had not been interviewed by the authorities. We interviewed them on multiple occasions, made it clear that their names and pictures would be published in a newspaper and on the Internet, and they were sure that they wanted to proceed.

Ms. Goodstein told me that the article was scrupulously edited and also read by a Times lawyer, and that all involved were attentive to the issue of identification. She added that, in general she takes great care with not identifying abuse victim who do not wish to be identified, and that she has never broken the confidence of one who asked to remain unidentified.

“We don't identify abuse victims when they want to remain anonymous, or it there's any question about it. We preserve their anonymity. But in cases where victims want to speak out, and they sometimes do, we honor that too.”

Speaking generally, she said that parental consent is a more difficult matter, often impossible in the case of indigent children, some of whom live on the street.

I'm satisfied that the matter of identifying and photographing these teenagers was handled properly, and I hope that readers will be reassured as well. My only quibble here is that a sentence or two that described the knowledge and consent of the teenagers would have been a welcome and useful piece of transparency with Times readers.

http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/28/why-the-times-identified-and-photographed-teenagers-in-a-sex-abuse-article/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0
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