| Today's NAASCA news:
October 24, 2014
Experts recommend open communication for abuse prevention
by Ale LeFriec
SPOKANE, Wash. -- The prevalence of child sexual abuse is not easy to determine because it's often not reported, but experts agree the incidence is far greater than reported.
According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, one in five girls and one in twenty boys is a victim of child sexual abuse.
So what can parents do to protect their children?
Dr. Paul Domitor, a retired clinical psychologist at Sacred Heart Medical Center says there are important questions they should ask before leaving their children with other grown-ups.
"Are they too nice? Are they solicitous of the child's time? Are they wanting to take the child away from the home to do particular activities, that sort of thing," says Domitor.
He adds that pedophiles may be in positions of authority, such as youth leaders or teachers.
"It's important to be mindful if you trust someone with the care of your child through an activity group of some sort or even a school, it's important to make sure that person is trustworthy," he says.
Domitor says to also be weary of adults with no children who have activities that may be appealing to kids, such as toys or video games.
"They will kind of setup circumstances that attract children, and that is part of their modus operandi."
He claims one of the best things you can do is have open channels of communication. So if your child feels uncomfortable with an adult or has been a victim of abuse, they'll be more likely to tell you about it.
"It's very important you have a good connection with your child. Because if a child is molested, often times they feel very badly about it or they may not say anything about because they're afraid," he says.
We all have a role in protecting children: end the silence on abuse
by Amy Conley Wright and Lynne Keevers
The recent string of major child sexual assault scandals, in Australia and other countries, can create a feeling of disgust and an urge to look away from an ugly reality. Yet we must confront and take collective responsibility for child protection by acknowledging that it happens every day and that we have to talk about it. Societal silence on child sexual abuse protects perpetrators and enables abuse to continue.
Child sexual assault is a lot more common than we may think. The Australian Institute of Family Studies reported in 2013 that as many as one in six boys and one in three girls has experienced sexual abuse.
Most recently, the media reported sexual exploitation on a mass scale of an estimated 1,400 children in Rotherdam, UK, between 1997 and 2013, and the failure of social services and the police to intervene appropriately. The Rotherdam report is full of examples of how children were groomed for eventual abuse in public view, receiving inappropriate gifts and attention from men.
Web of deceit depends on secrecy
Research shows offenders typically plan their sexual abuse of children with care. They may “groom” children by offering presents and compliments. The offender often establishes a trusting relationship with the family and friends of the child, tricking and manipulating them to reduce the likelihood of them discovering the abuse.
The result of this web of deceit is to divide and isolate the child from siblings, friends and especially non-offending parents. In this way abusers protect themselves, ensure ongoing access to the child and secure power over the child and others in the child's life.
Secrecy is fundamental to the success of these grooming techniques and has powerful effects on the child. Because the rule against breaking the silence is reinforced in families as well as socially and culturally, children and adult survivors often report that they feel guilt, shame and fear when telling their stories. Self-blame, fear of retribution, a sense of powerlessness, mistrust of self and others, over-responsibility and protection of others are common effects of being trained to be silent and sexually available.
Once the societal silence is broken, we must change the language we use, which currently promotes secrecy and shaming. The language and concepts that come to mind around child sexual abuse are not helpful. There is an assumption that the victimiser is a sick weirdo and the victim is damaged goods.
But because it is so common, we regularly interact with both perpetrators and victims of child sexual abuse in our daily lives. Indeed, they may be people we like and admire.
The frequency of this problem suggests that sexual offenders are not all paedophiles, evil or “sick” but ordinary family members and friends. It also tells us that many victims of sexual abuse manage to deal with the effects of abuse, live productive lives and contribute to the well-being of our communities.
Antidote is casting light in dark places
Fortunately, it does not necessarily take much to stop child sexual abuse. Because this type of exploitation thrives on silence and secrecy, the antidote is bringing the issue to light.
We need to create an atmosphere that encourages people to question confusing or uncertain behaviours and practices in order to take action before children are harmed. This means being willing to take the risk of potentially looking paranoid when questioning an adult's behaviour toward a child.
We also need to reexamine our policy approach to child sexual abuse. The current dominant model prioritises individualised, one-on-one counselling services. Other responses to people who have experienced childhood sexual abuse, such as community development, preventative approaches and collective social action, are restricted to the margins of practice.
Some services, such as the West Street Centre, a government-funded, community-based organisation in Wollongong, New South Wales, offer an alternative. The centre links individual talk-based therapy and group work to collaborative and community efforts to tackle issues of abuse and violence. Survivors of child sexual abuse join with others to challenge secrecy and speak up about their experience. Listening by other community members is emphasised.
In this way, survivors of sexual abuse begin to pioneer a new way for their families and communities. When children hear adults talking openly about sexual abuse, they learn from example and follow.
Child protection cannot be a job that is relegated to an authority, be it the police, social services, or a school. Child protection is everyone's responsibility.
Children will be protected when everyday citizens take personal responsibility for child protection. This will start when people are willing to have hard conversations, change the assumptions about child sexual abuse victims and perpetrators, and have the courage to act when they have concerns about the children in their communities. We all need to look at this issue, not look away.
Robert Wood Johnson calls for halt to human trafficking
by Bob Makin
NEW BRUNSWICK – They sat beneath the projected image of a line from “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
But nobody on a seven-member panel of experts tasked with combating human trafficking received a standing ovation like the one given to an unnamed New Jersey sex slave turned social worker, who now helps minors make the transition from the kind of cruel life she once knew all too well. As a teen, she was recruited by her sister to follow her into a sex trade run by her “boyfriend”/pimp.
“I found myself slipping into a life of depression, sadness, fear and despair,” said the woman, whose identity was withheld for her safety. “Not only did I live in fear of the men who were purchasing sex from me, but I also lived in the fear of the backlash I would get for not following the pimp's instructions. I witnessed him beat women and girls to the point where that their screams echoed off the walls and into my very soul.
“I was too sad and ashamed to tell anyone what was going on and too scared of what the pimp would do if I tried to leave,” she continued. “I thought the worst thing that could happen would be my parents finding out. That kept me in line and obedient. I did what I was told. It wasn't until four years later that the FBI came with the Innocence Lost Initiative and arrested him. And my sister and I both became free of him. It's been a long road in my recovery, and to this day, I still struggle with the things that happened to me, but I believe I possess a strength that gives me an edge to help other girls that are still caught up in the life. I have a positive outlook on the future and look forward to accomplishing my dreams. And one of those dreams is to see the end of commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking within my lifetime.”
Her bravery was cheered by a crowd of more than 200 health-care practitioners, social-service agents, medical students, pastoral caregivers, emergency response personnel and concerned community members gathered for the problem-solving summit “Human Trafficking: Let's Make This the End of the Road.”
They assembled Wednesday in the courtyard of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital to learn how to recognize signs of human trafficking in their trades and offer advocacy to victims, while committing to help find a solution to a problem that keynote speaker Jeffrey Chiesa dubbed slavery.
“There are more slaves today than there were during the Civil War,” said Chiesa, the former attorney general who helped bring the issue of forced commercial sexual exploitation out of the dark of prostitution and into the light of abuse.
Worldwide, human trafficking is estimated to affect 800,000 people, according to the U.S. Department of State's 2007 “Trafficking in Persons Report,” and more than 50 percent of victims are estimated to be under the age of 18.
In New Jersey, trafficking is defined by the state Trafficking Victim Protection Act of 2000. This includes forced or coerced commercial sexual exploitation of adults and minors in hotels, massage businesses, residential brothels, truck stops, escort services and on the streets. It also consists of forced labor, found largely in domestic work, agriculture, traveling sales crews, restaurants, construction, and health and beauty services.
While human trafficking is a massive international problem, New Jersey is popular among pimps and slave laborers because its dense, ethnically diverse population makes it easy to hide, said Chiesa, who also served briefly as a U.S. senator.
Moderator Patty Mojta, manager of the Human Trafficking Prevention Initiative of the city-based Prevent Child Abuse advocacy group, added that the state also is close to major cities and has an extensive highway system with many truck stops, sex tourism in Atlantic City, and several ports, waterways, airports and military bases.
New Jersey ranks 13th in the nation in call volume with more than 561 calls to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, Mojta said.
“Any person under the age of 18 is considered a victim of human trafficking regardless of the use of force or coercion,” she said. “Any time that another person is profiting off of their involvement in a commercial sex act, they're considered to be a victim of human trafficking. In New Jersey, the legal age to consent to sex is 16. However, a child 16 or 17 cannot consent to be involved in commercial sex. They cannot consent to be involved in strip clubs, prostitution, massage parlors or pornography. And unfortunately, we find their involvement in these fields all too often.
“We know of cases of children who were trafficked on the weekends,” Mojta continued, “and don't miss a day of school and sleep in their beds every night. They may not have any idea that they're being trafficked, that they're being forced to have sex by someone who may pose as a boyfriend or a loved one. A child who is caught up in trafficking might really think they're just involved with a boyfriend who they're helping make money for. Maybe they're gang-involved, and selling sex is their contribution to the gang. The idea of being forced might seem like a foreign one to them. It's especially challenging for kids trafficked by parents or caregivers who don't know that having sex with a neighbor so a parent can have free rent isn't normal.”
Mojta said sex trafficking is a $35 billion criminal industry — more than Google, Nike and Apple combined — and is tied with gun smuggling as the second-most profitable crime behind drug dealing.
Pimps who physically abuse, sexually exploit and mentally and emotionally control minors for profit day after day are devoid of conscience, said panel member Joseph D. Salavarria, a special agent with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security involved in a sex trafficking case in Plainfield a few years ago.
The most vulnerable and heartbreaking victims are the “throwaway children” whose parents don't want them, said panel members, who also included:
• Dr. Joelle Pierre, attending pediatric surgeon at RWJ's Bristol-Myers Squibb Children's Hospital and an assistant professor at Rutgers University's Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
• Suzanne Alvino of the state Department of Children and Families.
• Detective Paul Vanaman of the state Department of Human Services Police and a task force with the FBI.
• The Rev. Angelita Clifton of Fountain Baptist Church in Summit, a facilitator with the Lott Carey Convention Anti-Trafficking Initiative.
All shared their connection to the battle and described ways in which the assembled could help by recognizing signs, ranging from bruises to inexplicably expensive clothing and cellphones, and by being equipped to offer effective resources, such as the state Department of Children and Families, to minors.
“Often times when you go programs like this, you learn a whole lot, and then you walk away, and you say, ‘OK, so what am I supposed to do?' ” said Diana Starace, coordinator of RWJ's Injury Prevention Program and co-organizer of the event with Prevent Child Abuse.
“We're really hoping that we're going to be able to identify specific action steps from our speakers and audience members that we'll be able to share with the audience members,” Starace continued, “and say, ‘These are things you can do as an individual, and these are things that you can do as part of your organization.' ”
Starace said organizers will ask attendees of “Let's Make This the End of the Road” to report by year's end action steps taken against human trafficking, then continue the discussion at a follow-up event April 1, The Day of Hope of National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Rebekah Contarino, a Bridgewater resident and founder of the forthcoming Love True transitional home for girls and women coming out of commercial sexual exploitation, said she is grateful that RWJ has taken a stand against human trafficking.
“I feel like this event helps Love True fulfills its mission as far as advocacy and awareness ... and also being aware of the need for restoration portion of the solution,” Contarino said.
“I couldn't believe this was something going on in New Jersey, right at my back door,” added Natalie Hogate, a child life specialist at RWJ's Bristol-Myers Squibb Children's Hospital. “It was disturbing to me. Working at a hospital setting, I have access. I see children every day, all day. I could be someone that could be identifying someone that might be a victim that could have some symptoms or some signs, and just one person being invested, being interested, could maybe help change the course of what's about to happen for a specific person. Just because it's just one person doesn't mean you can't actually do something.
“As a woman in this setting, I just need to spread the word,” Hogate continued. “It's not an easy topic to talk about. It makes people uncomfortable, but I think having a very blunt discussion and just getting to the crux of the issue and just really talking to people about it in any forum that will listen. One person sharing the word is better than sitting silently and observing it.”
Staff Writer Bob Makin: 732-565-7319; bmakin@MyCentralJersey.com
What you can do
You can help combat human trafficking in the following ways:
• Report suspected cases to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-373-7888;
• Donate to the future transitional home and support programs of Love True at www.Love-True.org
• Organize a workshop at your school or church with Prevent Child Abuse, 1-800-CHILDREN, www.PreventChildAbuseNJ.org
• Attend the next “Human Trafficking: Let's Make This the End of the Road” event of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Prevent Child Abuse in April, National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Contact Prevent Child Abuse for more information.
New survey details vast scope of teen dating abuse
NEW YORK (AP) — From violence to verbal taunts, abusive dating behavior is pervasive among America's adolescents, according to a new, federally funded survey. It says a majority of boys and girls who date describe themselves as both victims and perpetrators.
Sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, the National Survey on Teen Relationships and Intimate Violence was conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, a prominent research center which provided preliminary results to The Associated Press. Input came from a nationwide sample of 667 youths aged 12-18 who'd been dating within the past year and who completed a self-administered online questionnaire.
Nearly 20 percent of both boys and girls reported themselves as victims of physical and sexual abuse in dating relationships — but the researchers reported what they called a startling finding when they asked about psychological abuse, broadly defined as actions ranging from name-calling to excessive tracking of a victim. More than 60 percent of each gender reported being victims and perpetrators of such behavior.
The survey found no substantive differences in measures by ethnicity, family income or geographic location.
Elizabeth Mumford, one of the two lead researchers for the survey, acknowledged that some of the behaviors defined as psychological abuse — such as insults and accusations of flirting — are commonplace but said they shouldn't be viewed as harmless.
“None of these things are healthy interactions,” she said. “It's almost more of a concern that our gut reaction is to accept this as natural.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in its campaigns against teen dating violence, also stresses the potential seriousness of psychological abuse.
“Teens often think some behaviors, like teasing and name calling, are a ‘normal' part of a relationship,” says a CDC fact sheet. “However, these behaviors can become abusive and develop into more serious forms of violence.”
Bruce Taylor, the other lead researcher for the NORC survey, said the overall abuse figures were higher than previous national studies of dating abuse, revealing “the startlingly widespread nature of this problem.”
Using a definition under which adolescent relationship abuse can occur in person or through electronic means, in public or private, and between current or past dating partners , the survey estimates that 25 million U.S. adolescents are victims and nearly 23 million are perpetrators.
Taylor and Mumford said the high rates in their survey may stem in part from youths being candid due to the privacy of the online format. They also suggested that dating abuse is now so common that young people have little concern about admitting to it.
The survey found fairly similar rates of victimization and perpetration among boys and girls — even in the sub-categories of physical abuse and sexual abuse. Many previous studies have found that girls are markedly more likely to be victims of physical and sexual dating abuse than boys.
However, the researchers detected a shift as adolescents age.
“We found that girls perpetrate serious threats or physical violence more than boys at ages 12-14, but that boys become the more common perpetrators of serious threats or physical violence by ages 15-18,” they wrote.
Mumford noted that the questionnaire did not delve into such details as which party instigated a two-way confrontation, or whether injuries resulted. She said it was possible girls suffered more serious injuries than boys.
“Our work suggests that prevention programs need to address both victimization and perpetration, not one or the other,” Mumford and Taylor wrote. They recommended starting prevention programs in middle school, and noted that that teen dating violence is viewed as a possible precursor to adult intimate-partner violence.
Andra Tharp, a health scientist with the CDC's violence prevention division, said two-way teen dating violence — with both partners engaging in abuse — is widespread.
She said it's an ongoing challenge among experts in the field to find the right balance in addressing the role of gender — exploring the extent to which both boys and girls are perpetrators, while identifying situations where girls are likely to suffer more serious harm. For example, Tharp said that if a boyfriend retaliates against a girlfriend who hit him, there's a higher risk of injury to the girl if —as is likely — the boy is stronger.
Dr. Elizabeth Miller, chief of adolescent medicine at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, said it's important to make distinctions about the types of abuse. She contends that, while boys and girls may engage in psychological abuse at comparable levels, girls are more likely to be the victims in cases of sexual violence and coercion.
“When you look at the need for medical attention, females are experiencing more severe consequences,” she said. “We're doing ourselves a disservice if we pretend it's all the same.”
While many girls are capable of aggressive behavior, they generally don't share the view of some boys that sexual coercion is acceptable, Miller said.
The research by Mumford and Taylor is expected to be published soon in The Journal of Interpersonal Violence, a peer reviewed academic journal.
The Associated Press and NORC conduct joint polling under the name AP-NORC, but this study was conducted independently by NORC.
60 Percent Of Homeless Youths Have Been Raped Or Assaulted: Report
by Robbie Couch
A new study explored who is falling victim to youth homelessness and why, and the results are troubling.
The survey, conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and funded by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), found that 60.8 percent of homeless youths have been raped, beaten up, robbed or otherwise assaulted. It also revealed that youth homelessness disproportionately affects LGBT youths and racial minorities, as nearly 37 percent of study participants identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, and just one third identified as white-only.
The study examined 656 young people ages 14-21 in 11 cities. Results were collected between March-September 2013, and fell in line with similar studies suggesting parental or caregiver rejection is a primary cause for homelessness for teenagers and young adults.
Study results were announced at the "Ending Youth Homelessness: A Call to Action" event in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, which commits funding for homeless youth programs across the country.
"No young person deserves to experience homelessness, especially because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, which is why we must stand with them to help them live the happy and healthy lives they do deserve," Cyndi Lauper, singer and co-founder of True Colors Fund which works to end youth homelessness, said at the event, according to a press release.
Unfortunately, youth homelessness may be a worsening problem in the U.S. A report by the Department of Education released in September found a record number of students were homeless during the 2012-2013 school year. Data found the number of homeless students enrolled in public preschool and grades K-12 increased 8 percent from the previous school year to 1,258,182. The Department of Education found that the majority of homeless students lived " doubled-up " with friends or extended family members, while 16 percent lived in shelters.
Bruce Lesley, president of the First Focus Campaign for Children, said an increase in student homelessness means more kids exposed to other harmful threats.
"A record number of homeless students means a record number of our children being exposed to sexual trafficking, abuse, hunger and denial of their basic needs," Lesley said in a statement, according to KRNV News 4. "The new data means that a record number of kids in our schools and communities are spending restless nights in bed-bug infested motels and falling more behind in school by the day because they're too tired and hungry to concentrate."
To take action against youth homelessness, visit the True Colors Fund website
Red flags are key indicators of domestic violence
by Gina Joseph
A rash of incidents involving professional football players has turned the public spotlight to domestic violence.
While these events became fodder for sports radio and ESPN commentators they have also caught the eye of professional trained in dealing with these matters.
“We saw the video and we were astonished at the brutality of it,” said Sue Coats, executive director of Turning Point, which provides shelter and programs to victims/survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, of the video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his fiancee in the face then dragging her limp body out of an elevator and into a casino hallway. “He's a very powerful man. In one punch he messed her up and then, how he treated her unconscious body, was really shocking.”
But it's not just a problem plaguing professional athletes.
An annual report by the Michigan State Police lists more than 96,000 incidents of domestic violence in 2013 across all of Michigan's 83 counties including Macomb, where the ex-boyfriend of a 22-year-old Warren woman whose body was found in a 55-gallon drum was charged recently with killing her.
Domestic violence prevention
While the public attention brought to high-profile events such as the Ray Rice incident is at an all-time high, the federal government was cutting funding for Turning Point's prevention education program by $60,000.
“What people think we need and what's a reality is ironic,” Coats said of reductions to a program that teaches middle and high school students about healthy relationships, conflict resolution and domestic violence awareness.
“It starts when they're young,” she said.
One of the NFL stars, Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings, who allegedly struck his child and is facing abuse charges said he used the same kind of discipline with his child that he experienced growing up. Coats reported that her organization has been partnering with local educators to change ingrained attitudes such as these.
“We have been doing the program in the Macomb Intermediate School District for close to 20 years. We changed attitudes. We've connected with youth,” said Coats while in the process of trying to reach state lawmakers and other public officials who may be able to help get the funding restored.
Many of the youths in the program were among the frightened callers reaching out to TP's 24-hour crisis hotline, which received 12,377 calls in 2013, or had a parent working her way through TP's CAP, a program unique to Macomb County.
Advocacy program empowers women
Developed by Dr. Chris Sullivan, professor of ecological community psychology and director of Michigan State University's research consortium on gender-based violence, TP's Community Advocacy Program is designed to help survivors regain control of their lives. Over the years, it has proven to decrease women's risk of re-abuse and increase their quality of life, level of social support and ability to obtain the community resources they need.
“It's very cutting edge. Really, nobody else is doing this in our area,” said CAP coordinator Dominica Tokarski, who began her career at Turning Point in 1999, working the midnight shift answering calls and making sure residents in the shelter were safe. During her 15 years at TP, Tokarski observed one common trend among survivors of domestic violence: the need for a confidante.
“People need someone to listen to them tell their own story of what happened,” said Tokarski, who did a lot of listening as an advocate with TP's Forensic Nurses Examiner Program.
“In 1999, TP led the effort to move the care of sexual assault survivors from crowded emergency rooms to a site specially designed for their needs. TP's Forensic Nurse Examiners Program is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide comprehensive medical forensic examinations to adult and child sexual assault survivors,” according to TP. “To meet the immediate physical and emotional needs of sexual assault survivors, specially trained nurses and advocates provide medical forensic exams and crisis intervention. The program links survivors of sexual assault with supportive follow up services provided by TP and is provided free of charge at a site donated by Mt. Clemens Regional Medical Center. The quality of emergency services for sexual assault survivors in Macomb County has improved dramatically since the inception of the program.”
Tokarski always felt privileged to be the one that people confided in.
The same is true of advocates in CAP, who undergo 56 hours of intensive training to be able to listen. But also to provide the support and resources women need to reach the goals they set, as a means of regaining control of their life, whether it means buying a home and going back to school or securing a job and childcare.
“I was used to living in fear and being unsure of what would happen to me but it was steady and familiar,” said “Emma,” a 42-year-old domestic violence survivor and mother of four sons whose name is not being published in order to protect her identity.
Then she left her husband and entered the CAP program.
“They helped me through the first year when I was terrified because being alone and disabled was an unfamiliar fear.”
“A lot of times I would just cry the whole time (my advocate) was with me and she let me,” Emma said. “Other times she would help me with things like a resume and getting connected with disability benefits.”
The most significant thing she remarked is TP helped her take one moment at a time and to know that this would be a journey with a good ending -- that she wasn't always going to feel the way she did but that it was OK to feel that way.
“I thought it was great that we met with them in their homes or wherever they could meet, because many of them had transportation issues,” said Alyse Johnson, a former CAP intern who has since become TP's community relations and volunteer coordinator.
Johnson remembers one woman whom she helped finish the program around Christmas. Along with a packet of information containing resources and crucial phone listings -- should she ever need help again -- she was given a car, thanks to a generous donation to TP.
“She was just phenomenal. She had such a rough time with lingering injuries from her abuse. That car meant freedom to her.”
Emma would agree.
“I have a car and it shakes like it's going to fall apart at any second, but it gets me from point A to B, and I bought it myself. I also bought my own house,” Emma said, although she admits the car probably wouldn't be running if it wasn't for the kindness of the owner of an auto repair shop in Warren. “He's like an angel in my life. He replaced the engine I needed and the transmission. I gave him $1,000 for the work and still owe him $2,500.”
Look for the red flags
Domestic Violence Awareness Month is part of an ongoing effort that began when several organizations including the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence united to tackle the problem. Throughout October, groups like Turning Point will share information and resources to make people aware of the serious issue of domestic violence.
For Emma, it has meant sharing her experience in hopes of helping others. Looking back at the relationship she had with her husband of 17 years, she can see the warning signs of an abusive relationship were there at the start.
Red flag: Acting in ways that scare her.
Emma's exhusband seemed like a nice guy. In order to get to know Emma better he joined the church she attended with her adoptive parents and 17 siblings (her mother died when she was a child and her aunt and uncle took in Emma and her brothers).
“He knew how to be a gentleman but there was always that man inside who was going to push for what he wanted,” she said. He had this thing about cracking people's necks saying he was as good as any chiropractor. Emma hated it and she would always object but he did it to her anyway, sometimes even holding her down to do it. When she thought about it afterwards, she told herself, “I'm just being silly. It's not that big of a deal. He's not trying to hurt me. He's actually trying to help me,”
Red flag: Preventing her from making decisions.
At one point she tried to return the ring he gave her.
“I was going to start nursing school. But he got angry and he put the ring back on my finger,” Emma said. “I don't remember what he said to me but he forced it and I never said another word.”
She cried afterwards and again questioned why the part of her that knew something was wrong didn't rise up and say no. Leave. You have people who love you.
“I felt it wasn't safe to leave,” Emma said. “I was afraid already of the idea of walking away from him.”
Red flag: Embarrass you or put you down
“Before the marriage his abuse was always verbal or minor (like) choking me quickly or threats to bring harm to me,” she said.
On the day of her wedding, she was sad but he was kind and good to her. She wanted a honeymoon but he decided to use their money for the house. “I knew at that point I could not voice my opinion and if I did, I knew I couldn't stand on it.”
Despite her dissapointments she imagined her life changing after they were married, and a wedding night that was wonderful, beautiful and romantic.
“He looked at me and said, ‘So, what else are you going to give me because I can get what you just gave me from a whore on the street,'” Emma said, her voice cracking with emotion.
Red flag: Intimidating with guns, knives and other weapons
Emma always feared for her own safety but it's when she heard her son's pleas that she called 911.
“Please, help me God. Help my dad to let me up,” pleaded her son, age 11 at the time as her husband was sitting on top of the boy with his hand over his mouth and nose. The police came and, after being assured by Emma's husband that everything was OK, they walked away.
Emma was left to deal with the aftermath. “He looked at me and smiled. Then he said, ‘Now you know I have to kill you. But because I love you so much I'm going to let you choose how you're going to go. We've got the gun, the knives and a baseball bat, however you want to do it.”
“There's pills in the medicine cabinet, I can take those,” was Emma's reply.
“OK, you go get them and be sure to get a nice large glass of water so you can wash them all down. What do you want your last words to be to my boys?”
Emma doesn't remember what she said but at that point her husband started to cry. He told her didn't want to kill her. He just wanted her to obey him.
She eventually mustered the courage to call 911 again and with the help of a sister found a safe haven for her and her sons.
“Turning Point allowed me to leave and keep my sons,” she said of the shelter that can provide refuge for up to 52 women and children.
“I feel empowered and free. I'm a single mom living on disability with my four boys and I started my own Mary Kay business. I chose them because the company supports women in domestic violence situations. Now I want to help others.”
Domestic violence is preventable.
“I'm glad that people are finally starting to stand up and point the finger and say, ‘No more,'” said Johnson.
For more information about Turning Point and its programs and services, call 586-463-4430 or visit turningpointmacomb.org
More red flags
Watch out for these other signs of abuse. If you experience one or more of them in your relationship, call a crisis hotline to talk about what's going on:
• Controlling who you see, where you go, or what you do;
• Keeping you or discouraging you from seeing your friends or families;
• Taking your money or refusing to give you money for expenses;
• Telling you that you are a bad parent or threatening to harm or take away your children;
• Preventing you from working or attending school;
• Blaming you for the abuse, or acting like it's not really happening;
• Destroying your property or threatening to hurt or kill your pets;
• Shoving, slapping, choking or hitting you;
• Attempting to stop you from pressing charges;
• Threatening to commit suicide because of something you've done;
• Threatening to hurt or kill you;
• Pressuring you to have sex when you don't want to or to do things sexually you're not comfortable doing;
• Pressuring you to use drugs or alcohol;
• Pressuring you to become pregnant when you're not ready.
To reach Turning Point's 24-hour crisis hotline, call 586-463-6990.
New 'Cold Justice' Spin-Off from TNT Set for 2015
by TV News Desk
TNT is expanding its real-life investigation series COLD JUSTICE into a franchise. The network has given the greenlight to an untitled spinoff from Wolf Reality and Magical Elves. Like its predecessor, the new series will follow a pair of crime experts as they travel the country to assist local law enforcement in closing long-unsolved cases. Rather than tackling homicides, however, the new series will focus on sex crimes.
TNT has ordered 10 episodes of its COLD JUSTICE spinoff, with plans to launch the series in spring 2015. Emmy(R) winners Dick Wolf (Law & Order, Chicago Fire), Dan Cutforth & Jane Lipsitz (Top Chef, Time of Death) and Tom Thayer (Hitchcock, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee) serve as executive producers on both series, with COLD JUSTICE expert Kelly Siegler also serving as an executive producer on the new show.
TNT's new COLD JUSTICE spinoff is an extremely timely series, especially in light of the sobering statistics for sex-related crimes in America*:
Each year, there are approximately 240,000 survivors of sexual assault in America, including men, women and children.
Every two minutes, someone is sexually assaulted in the United States.
Across the country, 400,000 rape kits are going unprocessed because of a lack of funding necessary to test them.
Approximately 97% of sexual assailants never spend a day in jail.
To combat these numbers and bring justice to the survivors of sexual assault, former Harris County, Texas, prosecutors Casey Garrett and Alicia O'Neill are travelling to small towns around the country to help local law enforcement close cases that have sat dormant for years.
Garrett, a protégé of Cold Justice's Kelly Siegler, has been first chair in more than a hundred criminal trials as both a prosecutor and defense attorney. She is also a recipient of the C. Chris Marshall Award for Excellence in Training by the Texas District and County Attorneys Association. O'Neill, who also worked with Kelly Siegler in Harris County, is a forensics expert with specialized training in DNA analysis. Both O'Neill and Garrett succeeded in having a pair of wrongful convictions overturned in the high-profile cases of two men who had been imprisoned for years for sexual assault.
"This new COLD JUSTICE series on sex crimes is about the healing that can come for survivors and their loved ones when an assailant is finally brought to justice," said Kelly Siegler. "But it's also about the bravery it takes for survivors of sexual assault to come forward and tell their stories, which in turn helps investigators close cases that can prevent the assailant from abusing others. As one of our detectives puts it, 'When you kill someone, you take their life. When you rape someone, you take their soul.' We hope that Casey, Alicia and their team of investigators are able to bring first-hand justice and maybe even a small sense of peace to the survivors of sexual assault."
TNT's COLD JUSTICE premiered in September 2013 and follows former prosecutor Kelly Siegler and former crime-scene investigator Yolanda McClary as they look into murder cases in which the trail to find the culprit has gone cold. Since the show's premiere, Siegler and McClary have assisted local law enforcement in securing a total of 19 arrests, 10 criminal indictments, four confessions, three guilty pleas and two convictions.
In the ratings, COLD JUSTICE averaged more than 2.2 million viewers in Live + 7 delivery this past summer, a remarkable +17% increase over the show's winter episodes. In key demos, COLD JUSTICE averaged 838,000 adults 25-54 (+3% vs. winter).
TNT's COLD JUSTICE spinoff is now seeking Law Enforcement Agencies who could benefit from additional resources for their unsolved sex crime cases and possibly be featured on the new show. Law Enforcement Agencies that would like to submit a case please send a short synopsis and your contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org. The series can only review cases that are submitted directly from Law Enforcement. If you are a SURVIVOR of a reported sex crime and would like the series to consider your case, please ask the local Law Enforcement Agency handling your case to submit to email@example.com.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it's not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE and www.rainn.org.
* Sources: RAINN: Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)'s National Crime Victimization Survey, The DOJ's Felony Defendents in Large Urban Counties Survey and The Joyful Heart Foundation.
Changes may ease secrecy in child abuse cases
by Neal P. Goswami
MONTPELIER — The special legislative Committee on Child Protection agreed to add several proposals for lawmakers to consider in January in an ongoing effort to boost the state's child protection laws after the deaths of two toddlers this year.
The panel received an overview Thursday from Luke Martland, director of the Office of Legislative Council, on the policies at the Department for Children and Families, statutes on sharing information, confidentiality issues and substance abuse.
Martland said statutes have created a system in which the default position is to consider all child abuse cases confidential.
“There has to be an exception for information to be shared,” he said.
Under current law, people who are mandated to report suspected abuse — including teachers, clergy and health care professionals — are entitled to receive certain information from DCF.
That includes whether the report was accepted as a valid allegation, whether an assessment was done and a need for services was found, and whether an investigation was conducted and claims substantiated.
However, the department is required to provide that information only to mandated reporters. Others who report abuse, such as family or neighbors, are not entitled to any information about whether DCF is taking action, Martland said.
He said DCF also has a policy that matches the statute. But testimony heard during the panel's months of hearings shows that in some cases mandated reporters “received little information and if they did get that information it was weeks and months later,” he said.
The issue of whether pertinent information was being shared with those who report abuse, and between DCF and police, arose after the deaths of 2-year-old Dezirae Sheldon, of Poultney, in February and 15-month-old Peighton Geraw, of Winooski, in April. Both were ruled homicides, and murder charges have been filed against family members.
The cases sparked outrage around Vermont and led lawmakers to question whether DCF was effective. It also led to the creation of the Child Protection Committee, as well as an internal review of the department.
Police reports in the Dezirae case revealed gaps in communication among those involved in her care.
Lawmakers agreed to put a “cone of confidentiality” proposal into draft legislation. The cone would include DCF workers, police, teachers, service providers and others involved in the case.
“They can fully share information if they're within that cone of confidentiality, but they cannot disseminate that information outside,” Martland said.
Sen. Richard Sears, D-Bennington, co-chairman of the special panel and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he supports changing the law to ensure better communication. But DCF will need to follow the changes, he said.
“I'm mindful that maybe it needs a nudge and law change, but the practice needs to change,” Sears said. “One of the things we've learned is there's policy, there's law and then there's practice. The practice doesn't always follow the policy.”
The committee also agreed Thursday to move forward with a recommendation from Attorney General William Sorrell to expand the definition of causing harm to a child to include exposure to substance abuse. Under the proposal, parents or caregivers could be found to harm a child from birth to the age of 14 if they abuse substances in the presence of the child.
The committee also agreed to move forward on creating an Office of Child Advocate, which would look out for the well-being of children in abuse and custody cases.
Thursday's hearing was expected to be the final meeting for the group, but it may reconvene to review draft legislation before it is finalized for the committees of jurisdiction in the House and Senate.
Psychological abuse is 'most challenging and prevalent form of child abuse'
by Rachel Velishek
A recent report from the “American Psychological Association" states that kids who are emotionally abused suffer the same mental health consequences as those who experience physical or sexual abuse.
Research was conducted from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network Core Data Set to analyze data from 5,616 youth with histories of either psychological maltreatment defined as emotional abuse or neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse.
Psychological maltreatment is defined as caregiver inflicted bullying, terrorizing, coercive control, severe insults, debasement, threats, overwhelming demands, shunning and/or isolation.
Children who were psychologically abused suffered from anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder and suicidal ideation at a greater rate than individuals who were physically and or sexually abused.
Among the three types of abuse, psychological abuse has the strongest link to depression, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, attachment problems and substance abuse.
Psychological abuse, along with either physical or sexual abuse, was associated with more severe outcomes than when children were either physically or sexually abused and not psychologically abused.
Sexual and physical abuse had to occur at the same time to cause the same effect as psychological abuse alone on behaviors and emotional response in school, attachment problems and self-injury behaviors.
Within a year, an estimated 3 million U.S. children experience maltreatment, predominately from a parent, family member or another adult caregiver.
The American Academy of Pediatrics identified psychological maltreatment as “the most challenging and prevalent form of child abuse and neglect.”
Unfortunately, Child Protective Services has a more difficult time recognizing and substantiating emotional neglect and abuse because there are no physical wounds.
Given the prevalence of childhood psychological maltreatment, it should be a priority of mental health and social service training.
Public awareness initiatives also will help people understand just how harmful psychological maltreatment is for children and adolescents.
Rachel Velishek is a licensed professional clinical counselor with Fisher-Titus Medical Care-Psychiatry, Fisher-Titus Medical Park 3, Suite 950, 272 Benedict Ave., Norwalk. Her office can be reached at 419-668-0311.
Detroit boy, 7, dies malnourished, bruised; mother, boyfriend arrested
Mother, 27-year-old boyfriend in custody on suspicion of child abuse
DETROIT -- The mother and stepfather of a 7-year-old Detroit boy who died Thursday are in custody on suspicion of child abuse.
Emanuel Foster was brought to Henry Ford Hospital Thursday morning where he was pronounced dead. He had bruises on his body. The bruises were consistent with child abuse. Moreover, the boy was malnourished and weighed just 27 pounds.
"When I see a kid who is almost 8 and weighs 27 pounds, I have a problem with that," said Deputy Police Chief Steve Dolunt.
Police believe the boy was the victim of child abuse, but are waiting on an autopsy report to determine the exact cause of death.
The boy was being cared for by the 27-year-old boyfriend of his mother, who also was his stepfather. That man's father is Allen Rimson, who owns the house where the child was staying.
"He was up this morning sick, throwing up and messing through the house and everything. And then (my son) said that he had stopped breathing, and was trying to resuscitate him," said Rimson. "So he called EMS."
Rimson, who does not live in the house, said the boy injured himself last Sunday.
"He was running to the bathroom and tripped and fell in the bathroom and hit his head on the sink ... he had a cut on his eye," said Rimson.
He said the boy was not checked by a doctor. He also said his son would physically discipline Emanuel. Rimson said the boy had a bad habit of eating uncooked meat, such as hot dogs, and his son disciplined him for it.
"Sometimes with his hand, sometimes with a belt. That's how we were raised," said Rimson.
He said the 7-year-old was not in school and that his son has been caring for the boy because the boy's mother has been gone for two months.
"He took care of him, the best he could," said Rimson.
Kimberly Wilburn, Emanuel's aunt, said his mother left him with someone she trusted.
"That baby was tortured. Shouldn't nobody have to live like that. She really trusted him. That's somebody she trusted. She didn't just leave him with somebody she didn't know. She knew him," said Wilburn.
The mother recently moved to Saginaw. Now, she's in custody.
The boyfriend's family said he was alone caring for Emanuel and two younger children.
"She would do that often ... she would leave him for a couple weeks, sometimes a month," said Rimson.
Program to stop child abuse begins
by Gayle Perez
Pueblo County has added a new program for parents and caregivers of young children in an effort to alleviate potential child abuse and neglect issues.
SafeCare Colorado, a nationally recognized in-home prevention program, is being launched by Catholic Charities on a voluntary basis for parents and caregivers of children from birth to age 5.
Catholic Charities also will oversee SafeCare programs in Custer, Huerfano and Las Animas counties.
The program, operated under the Colorado Department of Human Services, provides in-home skills training for parents in the areas of parenting skills, child safety and child health. Services are free and the program is voluntary.
When Could Bruising Mean Child Abuse?
Additional Injuries in Young Infants With Concern for Abuse and Apparently Isolated Bruises
by William T. Basco, Jr, MD, MS -- Harper NS, Feldman KW, Sugar NF, Anderst JD, Lindberg DM
Examining Siblings to Recognize Abuse Investigators
Evidence demonstrates that infants younger than 6 months are more likely to be the victims of abuse and abusive head injury than are older children. Other investigators have also demonstrated that bruises are rare in nonambulatory infants, suggesting that bruising in these infants should prompt evaluation for injury or bleeding disorders.
Harper and colleagues sought to determine the frequency of additional injuries or bleeding disorders among infants who underwent evaluation for abuse on the basis of the presence of isolated bruising. This was a planned secondary analysis of data collected as part of a large, nationally representative cohort study. The larger study collected data on children younger than 10 years, who were evaluated by 20 child-abuse teams across the United States over a 1-year period. Because it was an observational study, the testing completed as part of the evaluation of each child was left to the discretion of the treating physicians.
The child abuse team applied a score from 1 to 7 to each child, indicating the team's assessment of how definite or likely it was that injury was inflicted. The highest scores were 7 (definite inflicted injury) and 6 (substantial evidence of inflicted injury). The investigators further restricted the study group to infants who presented for evaluation as a result of bruising alone, with no other presenting symptoms or physical examination findings suggestive of abuse. The original national research study enrolled more than 2800 children, of whom 980 were younger than 6 months.
Bruises were present in 254 children, and ultimately 146 children were determined to have isolated bruising. Of the 146 with isolated bruising, 61% were boys, and the mean age was 1.5 months.
Overall, 50% of the children were judged as having either "definite" inflicted injury or "substantial evidence of" inflicted injury. One third of the children had a single bruise, 52% had two to five bruises, and almost 14% had six or more bruises. The location of bruising was the face or head in 75% of the children; one third had a bruise on the trunk, and approximately one fourth had bruises on extremities.
At least one additional injury was uncovered by diagnostic testing in 73 children (50%). Head imaging by CT or MRI was completed for 91% of the children, and 27.4% had some type of new injury identified. Most common among these were skull fractures, subdural hematomas, and subarachnoid hemorrhages. Skeletal surveys were performed in 137 children (93.8%), and 23% showed a fracture. Among the 62 children with fractures, 58% had multiple fractures.
Hepatic aminotransferases were tested in 92 children (63%), but only 15% of these children proved to have elevated levels. The treating teams completed evaluations for bleeding disorders in 71% of the children, but no child had a bleeding disorder.
There was no relationship between the number of bruises and the frequency of any additional injuries uncovered by evaluation. Nor was the location of the bruise related to the frequency of additional injuries. The frequency of additional injuries was the same in infants with bruises on the head as those with bruising on an extremity.
The investigators concluded that infants younger than 6 months with bruising who also underwent subspecialty evaluation for abuse had a high chance of having an additional serious injury. They reiterate that bruising in infants younger than 6 months who are not mobile should serve as a "red flag" prompting further evaluation.
Data published in the past year have emphasized the need to consider expanded testing for children aged = 18 months with isolated skull fractures and the need to complete follow-up skeletal surveys after initial evaluations for abuse. These epidemiologic studies are very helpful in determining guideline recommendations for which patients should receive specific evaluations.
This was a referral population, and that affects the findings of the study in two ways. First, each child was evaluated by a child-abuse team, and I suspect that means that the children were much more likely to undergo comprehensive testing than the average infant seen in a nonpediatric emergency department or a pediatric emergency department without access to a child abuse specialist.
The other bias is that the study may not be representative of the findings that might be expected in all children younger than 6 months with isolated bruises. All of these children presented because of some concern about abuse, so we don't know how similar or dissimilar they are to the wider population of children aged less than 6 months with bruising. Nevertheless, these data should be applicable to most emergency department settings and should certainly get the attention of anyone evaluating a young infant with bruising.