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October 20, 2014



Gainesville center to provide counseling for abused boys

by Kristen Oliver

Nearly one in 10 children will be sexually abused by the time they turn 18.

Betty Guilfoile said nearly as many boys are sexually abused as girls, but free counseling and therapy for abused men have not been readily available in Hall County.

The Children's Center for Hope and Healing wants to change that.

Guilfoile, executive director of the center, said the United Way of Hall County recently provided $25,000 in funding the center will use to pay for therapists for adult male survivors of child sexual abuse.

“We're an organization that's been around for 30 years and we provide counseling to children who are victims of child sexual abuse, ages 3-17, and to adult women that are survivors,” Guilfoile said. “This is a way that we can expand our program to include men, which we've not had funding for in the past.”

The new service is free and confidential and will be provided by licensed male counselors who have specialized training in trauma issues.

Guilfoile said the center previously referred men to some private practices in town and hoped they would receive the help they needed.

“At least once every couple weeks we'd get a call from men who are survivors or others asking us if we serve this population,” Guilfoile said.

Guilfoile said child sexual abuse of boys is more prevalent than people might realize and it occurs at almost the same rate as abuse of girls. The center is able to provide survivors with specialized training they might not get at other practices.

“We do a bunch of things that are sort of state-of-the-art type of evidence-based practice treatments for survivors of trauma,” she said. “We use them to provide those services for the people we serve.”

The center served 1,700 individuals last year, and Guilfoile said that number is likely to increase now that the center can serve adult men.

She said the center also hopes to help parents understand how to protect their children from child sexual abuse. One common misconception, according to Guilfoile, is that sexual abuse is “all about stranger danger.”

“Parents do a lot to protect children from that, but they need to be aware someone in their life already is more likely to be a predator to their child,” she said. “That's a scary thing, but there are things they can do to keep their children safe.”

According to a report from the Governor's Office for Children and Families, 93 percent of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker. The office also reported 42 percent of rape victims in the state are under the age of 18, and more than 22 percent of men in Georgia have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives.

Guilfoile said anyone who's experienced or survived sexual abuse deserves help and shouldn't be afraid to ask for it.

“Everything is free,” Guilfoile said. “So this is a great opportunity for people to come forward if they've never received treatment in the past.”



'Stewards of Children' workshop set

TREVORTON - Susquehanna Community Foundations of Berwick is providing a free workshop for members of the community from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 4, at the Line Mountain Elementary School library.

"Darkness to Light, Stewards of Children" will present facts about child abuse and practical guidance for preventing and responding to abuse. Free food and refreshments will be available.

The presenters will show a video that integrates commentary from sexual abuse survivors, experts in the field and other concerned adults. The session stresses five steps to protecting our children.



Thousands to be Trained to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse in Idaho

BOISE, Idaho - Two hours in training to protect Idaho children from child sexual abuse. More than 22-thousand in the Boise area will undergo the training in the coming months. Comments from Michael Graves, national director of partnering in prevention at the Redwoods Group Foundation. The organization's goal is to train more than 22-thousand people in the Treasure Valley, in conjunction with the YMCA.

More than 22,000 people in the Treasure Valley are going to be trained to prevent child sexual abuse, thanks to a grant.

The trainings are part of a goal to train 5 percent of the nation's adult population. The money comes from the Redwoods Group Foundation, and trainings will be coordinated by local YMCAs.

Michael Graves, the foundation's national director of partnering in prevention, said that a big part of the training is understanding that one in 10 children will be sexually abused before age 18, and 90 percent will be abused by someone they or the family knows and trusts.

"Most perpetrators go through a pretty long grooming process to gain the trust of the child," Graves said, "and in many cases, the trust of the child's parents and guardians."

The "Stewards of Children" training also identifies what to look for, how to have conversations with children and what to do if you suspect something. In Idaho, Graves said, all adults are required to report suspected child sexual abuse so trained investigators can look into the situation, and do so without revictimizing the child.

Graves said the training is not just for teachers, coaches and those with regular direct contact with children. He said he wants everyone to consider it to provide a cushion of protection for all children.

"This is such an epidemic with such broad consequences to society that it's something that all adults should know about," he said.

The Stewards of Children training can be done online and takes about two hours. Interested people can contact a local YMCA to see if grant coverage of the cost is available, or contact the Idaho Children's Trust Fund. Without the grant, the program is $10. Training details and free information are online at



Take the right steps to stop the madness

by R.J.Gallagher

“Domestic abuse, also called intimate partner violence, is the systematic suffocation of another person's spirit.” — Joanna Hunter, author of “But He'll Change.”

You only need to read this column if you have a mother, sister, brother, wife, father, daughter, grandmother, girlfriend, boyfriend, niece, nephew, son or significant other.

If you have ever been on the delivering side within an abusive relationship, now is the time to take the appropriate steps to stop the madness because there are almost limitless ways to seek and find the help and support you need. You just have to take the first step.

It's time to give back the spirit you have stolen from others. The spirit that promotes hope, happiness and personal confidence. It's just not right for anyone to take those aspirations and freedoms away from someone else. Ever.

Now is the time to grab a seat and focus, because you need to read the following alarming statistics, provided by Safe Horizon and Response, very carefully.

Every nine seconds in the United States, a woman is assaulted or beaten. Around the world, at least 1 in every 3 women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. Most often, the abuser is a member of her own family.

One in every 4 women and 1 in every 7 men will experience domestic violence within their lifetime. Nearly 70 percent of female and 53 percent of male victims experience some form of intimate-partner violence for the first time before age 25.

Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women — more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined. Combined!

Studies suggest that as many as 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually. Nearly 1 in 5 teenage girls who have been in a relationship said a boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup.

Every day in the United States, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. Again, every day in the United States more than three women are murdered by their husbands and boyfriends. I had to read that twice to grasp its reality, so I wanted to make sure you did also. Spend a few minutes on that one. It's beyond comprehension. At least mine. And it needs to be radically addressed. Now.

Ninety-two percent of women surveyed listed reducing domestic violence and sexual assault as their top concern. Based on reports from 10 countries, between 55 and 95 percent of women who had been physically abused by their partners had never contacted nongovernmental organizations, shelters or the police for help. So you see, these alarming statistics are not even close to reality. And that's a startling reality.

Men, who as children witnessed their parents' domestic violence, were twice as likely to abuse their own wives than sons of nonviolent parents. The gift that keeps on giving, I guess.

For 30 years, Response has supported victims of domestic violence and sexual assault through its 24-hour support and crisis hotline, emergency shelter (for families and their pets), court and medical advocacy, adult and teen support groups, one-on-one peer support and often through to other partner agencies to provide a continuum of care for victims and their families.

Its mission is to support, educate and empower victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. It provides complimentary, confidential, nonjudgmental support for people who have experienced domestic violence or sexual assault. Its services, many of which are provided by its expertly trained volunteers, are vital to guaranteeing the well-being and safety of our community members in need. Did I mention that all of its services are free and completely confidential?

In 2013, Response served 209 new, unduplicated clients and a total of 561 individual survivors. Response victim advocates provided over 10,933 volunteers hours to support all 561 survivors in Pitkin and western Eagle counties.

Response programs have grown to include prevention programs within the schools, such as teen-dating violence, sexual and cyber bullying, post-traumatic stress disorder therapy, assistance with applications for victim's compensation, U-visas and immigration as well as human-trafficking support services. Response legal advocates assist their clients in obtaining restraining orders and in selecting appropriate legal counsel.

In 2013, the Response crisis helpline received 145 contacts, about 2.75 calls per week. It also provided 22 nights of emergency housing for women and managed a total of 278 contacts. Their staff advocates specifically assisted 40 women with obtaining restraining orders, and even more clients were provided with legal advocacy, such as court escorts and translations, navigating the criminal justice system and referral to appropriate legal counsel.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. What better time is there to take a serious look at how you can help make a difference in our valley and make domestic violence go away?

For more information about how you can become an advocate volunteer or other ways to give or get involved, please take a minute to visit the Response website, or call them at 970-920-5357. Now is the time to become a force for good.

If you are in need of the services provided by Response, you can reach out 24 hours a day on its crisis hotline at 970-925-SAFE. If you are currently thinking that you may need support and guidance for the situation you find yourself in, you probably do. Make the call.

R.J. Gallagher Jr. is a three-decade resident of the Roaring Fork Valley community. He proudly serves on numerous non-profit Boards including the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, the Aspen Community Foundation and Komen Aspen. His firm, Forte International, is a supporter of local philanthropy that makes a difference on a global level. “Philantopia” is a monthly column for The Aspen Times focused on philanthropy and community involvement. R.J.'s always open for ideas. You can reach him at



Steilacoom woman sought answers on child abuse — from a child predator

by Larry LaRue

Sylvia Peterson wasn't thinking about a book when she began visiting the most dangerous female sex predator in the state. She was hoping to resolve her own personal horror.

“I thought it might be possible to get information that would help explain my grandfather, who abused me when I was 7 years old,” Peterson said.

So in 2003, she began visiting Laura Faye McCollum, a Tennessee woman convicted in 1990 of repeatedly raping an 18-month-old Tacoma girl and trying to suffocate her with a pillow.

McCollum is the only woman — along with 264 men — housed in the Washington Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island. She is one of only three women in the country considered a violent sexual predator.

“My husband, John, was a volunteer chaplain there and met Laura. He thought she would benefit from talking to another woman,” said Peterson, a Foursquare Church chaplain who lives in Steilacoom.

“My mother and family were upset that I was seeing Laura,” Peterson said. “A large part of society believes Laura is beyond God's grace.”

What began as a near-impossible relationship — McCollum admits she ‘tested' Peterson during their first visit by pushing her away — became an emotional friendship that helped both women.

It also became a book, the newly released “Laura and Me,” that detailed conversations both touching and chilling.

“I have genuine affection for Laura the person, not for Laura the offender,” Peterson said. “Did that surprise me? Yes.”

McCollum's take?

“She's my very best friend, and I don't think she'd do anything to harm me,” McCollum said by telephone from McNeil Island. “But if she thought I might harm someone, she'd lock my butt up in a heartbeat. She doesn't condone anything I've done.”

Though Peterson wanted to understand what made a child predator, listening to McCollum at times was unbearable.

“When she started to tell me her stories, I didn't process it very well. It was so horrifying I mentally checked out,” Peterson said. “There was no remorse, no ability to feel compassion.”

Over years of conversation, however, Peterson began to understand McCollum.

“She was the victim of a psychological perfect storm. She suffered prenatal problems because of an alcoholic mother. She was neglected from birth — the ninth of nine children — and once told me she could never remember anyone ever holding her as a child unless it was to do her harm.

“She was a victim of long-term sexual abuse.”

In time, McCollum and Peterson came to share opinions about predators.

“The staff here will never be able to ‘fix' me,” McCollum said. “They don't know why I'm the way I am, so how can they cure me?”

For Peterson, that belief was reinforced throughout her friendship with McCollum.

“With all she had been through, Laura thought affection and abuse were connected,” Peterson said. “She didn't see her victims as victims, and I don't believe she knows how many children she abused.

“As much as we spent time together, I believe if given the opportunity, Laura would be sexually inappropriate with me. She doesn't know affection without inappropriate desire.”

Seeking a way to understand her grandfather, Peterson had an emotional breakthrough talking to McCollum, and she believes McCollum had one as well. All of her life, Peterson said, she had blamed herself for her abuse, believing if she had fought harder it would not have happened.

“The breakthrough for me was when I understood there was a difference between understanding and healing,” Peterson said. “Victims have to have enough empathy to forgive. My grandfather didn't see the humanity in me, but to be free of it I had to see the humanity in him.”

Peterson wrote a letter, she said, explaining her rage at her grandfather but forgiving him.

“Then I had to forgive my parents, who could have protected me but wouldn't believe it had happened,” Peterson said. “I had to forgive myself for thinking, at age 7, I could have prevented it. And I had to forgive God, who allowed it to happen.”

McCollum wrote and shared a similar letter, and the two women wept together, crying for themselves, and for McCollum's victims.

McCollum will not be allowed to see the book, ironically, because it deals with children — and rules of her commitment forbid that. Nor can she benefit from book sales. Peterson is sending what would have been McCollum's share of royalties to a Tennessee center for abused children.

Peterson said she loves McCollum as a new Christian, but never lost perspective of who McCollum was and remains. Neither did the Pierce County Superior Court judge who last year denied a request for McCollum to be released to a halfway house.

Having seen both McCollum the woman and McCollum the predator, Peterson doesn't believe she should ever leave the Commitment Center.

“Will she ever be free?' Peterson asked, repeating a question. “I hope not.”



Report: Illinois child abuse rates hit a 30 year high

by Natalie Will

Child deaths caused by abuse and neglect hit a 30 year high last year, according to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. The report says 87 deaths are linked to abuse and neglect and some fear the numbers could be higher.

Advocacy Network for Children Director Clairice Hetzler says these numbers serve as a reminder that this is a real issue in the U.S.

She says when people accept the fact this could happen anywhere is when real progress is made. Hetzler says she often sees children who do not feel safe.

"A lot of children haven't experienced the fact that an adult is a safe person. So they're coming to us and believing, and hopefully believing, that we are there to help them. When I speak to children I tell them, my job is simply to make sure you are okay," Hetzler says.

Hetzler says when a child comes in, she feels they have one chance to protect that child. She says if they mess that up, they may never get that chance again.



Governors says child abuse deaths have gone down, reports show deaths just kept off the books

by Mary Ellen Klas

In Lake County, a disfigured 2-month-old whose mother did not want him is left alone in a motel room for 90 minutes, and is later found smothered. His family had been the subject of 38 prior investigations by the state's child welfare agency.

“It is a general consensus,” a report said, “that [the mother] was involved in the death of her child.”

In Santa Rosa County, child welfare authorities allow a “chronic and severe” drug addict to bring her newborn home, though her two older children had been removed from her care for their safety. Eighteen days later, the mother takes an unprescribed Lortab painkiller and places her baby next to her in bed. The child is found dead.

And in Polk County, a mother leaves two toddlers alone in a “kiddie pool” — and returns to find her 1-year-old daughter face-down in the water. Her 2-year-old son later discloses he pushed his sister down while she was crying. He now suffers nightmares.

The children, who all perished last year, are tragically bound by more than death: Even as the Florida Department of Children & Families has promised greater openness, the three fatalities, and dozens of others like them, have never been counted among the state's victims of fatal abuse or neglect.

No state can protect every child who is born to troubled, violent or drug-addicted parents, and even youngsters for whom child protection administrators make all the right choices can sometimes fall victim to unforeseen circumstances. To ensure that state social service agencies learn from mistakes, the federal government requires that states count and investigate all child fatalities that result from abuse or neglect.

Regulators don't, however, strenuously oversee how the counting and investigating occurs.

After the Miami Herald published a series examining the deaths of 477 children — and Florida's failure to protect some of them from abusive or neglectful parents — the state promised a new era of openness and more rigor in the way it investigates child deaths.

But except for abiding by a new state law that required DCF to create a website listing all child fatalities, Florida has continued to undercount the number of children it fails.

“Nothing has changed,” said former Broward Sheriff's Office Cmdr. James Harn, who supervised child abuse investigations before retiring when a new sheriff was elected last year. “Some day, somebody will say ‘let's just stop the political wrangling.' Here's what you've got to do: Just tell the truth.”

For several years, BSO, which has investigated child deaths under contract with DCF, has recorded significantly more fatalities due to neglect or abuse than other counties, where DCF does its own investigations. One important reason for the disparity is that the sheriff's office long has insisted that drownings and accidental suffocations — among the leading causes of child fatality — be counted, while DCF has, in recent years, declined to include the majority of those in its abuse and neglect tally.

As a result, said Harn, the statewide numbers “are cooked.”



Doctor Accused In Child Abuse Case In The U.S. Practising In Australia Untouched by Authorities

by Kalyan Kumar

A radiologist of Indian origin, who fled the U.S. before facing a court trial on charges of attempted child sex, has been practising in Australia for many years, avoiding action from the legal and medical authorities. Dr. Max Mehta was held in Dallas, Texas, in 2004 on the charge of soliciting a 15-year-old deaf girl for sex during an online chat. What trapped him was that the deaf girl in the chat room was actually a police officer in disguise.

Mehta was arrested when he reached the address believing it to be the girl's home. He was charged with soliciting a minor with sexual demands, reports The Guardian. One of his ex colleagues, Dr Rauf Yousef, came across his details and alerted several authorities on Mehta's history in the U.S. But no action has come so far. This has raised questions over the procedures and lax background checks in the case of employing foreign doctors working in Australia. Any offence related to child abuse attracts a jail term of minimum 10 years, reports FindLaw.

Flees To New Zealand

Before the trial started, Mehta fled the USA and moved to New Zealand. He jumped the bail of $100,000. Since Mehta was neither convicted or nor put on trial, he could get through the police, immigration and work history checks. In 2007, he went in for a name change and became Robert Taylor. Mehta obtained New Zealand citizenship in 2008.

In 2009, the doctor moved to Australia on a Trans-Tasman New Zealand visa and joined the Goulburn Valley Imaging Group in Shepparton, Victoria as a radiologist. In Australia, Mehta was only asked to sign a statutory declaration that he had not been convicted of any offences. No criminal background checks seemed to have taken place.

The complainant Yousaf says, he sent out information about Mehta's background to many authorities who included politicians, police, AHPRA, and medical bodies. He also alerted the FBI and police agencies in Dallas.

Yousaf grew suspicious about Mehta, after he came across information about multiple forgeries by Mehta in his signature on a range of documents in the last few years. The detailed investigation led to evidence of Mehta's name-change and the criminal charges he is facing in the U.S.

Yousaf claims that he got information that Mehta left India for the U.S after facing a spousal abuse case under Dowry Act.

Extradition Unlikely

But Yousaf regretted that he has been told that extradition of Mehta was unlikely, because it was not among the most serious cases. Yousaf harbours the fear a child predator like Mehta in his current role "would have many patients who may be children. He should never have been allowed to have access to kids as long as he is cleared of the charges."

However, Mehta declined to comment on the queries such as why he left the U.S. and why he concealed the charges or what were the reasons that led to his name change.



Texas man charged in MN child sex abuse case

by Chris Hrapsky

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. -- A Texas man is in jail without bond after he was accused of engaging in a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old Minnesota boy he met online.

In 2012, 59-year-old Robert Wayne Zubl logged on to the social media site chatroulette where he was randomly paired to video chat with the Twin Cities boy, according to court documents.

The chat led to a trusting relationship, emails and skype conversations, and a year of suspected online sexual abuse.

"This could have been any of our kids," said a woman close to the case who wished not to be identified because of the deeply sensitive nature of the case.

"What I think we as parents don't see or don't know is how patient, and caring and skilled these predators are at gaining our children's trust," she said.

Zubl waited until the boy turned 16, according to court documents, then arranged multiple visits to Minnesota where the relationship became physical.

"This boy was a good student. He was home. He wasn't in trouble. He would always be where he said he would be. So when you are somebody who has a track record of being a really great kid, there isn't any reason for the parent to distrust," said the woman.

The story got out, authorities were notified and Zubl was arrested in Texas earlier this month.

It wasn't until after Zubl was charged in Minnesota that the family found out Zubl had been on bail, accused of doing the same thing to a boy in Texas.

"After two years he is still awaiting trial," said the woman. "So for two years he was free to travel and to find other children and continue these activities."

"It's like a golden opportunity for them," said David Larson, professor of law at Hamline University. "They are just waiting there to see who they get matched with. So it's extremely dangerous for kids."


New York

State probing allegations of sex abuse at children's facility

8-year-old reported attack by 13-year-old

by Lou Michel

State investigators have begun reviewing allegations that a 13-year-old boy sexually assaulted an 8-year-old boy in a residential facility in Buffalo.

Meanwhile, the relative who brought the incident to light says he has been cut off from any contact with the younger boy, an action he feels is in retaliation for his going public with the allegations.

A spokesman for the New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs confirmed that center investigators, who can make arrests and prosecute cases, began their review of the case earlier this month.

“The investigation is active and open,” Justice Center spokesman Bryan Jackson said. “It is underway at the facility.”

While the state probe continues, Peter Beyer, the great-uncle of the 8-year-old, said he still has not received an answer from Erie County social services officials on whether the alleged attacker has been removed from the Delaware Avenue campus of Child & Family Services, which takes in displaced children. Beyer said the older boy should not remain on the same grounds as his alleged victim.

Beyer also said he's been cut off from any contact with his nephew after going public with the allegations.

“They are not letting me speak to my nephew on the phone and I'm not allowed to visit him after months of visiting and speaking on the phone,” he said Friday evening.

Beyer says he believes officials in the case are acting against him because he went public with the sexual abuse allegations.

The great-uncle said he learned of the attacks on Oct. 6 from a facility caseworker when he went to visit his nephew. Later that same day, Beyer said, he received a call from a Child & Family Services nurse who had taken the boy to Women & Children's Hospital for an examination.

The nurse, he said, confirmed that his nephew had been sexually assaulted. The boy told officials that the 13-year-old had attacked him once before, but threatened to harm him if he told anyone of the assaults.

As the state investigates, Buffalo attorney Jeffrey C. Mannillo has been working with Beyer to try to have the 8-year-old and his younger sister, who is at another residential facility, reunited and placed with a Syracuse family willing to take in the children with the hopes of adopting them.

“My concern is to get the children out of their current placements and into a loving, stable home,” Mannillo said Friday. “Efforts to work with a family in Syracuse are under way.”

Beyer said he has filled out new paperwork required by Erie County to gain guardianship of the children and move the process forward. The county, he said, misplaced his original paperwork.

He said he planned to hand-deliver the new paperwork today.

His nephew and niece, he explained, had been adopted by their maternal grandmother, Beyer's sister, several years ago after the children's parents were imprisoned. Traceylee Busch, the grandmother, died unexpectedly in January 2013 at the age of 47.

Relatives tried to keep the children together but the plan fell apart and Beyer said he had sought help from the Erie County Department of Social Services.

Officials at Child & Family Services – which assists children, adults and families experiencing difficult times – have said they regard their responsibility of keeping children safe as a top priority and have been in touch with the Justice Center.

When contacted Friday, facility officials said they stand by those comments and pointed out that legally they cannot comment on the case or address the status of either boy.

Erie County officials have also cited confidentiality laws in saying they cannot comment on the case.

“They know they are in trouble because they messed up,” Beyer said, explaining why he thinks officials are refusing to speak.

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