| Today's NAASCA news:
July 23, 2014
Passage of time shouldn't aid child abusers
The time has come for New Hampshire to eliminate the statute of limitations on sexual crimes against children.
As it stands, the state can pursue charges only until the victim turns 40. We were reminded of the folly of this particular law last week, when Kenneth Day of Epsom was charged with 300 counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault. One of his accusers said the assaults happened in Barnstead and Maine, but only the Maine charges will be pursued because the statute of limitations has expired in New Hampshire. Maine is one of at least 25 states that do not have a time limit on prosecuting sexual crimes against children.
Statutes of limitation exist, in part, to protect the integrity of investigations and ensure prosecutorial diligence. While this makes sense for some crimes, it ignores much of the research related to how children deal with sexual assault, especially when considering that most of the victims were abused by somebody they knew and at one time trusted.
According to the American Humane Association, a child “may be so traumatized by sexual abuse that years pass before he or she is able to understand or talk about what happened. In these cases, adult survivors of sexual abuse may come forward for the first time in their 40s or 50s and divulge the horror of their experiences.”
Many studies have tried to shed light on why some cases of child sexual abuse are not reported until decades later.
In 2006, two Harvard University psychologists published a study based on interviews with 27 people who had forgotten but later recovered memories of child sexual abuse. What Susan Clancy and Richard McNally discovered in the course of their research, according to the Harvard Gazette, was that only two of the 27 victims felt traumatized at the time the crime was committed. When asked how they forgot about the abuse, most said it was a conscious effort: They tried not to remember.
One of the victims said: “Well, it was clear to me that I could never tell my mother. And it was obvious my father wasn't going to ask me any more about it. So how was I going to handle that? I just forgot about it.”
It's tragic that some children feel their only recourse following a sexual assault is to suppress memories of the crime. The tragedy is compounded when New Hampshire tells a victim that justice is no longer available to him or her because too many years have passed since they were robbed of their childhood and, in many cases, their future.
Statutes of limitation are, by definition, arbitrary. And while that random designation may be acceptable for some crimes, it is unconscionable when it comes to the horrific abuse of a child.
The state must send a clear message to victims that when they are ready to talk, whether that be now or in 50 years, officials will be ready to listen and prepared to pursue justice. They are owed at least that much.
Local agencies try to piece together services for rape victims
by Lacey McLaughlin
Community stakeholders interested in restoring rape crisis services for Volusia and Flagler county victims will discuss a long-range plan today.
The public meeting, scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Volusia County Health Department in Daytona Beach, comes after the Children's Advocacy Center of Volusia and Flagler closed July 1.
Social services for children have been scattered and rape crisis services for adults were dissolved after the center lost millions of dollars of state funding and certification of its rape crisis center.
Services for children have been picked up by new providers, but it could take up to a year for the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence to certify a new rape crisis center.
While a team of forensic nurses has stepped up to ensure sexual assault victims are receiving exams in a timely manner, a certified rape crisis center is important for providing a 24-hour hot line, crisis intervention, victim advocates and counseling services, said Florida Council Against Sexual Violence Executive Director Jennifer Dritt, who is partnering with the Health Department to host the meeting.
“This meeting is an opportunity to hear what core services are and why,” Dritt said. “Most sexual assaults aren't reported, and that's why it's important to connect all victims with services immediately.”
While the certification for a new center is underway, Dritt is working to reroute the old rape crisis hot line to the Victim Service Center of Central Florida in Orlando for Volusia victims and the Betty Griffin House in St. Johns County for Flagler victims.
She said changes to sexual assault response protocols in Volusia over the last year have shifted more involvement to law enforcement, which has the potential to create gaps for victims who don't want to report their attacks but still need services.
“Survivors are the ones who have gotten hurt in this struggle,” Dritt said. “If people are willing to start over, we need to ask ourselves how can we fix this permanently and make it a solid plan going forward.”
In the meantime, interested parties have created a patchwork system of services since the Children's Advocacy Center closed.
Medical Legal Education Consultants, a team of on-call forensic nurses, provides exams for sexual assault victims in Volusia, Flagler and St. Johns County and has established a hot line for sexual assault victims who need an exam but don't want to report the assault to law enforcement.
Family Life Center, a domestic abuse shelter in Flagler County, provides counseling, advocacy and a hot line for domestic abuse and sexual assault victims, and is applying for certification to provide additional services for Flagler residents only.
Michael Mack's CONVERSATIONS WITH MY MOLESTER: A JOURNEY OF FAITH
Play Performed at NYC's Midtown International Theatre Festival thru 8/2
This month, as a part of the 15th Anniversary Season of the Midtown International Theatre Festival, Michael Mack will perform the NY premiere of his acclaimed solo show Conversations with My Molester: A Journey of Faith, which will run thru Saturday, August 2 at the Jewel Box Theater (312 West 36th St, 4th Floor). Spanning four decades after his childhood experience of clergy sexual abuse, Mack's award-winning solo play is his spiritual autobiography charting the crime, the wreckage, and his astonishing, redemptive return to the Catholic Church.
Written by and starring Michael Mack, and featuring direction from Boston stage veteran Daniel Gidron, the production premiered in Boston in 2012 at the 10-year anniversary of the clergy sexual abuse crisis. It won an Artist Grant for Dramatic Writing from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the state's most competitive and prestigious individual arts fellowship. Mack's autobiographical work goes where few have ventured on this topic - depicting one clergy survivor's odyssey full-circle from life-changing trauma to genuine reconciliation.
As a boy from a devout Roman Catholic family, Boston-based playwright Michael Mack wanted to be a priest. That dream ended at age 11 when his pastor first invited him to the rectory to help with "a project." Mack soon left the Church, haunted for decades by disturbing questions about spirituality and sexuality, but forty years later he landed on his former pastor's doorstep for the conversations of a lifetime.
Mack's play about his odyssey from clergy sexual abuse as a child to healing as an adult has received widespread acclaim for its "powerful conversations" (The Washington Post). Its complex, nuanced portrait has also netted rave reviews from Catholic parishioners, clergy, and even the Boston Archdiocese itself.
"The play is about healing," said Mack, who refers to his work as a kind of ministry. "I never became a priest, but I've always felt a spiritual calling. This play is my effort at reconciliation and social justice."
Conversations with My Molester: A Journey of Faith will run thru Saturday, August 2 at the Jewel Box Theatre (312 West 36th St, 4th Floor) with remaining performances on Wed. 7/30 at 6pm, Thu. 7/31 at 8pm and Sat. 8/2 at 1pm. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online at www.MidtownFestival.org.
2014 marks Year 15 for the Midtown International Theatre Festival (MITF) and producer John Chatterton is celebrating in a big way. Chatterton has been a prolific fixture of the Manhattan theatre scene for two decades. For the past 15 years, his brainchild MITF has been celebrating the diversity of theatre and has become a leader in presenting powerful works from around the world - and one of the best reasons to come to New York in the summer. The once bachelor MITF now has a full family of arts programs: The Short Play Lab, which will be part of this year's festivities; Cabaret MITF - featuring Broadway and cabaret performers - will also be part of the festival; and the Commercial Division spotlighting works whose production values and subject matter are the stuff for Off- [and on] Broadway; and, of course, the founding Midtown International Theatre Festival itself. The Midwinter Madness Short Play Festival and the new MITF Children's Theatre Festival shared in the fun earlier this year.
Cook Children's new center focuses on child abuse prevention
by Susan Schrock
FORT WORTH — Dr. Dyann Daley recalls the vow she made while watching a tiny toddler, whose father kicked him so hard that his liver ruptured, lay bleeding to death on the operating table before her.
“I remember looking at his face. He had a little nose that reminded me of my daughter,” said Daley, a pediatric anesthesiologist for Cook Children's Medical Center.
“When I was looking at him and knowing it was futile and he was dying, I couldn't help but think of my own child in that same circumstance and the fear and the terror that baby suffered.
“The people he looked to for comfort offered nothing for him. It broke my heart to think that any child should have to live like that. I promised that baby, because that was all that I could do in that moment, if there was anything I could do to stand between a child and an imminent threat like that, I would do it.”
Two years later, Daley is working to fulfilling that promise as executive director of Cook Children's new Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment. Through efforts such as providing education and support to families of all socioeconomic backgrounds and training doctors and first responders to recognize possible signs of abuse and neglect, the center aims to reduce Tarrant County's alarmingly high number of known cases.
Last year, 5,689 children in Tarrant County were confirmed victims of physical or sexual abuse. Additionally, the county's rates of child abuse and neglect and related fatalities are higher than the national rates.
“The numbers are staggering,” said Dr. Jamye Coffman, the center's medical director. “People are surprised to know how common child abuse is in their community and what the numbers really are. We are not talking just about excessive spankings. We are talking about down to being murdered. To know that it really happens and its not just on TV is shocking to people.”
The center will collaborate with Tarrant County service providers, such as the Alliance for Children, as well as other child abuse prevention teams at hospitals in Texas and across the state to develop and evaluate prevention strategies and educational programs, Daley said.
One project already underway is an online training course developed by Cook to help the system's 4,000 clinical employees detect risk factors and identify signs of drug exposure, failure to thrive, neglect and physical or sexual abuse. Those signs can range from a child being seriously underweight for his or her age to bruises on an infant who is not yet crawling, Coffman said.
“We know we are missing signs of child abuse. Then these kids are coming in with severe head trauma,” Coffman said. “No one wants to think that someone is abusing a child. Sometimes the findings can be rather subtle. If a child is coming in with these subtle findings, we want to heighten clinicians' awareness and then interaction can happen sooner.”
Up to 50 percent of children who die from abusive head trauma had some sort of bruise that went unaddressed at a previous medical appointment, Daley said.
The center's goal is to eventually also share the online training tool with other hospitals as well as the community, Daley said.
Studying what social services are available in communities where abuse and neglect are happening will also be one of the center's missions. Identifying areas of greatest need in the community could help area nonprofits or faith-based groups know where to broaden their efforts. Or Cook Children's could develop its own programs to serve communities that don't have access to needed resources, such as parenting classes, Daley said.
“The more you know about a problem and the more specific you can be about the solution, the better,” she said.
Providing education and coping techniques to new parents is one area of need.
Miriam Haro, a family interventionist for Catholic Charities, said many mothers and fathers who attend her parenting class admit to losing their temper when their children cry or misbehave.
Through the class, parents learn techniques to remain calm, such as placing a crying baby safely in a crib and walking away for a few moments or asking nearby relatives to come over to provide a break from child care. Parents can also learn how to get their child's attention and compliance through positive reinforcement, such a temporarily taking away a favorite toy for bad behavior or ignoring a tantrum, rather than spanking or yelling.
“We get a lot of parents who come in and tell us they are completely at their wits' end. I had a parent tell me she was so overwhelmed she wouldn't put the kids in time out, she would lock herself in the closet,” Haro said. “She couldn't handle it anymore.”
Crying and potty training are the top triggers for violence in the injury cases investigated by Arlington's Crimes Against Children Unit, which has handled 87 such cases in the first half of this year. In a moment of frustration, shaking a young child can lead to permanent physical or mental disability or death, Detective Grant Gildon said.
“Potty training is such a process. Kids regress at times. They are out at a store and kids wet themselves. Little boys will go to the bathroom and miss. Parents will see this and think it's deliberate. They will think the kids are defying them or not doing what they are told,” Gildon said. “We have parents who are trying to train their 1-year-olds. It's really an immature and unreal expectation.”
Tarrant County's rate of child abuse and neglect is higher than the national rate of 9.2 victims per 1,000 children, according to a 2013 report released by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. The county's number of child fatalities because of abuse or neglect is also higher than the national average of 2.1 deaths per 100,000 children.
“It's epidemic,” said Julie Evans, Alliance for Children executive director. “I think its certainly worth the attention, both in time and financially, to look at how adults can create safer environments for children.”
The nonprofit alliance works with Child Protective Services, the Tarrant County district attorney's office, Cook Children's and police departments to coordinate investigations and provide families with services and support as their cases go through the legal system.
Those most at risk of abuse or neglect are under the age of 5, before they begin attending school where a teacher or another adult may notice a problem, Daley said.
“It's very important we do all we can to protect these vulnerable children. They don't have a voice and they can't protect themselves,” Daley said. “They can be invisible before they show up with an injury. The goal is to help them before they get to that point.”
Measuring the success of prevention programs will be challenging but is a worthwhile endeavor, especially if it means fewer families damaged or destroyed by abuse, Coffman said.
“What I really hope is that we can actually tie in some prevention programs to actual reduction in maltreatment. That is what is really lacking is research,” Coffman said. “We know some of these services reduce risk factors. Does that really relate to a reduction in child abuse? We don't have hard numbers to look at that.”
Evans said focusing on prevention would do more than save a child from emotional and physical pain.
“Children who have been abused have a higher likelihood to have challenges later in life, whether that is drug or alcohol addiction, addictive behaviors, even obsessive compulsive types behaviors,” Evans said. “You see kids more likely to have challenges in school or with the criminal justice system.
“Prevention is so much cheaper than intervention and treatment.”
Experts say some children are singled out for abuse while siblings left unscathed
by Kaitlynn Riely and Molly Born
Four children were living in a house in Greenville, Mercer County. Yet only one of them, a 7-year-old boy, was starving to the point that county police said a woman who saw him described him as a skeleton.
Though tragic, the phenomenon in which one or two children experience abuse while others are physically unscathed is not unheard of. Just last month, former Franklin Park couple Douglas and Kristen Barbour pleaded no contest to two counts of endangering the welfare of children, after two Ethiopian children they adopted were removed from their home for health problems. Their two biological children were unharmed.
“We certainly see it,” said Judith Cohen, medical director for the Allegheny General Hospital Center for Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents, speaking generally about child abuse cases in which the abuse is not broadly applied. “I can‘?t say that it'?s frequent, but it does happen.” It could be that a child has a different parent or is a particular gender, she said. Or it could be related to behavioral issues, or the child‘?s physical features.
“I'?ve seen all of those used as an excuse for why one child is singled out for particular abuse when others are not,” she said.
It's referred to sometimes as scapegoating, or the Cinderella phenomenon, said Daphne Young, vice president of communications and prevention education at Childhelp, a national nonprofit based in Phoenix.
“It's hard to tell what turns on the switch, but once it's on, it seems that child becomes the scapegoat for all the anxieties in the family,” she said.
As for what exactly happened in Mercer County, that remains unclear.
Mercer County police said that Antonio Rader, now 8, looked like a “Holocaust victim” when authorities arrived at the house in early June. At 24 pounds, he was near death and had been subsiding mostly on small amounts of tuna and eggs, with some peanut butter and bread he was able to sneak away and insects he captured, police said.
His problems went beyond a lack of food, police said. He also was beaten regularly with belts, allowed to shower only occasionally and his teeth were abscessed.
Antonio was removed from the house, received treatment at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and is recovering. Three other children in the house — a 9-year-old brother who police said was underweight and two healthy sisters, ages 4 and 12 — have been placed in foster care.
Three adults lived in the home: Antonio's mother, Mary C. Rader, 28; Ms. Rader's mother, Deana Beighley, 47; and Mrs. Beighley's husband, Dennis C. Beighley, 58. Each has been charged with multiple counts related to child abuse.
Mercer County detective John J. Piatek said that he believed Mrs. Beighley didn't like Antonio and that she led the effort to torture her grandson. No attorneys were listed in online court records for the three adults.
The law firm Stranahan Stranahan & Cline of Mercer represented at least one of them during an arraignment last week for at least one of the defendants, but attorneys from that law firm were unavailable Monday.
Although movement could be heard within, no one answered the door Monday at the Beighley residence, a brown house in a quiet residential neighborhood. A teal Dodge Caravan sat outside the house, its windows smashed in, glass covering the curbside.
Kelly Glentzer, 34, who lives on the same block, said neighbors and friends planned to attend the July 30 preliminary hearing for the three adults to show support for the children.
Greenville Area School District officials said Antonio attended kindergarten and first grade at Hempfield Elementary and enrolled in Commonwealth Connections Academy, a cyber charter school, with his siblings in September 2013. While a student at the elementary school, Antonio was “a typical little boy who likes to learn and play,” said Connie Timashenka, former principal there and the district's current curriculum and special education director.
Maurice Flurie, CEO of Commonwealth Connections, said he could not discuss specific cases but spoke generally about contact between students and teachers at the Harrisburg-based cyber charter school. Students can see their teachers via video conference — similar to Skype — during two “live” lessons, but teachers cannot see the students, he said.
Twice monthly teacher-family conversations verify that work is being completed, and if teachers sense someone other than the student is doing the work, the school can consider in-person testing, Mr. Flurie said.
A representative from Mercer County Children & Youth Services said the department cannot discuss specific cases.
Detective Piatek said Antonio's father, James Rader, had not been involved in the child's life the past year. In February 2012, Mary Rader filed a protection-from-abuse order against her then-husband, accusing him of threatening to kill her and her four children. Mr. Rader could not be reached Monday.
Online court records show no charges in connection with those allegations.
Antonio has been eating and gaining weight. His paternal grandmother, Debra Rader, 56, of West Salem, said her grandson “ordered everything he could think of on his tray” last month at Children's Hospital.
“It was terrible,” she said of his condition then. “It was really bad — something I'd never, ever want to see again.”
Crime against community? Sexual abuse causes far-reaching guilt
by Michael Barrett
Child sexual abuse leaves deep wounds that victims struggle to overcome the rest of their lives.
But it also scars friends, loved ones and acquaintances who may later realize how close to the exploitation they were. The latter can go overlooked as people try to cope with revelations that are so traumatizing, said Cindy McElhinney, program director for the South Carolina-based nonprofit Darkness to Light.
“The impact when there are allegations of this nature can be pretty far-reaching,” said McElhinney, whose organization strives to prevent child sexual abuse nationwide. “It brings out all kinds of feelings. The trauma is often experienced not only by the victim but also their family and friends, and the entire community.”
Witnesses have detailed that struggle in recent days during the sex abuse trial of former East Gaston High School wrestling coach Gary “Scott” Goins. Testimony has come not only from wrestlers who say they were sexually abused but also other team members who say they observed Goins' abusive behavior toward their peers.
On the stand Friday, a former East Gaston wrestler accused Goins of enlisting him and other upperclassmen in carrying out a sexually toned hazing ritual against younger team members. He said he later apologized to one of the victims but has struggled to come to grips with what he experienced.
“(Goins) had me do those things to those kids,” he said, choking up on the stand. “And that's something I had to deal with.”
He said he was eventually kicked off the team after questioning Goins about his actions.
Norma Freyre is the program manager for AVID of Gaston County, which focuses on sexual abuse crisis intervention. She said the fallout from such cases never begins and ends with a victim.
“It's like when you throw a rock in the water,” she said. “It ripples through the whole family.”
Sexual abuse is a betrayal, especially in the case of an adolescent victim, because it typically involves someone the child knows and trusts, Freyre said. When the abuser is revealed to be a public figure — such as a teacher, coach or religious leader — it's even more devastating.
“The community in general has to acknowledge we had a predator in our midst, and they violated our trust,” she said.
Sexual abusers are notorious for gaining the confidence not only of the people they abuse but also other adults around them, McElhinney said.
“They're masters at creating that perception,” she said. “They've carefully crafted the environment to work to their advantage.”
That's one of the many reasons it's important for adults to look for symptoms of abuse and act upon it, rather than ignoring their gut instincts if they see suspicious behavior, McElhinney said.
“It's hard for anybody to process the abuse of someone they knew closely,” she said. “There are often tremendous feelings of guilt. Just coming to grips with this happening to someone you've been friends with or known is very hard to wrap your brain around.”