Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Child sex abuse: The horror show stats and signs to watch out for

As the country reels under the sheer number of cases of child sexual abuse and brutal sexual attacks on little children, it bears repeating that India has a history of violence towards children and girls (of all ages). Child sex abuse is not a new phenomenon. And the statistics here in the country are particularly grim. A 2007 landmark report by the govt found that 53.4 per cent of children surveyed had suffered some form of sexual abuse.

What experts across the board tell us is that the perpetrators are often known to the child, to the family. A lot of child abuse is going on within the four walls of our homes.

From Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding, to the media reports coming to light every day, the only glimmer of hope, seems to be that we're starting to acknowledge the scale of the problem. And yet, the big concern is how do we protect our children? How do we learn that something is going on? And how do we get them help?

We've been speaking to psychiatrists and survivors alike, and as we all struggle to find the answers, I want to bring to your attention a couple of interviews I did a few years ago.

Starting with the horrifying research -

Anuja Gupta of the Delhi-based RAHI (a group that has been set up to counsel survivors of child sex abuse - RAHI stands for Recovering and Healing from Incest) told me their own research found "76 per cent of respondents were sexually abused, 40 per cent were cases incest."

"All over the world, given statistics of CSA, the majority is incest. Children are sexually abused primarily at home, by family members -- across class, across culture -- that's something that's very important to know." She also explained by incest they mean family members or those in positions of authority known to the child/ family.

Signs to watch out for:

"We call these silent ways of telling...Children for example don't normally come and say they're being sexually abused. People need to be aware and pick them up. One is a medical category, you may find blood in genital areas, or torn genital areas, sores in body, STDs in a young person, a very clear sign of sexual abuse.

The other category is sexualised behaviour of a child -- does the child seem to have sexual knowledge inappropriate to that age group? Not from a moral point of view, but compared to today's kids. Are there sexualised drawings? Children who are sexually abused tend to draw a certain way, genitals are enlarged, or a person who's larger than life, something like that... That's an indicator. Then you come to general behavioural indicators. People think children who are sexually abused get withdrawn. That's true, but children who are sexually abused also can actually as a way of covering up become very social, can do very well in school, or badly, or bed-wetting, eating issues... The child's behaviour at school or home are very imp indicators of child sexual abuse."

So how does counseling work? Anuja Gupta of Rahi says, "We take people through talking about what happened to them, what meaning did they give that abuse, what did they take - a lot of abusers think themselves dirty and molestors give direct and indirect messages to the child, you asked for it. (So the child thinks) I'm at fault for being abused, I should have spoken about it, the abuse continued so I allowed it to continue. These are some of the issues we deal with in therapy, shame, self-blame, guilt, how she looks at relationship."

"Healing is absolutely possible, one big message I want to give out. RAHI's core message -- It's important that people talk to the right person, who doesn't judge them or blame them...If you start on the process of recovery, it's long, sometimes painful, sometimes joyful... You'll get there, there's light at the end of the tunnel, it's possible to recover."

She adds:

"There's certain common things that run across survivors, permutations combinations... one is relationships, the typical thing that gets affected in child sex abuse. The ability to trust is compromised -- either trust a lot or no one at all. Intimacy -- ppl want to get into intimate relationships, but are afraid. People struggle a lot with relationships, with sex as adult survivors both in terms of having a lot, or not being able to. A lot of times women, while they want to have sex, even with supportive partners, memories of abusers or physical images of abusers come back. Sexuality is affected across the board," Anuja tells us.

I spoke to a child abuse survivor at the time as well. Here's what she told me.

"Well it started when I was six, and it was my tuition teacher who started molesting me. It all happened in silence -- my parents didn't know and I was very scared of telling anyone about it. It went on for 7 years. I was completely in pain, devastated.

Somehow my conditions took me to Delhi, through one of my friends I came to know about RAHI, where I met Anuja and I started counselling with her. It completely changed my life. After that I could see a complete transformation. I was a scared kid growing up, and now I'm a confident professional, working with a big corporate in Delhi.

Q: How old were when you started talking about this?

A: It took me a long time. When I was 14 I shared it with my friend. I could not talk about it to too many people - there was a sense of shame attached.

Q: Were you able to tell your parents at any point?

A: At a point I was undergoing counselling. I could not, a sense of shame, I was afraid if my parents would really understand me.

Q: The numbers are very high... (is there a message you have?)

A: Yes, my message to people would be that there is hope out there. Break your silence and talk about it -- you will be helped.

Q: Any signs (for parents or others to notice)?

A: I was a confused child, my grades were all over place, they kept focusing on how to improve academic performance and take me out self-esteem issues. They didn't know, they couldn't help me with anything.

I knew this was not happening with everyone around, but at the same time, even as a child, i had a hope of getting out the mess.

Q: Have you met anyone else (going through the same thing)?

A: Not really. I would want to reach out to people, meet people going through the same kind of pain. Recovery is possible, there is help out there...

It helps people to start talking about facts. What I've seen is we do talk about issues like rape, but child molestation is not something we've really spoken about in our society even though people know about it. Child incest is happening, it's an issue that is there... We need to bring it out now...Let people know... at least parents and relatives should know what their kids could be going through

It's very important... it helped me a lot, talking about it with close friends, does help. Counselling and treatment -- it went on for around 2 and a half years. I could see a complete transformation after I joined RAHI. In the beginning i had questions like how could just counselling help me, how could that help? I had tried talking to my friends, I felt that was not helping me at all, the pain was there, I was going through the same pain every day.

After coming to RAHI and meeting Anuja (Gupta), I feel going through the proper channel, talking to the right people, a counsellor could really help.

After counseling the situation of life remains the same - you might be facing the same kind of stress...but you learn how to handle life situations, you become more confident."

Those are strong words - of hope and survival strategies, and overcoming a trauma that is affecting way too many of our children.

If you want to share your story, or be part of the conversation, and be part of the Agenda for Change, tweet the team @amritat or @ibnlive


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

WILLFUL BLINDNESS - "If It Was Dangerous, Somebody Would Have Told Us!"

"85% of people know there is a problem, but do NOTHING!"

Watch it - Pass it around to everyone on the Planet!


Reality is the obligation to tell the truth, “the reality most people would recognize” is the imperative, if they witness improper or unlawful behaviour, to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.


Mortal Sins, a MUST READ New Book, for All Conscious Human Beings - Jews Included!


Pulitzer Prize winning writer Michael D'Antonio deserves another one. Another Pulitzer prize, that is, for his new book, "Mortal Sins: Sex, Crime and the Era of Catholic Scandal." This work is a 343 page offering that with a flick of a switch floods light onto the dark side of the sex abuse scandals within the Catholic Church.

As D'Antonio reveals, the 2,000-year-old church, with its culture of secrecy and unlimited resources, covered-up thousands of cases of clergy abuse for over three decades. Bishops and cardinals used their influence at the highest levels of society around the world to suppress criminal investigations and deny victims both compensation and access to the truth.

The full story of the scandal is told for the first time as D'Antonio follows three major figures in the movement for victims' rights - a lawyer named Jeffrey Anderson, a victim named Barbara Blaine, and a whistleblower priest named Rev. Thomas Doyle who sacrifices his career to the cause of children who had been raped and molested by ordained men.

In D'Antonio's telling, Anderson and Doyle emerge as complex men who fought their own demons, including alcoholism and self doubt, to prevail in a thirty year fight. Blaine is transformed from a loyal Catholic social service worker into a fierce international advocate. Near the end of the tale she leads a group of victims from around the world to the International Criminal Court at The Hague to file lodge formal charges of crimes against humanity in a case that names the worldwide church, the pope, and Vatican officials as defendants.

Among church officials few seem capable of grasping the trauma experienced by people who were sexually abused as children. As one bishop tells Anderson, in a deposition, "little boys heal." Then he goes on to discuss his worry and concern for the fate of the priest who will be publicly charged with sexual assault on a child.

Disturbing as some of the details may be, Mortal Sins is not an overly troubling book to read. Though non-fiction, it reads with the drama of a novel, or perhaps a detective story, and much of the tale is inspirational and surprising. Of particular note are the off-hours antics of some lawyers, including a gator-shooting Cajun who sued the Diocese of Lafayette, and the guerilla activities of victims/activists who won' rest until their cause is known to the world.

Ultimately, as Mortal Sins reveals, a worldwide human rights movement developed as victims came forward in dozens of countries. In America alone, roughly 500 priests have been imprisoned and more than $2 billion has been paid to settle lawsuits. And yet the revelations keep coming in the United States, Ireland, Latin America and beyond. Indeed, as Pope Benedict XVI recently resigned - becoming the first pope to step down in more than five centuries - his papacy became yet another victim in this scandal-without-end. Implicated in many cover-ups and unable to stop the revelations or reform the church, Benedict's "fatigue" was, no doubt, the product of these failures.

If you think you know the story of the sexual abuse scandal and the crisis it has created in the worldwide Catholic Church you probably do not. If you read this book, it will become clear to you in all is astonishing, tragic, and ultimately inspiring complexity. It's hard to imagine a more compelling read than this tale of a patriarchal monarchy at war with the truth.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

European Rabbis: Stop child abuse cover up

Following an increase in the incidence of child abuse in Jewish communities throughout Europe, called the Council of European Rabbis to stop religious educational institutions.

Council of European Rabbis met this week and called for religious educational institutions and religious communities to stop coveirng up the assaults against children and against women in their communities. Earlier this week, a conference was held in Paris, rabbinical council of Europe, including the rabbis of countries and cities across Europe.  Present at one of the main issues was child abuse in different communities, sexual abuse and violence against students.

 Rabbinical Council did not enter details of cases in which they  discussed, but they decided to call to put an end to the phenomenon of silencing. Recently made headlines a number of cases of child abuse, when in question of which is the arrest of four ultra-Orthodox community rabbis in London on suspicion of sexual abuse by one of them, and disrupt the investigation by the other three.

 According to reports, the number of women who have a consultation with Rabbi Chaim Halpern judge later claimed that he sexually harassed them. First cases were published, but all attempts to deal with the issue in the community were unsuccessful. Several months ago, the police began to investigate the matter, an investigation led to the arrest of four: the main suspect, his brother and two other politicians close to him. According to reports, there are approximately 30 women affected by Halperin in counseling given to them.

 At that time was published a number of other matters in London of child sexual abuse in the community were examined and questioned by London police. According to a source close to the Rabbinical Council, the community in Paris were quite a few instances of abuse of minors. There were also a number of cases in the haredi community in Manchester and Amsterdam.

"The rabbis see these symptoms very seriously"

Council of European Rabbis decided, as stated, to instruct all educational institutions to stop whitewashing affairs of this kind and treat each one professionally. It was reported that for this purpose it was decided to establish a committee, it shall appoint Rabbi Benjamin Jacobs Shlita, Chief Rabbi of the Netherlands and Rabbi Yitzchak Rubin Shlita - the most prominent rabbis in Manchester and Chairman of the counties of England to rabbis will stand in connection with educational institutions and help give advice and guidance in cases of abuse.

According to Vice President of Rabbi Aryeh Goldberg, "The rabbis see these symptoms very seriously and the focus was to  stop covering up cases of abuse."  They were called to turn to professionals and even the police so that the matter will be handled. Goldberg explains that in some countries there are professionals in the community that they are responsible for the treatment of sex offenders, in coordination with the police.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

On Hitting Bottom - the darkest moments of his life -- from the sexual abuse he suffered at age 8

"I got in a car and attached a garden hose to the tail pipe, ran it into the driver-side window and rolled the garden hose up in the window and packed a towel around the garden hose, so the monoxide couldn't leak out. And I had my hand right on the car key. And I was a second away from starting it up."

"R.A.'s story is more than a story about baseball," 60 Minutes producer Rich Bonin told us. "It's a story about life." During R.A. Dickey's emotional 60 Minutes interview, the great knuckleball pitcher talked openly about the darkest moments of his life -- from the sexual abuse he suffered at age 8 to his depression and the extramarital affair that almost ended his marriage. In this week's 60 Minutes Overtime, you'll hear Dickey share something he's never discussed in public before: how close he came to ending his own life.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

For God’s Sake --- Circumcision, herpes, and religious freedom

The idea that a grown man would put his mouth on an infant’s penis is rather disturbing under pretty much any circumstance. Yet according to an understanding of Jewish law that has more than a little support within parts of the Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox communities, that is a necessary part of the blood drawing required in Jewish ritual circumcision.

Tragically, two infants in New York were recently infected with herpes after undergoing a circumcision ceremony which included the oral blood drawing. Of course, post-surgical infections, many far worse than those suffered by the two babies in question, occur in hospitals every day across this country, so why is this story being covered in the national media?

I can think of at least three important reasons why this story is news -- each instructive, not only regarding the ongoing debate about circumcision, but about the dangers of religious fanaticism and the meaning of religious freedom in America.

First, the story catches our attention because it is a story of religion gone awry -- a topic of constant interest, especially with an American media that is both fascinated with faith, and yet seems to delight in mocking or unmasking those who practice it in ways deemed “unenlightened.” And of course, this story gets our attention because of it’s sexual, and potentially pedophilic, overtones.

Does anyone really think that if the blood was drawn from the infants’ fingers, even by mouth, the stories of subsequent infection would garner as much attention? Does anyone think that the debates over circumcision in general would be as fierce, and fiercely emotional, were some other part of the anatomy involved? The answer is obvious.

All that said, the second reason this story deserves our attention is because it is genuinely disturbing that this practice continues despite the clear evidence that the practice itself is dangerous. In fact, according to many religious authorities the practice is not only unnecessary, but actually prohibited precisely because of the evidence that it is harmful to the babies.

So however scintillating the story may be, it is also an important episode about a serious breakdown within religious community. The fierce attachment to oral bloodletting may well reflect a dangerous approach to faith which can be found, not only among some segments of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, but among practitioners of every faith I know.

This is a story about the dangers of confusing belief in the perfection of a tradition and its institutions -- an entirely reasonable claim made by many traditional adherents in many different faiths -- with the arrogant presumption that the way any particular group practices their faith is, by definition, perfect and above critique.

One need not be ashamed or uncomfortable about a tradition that was practiced in good conscience for millennia in the absence of any evidence that it was actually harmful. I appreciate, and even respect, fierce attachment to a tradition.

Actively refusing however, to take steps that mitigate a clear and present danger to members of one’s own community, especially when alternative means to honor the tradition can be found, is both dangerous, and not really even about defending the practice in question. In fact, the community which practices this form of oral blood letting is part of a rich and nuanced legal tradition which has long found creative solutions to living with new medical knowledge which impacts their observance. This is, I fear, about something else.

This has become, whether those involved in the fight realize it our not, less about cutting penises, and more about thumbing noses. For me, that is the most disturbing part of this whole story. This has become a case of celebrating rejectionism as a means of defining community -- a dangerous approach when practiced in any community, faith-based or otherwise.

Those who defend the practice cite their “right” to define their own norms of religious practice regardless of what anyone else has to say. And though I am a staunch supporter of religious freedom, and a committed defender of religiously-mandated infant circumcision, I don’t hesitate to declare that those who defend oral blood letting are wrong about their rights, which is the third reason this story demands our attention.

The test of our commitment to religious freedom is at precisely those moments when the practice in question is unpopular. That right however, was never meant to include failing to mitigate known dangers to children who cannot otherwise defend themselves. And it certainly does not include a parent’s “right” to refuse to acknowledge, as required by New York State law, which allows the practice, that by practicing oral blood letting parents are putting their children at greatly-increased risk of contracting a serious and otherwise preventable infection.

As with the protection and expression of most freedoms, the protection of religious freedom is a delicate balancing act -- trying to honor the rights of practitioners, those impacted by their practices, and the greater good of the larger community in which they take part.

While I have no doubt that we will continue to have much debate about circumcision in general, this is one practice whose potential dangers must be admitted by those who practice it. Ritual circumcisors must be more carefully supervised, even if we can not agree that it is a practice that should be stopped altogether. That approach would return some balance to a situation that seems pretty clearly unbalanced to me.


Submitted by : http://survivorsforjustice.org/

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Aleinu Can Never Be Trusted Again! One Strike And Your Out!

Fox takes instruction from long time pedophile protector Shmuel Kaminetzky of Agudath Israel infamy! Kaminetzky lies and Fox tries!

A Los Angeles Jewish welfare group has rejected an Australian media report it shielded a self-confessed pedophile being investigated for abusing boys in Sydney.

The report in Fairfax newspapers on Wednesday alleged Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles was harbouring the man, who was not named for legal reasons.

The assaults, said to have happened at Bondi's Yeshiva school in the 1980s, are being investigated by NSW detectives.

"The child abuse suspect at the centre of Australian media reports was neither a client nor an employee of Jewish Family Service or its Aleinu program," the Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles said in a statement.

"Because of the controversy surrounding this issue, Jewish Family Service needs to set the record straight."

The Jewish Family Service said the Aleinu Family Resource Center pioneered a premier child abuse education and awareness program, Safety Kid, and the employee identified in the Fairfax report, Debbie Fox, was a nationally recognised expert on the prevention of child abuse within the orthodox community.

The report referred to an email Ms Fox allegedly wrote to the alleged pedophile in 2011 that said: "I have no idea how anyone found out - but calls are coming daily from many sources. So far, we've been protecting you."

The Jewish Family Service said Ms Fox was contacted by a victim requesting assistance connecting with the local Rabbinic Council in Los Angeles, and at the victim's request, she served as a liaison between the council, the victim, and the alleged perpetrator.

"There was nothing reportable to law enforcement because Ms Fox was never made directly aware of specific incidents that had occurred in Australia decades earlier, nor did the alleged perpetrator admit to her to any crimes or specific actions," the statement said.

"At no time did Aleinu staff ever shield a suspect from local or international law enforcement in any way whatsoever, nor would they ever do so.

"Rather, Aleinu staff follows all mandated reporting laws to the letter, working closely with local law enforcement, without exception."


Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Debbie Fox - What In The World Are You Thinking!

Jewish welfare group knows it is sheltering a paedophile

A self-confessed paedophile who sexually abused several boys in Sydney is being harboured by a leading Los Angeles Jewish welfare group.

The man, who is being investigated by NSW detectives over several sexual assaults at Bondi's Yeshiva school in the 1980s, has been shielded from exposure and scrutiny by Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles.

The service, more than 150 years old, provides medical, housing, food, counselling, educational and family support services.

Emails obtained from US sources show that since mid-2011 its board members have been aware of the man's sexual abuse history in Australia but have not reported him to authorities in Sydney or the US.

In an email to the man in November 2011, Debbie Fox, executive director of the Los Angeles organisation, refers to phone calls to board members about his activities in Sydney.

''I have no idea how anyone found out - but calls are coming daily from many sources. So far, we've been protecting you.''

The revelation that a big Jewish organisation in the US is protecting a known paedophile comes at a time when orthodox communities around the world are being challenged about their historical preference for handling of child sex abuse cases internally rather than involving the police.

The man is central to the controversy surrounding Bondi's Yeshiva community and some of Australia's most senior rabbis.

Emails show the Jewish Family Service conducted an ''evaluation'' of the man, who is not being named for legal reasons, to see if he was still a risk to children.

The evaluation included assessments by doctors and psychologists, and the man undertaking a lie detector test.

In her email, Ms Fox expressed frustration at how long the man was taking to complete the process, writing ''we have NEVER had any evaluation take nearly this long.

''For your security - you must complete it and we must get the evaluation report and recommendations,'' she wrote.

It is believed the man did not pass the evaluation and remains under strict controls to prevent his being with children unsupervised. Ms Fox did not respond to questions.

The emails show the man's history as a sexual abuser has not been made known to most members of the Jewish community he mixes with in LA. Close members of his family in Australia and the US are also understood to be unaware of his past.

It was revealed this year during a recent conversation with one of his victims that the man admitted to regular and serious sexual abuse of several boys in the 1980s.

NSW police are understood to have a recording of this conversation. In it, the man says Yeshiva's spiritual leader Rabbi Pinchus Feldman confronted him about a sexual abuse incident in the mid-1980s.

In February, Rabbi Feldman released a statement saying he had no recollection of anyone confessing to child sexual abuse 25 years ago and that he encouraged anyone with knowledge of such crimes to go to the police.

The man who admitted to sexually abusing boys at Yeshiva left Sydney to find a wife in Los Angeles. But after a few weeks he returned to Sydney and continued sexually abusing boys. He eventually settled in Los Angeles.

The head of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia, Moshe Gutnick, said last month that he had received an anonymous phone call about 25 years ago from a boy who claimed to have been sexually abused by the man.

Rabbi Gutnick said, with hindsight, he should have alerted police. But he had told senior leaders of the Yeshiva community.


Another Anti-Internet Rally! "Too Jewish"!

 CLICK FOR VIDEO: http://aje.me/YZ07vM

+++Hundreds of thousands of marchers call for law that would include death penalty for bloggers who they say insult Islam.+++

Hundreds of thousands of people have held protests in Bangladesh to demand that the government introduce an anti-blasphemy law that would include the death penalty for bloggers who insult Islam.

Protest organisers called Saturday's rally the "long march", with many travelling from remote villages to the capital, Dhaka's Motijheel area that became a sea of white skull caps and robes.

Supporters of Hefazat-e-Islam, an Islamist group which draws support from tens of thousands of religious seminaries, converged on Dhaka's main commercial hub to protest against what they said were blasphemous writings by atheist bloggers, shouting "God is great - hang the atheist bloggers".

"I've come here to fight for Islam. We won't allow any bloggers to blaspheme our religion and our beloved Prophet Mohammed," said Shahidul Islam, an imam at a mosque outside Dhaka who walked 20km.

"I've come here to fight for Islam. We won't allow any bloggers to blaspheme our religion and our beloved Prophet Mohammed."

The religious group, which has the backing of country's largest party Jamaat-e-Islami, organised the rally in support of its 13-point demand including enactment of a blasphemy law to prosecute and hang what they call atheist bloggers.

"Around 200,000 people attended the rally," Dhaka's deputy police commissioner Sheikh Nazmul Alam told AFP news agency, while protest organisers put the number at over half a million.

Al Jazeera's correspondent, who cannot be named for safety reasons, speaking from Dhaka, said that very huge crowds had gathered.

The bloggers, who deny they are atheists, have sought capital punishment for those found guilty of war crimes during the nation's liberation war.

A well-known protester and blogger, Ahmed Rajib Haider, was killed reportedly by Jamaat supporters.

Zafar Sobhan, editor of the Dhaka Tribune, speaking to Al Jazeera's via Skype from Dhaka, said that while the government was had maintained a "neutral line" and was "scrambling" to prevent an "explosive" situation, he believed it was unlikely that a blasphemy law would be introduced.

Saturday's 'long march' was organised by the Hefazat-e-Islam, which draws support from thousands of seminaries [AFP]

Last week, four online writers were arrested on charges of hurting religious sentiment through their Internet writings against Islam.

Muhiuddin Khan, Bangladesh home minister, said on Wednesday the government had identified 11 bloggers, including the four detainees, who had hurt the religious sentiments of the nation's majority Muslim population.

The government has blocked about a dozen websites and blogs to stem the unrest. It has also set up a panel, which includes intelligence chiefs, to monitor blasphemy on social media.

Under the country's cyber laws, a blogger or Internet writer can face up to ten years in jail for defaming a religion.


Monday, April 08, 2013

Lawmakers should extend window to sue for for sex abuse victims: As I See It

By Cathleen Palm

On Aug. 25, 1991, I started the transition from child victim to adult survivor of child sexual abuse. Just after my 22nd birthday, I walked into my hometown police station to disclose my sexual abuse and name the perpetrator — a trusted family friend.

Like many survivors, I was pushed — without warning or a sufficient safety net — into confronting this abuse. An event in college, when I was a resident assistant, unexpectedly triggered painful memories and left me immobilized. In the course of disclosing the abuse to family and close family friends, I discovered that many people had strong suspicions — and some even direct knowledge — of the abuse. Coming to terms with the role silence played in perpetuating the abuse was not easy.

Law enforcement’s initial reaction to my 1991 disclosure was discouraging. I second-guessed myself, but tried to remember that there already were too many victims. Each of us had been sexually assaulted in different years, but all at the hands of the same perpetrator. The threat still posed to younger victims, and the perpetrator’s leadership position at a state-funded institution, provided urgency.

I met with supportive investigators from the district attorney’s office. I learned from those who worked with children and youth that Pennsylvania rigidly defines a perpetrator of child abuse, tying their hands even as it related to the younger victims.

It didn’t take long to understand that the law does have winners and losers, and the shorter stick is most often drawn by the child victim.

In 1991, state law required that a civil action be filed before the victim reached the age of 20, and prosecution generally was required to begin within five years from the time of the abuse.

Given the expired statute of limitations, law enforcement could not file criminal charges and I was unable to file a civil suit, so stopping the cycle now fell to younger children and their parents. However, the parents opted against working with investigators, some citing the trauma the children would endure. Others worried how jobs would be affected, given their employment at the same institution as the perpetrator.

Faced with such legal dead ends, I turned instead to personal healing.

Recently, however, a conversation with a fellow survivor, who had also been faced with expired statute of limitations, has had me revisiting my own experiences. She still lives, works, and raises children in the shadow of this community “nice guy” — the man who abused us. Even as she works to heal, she is relentless in doing her part to keep a watchful eye on her community’s children.

Child sexual abuse has lifelong consequences. Survivors are committed to prevention, and work to protect victimized children when laws, including arbitrary statutes of limitations, fall short.

It didn’t take long to understand that the law does have winners and losers. In 2002, state law changed. Going forward, civil actions by child-abuse victims could be filed until a victim’s 30th birthday, and the criminal statute was extended until the victim turns 50. Currently, legislation has been introduced to eliminate the criminal statute of limitations and to extend the civil one to age 50.

State Reps. Louise Bishop and Michael McGeehan, both Philadelphia Democrats, are among the leaders seeking reforms, including the enactment of a temporary, retroactive civil window — something few other states have passed.

This “window” would permit victims for whom the statute of limitations have expired to pursue a civil action against their abuser within a designated two-year period. The idea is controversial, and it’s an uphill battle, partially because policymakers and the public haven’t understood that, prior to 2002, Pennsylvania’s statutes of limitations on pursuing child abusers were extremely restrictive.

As a consequence, perpetrators were free to pursue other victims. Some may well still be abusing children today.

Like child sexual abuse itself, the debate on the civil-window legislation has been ugly, manipulative, and deeply wounding.

Opponents of the window cite it as unconstitutional and ripe for false claims. They suggest that the only beneficiaries would be people who have been victimized by someone affiliated with the Catholic Church. Leaders in the state have used obscure procedural moves to deny debate on the issue, let alone allow votes.

Meanwhile, supporters routinely add window-related amendments to other child-protection bills, jeopardizing those compelling pieces of legislation.

Throughout this back and forth, many survivors, including myself, have stayed silent.

Lately, however, I have been reminded that silence by others didn’t serve me well as a victimized child.

So now I’m joining the chorus of survivors who are urging Pennsylvania lawmakers to stop stalling on statute of limitation reform. Don’t hold these measures or other equally important child protection bills hostage in committee or on the House calendar.. The benefits and challenges of child protection legislation, including related to the civil window, deserve to be publicly debated by state lawmakers, , followed by an up-or-down vote.

Realizing meaningful and sustained change to prevent and respond to child abuse requires that the best interests of children — not political gamesmanship — be Harrisburg’s priority.

Cathleen Palm writes from Berks County. Readers may contact her at cpalm@comcast.net.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Sandusky victim Aaron Fisher's support team highlights ways to help victims of child sex abuse!

Gillum said that after a time, a rallying point for Fisher became his determination that "he didn't want Sandusky to do this to anybody else. He said: 'Mike, he's going to do it to other people. It's important to me that we stop this.'"... Along the way, Fisher had to be be eased through a real fear of retaliation by Sandusky for his reports and, like many child victims of sexual abuse, he had to be assured that none of this was his fault.... In Fisher's case, Gillum said, that involved a long explanation of the grooming process used by pedophiles, to help him understand that he wasn't at fault simply because he didn't try to physically resist when he was 11 years old.

HARRISBURG — It wasn't easy helping Clinton County teenager Aaron Fisher through the process of outing, and then prosecuting former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky.

But Fisher got through it, with the help of his mother, Dawn Daniels Hennessy, and his psychologist, Dr. Michael Gillum, both of whom headlined a benefit Saturday night in Camp Hill for the Children's Resource Center.

Even though she was often filled with personal doubts, Hennessy said she was resolute in telling her son "that this is a fight that you will not lose ... And to win it for all of those who did not have the strength to finish it."

Gillum said the most important ingredient was "unconditional positive regard," essentially his constant reassurance to Fisher that he was his ally in this ordeal and he would be in his corner every step of the way.

Many victims need that sense of trust in someone, Gillum said, if they are ever going to get past their initial reluctance to share the details that law enforcement or child welfare investigators need to bring a perpetrator to justice.

"We really want them to feel that: 'I'm with you. I'm here for you and I'm going to see this thing through with you.' ... If you repeat those and if you're consistent with that with a victim or patient, they tend to do very well in the longer term," Gillum said.

Fisher, who was abused repeatedly by Sandusky for years and whose initial breakdown in a conference with school officials ultimately cracked what would become one of America's most sensational cases of pedophilia, initially was reluctant to admit the full scope of that abuse to anyone.

Hennessy, of Lock Haven, played an important role in that regard in Fisher's case, Gillum said, by going to child welfare officials when school officials initially met her son's allegations with skepticism. Gillum picked up the torch, once he became involved in the case.

By last June, however, Fisher was one of most compelling witnesses against Sandusky, who was convicted of abusing 10 boys between 1994 and 2008.

Now a student at St. Bonaventure in Olean, N.Y., Fisher — who is also one of some 30 men pressing civil claims against Penn State stemming from Sandusky's pedophila — was not present Saturday night.

But that transformation didn't happen overnight, Gillum noted.

Along the way, Fisher had to be be eased through a real fear of retaliation by Sandusky for his reports and, like many child victims of sexual abuse, he had to be assured that none of this was his fault.

In Fisher's case, Gillum said, that involved a long explanation of the grooming process used by pedophiles, to help him understand that he wasn't at fault simply because he didn't try to physically resist when he was 11 years old.

Gillum said that after a time, a rallying point for Fisher became his determination that "he didn't want Sandusky to do this to anybody else. He said: 'Mike, he's going to do it to other people. It's important to me that we stop this.'"

As Fisher's story became known under the alias "Victim 1" through interviews Gillum granted, cards and letters of support from total strangers helped bolster his resolve as well, Gillum said.

Finally, victims have to understand, Gillum said, "that you're not damaged goods" coming out of this process. That's where ongoing support from families and counselors are important, so the victims can develop a healthy picture of their future.

Gillum said the big positive that Fisher can share in now is that the Sandusky case has shined a light of awareness on the scourge of child sex abuse.

"We've seen positive outcomes across the country and even the world about people in the public starting to better understand what you all do and what victims go through," he told the audience, peppered with prosecutors, doctors and counselors.

Hennessy and Gillum are speaking together about their experiences with Fisher now as an extension of the family's healing process. Hennessy said she hopes her son's story will always "inspire other (victims) to speak out, stay strong and get the justice they deserve."

The Children’s Resource Center in the capital city served 845 children in 2012, all referred by police, children and youth services agencies or physicians for abuse-type complaints.

Such children's advocacy centers are seen as effective venues where police, doctors and child welfare personnel can collaborate on cases with minimal trauma to and maximum service for youthful victims.

A state task force examining Pennsylvania’s child abuse capabilities in the wake of the Sandusky scandal has called for the establishment of many more such centers statewide.


Thursday, April 04, 2013

Enough Abuse!

“One of the barriers to preventing child sexual abuse is helping parents learn the true facts about child sexual abuse and steps they can take that protect their children,” notes Program Coordinator Haley Ward. “The Enough Abuse curriculum teaches parents that the real risk to their child is someone they know and trust and who has access to their child in a one-on-one situation.” The program includes information about steps that perpetrators take to find possible victims, called “grooming” and how parents can intervene.

Project Self-Sufficiency rallies support to help prevent child sex abuse

One year after the launch of the Enough Abuse Campaign in New Jersey, awareness of the need to educate the community about the nature and scope of child sexual assault has grown exponentially announced lead agency Project Self-Sufficiency this week.

The Enough Abuse Campaign is a grassroots movement gaining momentum across the country. Developed in Massachusetts, the campaign has been adopted by New Jersey and Maryland and has recently been launched in New York and California.

“Community by community we are giving individuals the knowledge and skills to stop the silence around child sexual assault,” noted Deborah Berry-Toon, Project Self-Sufficiency’s executive director. “We are giving people the tools to raise their hands and say ‘enough.’”

Local residents are invited to help prevent child sexual assault by joining the Enough Abuse Campaign, a joint effort of Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey (PCA-NJ), Project Self-Sufficiency and the Sussex Warren Partnership to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse. The community-wide education effort aims to mobilize adults and communities to prevent child sexual assault by increasing awareness of the warning signs displayed by predators and as well as victims.

Training sessions are offered by certified trainers to middle and high school youth, their parents, teachers, administrators, coaches and other youth-serving professionals on how to recognize and prevent child sexual abuse.

According to PCA-NJ, one in four girls and one in six boys will fall victim to child sexual abuse before the age of 18 in the state of New Jersey. State data reports that 80% of child sexual abuse cases are never reported to authorities.

Additionally, studies continue to show that many parents believe the major risk of child sexual abuse involves strangers, when in fact, up to 90% of sexual predators are actually known to the victim.

“One of the barriers to preventing child sexual abuse is helping parents learn the true facts about child sexual abuse and steps they can take that protect their children,” notes Program Coordinator Haley Ward. “The Enough Abuse curriculum teaches parents that the real risk to their child is someone they know and trust and who has access to their child in a one-on-one situation.” The program includes information about steps that perpetrators take to find possible victims, called “grooming” and how parents can intervene.

Project Self-Sufficiency is the lead agency in the Sussex Warren Partnership to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse, an effort which brings together experts from a variety of civic, religious, healthcare and other organizations who share a commitment to preventing child sexual abuse.

“Project Self-Sufficiency is proud to be partnering with Prevent Child Abuse – New Jersey in this important effort to eliminate child sexual abuse in northwestern New Jersey,” commented Deborah Berry-Toon. “This educational outreach program builds on Project Self-Sufficiency’s history of assisting families with their goals of becoming stable and economically self-sufficient. Protecting our children from harm is an adult responsibility, and we are confident t hat the Enough Abuse Campaign will help to prevent child sexual abuse and result in safer, more stable families in our community.”

Enough Abuse training sessions are held regularly at Project Self-Sufficiency, and are offered frequently to civic organizations, schools, houses of worship, social service agencies and youth-serving organizations. To schedule a training, to find out more about the other programs and services offered at Project Self-Sufficiency, call 973-940-3500.


Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Diagnosis: Human

THE news that 11 percent of school-age children now receive a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — some 6.4 million — gave me a chill. My son David was one of those who received that diagnosis.

In his case, he was in the first grade. Indeed, there were psychiatrists who prescribed medication for him even before they met him. One psychiatrist said he would not even see him until he was medicated. For a year I refused to fill the prescription at the pharmacy. Finally, I relented. And so David went on Ritalin, then Adderall, and other drugs that were said to be helpful in combating the condition.

In another age, David might have been called “rambunctious.” His battery was a little too large for his body. And so he would leap over the couch, spring to reach the ceiling and show an exuberance for life that came in brilliant microbursts.

As a 21-year-old college senior, he was found on the floor of his room, dead from a fatal mix of alcohol and drugs. The date was Oct. 18, 2011.

No one made him take the heroin and alcohol, and yet I cannot help but hold myself and others to account. I had unknowingly colluded with a system that devalues talking therapy and rushes to medicate, inadvertently sending a message that self-medication, too, is perfectly acceptable.

My son was no angel (though he was to us) and he was known to trade in Adderall, to create a submarket in the drug among his classmates who were themselves all too eager to get their hands on it. What he did cannot be excused, but it should be understood. What he did was to create a market that perfectly mirrored the society in which he grew up, a culture where Big Pharma itself prospers from the off-label uses of drugs, often not tested in children and not approved for the many uses to which they are put.

And so a generation of students, raised in an environment that encourages medication, are emulating the professionals by using drugs in the classroom as performance enhancers.

And we wonder why it is that they use drugs with such abandon. As all parents learn — at times to their chagrin — our children go to school not only in the classroom but also at home, and the culture they construct for themselves as teenagers and young adults is but a tiny village imitating that to which they were introduced as children.

The issue of permissive drug use and over-diagnosis goes well beyond hyperactivity. In May, the American Psychiatric Association will publish its D.S.M. 5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It is called the bible of the profession. Its latest iteration, like those before, is not merely a window on the profession but on the culture it serves, both reflecting and shaping societal norms. (For instance, until the 1970s, it categorized homosexuality as a mental illness.)

One of the new, more controversial provisions expands depression to include some forms of grief. On its face it makes sense. The grieving often display all the common indicators of depression — loss of interest in life, loss of appetite, irregular sleep patterns, low functionality, etc. But as others have observed, those same symptoms are the very hallmarks of grief itself.

Ours is an age in which the airwaves and media are one large drug emporium that claims to fix everything from sleep to sex. I fear that being human is itself fast becoming a condition. It’s as if we are trying to contain grief, and the absolute pain of a loss like mine. We have become increasingly disassociated and estranged from the patterns of life and death, uncomfortable with the messiness of our own humanity, aging and, ultimately, mortality.

Challenge and hardship have become pathologized and monetized. Instead of enhancing our coping skills, we undermine them and seek shortcuts where there are none, eroding the resilience upon which each of us, at some point in our lives, must rely. Diagnosing grief as a part of depression runs the very real risk of delegitimizing that which is most human — the bonds of our love and attachment to one another. The new entry in the D.S.M. cannot tame grief by giving it a name or a subsection, nor render it less frightening or more manageable.

The D.S.M. would do well to recognize that a broken heart is not a medical condition, and that medication is ill-suited to repair some tears. Time does not heal all wounds, closure is a fiction, and so too is the notion that God never asks of us more than we can bear. Enduring the unbearable is sometimes exactly what life asks of us.

But there is a sweetness even to the intensity of this pain I feel. It is the thing that holds me still to my son. And yes, there is a balm even in the pain. I shall let it go when it is time, without reference to the D.S.M., and without the aid of a pill.